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

By Pradeep P. Barua | Go to book overview

Conclusion

The dramatic transformation of a small British-led colonial force into a large modern national army is a unique event, without parallel anywhere in the world. Indeed, this evolution of the Indian army flies straight in the face of many current theories about the nature of British colonial rule in India. The fact that it actually occurred forces us to reexamine aspects of the British Raj from a different perspective.

We now know that from 1919 onward, and quite possibly before that, a substantial element of the British civilian and military leadership in India had begun to envision a highly professional and nationalized Indian army, an army that would be one of the primary assets of India when it emerged as a “responsible” dominion of the greater British Commonwealth of nations. Indian nationalist politicians who railed against alleged British stalling tactics on Indianization were in reality almost irrelevant to this process, and may even have hampered its progress. Their main concern was not so much the welfare of the budding Indian officer corps, but rather their realization that they could do little to influence British military policy in India. In the midst of this highly visible if ineffective political maelstrom surrounding Indianization, the Indian army continued to evolve and adapt. It established its own military academy in 1932 and eventually consolidated its own military doctrine independent of that of the British army. Herein lay another problem, for opposition to modernization also came from radical military reformers in Britain. These reformers misidentified India as the main cause for the stifling of their own efforts to mechanize the British army, a view no doubt fueled by the knowledge that the Indian army was becoming an independent entity of its own.

Beginning around 1919 the Indian army did in fact work and evolve

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