Armed Forces

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ARMED FORCES The Indian armed forces have long enjoyed the respect and confidence of the country for the professionalism of its officers and men and women. The Indian army, navy, and air force still retain the basic organizational and rank structure prevalent in the British armed forces. India's armed forces are all-volunteer services, and recruitment is on a countrywide basis. The supreme command of the armed forces is vested in the president of India. The Ministry of Defence, run mostly by civil servants, is responsible for both formulating policy and for the administration of the armed forces. In 2002 the ministry was renamed the Integrated Headquarters of Defence. As in most democracies, the minister of defense is a senior political figure and not a serving military officer. All three service headquarters, commanded by four-star officers, are located in New Delhi.

Following India's nuclear tests (1998), the Kargil conflict (1999), and major mobilization (2001–2002), India's defense and intelligence establishments have undergone extensive reorganization, with an emphasis on integrated staff structures involving civil servants. The Indian defense budget ($16.73 billion for 2004–2005) is comparatively transparent and amounts to approximately 2.5 percent of gross domestic product. This percentage is similar to Indian defense spending from 1947 to 1962. Though all three services list reserves, little operational planning is based on the call-up of reservists. Hence, the value and significance of reserves is doubtful. This budget does not include expenses of the greatly enlarged paramilitary forces and some costs of the country's missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The Army

The army is the largest and the most senior of the defense services. Approximately 54 percent of the defense budget is allocated to it. At independence in 1947, India received 66 percent of the British Indian Army, amounting to 310,000 officers and men. Over the next five years, the army made up for the loss of Muslim units and British technical staff, stabilizing at around 400,000 and remaining at that level until the setback of the Sino-Indian War (1962). The army was thereafter enlarged to 825,000. Its strength increased further as a result of the Kargil War and the mobilization of 2001–2002 to an estimated 1.3 million, the second-largest army in the world. Despite growth in armor, mechanization, and firepower, it is basically oriented toward the infantry, both in numbers and in tactical doctrine.

At the behest of General K. N. Cariappa, the first Indian to head the army, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru furnished the mandate for the army as: "primarily to defend India against external aggression; secondly to assist the government, when asked to give such assistance," commonly referred to as "aid to civil authority." The army was also expected to cooperate fully with the navy and the air force both in war and peace. The army is headed by its chief of army staff (COAS). He is assisted by the vice-chief and principal staff officers (PSOs), consisting of two deputy chiefs of army staff, adjutant general, master general of ordnance, quartermaster general, military secretary, and the engineer-in-chief. The general staff is headed by a three-star general, the vice-chief, and includes the directorates of military operations and intelligence.

Five field armies, called commands, led by army commanders (lieutenant generals), carry geographical names. Northern Command is at Udhampur, Western Command at Chandi Mandir, Central Command at Lucknow, Eastern Command at Kolkata, and Southern Command in Pune. A Training Command (ARTRAC) is located at Shimla. The country is also divided into administrative formations called areas (under a major general) and subareas (commanded by brigadiers).

Each command consists of one or more corps. Of the twelve corps, three are designated as strike corps, the other nine as holding corps. Each corps consists of two or more divisions, along with additional engineers, medical services, aviation assets, artillery, and logistics. Each strike corps has an air defense group. Divisions are classified as armored (3), infantry (18), mountain (10), RAPID (semimechanized infantry divisions, 4), and artillery (2). About a third of the infantry divisions have more brigades than the standard three, and the brigades may have more than the traditional three battalions. Each infantry division includes an artillery brigade and an armored regiment. The mountain divisions have reduced motor transport.

Combat forces

The army is divided into "arms" (combat) and "services" (support units). Arms are cavalry (armor), mechanized infantry, infantry, artillery, signal, combat engineers, army aviation and air defense units. The primary unit is the battalion, though it is designated as a regiment in armored, artillery, engineer, and signal units. Each armored regiment has 45 tanks. The upgraded T-72 and the newly inducted T-90 form the bulk of Indian armor. Slow induction of the indigenous Arjun Mk I is proceeding as well.

