by Aijaz Ahmad Turrey 14 May 2020
The Government of India is responsible for ensuring the defence of India and every part thereof. The Supreme Command of the Indian Armed Forces vests in the President. The responsibility for national defence rests with the Cabinet. This is discharged through the Ministry of Defence, which provides the policy framework and wherewithal to the Armed Forces to discharge their responsibilities in the context of the defence of the country. The Indian Armed Forces comprise of three divisions – Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force.
The Indian subcontinent had witnessed the cohesive concentration of many Empires in the quest for control of military power, and governance of the State. As time rolled by, societal norms found an ethos in the workplace, the system of rights and privileges, and service under the flag. The Indian Army, as we know it today became operational after the Country gained independence from British colonialism. The Indian Army’s HQ is in New Delhi and functions under the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), who is responsible for the command, control, and administration. The Army is divided into six operational commands (field armies) and one training command, each under the command of a Lieutenant General, who has an equal status to the Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), working under the control of Army HQ in New Delhi. The explosive growth of the last few years has resulted in an unprecedented increase in defence spending. In 2000 India’s defence budget was $11.8 billion. The figure had risen to $30 billion in 2009. The single largest year-on-year increase of 34 percent came in that year, but military budgets have been rising steadily since 2007. The trend in Indian defence spending is likely to continue, though not at the staggering rates achieved in 2007–09. The dramatic nature of the increases has heightened expectations that India’s armed forces will acquire significantly increased capacity that could alter the country’s strategic posture.
The Indian Army’s participation in the UN peacekeeping operations spans a period of 57 years covering 43 UN Missions, in which over ninety thousand Indian soldiers have served in various parts of the world. In support of UN peacekeeping endeavours, the Indian Army has contributed outstanding force commanders, elite military contingents, impartial observers and dedicated staff officers. Their devotion to duty and excellent performance has been widely acclaimed. India has also offered one brigade group to the UN Standby Arrangement Systems. Indian troops have taken part in some of the most difficult operations and have suffered casualties in the service of the UN. Professional excellence of the Indian troops has won universal admiration. India has taken part in the UN peacekeeping operations in four continents. Its most significant contribution has been of peace and stability in Africa and Asia. It has demonstrated its unique capacity of sustaining large troop commitments over prolonged periods.
Presently, India is ranked, as the third largest troop contributor to the UN. The Indian government has honoured its soldiers for gallantry, whilst serving the noble cause of world peace. Time and again, India has risked the lives of its soldiers in peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations, not for any strategic gain, but in the service of an ideal. India’s ideal was, and remains, strengthening the world body, and international peace and security. Countries, which participate in UN Peacekeeping Operations, have to provide not only the military expertise but also have to be politically acceptable. The range of sensitive peacekeeping operations India has participated in is testimony to India’s image in the world.
India has always contributed generously to UN demands for peacekeeping. Known for their equanimity and forbearance, Indian troops have proved popular everywhere. The first call came early enough, when India sent troops to Korea to form the Custodian Force (India), which functioned under the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission headed by Major General (later General) KS Thimayya, DSO in 1953-54. This was a delicate task, involving the repatriation of Prisoners of War. This was followed by a stint at Gaza to keep Israeli and Egyptian forces apart.
The largest (and longest serving) contingent was sent to the Congo in 1961. A complete independent brigade group, it helped bring about peace and thereafter enforce it – which involved light to heavy engagements with motley groups beefed up by white mercenary columns. One most cherished compliment came from an adversary. The mercenaries themselves conceded, in later writings, that the Indian contingent’s activity curbed their style. Mention was made of a certain tenacity of purpose in combat. India has sent battalion groups, engineers, medical teams, mil observers and staff personnel to Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Lebanon, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Congo, Sudan and Golan Heights. Observers and staff personnel have made their contributions to the international peace efforts in Central America, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Liberia, Lebanon, Mozambique, Congo, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Sudan and Golan Heights. After Korea (1950-52) and Congo (1960-63), India again sent a brigade group to Somalia and Congo displaying its resolve to support international community in peace and security issues.
Here, Indian troops join Danish and Swedish peacekeepers on a training exercise on a beach in Gaza in 1958 as part of the UN Emergency Force (UNEF). India has a long tradition of sending women on UN peacekeeping missions. In 1960, women serving in the Indian Armed Forces Medical Services were interviewed by UN Radio before being deployed to the Republic of the Congo. Currently, there are more than 6,700 troops and police from India who have been deployed to UN peacekeeping missions, the fourth highest amongst troop-contributing countries.
Besides the Indian army has sacrificed lives in the protection of the domestic people from foreign aggressions especially from the northern side including China and Pakistan. Their role is remarkable and unforgettable whether internally or externally. They sacrifice their enjoyments on the borders so that the nation can be guarded and peace can be maintained and deserve great respect.