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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Bharat’s military sheds some colonial baggage

Bharat’s military has taken its first step towards decolonizing with changes in military band tunes, pre-independence war honors, mess procedures, and emphasis on Bharatiya war heroes in military studies thereby indigenizing the armed forces and ensuring a connection with Bharat’s pre-colonial era.

At present, several military tunes that are now a part of long-standing traditions bear the stamp of the British. Auld Lang Syne played on all Passing out Parades and Abide With Me played during Beating the Retreat ceremony are some of them.

According to a report by The Print, the defense establishment is looking to replace these with suitable Bharatiya tunes. The report quotes a defense source “The search for replacing some of these tunes have started. The endeavor is to implement the changes by the time India celebrates the 75th year of Independence next year”.

It has also come to light that the possibility of discarding pre-independence era battle honors given to units exhibiting exception collective bravery was also discussed along with an in-depth study of military strategies expressed in Bharatiya epics. Borrowing from Bharat’s history, the military strategies of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Rajaraja I Chola, and Rajendra I Chola among others are also on the anvil.

In this regard, The Print report says:

Many of these honors were awarded to units of the then British Indian Army, for fighting against local Indian kings. For example, battle honors were won by units during the first Indian uprising against the British, in 1857, including in the battle with Rani Lakshmibai.

Sources said that while a few British-era mess procedures, especially those observed during dinner nights – formal sit-down dinners –  have been modified since Independence, it was now being examined if and how any further changes can be made.

Another defense source told ThePrint that most military studies in the country refer to the writings of Sun Tzu, who authored the ancient Chinese military treatise Art of War, and British strategists such as Liddel Hart and the German General Clausewitz, while there are comparatively fewer references to indigenous works such as Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

In addition, strategies enunciated in the Indian epics would also be studied in greater detail, alongside the battle tactics of Shivaji – for guerilla tactics – and Raja Raja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola – for naval warfare. There will also be a greater emphasis on Indian languages in the military, sources said…

…Some of these ideas were discussed before. But, the plans and discussions have taken a renewed vigor after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while speaking at the Combined Commanders Conference in Gujarat’s Kevadia in March, talked about enhancing indigenization in the national security system. This was not just in sourcing equipment and weapons, but also in the doctrines, procedures, and customs practiced in the three services.

There had also been a discussion on the Indianisation of traditions and culture in defense services on the first day of the three-day Conference and a separate session on the subject on the third day of the event.

It is pertinent to mention a 2016 combat paper published by the Army college in Mhow with the title “Ancient India’s Strategic Military Culture” correlated warfare and statecraft between ancient and modern Bharat drawing examples from Mahabharat and Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

Furthermore, the paper has listed scriptures that could be used as sources of ancient statecraft and indigenous military strategies. The paper carries references to Manusmriti’s seventh chapter that talks about statecraft and rules of war, Shukra Niti carrying Rishi Shukracharya’s military aphorisms, and Agni Purana, Brahma Purana, and Brahmanda Purana dealing with diplomacy and war theories among others.

Additionally, the paper has references to the evolution of Bharat’s military strategy along with emphasis laid on information warfare strategy by Kautilya.

Every country draws strength from its past and staying rooted is a must while incorporating modern elements. In Bharat, however, more often than not colonizers and invaders have been glorified while Bharat’s own warrior kings and military generals who were skillful geniuses have been pushed to the background. It is time to embrace Chanakya Niti, Shukra Niti, and other similar military treatises while ensuring war colleges include the achievements of generals like Peshwa Bajirao, Lochit Borpukhan, etc in military history and officer courses.

(Featured Image Source: The Print)

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