Indian Army

Founded 15 August 1947 – present
Country India
Type Army
Size 1,129,900 Active personnel 960,000 Reserve personnel 158 Aircraft 62 Ballistic missiles
Part of Ministry of Defence Indian Armed Forces
Headquarters New Delhi, India
Chief of the Army Staff General Bikram Singh
Notable commanders Field Marshal Cariappa Field Marshal Manekshaw

The Indian Army is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces.

According to the IISS, in 2010 the army had a strength of 1,129,900 active personnel and 960,000 reserve personnel, making the Indian Army the world's largest standing volunteer army.

Its primary mission is to ensure the national security and defence of the Republic of India from external aggression and threats, and maintaining peace and security within its borders. It also conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances. The President of India is the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), a General, is a four star commander and commands the army. There is typically never more than one serving general at any given time in the Army. Two officers have been conferred the rank of field marshal, a 5-star rank and the officer serves as the ceremonial chief.

The Indian Army came into being when India gained independence in 1947, and inherited most of the infrastructure of the British Indian Army that were located in post-partition India. The Indian Army is a voluntary service and although a provision for military conscription exists in the Indian constitution, it has never been imposed. Since independence, the army has been involved in four wars with neighboring Pakistan and one with the People's Republic of China. Other major operations undertaken by the army include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot and Operation Cactus. Apart from conflicts, the army has also been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.


The Indian Army provides that "The Indian Army is the land component of the Indian Armed Forces which exists to uphold the ideals of the Constitution of India.] As a major component of national power, alongside the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, the roles of the Indian Army are as follows:

  • Primary: Preserve national interests and safeguard sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of India against any external threats by deterrence or by waging war.
  • Secondary: Assist Government agencies to cope with 'proxy war' and other internal threats and provide aid to civil authority when requisitioned for the purpose.

British Indian Army

A Military Department was created within the Supreme Government of the East India Company at Kolkata in the year 1776. Its main function was to sift and record orders relating to the Army that were issued by various Departments of the Government of the East India Company.

With the Charter Act of 1833, the Secretariat of the Government of the East India Company was reorganised into four Departments, including a Military Department. The army in the Presidencies of Bengal, Bombay & Madras functioned as respective Presidency Army until April 1895, when the Presidency Armies were unified into a single Indian Army. For administrative convenience, it was divided into four commands at that point of time, namely Punjab (including the North West Frontier), Bengal, Madras (including Burma) and Bombay (including Sind, Quetta and Aden).

The British Indian Army was a critical force for the primacy of the British Empire both in India and across the world. Besides maintaining the internal security of the British Raj, the Army fought in many other theatres – Anglo-Burmese Wars, First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars, First, Second and Third Anglo-Afghan Wars, First and Second Opium Wars in China, Abyssinia, Boxer Rebellion in China.

First World War

In the 20th century, the British Indian Army was a crucial adjunct to the British forces in both the World Wars.

1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War I (1914–1918) for the Allies, after the United Kingdom made vague promises of self-governance to the Indian National Congress in return for its support. Britain reneged on its promises after the war, following which the Indian Independence movement gained strength. 74,187 Indian troops were killed or missing in action in the war.

The "Indianisation" of the British Indian Army began with the formation of the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College at Dehradun in March 1912 with the purpose of providing education to the scions of aristocratic and well to do Indian families and to prepare selected Indian boys for admission into the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Indian officers given a King's commission after passing out were posted to one of the eight units selected for Indianisation. Political pressure due to the slow pace of Indianisation, just 69 officers being commissioned between 1918 and 1932, led to the formation of the Indian Military Academy in 1932 and greater numbers of officers of Indian origin being commissioned.

Second World War

In World War II Indian soldiers fought for the Allies. In 1939, British officials had no plan for expansion and training of Indian forces, which comprised about 130,000 men (in addition there were 44,000 men in British units in India in 1939.) Their mission was internal security and defence against a possible Russian threat through Afghanistan. As the war progressed, the size and role of the Indian Army expanded dramatically, and troops were sent to battle fronts as soon as possible. The most serious problem was lack of equipment.

With the fall of Singapore in 1942, about 40,000 Indian soldiers were captured. They were given a choice and 30,000 joined the Indian National Army. Those who refused became POWs and were mostly shipped to New Guinea. Japan's Indian National Army had little effect on the war.

In the African and Middle-Eastern Campaigns, captured Indian troops were given a choice to join the German Army to eventually "liberate" India from Great Britain instead of being sent to POW camps. Those along with Indian students who were in Germany when the war broke out made what was called the Free India Legion. They were originally intended as pathfinders for German forces in Asia but they soon were sent to help guard the Atlantic Wall. Few who were part of the Free India Legion ever saw any combat and very few were ever stationed outside of Europe. At its height the Free India Legion had over 3,000 troops in its ranks.

Indian units served in Burma, where in 1944–45 five Indian divisions were engaged along with one British and three African divisions. Even larger numbers operated in the Middle East. Some 87,000 Indian soldiers died in the war.


Upon independence and the subsequent Partition of India in 1947, four of the ten Gurkha regiments were transferred to the British Army. The rest of the British Indian Army was divided between the newly created nations of Republic of India and Republic of Pakistan. The Punjab Boundary Force, which had been formed to help police the Punjab during the partition period, was disbanded, and Headquarters Delhi and East Punjab Command was formed to administer the area.