The Indian army's air defense forces are considerable, with at least 50 units divided into 35 gun and 15 missile regiments. Virtually every type of operational Russian surface to air missiles (SAMs) are in India's inventory. More than 4,000 pieces of towed artillery, with calibers ranging from 155 millimeter to 105 millimeter, are in service. Lighter artillery (105 millimeter, 122 millimeter, and 130 millimeter) is being replaced by the 155 millimeter gun. The latter, manufactured by Bofors, proved to be exceptionally effective especially in the mountains. However, the weapon is tainted by the high cost of spares and ammunition, and a scandal associated with its purchase. Reportedly, six Artillery Groups of the surface to surface missiles, the Prithvi and the Agni, were to be inducted into the army by 2005.

Most of India's infantry still moves into battle on foot, though about 2,300 infantry combat vehicles, consisting of the tracked BMP-1 (700) and BMP-2 (900) and the wheeled BRDM-2s, are in service. Infantry's basic weapon, the 7.62 millimeter FN-FAL rifle is being replaced by the lighter, equally effective 5.56 millimeter INSAS assault rifle. The belated modernization of the infantry includes induction of handheld thermal imagers, long range observation systems, night vision goggles, antimaterial rifles, battle survellance radar, and body armor for the troops.

The army's engineers perform the traditional functions of bridging and breaching, land survey, the laying and clearing of mines, and civil engineering works.

Cyberspace is the crucial new element in war. Accordingly, the Information Technology Road Map 2000 envisaged all officers to be computer literate by 2002. The Army Radio Engineering Network and Army Static Communications Network were upgraded using UHF, fiber-optics, and communications satellites. The Low Intensity Conflict Operations Very Small Aperture Terminal system for direct voice and data communications is in limited service. Field trials of Akash, a secure tactical battlefield communications network, are in progress. Two other systems are under development: the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System and the Defence Communications Network.

The army has about 2,000 men trained and equipped in NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) warfare. The army's attack helicopters are piloted by the air force. In 2003 the army undertook a five-year modernization plan. Acquisition of more precision guided munitions, unmanned aerial vehicles, weapon locating radars, self-propelled artillery, ground sensors, and a reduction of the different types of artillery guns and mortars is planned.


During the seventeenth century, three ports were the nuclei for the creation of both the British Indian Empire and the Indian army. Watchmen and doorkeepers in Madras, two companies of Rajputs in Bombay, and an ensign and thirty men in Bengal were the first armed men raised by the British to protect the factories of the British East India Company. The three areas became eponymous presidencies, each with its own army. In 1748 Major Stringer Lawrence founded the Indian army when he organized the watchmen and others into permanent companies under European officers. In 1757 Robert Clive further systemized the force by providing it with scarlet uniforms, standardized weapons, and equipment at company expense. Clive was also among the first to recognize that the collection of land revenue was far more lucrative than mere trade. However, to receive land revenue, the right had to be acquired by conquest, perfidy, or purchase. As conquest was often the favored option, the East India Company, a commercial venture, concluded that the cost of bringing European or American mercenaries for fighting in India would greatly reduce profits. Hence, Indians, paid substantially less than their European or American counterparts, but drilled, trained, and equipped to their standards, and led by ambitious and avaricious British officers, routed much larger forces of the decaying Mughal empire in two lopsided victories at Plassey (1757) and Buxar (1764). During the hundred years of piecemeal conquest of India, the army also fought in other imperial wars ranging from the Philippines (1762) to China (1840–1854). Not all wars were victorious. The First Afghan War (1838–1842) was an unmitigated disaster.

