The army numbers over one million personnel and fields three dozen divisions. Designed primarily to defend the country's frontiers, the army has become heavily committed to internal security duties in Kashmir and the Northeast. In 2002 the Indian Army had 980,000 active troops, along with an Army Reserve consisting of: 300,000 first line troops (those within five years of full time service), and another 500,000 second line troops (subject to recall to service until 50 years of age). The Territorial Army numbered 40,000 first line troops (and 160,000 second line troops). In 1994 the army had approximately 940,000 men and women on active duty, and another 36,000 in the Territorial Army. As of 1998 the Army had a sanctioned troop strength of 1,045,000, but there was a shortage of about 59,000 troops.
At the beginning of World War II there were 170,000 soldiers in the Indian Army all regulars, but by June of 1948 there were 2,000,000. This was the reason British Officers were needed to help train and form new units. Each Battalion needed eight British Officers to take command, as all the lower ranks were manned by Indian Viceroy Commissioned Officers, and NCOs.
The largest standing volunteer Army in the world has never had to scour the populace for draft or conscription. There are always more men eager to don olive green than the demand at any one time. But this does not reflect a situation where a large unemployed workforce would get into uniform to keep body and soul together. More to the point is the basic attitude of our people to the call of arms, discovered also by the British, some three centuries before. There are very many who join up for long service tenures under the colors, by inclination and choice - also familial habit and honour. If a young man, sound of body and mind, and of Indian origin, is inclined to spend most of his useful working years in the kind of desolation that the country's Field areas' adjoining the borders provide, can he be refused?
For the purpose of recruitment, the country is divided into recruiting zones. Every zone is allotted a quota for recruitment based on a percentage of its population and ethnic grouping. A legacy, slowly being diluted, is that of combat arm units or regiments recruiting from a particular zone or mixture of ethnic groups.
Once a man has joined up, it is for keeps. Many fall out at the basic training stage when they find that there is much more to it than getting into a smart uniform. The ones who hear the sound of the trumpet clearly without missing a note, take their oath and for good or bad go into service - not servitude.
The officer corps strength versus commanded strength averages 7 to 8 per cent. After independence there was only one period (1963-65) when a need arose to offer short-term emergency commissions. That was when a pre-1962 planned expansion was compressed in terms of time leading to this call. The main brunt of the fighting in 1965 and 1971 at junior command levels was taken up by this group. Just as in the Second World War, they, along with their regular counterparts, responded with traditional elan. Over the years, a number of Commission streams had merged together. The last of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, graduates retired in 1969. The Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehra Dun, graduates, as well as the Short Service/Emergency Commissioned Officers of the Second World War formed the overwhelming bulk filling the fighting command slots in 1947-49; the King's Commission Indian Officers taking over the higher command appointments.
As the young officer grows in services he obtains professional training which helps to slot him into his increasing responsibilities. These training institutions were created from scratch. At their apex stands the National Defence College. In between are the professional All Arms and Services 'colleges' and special managerial expertise is provided by Corps and Service schools and colleges. Standing at the top here is the College of Defence Management. At the Higher Command levels the leader and the manager merge imperceptibly.
The Indian Army serves as the ultimate instrument for maintaining the unity and the integrity of the nation in the face of external threats and internal unrest and disturbances. The major tasks of the Indian Army are as follows:
- Effectively project deterrence and dissuasion through the medium of strong, well-structured combat capability.
- Be prepared to engage in and conduct all types of military operations, singly or jointly, in the entire spectrum of conflict.
- Provide the requisite land forces component of the Strategic Forces Command.
- Provide aid to civil authority when called upon to do so for maintenance of law and order, humanitarian aid and assistance during disasters and calamities or any other circumstances including maintenance of essential services.
- Participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations in consonance with India's commitment to the United Nations Charter.
- Be prepared to render military assistance to friendly countries when required to do so.
Today, out of one million personnel, the Infantry, Armoured Corps and the Artillery constitute just 25 per cent of the Armed Forces. The morale of the Armed Forces is not quite as high as it should be. One reason is very poor pay and allowances, compared to their civil counterparts, especially in the teeth arms; the infantry; Armoured Corps and Artillery. The declining standards of probity and discipline in the armed forces have become a big source of concern in recent years, considering the fact that as many as 8,000 courts martial have been held from 2000 through 2007.
Indian Army units have numerical designations, modified by the type of unit, eg, XXI Corps or more commmonly 21 Corps, 54 Infantry Division, 91 Infantry Brigade, 1 Maratha Light Infantry Bn. [but unlike their American counterparts, the designators do not have declinsive modifiers, ie, not 54th Infantry Division, 91st Infantry Brigade, 1st Maratha Light Infantry Bn.]
In the Indian context, Command Headquarter can be likened to a Field Army or even an Army Group Headquarter with a General Officer Commanding-in-Chief presiding over matters in the rank of a (three-star) Lieutenant General. Next the line are the Corps Headquarters, which are Field Army Headquarters elsewhere. The Indian Army's combat formations are now grouped and tailored under many such Corps Headquarters (with some forces being retained under static Area Commands).
The short 1962 Border War with China dictated that no matter what the state of electronic communications, higher directive control should be exercised from geographical proximity. Headquarter Eastern Command had tried this from Lucknow, some 1,100 kilometres distant from Walong. Wiser after the war experience, Headquarter Eastern Command went back to Fort William, Calcutta. Lucknow was taken over by the newly formed Headquarter Central Command. The 1965 and 1971 Wars demonstrated that the area under General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command was too vast for effective command. Accordingly, in 1971, duplicate headquarters with duplicated staff were set up at Shimla and Bhatinda. After 1971, Headquarter Northern Command was established at Udhampur, taking over responsibility for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Sihmla was considered unsuitable for Headquarters Western Command and so was moved to Chandigarh with Punjab and Northern Rajasthan under its jurisdiction.
The static Areas, Sub Areas, or Independent Sub Areas span the length and breadth of the country. These look after infrastructural (and lines of communications) assets, relieving field formations from the tedium of administering a multiplicity.of support installations located in an area. Area' boundaries conform to state (or a group of states) administrative boundaries. All Headquarters are tasked also to maintain full civil-military liaison. Static Areas (or even field formations in some cases) set up Station Headquarters whose area of responsibility usually coincides with a district or a group of districts. Field formations located in Areas are always contingently tasked to assist the civil administration through these static Headquarters. Strangely enough, this system works.