Event Reports

India still hasn’t learnt its lessons from 62 war: Lt. Gen. Panag

Photolabs@ORF
2016
Jul
25

Lieutenant General (Retd.) H.S. Panag has emphasised on the urgent need to form a National Security Strategy, saying how the lack of the strategy showed that India hasn’t learnt its lessons from 1962.

Lt. Gen. Panag was speaking at the discussion after the release of the book — India’s Wars – A Military History, 1947-1971 — by Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam at Observer Research Foundation on July 15, 2016. Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam is a decorated Air Force pilot with a penchant for writing, and has published, Reflections of an Air Warrior, in the past.

Speaking of the Nehru government and its relationship with the military, Lt. Gen. Panag, who had served as the General Officer Commanding in Chief for North and Central Command, said he believed there was a civilian-military disconnect which was most evident during the war of 1962. He spoke about how the government and Nehru relied more on the Ministry of External Affairs and the Intelligence Bureau and less on the Indian military.

Lt. Gen. Panag did not only delve into the positives and negatives of the book, but also presented his views of the era discussed in the book.

Earlier, Air Vice Marshal Subramaniam talked not only about the contents of the book but also how the book was researched and the stories behind the writing of the book. The book discusses major strategic challenges during the various wars in a way that does not require technical knowledge, making it an appealing read to young historians and scholars according to him. He talked about how the book is different in its approach, as it tries to absorb and collate an oral history of India’s wars from 1947 through 1971.

Air Vice Marshal Subramaniam said he has attempted to present a view which does justice to the roles played by each of the three services.  He was also candid about the motivation behind writing this book; he wanted a text which engages the young reader while also being prepared with enough academic rigors to be part of academic courses in colleges.

He presented an honest and forthright opinion on various operations that were conducted by the Indian armed forces. He spoke about the factors that shaped the Indian military going back to the Marathas and the Sikhs and how they left their stamp on the Indian military culture. He mentioned the wars fought by India soon after independence and gave an in depth analysis of the Hyderabad action as well as Operation Vijay in Goa. He narrated some excerpts from the book which involved elaborate analysis of the wars in 1962 and 1965 derived from the verbal accounts given by several veterans who participated in those wars with their photographs during their time in uniform in the background.

The other speaker was Indian Express columnist and former Indian Army officer Sushant Singh. He described the book as an accurate recollection of India’s military history. Unlike the official histories given by either regiments or the Ministry of Defence which he found exaggerative, he liked the fact that this book tended to stick to the actual script owing to the fact that it is a collation of experiences of several veterans. The only complaint he had with the author was that he wanted the book to contain details of India’s military actions abroad, whether as peacekeepers for the UN or more active roles like in Maldives and Sri Lanka. He felt these were important for the lessons the Indian military needs to learn for carrying out such actions in the future.

This report is prepared by Rahul Krishna, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.