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Unbattled Fears: Reckoning the National Security
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BrahMos Missile in North-Eastern State: Is Dragon Nervous? • CPEC, Its Economic Viability and Options for India • Pakistan: A Country Obsessed with Conspiracy Theories • Who made North Korea a Nuclear Power?: Dr Aq Khan? • Indo-US relationship: Watch your Step • Pakistani Kargil Planners: How could they be so naïve!!! • Pakistan’s Obsession with its ‘Strategic Location’
Technology in Warfare: Is India Lagging Behind? • Deconstructing the Rafale Ambiguity • Finally, we are back to square one! MMRCA competition has just been restarted! • MiG-35, F-16, Gripen or Better Choice? • F-16 for India Air Force… Really?
Cognizing the Military
First Param Vir Chakra • The President’s Body Guard - A History • Yellow Boys - Skinner’s Horse • Origin of Cavalry in Indian Army and the Silladar System • 10 Para (SF) - Mustaffa of Desert Warfare • Head hunters in Kargil - Naga Regiment • 1971 War: Battle of Sylhet - the first Special Heli Borne Operation • 1971 War: Dhaka or Bust? • 14-16th Dec 1971 - Inside Enemy Camp • Surgical Strike Day Celebrations!!! • Soldierathon: Run for Our Soldiers • Armed Forces for Civilian Departments: Last Resort or Inevitable Trend? • ToD - a Proposal by Generals or General Managers?
Remembering the undefeated Sarvatra (Lt Gen) Sagat Singh • Lt Saurabh Kalia: The Patrol Leader • Maj Surendra Poonia - The Man Behind the Marathon (Soldierathon) • Capt Bharat Verma - A Personal Remembrance
Strategic thinking has not been part of our national discourse. Till the end of 20th century, there were a very few public or private think tanks discussing the challenges our nation faced. There was no private news channel till 1999 and when they started, they went about doing their news business.
One of the reasons of this lack of awareness is our ancient culture of devotion, spirituality, peace and inclusiveness. This culture being followed from time immemorial was the reason that the Indian Subcontinent became birth place of four religions - Sanatan Dharma, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
Focus of the society was always the spiritual and intellectual rise of the mankind. We did not give same importance to the art of warfare. Long ago, Krishna reminded us that we should try everything to maintain peace but if required, we should be ready to fight for the right. Later Buddhism and Jainism showed us the path of Ahinsa. After the Kalinga war, king Akhoka the Great converted to Buddhism. Most historians believe that it was the destruction caused during the war that moved Ashoka to convert to Buddhism but few historian believe that he took this step to win popularity. He had a large empire (from present day Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east) and no enemy left to fight with. To govern properly, he needed support from the masses and this conversion projected a soft and enlightened side of himself.
Whatever was the reason, Buddhism received support of a great emperor who started propagating dhamma. He sent Buddhist missions to various South East Asian countries. His conversion became reason of expansion of Buddhism and influenced our national discourse again.
Fast forwarding to 10th Century, Indian subcontinent started getting attacked by Central Asian rulers. They came to loot and/or rule this rich land. Ruler of Indian Subcontinent just could not match the invaders in technology. While we were still fighting with horses and elephants, invaders attacked with artillery guns. From 10th to 17th century (when Europeans landed on our shores), Indian Subcontinent was ruled by Central Asian dynasties. Though we adopted artillery as an integral part of the military, very little attention was paid to scientific development of any sort. We preferred to build strong impregnable forts to fight a long siege war, instead of developing new tactics and armed forces to take the battle to the enemy.
We paid the price again when the Europeans came with rifles and modern way of fighting. In nut shell, invaders were always one step ahead in terms weapons and fighting technics. Not to mention that the culture of spirituality and Ahinsa had taken a toll on the ruthlessness (so vital in the battlefield) of the people of this land. That’s why Prithviraj Chauhan would not attack a fleeing enemy (Muhammad Ghori) on his back and let him live to attack the Chauhans again. Prithviraj’s idealistic way of fighting proved costly to the country.
From 10th Century till 1947, it was a battle of survival for the natives. Strategic thinking was not in anyone’s priority list. Hence when we got independence, most of the leaders (except Sardar Patel) just could not realize the importance of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. We again went ahead with our peaceful and idealistic methods and Kashmir has been an issue since then.
The Commander-in-Chief of the time presented a then plan to expand the Indian Armed Forces to be able to defend the country. The Prime Minister asked him, “Why do we have to expand the Army? We actually don’t need Armed forces. We are a peaceful nation and threw out the sole global superpower of the world (the UK) without using any weapons. No one will attack us. And Police is good enough to maintain internal law and order situation.”
Same mistake was repeated in 1962 while dealing with China, when we had clear indications of heinous moves and design of China. The Indian Army had submitted reports highlighting the Chinese threat but it all fell on deaf ears. The Prime Minister of the time thumped the table and said, “It is not the job of Commander-in-Chief to tell the Government who will attack India. China will never attack us, rather China would come to our rescue if needed. You should concentrate on Pakistan!”
Rest is history
Successive governments did not learn the lesson. Strategic and National Security matters were still prerogative of government institutions. Till 2000, there were a few government funded or private think tanks United Service Institution of India (USI), Indian Direct Selling Association (IDSA), Indian Defence Review (IDR) etc. working on this vital subject. New think tanks came up but their reach was limited. Very few people knew about their existence and even fewer were interested in reading the papers published. It was only in the first decade of 21st century when easy internet access, private websites, discussion forums and defence magazines took this vital subject to masses. There appear to be much more interest in masses now than what it was 20 years ago.