In 1857 the total strength of the army was 234,500. The largest was the Bengal army (137,500). Regiments of this army were at the forefront of the Struggle of 1857 (called the First War of Independence by Indians and the Great Mutiny by most British). This event changed the nature of Indo-British relations, the administration of the country, and the composition of the army. India had a long established warrior caste (Kshatriyas). Others, especially Brahmans and the Muslim tribes of Central India, were well-known for their military prowess. The British had largely recruited from these groups, especially among those from the lower Indo-Gangetic Plain. After 1857 enlistment from this area was drastically reduced, and the concept of the "martial races" was advanced. Classes that had cooperated with the British during the uprising of 1857 were declared martial. Future enlistment was largely limited to these groups: Sikhs, Punjabi Mussalmams, Rajputs, Jats, Ranghars, Pathans, and the hill-men from Kumaon, Garhwal, and Nepal (Gorkhas). Field artillery was placed exclusively with British forces. Generally, for every two Indian units a British unit was stationed in the same cantonment or field formation.

In England, uproar followed the dispatch of Indian army units to Malta and Cyprus in 1878; was perceived as inappropriate for colonial troops of color to kill or defeat Europeans in battle. Consequently, the Indian army was not sent to South Africa during the intermittent Boer Wars (1881–1901).

In 1895 the three presidency armies were amalgamated to form the modern Indian army. By then, ambitious British officers competed to join the Indian army because of its higher pay, quicker promotion, and more chances of active service than in the British army or other colonial military units. Accordingly, the Indian army was well managed and the troops well motivated through a system of rewards. There were cash awards, decorations, land grants, and special privileges for soldiers and their families. However, despite dazzling uniforms and landscaped cantonments, the army was neither trained nor equipped to fight a major war outside India.

At the onset of World War I (1914–1918), the army's strength was only 155,000 men. To stop the Germans in France, the policy of not pitting Indians against Europeans was hastily suspended. Two ill-equipped infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade were rushed to France, and the Germans were stopped. Nevertheless, the performance of the army was not outstanding. This, too, was the case in Mesopotamia and East Africa. Altogether, 1.3 million Indians served. The dead, wounded, or missing totaled 113,743. For the first time, large numbers of Indians saw for themselves incompetence and cowardice among British and other Europeans. The soldiers also found Britain to be cold and shabby, not quite the glamorous country of their imagination. In addition, they found the French warm and hospitable to both their own colonial forces and to Indians. Not unexpectedly, increased political awareness and national consciousness entered the minds of the soldiers (especially Sikhs and Pathans). Religion was no longer an understated factor, as many Muslim Pathans deserted to their coreligionists, the Turks and their allies, the Germans. Great changes were inevitable. Slow and reluctant induction of Indians into the officer corps was undertaken as a result of a pledge given by the British government in 1917. The army was reorganized: a number of new supporting organizations ("Services") were added; infantry battalions were amalgamated into larger regiments of four or five units each, and cavalry regiments were standardized (1921–1922).

During World War II (1939–1945), the Indian army ballooned from 205,000 to 2,181,960 men, the largest volunteer army in history. It fought with distinction in Abyssinia, Eritrea, Italy, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Sudan. Unfortunately, it was defeated in Malaya and Singapore (60,000 were taken prisoner). Then it fought back in the steamy jungles of Burma to become the only army to defeat the Japanese by ground fighting alone. However, only the operations of the PAI (Persia, Arabia, Iraq) Force, consisting of about three divisions, were conducted by the General Headquarters of the Indian army. Elsewhere, Indian army divisions and units constituted parts of British or Allied armies. Indians held no significant staff appointments, and only one commanded a brigade in battle. Clearly, the Indian army, the most complete of all colonial forces, functioned only as an adjunct to other imperial forces, and Indians had little experience in higher staff or command. The army lost 36,092 dead, 64,350 wounded, and 79,489 prisoners. Increased political consciousness manifested itself in the latter. Prisoners in Germany formed the 2,000-man Indian Legion to fight for the country's independence. Under the charismatic leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose, a former president of the Indian National Congress, an astonishing 40,000 prisoners of war (POWs) in Japanese hands initially volunteered to join the Indian National Army. Ultimately 16,300 POWs served in this poorly led, poorly equipped, but well-meaning renegade army.

