No More Pre 1947 Battle Honours, India To Set Its Own Honours

(This was originally posted in The Print by Amrita Nayak Dutta)

Changing of military band tunes, pre-independence era battle honours, mess procedures and a greater emphasis on Indian war heroes in military studies — these are some of the changes being examined by the Indian armed forces as part of a larger push towards ‘indigenisation of the forces, ThePrint has learnt.

Currently, a large number of military band tunes are of British origin. Some of these tunes have also become a part of long-standing traditions and played during specific ceremonies. For example, Auld Lang Syne and Abide With Me, are played on all Passing out Parades and Beating the Retreat ceremony, respectively.

Defence sources told ThePrint that it was being examined whether some of these iconic tunes can be replaced with suitable Indian tunes, which could continue to convey the same message.

“The search for replacing some of these tunes has started. The endeavour is to implement the changes by the time India celebrates the 75th year of Independence next year,” a top defence source told ThePrint.

Sources said that it was also being discussed whether it will be prudent to lay to rest some pre-independence era battle honours, which were awarded to units for exhibiting exceptional collective bravery during wars. One of the important traditions of the armed forces is to celebrate the bravery of the troops in wars and it is done in the form of celebrating battle honour days.

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

Some were also won during the two World Wars and in other battles, such as Battle of Haifa, against the Ottoman Empire.

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 defence 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.

“This is likely to be given more emphasis in strategic studies (in the future),’ the source said.

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 vigour after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while speaking at the Combined Commanders Conference in Gujarat’s Kevadia in March, talked about enhancing indigenisation in the national security system. This was not just in sourcing equipment and weapons, but also in the doctrines, procedures and customs practised in the three services.

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

Air chief marshal Birender Dhanoa (retd), however, told ThePrint that militaries world over follow a similar equipment and training pattern as required for modern warfare, while drawing on its own culture and experience, and changes in the armed forces should not be politically motivated.

Was Discussed In 2016 Combat Paper

A combat paper published by the Army War College, Mhow, in 2016 – titled Interpreting Ancient India’s Strategic Military Culture – took examples from the Mahabharata and Arthashastra, to correlate aspects of warfare and statecraft between the ancient and present times.

Defence sources told ThePrint that the paper had stated that “indigenous strategic thoughts and art of war found in the Arthashastra, Mahabharata and other literature are not only organic to Indian psyche, but are also relevant even in today’s context”.

It had also listed certain scriptures which could be used as a source of ancient ideas on statecraft and classical Indian military thought. This included the Dhanurveda (which talks about defence planning, tactics, constitution of defence forces, selection and training of defence personnel, military arrays, divisions of fighting, equipment, long range weapons etc).

The paper had also referred to chapter 7 of Manusmriti, stating that it deals with statecraft and rules of war, Shukra Niti (which it said refers to military aphorisms of sage Shukracharya) and the Puranas like Agni Purana, Brahma Purana and Brahmanda Purana which deals with diplomacy and theories on war.

It had also discussed the evolution of military strategy in India through the eras and emphasized the information warfare strategy by Kautilya, the Indian art of war, and foreign policies. Read More

The Print

Shankul Bhandare

Hello, I am shankul and I love defence research and development and want to spread it through blogging.

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