‘The Neglect of Modern Indian Military History and its Impact on our Strategic Culture’
Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam,
National Defence College,
Military history cannot be looked at as merely a study of war, campaigns and battles. It encompasses much more. It examines the behaviour of societies and people under stress; it examines mechanics of fear, resilience, honour and greed and indirectly also helps us deal with repairing shattered nations as they recover from the debris of war and conflict. Military history not only enriches the broader historical discourse, but also contributes to broadening the scope of political science, sociology and public policy. When a nation and its people accept and acknowledge that force application, however undesirable it may seem, is an intrinsic element of statecraft and critical to protecting what is dear to them, military history automatically fits into the main historical discourse as it has in most countries that have evolved through periods of intense war and conflict. As a result its study is continuous and important to policy makers. Flourishing modern democracies like US, France and UK have emerged in their present state after years of war and conflict and understand the importance of military history. Modern India, however, has been a contradiction of sorts. Emerging from a well orchestrated, effective and well documented non-violent independence movement, the leaders of independent India perceived the military and what it practiced as a peripheral necessity from a forgettable colonial past and sought to project India as a multi-cultural, pluralistic, peaceful and non-hegemonistic democracy. The facts however, narrate a different story. Modern India has had to wage continuous conflict to protect its geographical sovereignty and prevent internal fractures yet it has chosen not to adequately record, archive and disseminate its military history in a manner that it is available to citizens at large for analysis and meaningful study.
Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam is a serving IAF officer and is currently a faculty member at the National Defence College. He is a Ph.D in Defence and Strategic Studies and writes and lectures extensively on military history, air power and strategic affairs. He is currently researching and writing a two-volume narrative on Conflict and Wars in independent India.