During this time, this author had the good fortune to have met late Capt Bharat Verma (founder and editor of premier defence magazine - Indian Defence Review), who encouraged the author to write about the glorious past of the Armed Forces, its future needs and issues surrounding the national security.
This book is a compilation of articles written on different subjects. It is divided in five sections - every section dealing with a different aspect. Reader should consider the backdrop date provided on every article. This will help putting things in the right respective.
We are living in a different world now, where countries are deeply interconnected through economy, mutual interests, Information Technology etc. Deeply interwoven economic relationship restricts nations to take direct military actions against the other state. In last 50 years, there were only two scenarios where direct military confrontation took place either (i) there was power asymmetry to such an extent that the balance of power was completely shifted in the favour of one party (e.g. First Gulf War of 1991, the US war on terror in Afghanistan of 2001, the US invasion of Iraq of 2003, Russian annexation of Crimea of 2014 etc.) or (ii) the opposing countries involved were of no immediate strategic / economic value (Bosnian war of 1990s, Armenian-Azerbaijani War of 2020).
No economically sound country wants to take on another country of similar importance. In such cases, military conflicts would prove very costly. Therefore they prefer to fight on the battlefields of economics, espionage, cyber security etc. In nut shell, they like to fight with no boots on the ground. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a step in the same direction. BRI will not only give China a chance to invest his USD reserves in other countries and make money but also give China a chance to tighten the noose around India. China has been working on its ‘String of Pearl’ theory for a while. BRI initiative gave China a “legitimate” cover to acquire ports in countries around India. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port and Djibouti port at the end of Horn of Africa are two such examples. Pakistan’s Gwadar port can be next in line.
There is very little chance that China and India will have a direct military confrontation of the scale of 1962 war. Economic stakes are too high for China. China knows that it is not India of 1962 and a military confrontation can seriously embarrass China that has been trying to project itself as another superpower of the world. Hence, localised actions/threats like Doklam Standoff of 2017, Ladakh Standoff of 2020 (where India and China appear to have achieved some breakthrough after Corps Commanders meeting of January 24th 2021. It is to be seen how this standoff ends.) serve the purpose of fighting a war without actually fighting it. China tried to send a message across to make the opposite party nervous.
Chapters published in GEOPOLITICS section would give readers a fairly accurate idea of Chinese-Pakistani design to use each other against India.
There is a chapter on newly found Indo-US “love” relationship as well. Though Joe Biden has replaced Trump as President of the USA, Trumpism might still remain there for quite some time. We need to watch our steps while pursuing this Strategic partnership.
This section is primarily focused on the technology and the vulnerable state of the Indian Armed Forces in this area. Be it Electronic warfare, Cyber Warfare, Space technology, Artificial Intelligence or developing drones, we have a lot to catch up to deal with our adversaries. If we don’t make quick progress in these area, the boots on the ground will be of very little use.
There are four chapters dedicated to IAF, whose depleting fighting potential has been in the limelight for last two decades. We need to have a comprehensive long term plan to resolve IAFs qualitative and quantitative issues while ensuring that the domestic aviation industry grows rapidly to be able to develop fighter planes for the IAF. This issue has been analysed comprehensively in these chapters and the solution suggested might be of some help to the people involved in the business.
Chapter on Rafale will decipher the entire “controversy” in simple words. It will clear most of the doubts or apprehensions caused by contradicting media reports.
Cognizing the Military
This is my favourite subject - Indian Military history and the issues concerning the Indian Army. As they say “the journey is more important than destination”, the research work involved in compiling these chapters was far more interesting and satisfactory than the final outcome. Chapters listed under this section would give a brief introduction to some of the famous regiments of the Indian Army. How they came into existence, their ethnic composition, uniforms, operations etc.
Author took extra care while compiling chapters on 1971 war. Books from across the border were used to crosscheck the details available in the Indian books. Every fact / number / date etc was rechecked a number of times through different sources (historians / officers from both India and Pakistan) to ensure sanctity of the facts mentioned. This section is not for glorification only. There are chapters criticizing the military and political leadership of the day for using of the armed forces or their hard earned glory for petty gains. Such criticism is very essential for the course correction. Hope the parties involved took notice of the issues highlighted in this section.
This section is a tribute to four different soldiers who did exceptionally well in the warzone and other battlefields. Lt Gen Sagat Singh was an outstanding battlefield commander who came out victorious in every battle he participated in - be it 1961 operation Vijay to liberate Goa, Nathu La incident of 1967, Counter Insurgency operations in North East or 1971 Indo-Pak war. An officer whose conduct of battle should be studied by every officer in any position in the chain of command.
Lt Saurabh Kalia is a name that this nation should never forget. He and his men made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty in most undesirable way. They were tortured by the Pakistan Army for 22-23 days before murdering them in cold blood. Nation can not pay them back for their service to this country, we will continue living in their debt. The chapter dedicated to them is just a humble attempt to pay homage.
Maj (R) Poonia - a master of all fields. He is an experience medical doctor, a trained Special Forces Commando and an international sports player. He has whopping 27 medals to his credit in World Medical Games, where medical officers from all over the world compete. His journey from a remote village in Rajasthan to the President house is awe inspiring.
Capt Verma - My mentor; and the reason this book has seen the light of the day. He was pioneer of strategic thinking in India. He always encouraged people to read and write on the matters of national security. I can’t thank him enough for giving me much needed guidance and encouragement.
As mentioned earlier, I have tried me best to check and recheck every detail through multiple sources to ensure sanctity of the content is maintained. If there is any mistake or lapse, the fault lies with me and me only.
I hope you would enjoy the book.
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