The end of World War II did not bring peace to the Indian army. There was an internal upheaval on how to deal with men who had carried out the treasonable though patriotic act of joining the German- and Japanese-sponsored forces. Eventually some nominal punishments were meted out, but the men were not allowed to return to the army. The final bizarre act in the age of colonialism was the dispatch of more than four divisions of this colonial army to Indonesia and Indochina to restore colonial Dutch and French rule and sustained considerable casualties. Indian independence and partition followed in 1947.

In August 1947 the army, disorganized by its own vivi-section and the withdrawal of British technical and other ranks, was tasked to manage the movement of 14 million refugees between India and the newly created Pakistan and to prevent communal bloodletting in what quickly became a humanitarian disaster. An additional responsibility fell in September on the western edge of the country. The army had to pacify the Junagadh region, where a popular revolt against the nawāb had broken out. In October, troops were hurriedly airlifted to the northern edge of the country, where Pakistan-assisted tribals had invaded the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Fourteen months of desultory, sometimes desperate fighting followed. The state was left divided between India and Pakistan. In September 1948, the army accelerated the integration into India of the recalcitrant princely state of Hyderabad. During the 1950s the army restored the coherence of units, administrative, training and command structures weakened by partition. Some civil works, disaster relief, peace-keeping with the United Nations, and counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast region and in Andhra Pradesh were also carried out.

The momentous decade of the 1960s began with the liberation of the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman, and Diu after protracted negotiations for the peaceful return of these territories to India had failed (1961). Indian troops formed the largest contingent in United Nations (UN) peace-keeping forces in the Congo (1960–1963). Hubris followed. The famous 4th Division was defeated in the Northeast region during the Sino-Indian border war of October–November 1962. Despite incomplete expansion and modernization in the wake of the 1962 debacle, national confidence was restored by creditable military performance in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. The army sent troops from three infantry battalions to Sri Lanka in April 1971 to quell a sudden Marxist uprising. Further triumph followed later in the year. In a lightning multipronged campaign in December 1971, Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) was liberated. Still more challenges emerged: Sikh recruits mutinied after the army's intervention in Sikhism's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar ( June 1984), and the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka (1987–1990) failed.

There were successes as well: in 1989 a combined arms intervention prevented a coup in the Maldives; in 1999 the Indian army achieved a remarkable victory against entrenched Pakistani forces in the desolate frozen heights in Kargil. Periodic bloodletting between the two armies still continues in another similar region of Kashmir, the Siachen glacier (since 1984). The army is active in UN operations and in quelling a rebellion in Kashmir and the varied, long-standing insurgencies in the small northeastern states of the country. The protracted deployment in remote border areas and in insurgency-ridden regions has made the profession less attractive for the officer corps than in earlier years.

Enlistment, especially in pre-independence combat regiments with "fixed class" (only one caste or ethnic group forms the unit) and "mixed class" (two or three castes or ethnic groups in a unit) battalions is by selective recruitment. Hence, troops in about 60 percent of arms are still selectively recruited. There are no such restrictions for officers, though in general no more than a third of officers in a unit are from the same ethnic group or caste as the troops. The tradition of the son following in the father's footsteps by joining the army is still alive, but with a difference: sons of junior commissioned officers and noncommissioned officers form an increasing portion of the officer corps. Since 1991, female officers (50 to 100 per year) have joined the army. They, too, are often from military families. Marriages are also common within military families.


Recruits are trained at the applicable regimental training centers. Advanced training in all arms and services is imparted by pertinent institutions, including the Armed Forces Medical College, the Armored Corps School and Center, the Army Air Transport School, the Army Educational Center and School, the Army Ordnance Corps Schools, the Army Signals School, the Army School for Physical Training, the Army War College, the Artillery Center and School, the College of Military Engineers, the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Center and School, the High Altitude Warfare School, the Infantry School, and the Military Intelligence Training School.

