India and Its Last Bastion at 74 By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)

Freedom is something that money 
can’t buy; it’s the result of the 
struggles of many brave hearts.
Let us honor them today and always. 
🇮🇳Happy Independence Day!🇮🇳

Indian Armed Forces are required to safeguard India’s national interests which are enshrined in our constitution. These are a. protection of land borders, coastline, island territories and sea lanes from external aggression from land, sea and air b. protection of people and the constitution internally against terrorism, extremism, insurgency and militancy and c. protection of Indians during natural disasters and other war torn contingencies anywhere in the world. On India’s 74th Independence Day, it is necessary to examine if these interests have been achieved in the past and will they be guaranteed to us in future by our Last Bastion – Indian Armed Forces. Also, we need to reflect if our collective aspirations as a rising power are achievable in the context of the prevalent geopolitical environment, its uncertainties, and threats.


Since attaining Independence in 1947, India has faced existential threats from Pakistan and China. It has also had to contend with separatist tendencies in Jammu and Kashmir as also from various ethnic insurgent groups in the Northeast. The territorial integrity of the nation was breached twice. In 1947, Pakistan invaded Kashmir in an attempt to seize it by force. The Indian Armed Forces thwarted the attempt and were pushing Pakistan back when the UN mandated cease fire came into effect as per its Resolution 47(1948). Pakistan remains in occupation of a part of Kashmir beyond the LOC.  In 1962, the Chinese occupied large tracts of Aksai Chin and a few other pockets along the Line of Actual Control when it defeated the Indian Army. Barring these two instances, which were beyond the control of the Indian Armed Forces, India’s existence and territorial integrity has been maintained. Along the way, Pakistan has been defeated four times (47, 65, 71 and Kargil) in wars, at a time and place of its choosing. China has been given a bloody nose twice (67 and Eastern Ladakh). Most importantly, we have created a nation – Bangladesh, in 14 days. Besides this, the Armed Forces have suppressed insurgencies in the Northeast to facilitate political processes and solutions. India has also been able to militarily repulse the proxy war and terrorism unleashed by Pakistan. After initially being reactive to cross border terror sponsored by Pakistan, the Indian Armed Forces are now proactive. This is reflected in the cross LOC strikes of 2016, the Balakot air strikes of 2019 and various non-contact fire assaults which inflict punishment on Pakistan. In a span of seven decades, our Last Bastion has become formidable. It has enabled the nation to grow and rise. It has also responded to various disaster situations including floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis within and outside India. It has also evacuated Indians and foreigners from war torn and disaster areas. India and its Armed Forces came of age when international aid was provided during the 2004 Tsunami despite being affected internally. India has also built a solid reputation during its many overseas deployments and commitments under the UN flag. 

Looking at the future, India’s main threat is a predatory China with superpower ambitions. In the short term the threat will be continental to alter the status quo on the LAC in China’s  favour. In the long term the threat will be maritime in the Indian Ocean Region  as per China’s two ocean strategy. In all cases China will attempt to compromise our security directly as well as indirectly through our neighbours using a multidomain approach. Pakistan, a receding conventional threat, will remain fixated on attaining its objectives in J&K through hybrid warfare, irrespective of being a continually failing state. However, the larger threat is the collusive one from China and Pakistan which is unfolding. Collusivity could manifest in the form of nuclear coercion, influence and information campaigns, cyber-attacks, hybrid and grey zone wars apart from a conventional threat. Internal strife is likely to continue till such time political and social integration of J&K and the Northeast is achieved.    


A rising India, destined to be the third largest economy, must answer two basic questions.  Are the Indian Armed Forces modern enough to defend India? The answer is ‘Yes’. This was clearly visible in Doklam and in Eastern Ladakh where China baulked at conflict escalation. Are the Indian Armed Forces modern enough for a regional power with global aspirations? The answer is ‘Not Yet’. Presently, India’s force structure is designed to combat the threat it faces. As India grows to be a regional power, its Armed Forces must gradually transform,  to be capability based, to combat threats beyond our horizons. Till then India must forge partnerships/alliances to have collective capability to combat common threats. The relationships/ partnerships with the USA, Japan, Australia, France and Russia have to be seen in this context. 


What does Armed Forces transformation involve? They need greater geopolitical vision and strategic direction through political involvement. The national leadership and bureaucracy, should adequately fund force modernisation. They must build a defence industrial complex based on sound and indigenous R&D and production capability, in a balanced public and private mode which caters to the specific needs of the Armed Forces. The political and military leadership must implement a force structuring and capability development plan consistent with our threat envelope and terrain realities. Forces need to be restructured and integrated based on joint theatre commands. Modernisation involves technological enhancement of existing systems and induction of new technologies to enable multi domain capability. While there has been a constant effort at transformation and upgradation the process has unfolded in fits and starts. The  worry is that a rising and affluent India has not been able to transform its Armed Forces consistent with its needs as against a poor India which did more even when it was unaffordable in the past. Our Armed Forces have stood by the nation in its times of need always and every time. At 74,  India needs to support its Last Bastion adequately, to enable them to protect the nation in its rise to its rightful place in the comity of nations.  




2 responses to “India and Its Last Bastion at 74 By Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)”

  1. Salute Lt General Ravi Shankar Happy independence day


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