Intro : “The undertakings of forts, the treasury, and the army all depend ultimately on the people of the countryside, where are found bravery, firmness, cleverness and large numbers.”
—Kautilya, Arthasastra, 8.1.29-30: 387
Even after 50 years of the hard fought war in 1965, there are claims and counter-claims about the outcome. This is not because Pakistan says so but for the reason that we are not particular about our war histories. Wars are generally remembered as an emotional event, posturing solidarity with our soldiers but not as a systematic discipline of studies. In the USA, the top Universities have war studies centres, with 16 institutions offering post-graduate programmes. British top universities also do the same. China, believing in the Art of War, went ahead and has centre for Cold War Studies also. Beyond this, there are numerous think tanks and research institutions working on war strategies and area specific studies in many European countries. In Bharat, barring couple of institutions, that too attached with defence establishment, there is no attempt to systematically study wars. Whatever is taught in the name of defence studies is theoretical rather than objective and authentic approach for defending a nation. Some ‘secular’ ‘pacifists’ may argue that studying wars is war mongering but it is to be seen as an important exercise in the journey of a nation, for various reasons.
It is famously said that who fails to learn from history, does not have future. This is all the more true with war histories. Unfortunately, we have learnt most of our history from the British and the anglicised ‘intellectuals’ of Bharat teach us the same. The colonial prism distorted our civilisational past and we continued with those lenses in the post-Independent period. Therefore, we were always divided on caste and regional lines, we never had sense of nationhood and consequently, we were always ruled by others. The reality is from Alexander to Moguls, everyone had faced beatings from some or the other Bharatiya kings. Even those who lost, put up a brave fight against aggression. Whenever we lost it was because of our benevolence, complacency or personal rivalries. We never studied the war histories with objective Bharatiya sources, hence this defeatist self-perception.
War strategy is an important ingredient of war studies. Some of the ancient empires were truly civilisational, spreading from present day Afghanistan to Indonesia. We may not have only used military strategies for the same but many other instruments were into practice. Sometimes diplomatic tools were more religious and cultural while occasionally trade and business were the means. Why and how were they effective, is missing in our national consciousness, which needs to be rekindled.
More importantly, as Kautilya said, the strength of a nation (that time kingdom) lies in the people. Our defence considerations are too government centric. Of course, government institutions, including armed forces are most important instruments for defending a nation but unless there is a capacity building and participatory approach within the society, real national defence cannot be assured. We cannot forget that from 1947 infiltration to the Kargil misadventure by Pakistan, it was the local people who provided information. Intelligence gathering, border management and defence preparedness, are our collective jobs and they require capacity building. With the emerging threats of terrorism, such vigilance is all the more essential.
For attaining these objectives, we need to evolve a strategic culture based on strong institution building in social and academic field. Self-belief that a powerful and prosperous Bharat can only ensure global peace has to be inculcated for which we need to institutionalise war studies.