Infantry Regiments in the Indian Army are training and lineage units, not operational tactical command echelons. Each infantry Regiment typically includes approximately 20 battalions. The various Gorkha Rifles Regiments typically include about half a dozen battations. During the history of the Indian Army, the designations and numberings of these various regiments have undergone changes which are hopelessly confusing to the uninitiated. While some infantry regiments trace their lineage to the British East India Company era, several new regiments have been raised with the expansion of the Army since Independence.
"The least spectacular of all arms, but without which you can do nothing, nothing at all". This was the comment of the legendary Field Marshal Montgomery. True to these words, Infantry has been the basic fighting arm from the very beginning. History stands to testify that the ultimate victory in any war is decided by the infantry. It is the Infantryman who winkles the enemy out of his bunker and makes him accept defeat or else resolutely holds ground against the assaults of the enemy till the hilt.
Infantry is an arm of close combat, with the role of closing in with the enemy to ensure his defeat. This makes infantry the most indispensable and ultimate combat arm for achieving victory in war. In the modern era of low-intensity conflict operations, infantry, with its versatility and ability to achieve results under all adversities, has proved to be the key arm to achieve success.
Like all armies the world over, infantry is the prime arm of the Indian Army. It is around Infantry that the rest of the Army is configured to function, both during war and peace. The Army's involvement in the foreseeable future, be it at the strategic, operational or tactical level, will continue to be infantry-centric. If Army is the last bastion of the nation's security, Infantry is the ultimate in achieving it.
Technological developments in the battlefield have changed tactical concepts but the barometer of victory has remained unchanged. Victory is measured still in terms of physical capture or denial of ground which is unimaginable without Infantry. Nor is it conceivable to conduct operations in low-intensity conflict and counter-insurgency (CI) without this combat arm.
Even in this age of hi-tech weaponry, it is an accepted fact that the foot soldier is the one who ultimately "delivers". All the aerial bombardment, missiles, rockets and unlimited fire-power only tame the adversary. Victory is established only when the Infantryman stamps his boot on the ground and raises the national flag on captured territory.
Widely acknowledged as the queen of the battle field, the Infantry plays the key role in ensuring actual occupation of territory on ground. The origins of the Indian Infantry can be traced back to the days of the East India Company. In 1858, when the British Crown took control of India and the East India Company ceased to exist, there was a major reorganisation of the Indian Army. In the pre-independence period, the Indian Infantry was involved in a number of operations including major offensives during the two World Wars.
With the dawn of Independence in 1947, the Infantry had a different role to play with new goals and aspirations. Soon after Independence, the Infantry was actively engaged in assisting the newly established civil authority in the country giving protection to millions of displaced persons and in maintaining law and order. Even before this task could be achieved, the battalions had to be rushed to Kashmir to repulse Pakistani attack. The officers and men never looked back since then living up to their traditions of valour heroism and fortitude. They stand vigil along the border, watchful and prepared for any sacrifice, so that the people of their country may live in peace and honour. Theirs is a noble and unenviable task. Cut from civilisation, the brave Jawan stands fast, in remote valleys and on cold snowy peaks braving the hazards of altitude and an inhospitable climate.
After the Indo-Pak war of 1971, Operation Vijay was a witness to the heroic deeds of Infantry troops who performed their tasks successfully in the adverse climatic conditions and terrain to protect the nation's integrity and sovereignty. They advanced from numerous spurs to various peaks to eliminate the enemy and regained lost territory in the shortest possible time. The conflict in Kargil saw a stupendous and exemplary performance of young officers and men combined with excellent planning and execution in the new strategic and operational environment.
The Indian frontiers remain in the hands of the Infantrymen who operate from Siachen Glacier and the impregnable jungles of the North-East to the scorching heat of the Thar desert. The low-intensity conflict operations have been a constant and often the most prolonged operations for the Army. Insurgencies in the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir and, in the recent past, Punjab have been the live examples of Infantry-centric operations which are characteristically complex, delicate and sensitive.
The Infantrymen have invariably performed well in various United Nations peace-keeping operations, earning tremendous goodwill at international fora. Indian Infantry formations and units came out with flying colours in UN peace-keeping operations in Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Sierra Leone and, more recently, in Lebanon, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Congo.
Infantry undertakes numerous civic action projects like providing medical facilities to local residents especially in remote areas. It is the first one to be mobilised in any natural calamity, be it an earthquake, floods, avalanche or a train accident. In remote areas, a number of welfare projects have been initiated for the development of the local residents.
Modernisation of Infantry has been given thrust in a big way. A large number of state-of-the-art weapons, surveillance devices and communication equipment are being inducted into the Infantry. There is a need to organise Infantry sub-units and units as self-reliant and cohesive fighting outfits capable of leading the Army to victory in the combined arms battles of tomorrow.
During July 2003 the Government approved a proposal for re-organisation of all the Infantry Battalions. This re-organisation involved equipping these battalions with modern arms, ammunition and equipment at an overall cost of over Rs. 3,000 crore in 10th & 11th plan period. The battalions were also reconfigured to provide for an additional Ghatak platoon, so as to give more teeth to the units. The re-organisation is intended to impart the infantry arm viz. the cutting edge of the army, with vastly increased fire power and enhanced capabilities in battle field surveillance, communication, navigation and mobility.
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