Officer training is at three levels: pre-cadet, cadet, and staff. The government established feeder schools like the Rashtriya Indian Military College and "Sainik Schools" for preparing young men for entry into the army as cadets. However, the majority of officers are not from these institutions as any boy after twelve years of schooling (aged 16–19) can apply for admission to the academies. Cadets are selected after a competitive written examination, interviews, and physical tests before entering the tri-service National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadakvasla, near Pune. An eighteen-month course for slightly older cadets (19–24 years) is at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehra Dun. NDA cadets and others like engineering graduates, attend one year at Dehra Dun. Soldiers serving in the ranks who qualify for the officer cadre train at the Army Cadet College Wing of the IMA and short service commission officers (5–10 years service liability) receive instruction at the Officers Training Academy, Chennai.

Reserves and paramilitary forces

There are 300,000 first-line reserves (men and women with five years of full-time service) and 500,000 second-line reserves (up to age 50). The 40,000 person Territorial Army, founded in 1920, consists of full-time workers, doing part-time military service.

Of the nine main police and paramilitary forces, seven interact with the army. The oldest, the Assam Rifles (founded 1835), and the youngest, the Rashtriya Rifles (founded 1990), are entirely officered by the army. The former draws most of its recruits from the sub-Himalayan population and is permanently stationed in the Northeast region; the latter is a counter-insurgency force, entirely manned by the army, deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. The National Security Guard and the Special Frontier Force have substantial numbers from the army. The Border Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, as the first line of defense, work closely with the army. During war, both come under the army's operational control. So does the Central Reserve Police Force.

Indian Air Force

Military aviation in India began with a military flying school at Sitapur, in Uttar Pradesh, in December 1913. Thirty years later, on 1 April 1932, the formation of the "A Flight" marked the beginning of the Indian air force (IAF). Four Westland Wapiti Mk II biplanes, six officers, and twenty-two airmen was its total strength. Seventy years later, the IAF was the fourth-largest air force in the world, with 120,000 men and 1,700 aircraft and an allocation of 24 percent of the defense budget. The air force was initially created for supporting the army against tribes in the North-West Frontier province. From punitive attacks against tribals (1936) to the ouster of entrenched Pakistani troops at the forbidding heights in Kargil (1999), the IAF has provided close ground support to the army.

Like Britain's Royal Air Force, the IAF's commands were based on function (Bomber Command, Fighter Command, etc.). After the 1962 Sino-Indian War, it was apparent that the vast country faced threats from different directions. Accordingly, the commands were reorganized, with geography as the main consideration. The five operational air commands, each under an air marshal, have geographical names: Western Air Command, headquartered in New Delhi; Eastern Air Command at Shillong; Central Air Command at Allahabad; South Western Air Command at Gandhinagar; and Southern Air Command at Trivandrum. Maintenance Command at Nagpur and Training Command at Bangalore are nonoperational commands. The latter controls the more than thirty major training institutions. Most are located in three south Indian states.

Forces and equipment

The IAF operates 774 combat planes, 34 armed helicopters, 203 transport aircraft, and 133 helicopters organized as the following squadrons.

18 squadrons of fighter ground attack (FGA) aircraft (30 Su-30k, 53 MiG-23 BN/UM, 88 Jaguar, 147 MiG-27, and 69 MiG-21 MF/PFMA)

20 fighter squadrons (66 MiG-21 FL/U, 169 with MiG 21 bis/U, 26 MiG-23 MF/UM, 64 MiG-29, 35 Mirage 2000H/TH, and 16 SU-30Mk aircraft)

3 attack helicopter squadrons (Mi-25) 12 transport squadrons (105 AN-32 Sutlej, 45 Do-228, 28 BAe-748, and 25 IL-76 Gajraj) and 5 IL-78 tankers

11 helicopter squadrons (73 Mi-8, 50 Mi-17, and 10 Mi-26)

38 missile squadrons and 4 missile flights

The Prithvi Surface-to-Surface Missile (SSM) and the Agni Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, the Electronic Counter Measure, Electronic Intelligence, Airborne Early Warning, and various reconnaissance, survey, tankers, training, and miscellaneous aircraft complete the inventory. Three Airborne Warning and Control Systems IL-76 aircraft, with the Israeli Phalcon system, and 66 BAe Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers are on order. Inventory includes air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, mostly of Russian and French origin, laser-guided and free-fall bombs. The Su-30, the upgraded MiG-23/27, Jaguars, and Mirage 2000 are the most nuclear capable planes.


