Gentlemen of the Raj: The Indian Army Officer Corps, 1817-1949

By Pradeep P. Barua | Go to book overview
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7

The Indian Army and the Colonial Legacy

In addition to its considerable combat role, India served as a major allied assault base during the Second World War. India accommodated 1,320,000 men (British and American) and built 42 million square feet of covered storage area. The Indian government established seventy new training establishments to take up to 470,000 men at a time. Over two hundred fully equipped airfields were built, as were seven major air bases with one mile long runways for the American air force to fly supplies to China. The total value of the supplies given to the U.S. forces in India totalled 129,180,000 British pounds or $516,720,000. India also supplied vast quantities of food and material to Commonwealth forces all over the world. In many cases it was the sole supplier of certain equipment; for example, India produced all the jungle-green uniforms and battle dress worn in Burma. 1 It is hardly surprising then that, at the end of the war, India's debt to Britain had been eliminated and that India actually had built up a credit for $1,240 million. 2

India emerged from the war as a regional military power. Its contribution to the British war effort and the resultant size of its military forces and defense infrastructure left it in an ideal position to fulfill the goals the Chatfield Committee had set for it in the interwar period, that is becoming the bulwark of British imperial defense. The subsequent onset of the Cold War only served to further enhance India's strategic potential in the eyes of British defense analysts in both New Delhi and Whitehall.

The volatile political situation in India, however, remained the main stumbling block to this rosy future. Political events in India were fast outstripping the understanding of the governments in India and Britain. That the British ultimately would leave India no longer remained doubtful. The Labour government elected in August 1945 already had declared publicly

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