India's Wars

"A Military History, 1947-1971"

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India’s armed forces play a key role in protecting the country and occupy a special place in the Indian people’s hearts, yet standard accounts of contemporary Indian history rarely have a military dimension. In India’s Wars, serving Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam seeks to rectify that oversight by giving India’s military exploits their rightful place in history. Subramaniam begins India’s Wars with a frank call to reinvigorate the study of military history as part of Indian history more generally. Part II surveys the development of the India’s army, navy, and air force from the early years of the modern era to 1971. In Parts III and IV, Subramaniam considers conflicts from 1947 to 1962 as well as conflicts with China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971. Part V concludes by assessing these conflicts through the lens of India’s ancient strategist, Kautilya, who is revered in India as much as Sun Tzu is in China.

Not merely a wide-ranging historical narrative of India’s military performance in battle, India’s Wars also offers a strategic, operational, and human perspective on the wars fought by independent India’s armed forces. Subramaniam highlights possible ways to improve the synergy between the three services, and argues in favor of the declassification of historical material pertaining to national security. The author also examines the overall state of civil-military relations in India, leadership within the Indian armed forces, as well as training, capability building, and other vitally important issues of concern to citizens, the government, and the armed forces. This objective and critical analysis provides policy cues for the reinvigoration of the armed forces as a critical tool of statecraft and diplomacy. Readers will come away from India’s Wars with a greater understanding of the international environment of war and conflict in modern India. Laced with veterans’ intense experiences in combat operations, and deeply researched and passionately written, it unfolds with surprising ease and offers a fresh perspective on independent India’s history.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

"This book is a good introduction to the subject. It is generally quite detailed when it comes to the IAF.... The author has a definite political and ideological agenda [and] the details are accurate.... Well worth a read." —Brown Pundits
"India's Wars is an eminently readable work on the Indian military and India's experiences with wars over a period of roughly twenty-five years after independence. Given the serious neglect of military history in the understanding of India's contemporary history (post-1947), this is a notable contribution.... Subramaniam has provided us with a useful and thought-provoking book on India's wars until 1971, and one hopes that the next volume on the period after the Bangladesh War will be equally engaging." —H-Asia
"[Subramaniam] offers a richly detailed history of India's wars with Pakistan, China, and Portugal as well as a balanced appraisal of India's military wartime performance, highlighting successes and failures." —Military Officer
"The battle for Goa was an early example of a combined operation for the Indian military, combining land, air, and sea elements. It is one small piece of a growing heritage for that nation, a history that is well told in this book. The work is impressive in its readability and clarity, as the author does not presume any foreknowledge of his subject and strives to make clear a subject relatively unknown in the Western world. The work deftly traces India's military origins in the 20th century." —Military Heritage
"Retired Indian Air Vice Marshal Subramaniam, who is now an instructor at the Indian National Defence College, has produced a comprehensive history of India's armed forces and their wars, from the First Indo-Pakistan War in 1947, which was sparked by partition and independence through the Third, sometimes known as the Bangladesh War in 1971.... Subramaniam's treatment of policy, strategy, and operations is very good, and his description of tactical encounters are well written, integrating air, ground, and naval operations as appropriate, and are pretty easy to follow.... India's Wars offers an excellent overview of Indian military history since independence for both the professional military historian or the interested layman."—StrategyPage
"In this turbulent twenty-first century, the rise of India will be critical for understanding global geopolitics. This superb overview of India's military history in the twentieth century is essential to appreciate the role of India in the decades to come." —Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), sixteenth Supreme Allied Commander, NATO; Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University
"Deftly telescoping six decades of India's conflicts in a single volume, Arjun Subramaniam presents an objective and compelling tri-service narrative which I found hard to put down. He joins a select band of service officers who have, in the tradition of Thucydides, shown the intellectual acumen as well as courage and perseverance to put pen to paper while still in uniform." —Admiral Arun Prakash, Indian Navy, (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Staff and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee
"India's Wars is a very readable and fascinating book that is not simply a recitation of events, but a work punctuated with insights that can be realized only by someone who participated in the events. Providing views of India's military pioneers not previously available, it also addresses the political interactions that are integral to conflict. This is a timely book yielding understanding of India's military history when India's influence on critical geopolitical events is growing." —Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, USAF (Ret.); Dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Power Studies
"Arjun Subramaniam has blazed a trail for other Indian military officers to follow. By carefully analyzing India's early post-independence wars from a joint perspective, he has contributed toward improving not only professional military education in India, but hopefully the conduct of Indian national security policy itself. A magnificent achievement!" —Ashley J. Tellis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
“Air Marshal (Retired) Arjun Subramaniam, in his book India’s Wars: A Military History, 1947-1971, narrates an incident in Italy in 1943 that would make any Indian proud of the way the Indian man honoured — and protected — women.” —The New Indian Express
“The picture India’s Wars paints of the evolving Indian military is a flattering one.” —Naval War College Review
"Arjun Subramaniam has undoubtedly produced a compendium on India’s military history, which the public as well as specialists and researchers will find an invaluable work of dedicated scholarship."—War in History