Five years after its inception, the first full squadron (No. 1) was finally formed. World War II led to its expansion to nine combat squadrons and one transport squadron. Virtually the entire small air force saw intense action in Burma during the war. For instance, No. 1 Squadron went in with twenty pilots. Within a year, only four of the original twenty survived, and the squadron had received ten decorations for valor. With partition, the IAF was reduced to six fighter squadrons (five Tempest Mk II, one Spitfire), one transport (C-47) squadron, and one Air Observation (Auster) Flight. Most permanent bases and other establishments ended up in Pakistan. The IAF rose to its first challenge in October 1947, when it managed to assemble 100 civilian and military transport aircraft to airlift the army to the airstrip in Srinagar (Kashmir) to repel the tribal invasion. Within a month, Tempest Fighters (No. 7 Squadron) in support of the army won the critical battle of Shelatang, thereby saving the Srinagar Valley for India. The pilots of transport planes continued to play a decisive role. In May 1948, a C-47 Dakota, flying along an uncharted route through peaks averaging 25,000 feet (7,625 m) landed on a small airstrip in Leh (Ladakh). Indian army troops were thereafter airlifted to secure Ladakh. In similar fashion, an air-bridge for seven months assured the survival of the garrison and citizens of the besieged town of Poonch (1947–1948).

The IAF carried out some air strikes during the Goa operation. However, combat aircraft were not committed against the Chinese in 1962. Air strikes may have made a difference. In the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, both air forces were used extensively, with mixed results. India lost about 55 planes to Pakistan's 25. However, 18 to 20 of the Indian planes were destroyed on the ground by surprise attacks early in the war on airbases at Pathankot and Kalaikunda. In April 1971, six helicopters were committed in a low-key but intensive operation against Marxist insurgents in Sri Lanka. During the 1971 Bangladesh war, the IAF quickly gained total air superiority over East Pakistan and provided considerable close support for the army. The first heliborne operation was carried out in the same sector. The coup de grace was delivered by precision bombing by a MiG-21 on the governor's residence during a high-powered meeting. The roof collapsed on the high-ranking civil and military officers, and with it fell the will to fight. On the western front the IAF was not caught on the ground, despite Pakistani preemptive air-strikes leading to the formal outbreak of hostilities on 3 December 1971. The next day, both the navy and the IAF carried out spectacular attacks in and around Karachi harbor. In another dramatic performance, four aging Hawker Hunter fighter-bombers caught Pakistan's 22 cavalry without air cover near Longewala (Rajasthan). The regiment was decimated, losing nineteen T-59 tanks. The IAF's airlift capabilities were in evidence in the evacuation of 200,000 Indians from the Gulf before the 1991 war and the transportation of 50,000 men and material after a devastating earthquake in Gujarat in 1998. The IAF has also successfully lifted tanks in and out of Leh (11,600 feet [3,538 m] above sea level). Air strikes using precision guided munitions during the Kargil conflict (1999) played a critical role in the Indian victory.

Indian Navy

For a large peninsular country like India, with a coastline of more than 4,660 miles (7,500 km) and ownership of some 1,280 islands, a substantial navy is to be expected. Instead, the Indian navy is the smallest of the three defense services. Its current strength is 53,000. It includes 5,000 in naval aviation, 2,000 marines, and 2,000 women. It accounts for 15 percent of the country's defense budget.

India's semiofficial nuclear doctrine envisaged a triad of land-based missiles, aircraft, and seaborne or submarine-launched missiles for retaliatory strikes. Arguably, submarine-based ballistic missiles are the most flexible and secure means of delivery. A more limited option is cruise missiles.

The navy's major vessels are 26 principal surface combatants and 16 submarines. The carrier Viraat, the 7 destroyers (5 Rajput–Kashin, 2 Delhi), and the 4 larger frigates (1 Brahmaputra, 3 Godavari) are not grouped into squadrons.

The Indian navy has 79 aircraft (30 Sea Harrier attack planes, maritime reconnaissance planes including 8 IL-38, 11 Tu-142), 83 helicopters (antisubmarine warfare: 26 Chetak, 7 Ka-25, 18 Ka-28, 31 Sea King), and air-to-air, air-to-surface missiles (R-550 Magic I and II, Sea Eagle, Sea Skua). The indigenous short range ballistic missile (SRBM) Dhanush and the supersonic Indo-Russian short range cruise missile Brahmos are in developmental trials. The antimissile Barak and the antiship KH-35 were in service in 2003. The status of three other indigenous missiles, Koral, Lakshya, and Sagarika, is unclear. The Marine Commando Force (MCF) was created in 1987. The 2,000 man unit has participated in special operations in Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Kashmir.


In 1830 ships of the British East India Company were designated as the Indian navy. However, in 1863, it was disbanded when Britain's Royal Navy took control of the Indian Ocean. About thirty years later, the few small Indian naval units were called the Royal Indian Marine (RIM). In the wake of World War I, Britain, exhausted in manpower and resources, opted for expansion of the RIM. Consequently, on 2 October 1934, the RIM was reincarnated as the Royal Indian Navy (RIN).

During World War II, the navy grew twentyfold to 27,650 sailors and 2,700 officers. This rapid expansion was marred by nine minor mutinies in 1942–1945. The stage was set for the "Great Mutiny" of 1946. Ratings onboard 74 of 84 ships and at 20 of 22 shore establishments across the country mutinied. The magnitude shook London and probably hastened Britain's departure from India. The mutiny was defused by masterly intervention by the senior Congress Party leader Sardar V. Patel. Thereafter, the navy was swiftly halved to 49 ships. Doubts about the reliability of the navy were to persist into the 1960s. In 1947, India's share was 33 ships, and Pakistan's 16. Of 538 officers, captain was the senior-most rank held by Indians. Consequently, plans drawn up by the still-serving British officers were largely ignored in New Delhi. All the same, the navy was used in national integration by ferrying troops and securing the coast during the Junagadh state operations (October 1947). The 1950s were marked by annual Joint Exercises Trincomalee with other Commonwealth navies and by Britain's begrudging sale of warships: London refused to sell modern submarines to India, and the aircraft carrier Vikrant was sold without the long-stroke catapult, thereby greatly reducing its capabilities. Nevertheless, during the liberation of Goa, the Indian navy, among other actions, sank the Portuguese frigate Afonso de Albuquerque.

The Indian loss in the Sino-Indian War (1962) was a further reverse for the navy, since in its wake funds were directed toward the army and the air force. The 1965 war, Indonesia's threat to seize the Nicobar Islands, and the smaller Pakistan navy's attack on the holy city of Dwarka all triggered naval expansion. Indigenous warship design and production and the acquisition of Soviet warships followed. The navy's fortunes were greatly restored in 1971. After East Pakistan (Bangladesh) seceded, leading to civil war between Pakistan's two wings, the Indian navy trained four task forces of riverine guerrillas. Those frogmen sank or damaged over 100,000 tons of shipping in four months and disrupted ports and inland waterways, the lifeline of the country. In December, after the war formally started, an imaginative, daring raid by Osa missile boats on Karachi harbor sank two warships, damaged others, and ignited oil storage facilities The Indian armed forces conducted amphibious landings for the first time toward the end of the war. The threat of U.S. naval intervention on behalf of Pakistan led to the Advanced Technology Vessel project to produce nuclear submarines in India. Further emphasis on aviation, technology, missiles, and submarines followed.

In the late 1980s, India's regional assertion of power included the use of the navy in Sri Lanka (1987–1990) and in the Maldives (1988). In anticipation of adding a fleet of nuclear submarines, India leased a Charlie-I class nuclear submarine, the Chakra, from the Soviet Union. Plans changed. The submarine was returned to the Soviet Union. Indigenous warship design and production (destroyers, frigates, corvettes, and submarines) was also accelerated, partly due to the difficulty of obtaining spare parts from the successor states to the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, the navy was active under the United Nations in Somalia, escorting Indian ships in the Gulf, and repatriating Indian nationals from Kuwait. Exercises with other navies, especially the U.S. Navy, were initiated. During the Kargil War (1999), the aggressive posture adopted by the navy played a role in convincing Islamabad and Washington that a larger conflict loomed unless Pakistan withdrew from the heights. A year earlier, nuclear tests added another strategic dimension to the navy. Warming ties with Israel and the United States led to the acquisition of cutting-edge missiles and to joint patrolling of the Straits of Malacca.

The navy has about ten major training establishments. Most are located in Maharashtra, Cochin, Goa and Vishakhapatnum.

The Coast Guard

On 19 August 1978, India's Coast Guard Act was passed. This new paramilitary force was to police and superintend the seas, the coastline, and fishing craft. Control of pollution was another major peacetime responsibility. Two frigates and five patrol boats from the navy formed its nucleus. One of its critical functions, the protection of offshore oil facilities, was transferred back to the navy in 1986. Nevertheless, the service has grown to 5,500 men, with about 50 vessels, more than a dozen Dornier aircraft, and an equal number of Chetak helicopters. Its effectiveness has steadily improved, as evidenced by its performance during operations in Sri Lanka and antiterrorist duties since the 1990s.

Rajesh Kadian

See alsoCivil-Military Relations ; Nuclear Weapons Testing and Development ; Paramilitary Forces and Internal Security ; Strategic Thought ; Wars


Information on the Indian armed forces has been drawn from diverse sources. The following are particularly useful: the web site <>, the periodicals Asian Defence Journal, Jane's Defence Weekly, Sainik Samachar, and USI Journal, and the annual Military Balance and Strategic Survey published by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London. The following books are important for providing historical and holistic perspectives: Mohammed Ayoob and K. Subrahmanyam, The Liberation War (New Delhi: Chand, 1972), B. C. Chakravorty and S. N. Prasad, eds., History of the Indo-Pak War, 1965 (New Delhi: History Division, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, 1992), M. S. Chaturvedi, History of the Indian Air Force (New Delhi: Vikas, 1978), Stephen P. Cohen, The Indian Army: Its Contribution to the Development of a Nation, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), Rajesh Kadian, India and Its Army (New Delhi: Vision, 1990), R. D. Katari, A Sailor Remembers (New Delhi: Vikas, 1982), Verghese Koithara, Society, State, and Security: The Indian Experience (New Delhi: Sage, 2000), N. Kunju, Indian Army: A Grassroots Review (New Delhi: Reliance, 1991), P. C. Lal, My Years with the IAF (New Delhi: Lancer, 1986), Philip Mason, A Matter of Honour: An Account of the Indian Army, Its Officers and Men (London: Jonathan Cape, 1974), S. L. Menezes, Fidelity and Honour: The Indian Army from the Seventeenth to the Twenty-first Century (New Delhi: Viking, 1993), S. N. Prasad and Dharam Pal, Operations in Jammu and Kashmir (New Delhi: Controller of Publications, Government of India, 1987), K. C. Praval, Indian Army after Independence (New Delhi: Lancer, 1987), Stephen Peter Rosen, Societies and Military Power: India and Its Armies (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996), Mihir K. Roy, War in the Indian Ocean (New Delhi: Lancer, 1995), Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, India's Maritime Security (New Delhi: Knowledge World, 2000), Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Sea Power and Indian Security (London: Brassey's, 1995), K. Subrahmanyam et al., Report of the Kargil Review Committee (New Delhi: Controller of Publications, Government of India, 2000), George K. Tanham and Marcy Agmon, The Indian Air Force: Trends and Prospects (Santa Monica: RAND, 1995).