Conflicts and Operations

First Kashmir War (1947)

Immediately after independence, tensions between India and Pakistan began to boil over, and the first of three full-scale wars between the two nations broke out over the then princely state of Kashmir. Upon the Maharaja of Kashmir's eagerness to accede to India against the will of the 95% Muslim population of Kashmir, a 'tribal' invasion of parts of Kashmir began with mostly people from the NWFP region helping out the local Kashmiri population. The men included Pakistan army regulars. Soon after, Pakistan sent in more of its troops to prevent Indian annexation by force. The Maharaja, Hari Singh, appealed to India, and to Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the Governor General, for help. He signed the Instrument of Accession which was largely seen as a deal by the Kashmiri population and Kashmir acceded to India (a decision ratified by Britain). Immediately after, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar. This contingent included General Thimayya who distinguished himself in the operation and in years that followed, became a Chief of the Indian Army. An intense war was waged across the state and former comrades found themselves fighting each other. Both sides made some territorial gains and also suffered significant losses.

An uneasy UN sponsored peace returned by the end of 1948 with Indian and Pakistani soldiers facing each other directly on the Line of Control, which has since divided Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistan-held Kashmir. A host of UN Resolutions(38–47) were passed calling for a plebiscite to be held in Kashmir to determine accession to India or Pakistan. These Resolutions however were never accepted by India. Tensions between India and Pakistan, largely over Kashmir, have never since been entirely eliminated.

Inclusion of Hyderabad (1948)

After the partition of India, the State of Hyderabad, a princely-state under the rule of a Nizam, chose to remain independent. The Nizam, refused to accede his state to the Union of India. The following stand-off between the Government of India and the Nizam ended on 12 September 1948 when India's then deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel ordered Indian troops to secure the state. With 5 days of low-intensity fighting, the Indian Army, backed by a squadron of Hawker Tempest aircraft of the Indian Air Force, routed the Hyderabad State forces. Five infantry battalions and one armoured squadron of the Indian Army were engaged in the operation. The following day, the State of Hyderabad was proclaimed as a part of the Union of India. Major General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri, who led the Operation Polo was appointed the Military Governor of Hyderabad (1948–1949) to restore law and order.

Medical Assistance during Korean War (1950–1953)

During the Korean War, India sent the 60th (Parachute) Field Ambulance unit to aid the UN troops fighting against the Chinese and North Korean invasion of South Korea, though they decided against sending combat forces. The 60th PFA was included in the 1st Commonwealth Division.

In the aftermath of the war, Indian soldiers were also sent to Korea to peace-keep.

Liberation of Goa, Daman and Diu (1961)

Even though the British and French vacated all their colonial possessions in the Indian subcontinent, Portugal refused to relinquish control of its Indian colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu. After repeated attempts by India to negotiate with Portugal for the return of its territory were spurned by Portuguese prime minister and dictator, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, India launched Operation Vijay on 12 December 1961 to evict the Portuguese. A small contingent of its troops entered Goa, Daman and Diu to liberate and secure the territory. After a brief conflict, in which 31 Portuguese soldiers were killed, the Portuguese Navy frigate NRP Afonso de Albuquerque destroyed, and over 3,000 Portuguese captured, Portuguese General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva surrendered to the Indian Army, after twenty-six hours and Goa, Daman and Diu joined the Indian Union.

Sino-Indian Conflict (1962)

The cause of the war was a dispute over the sovereignty of the widely-separated Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh border regions. Aksai Chin, claimed by India to belong to Kashmir and by China to be part of Xinjiang, contains an important road link that connects the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. China's construction of this road was one of the triggers of the conflict.

Small-scale clashes between the Indian and Chinese forces broke out as India insisted on the disputed McMahon Line being regarded as the international border between the two countries. Chinese troops claim to have not retaliated to the cross-border firing by Indian troops, despite sustaining losses. China's suspicion of India's involvement in Tibet created more rifts between the two countries.

In 1962, the Indian Army was ordered to move to the Thag La ridge located near the border between Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh and about three miles (5 km) north of the disputed McMahon Line. Meanwhile, Chinese troops too had made incursions into Indian-held territory and tensions between the two reached a new high when Indian forces discovered a road constructed by China in Aksai Chin. After a series of failed negotiations, the People's Liberation Army attacked Indian Army positions at the Thag La ridge. This move by China caught India by surprise and by 12 October, Nehru gave orders for the Chinese to be expelled from Aksai Chin. However, poor coordination among various divisions of the Indian Army and the late decision to mobilise the Indian Air Force in vast numbers gave China a crucial tactical and strategic advantage over India. On 20 October, Chinese soldiers attacked India in both the North-West and North-Eastern parts of the border and captured vast portions of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.

As the fighting moved beyond disputed territories, China called on the Indian government to negotiate, however India remained determined to regain lost territory. With no peaceful agreement in sight, China unilaterally withdrew its forces from Arunachal Pradesh. The reasons for the withdrawal are disputed with India claiming various logistical problems for China and diplomatic support to it from the United States, while China stated that it still held territory that it had staked diplomatic claim upon. The dividing line between the Indian and Chinese forces was named the Line of Actual Control.

The poor decisions made by India's military commanders, and, indeed, its political leadership, raised several questions. The Henderson-Brooks & Bhagat committee was soon set up by the Government of India to determine the causes of the poor performance of the Indian Army. The report of China even after hostilities began and also criticised the decision to not allow the Indian Air Force to target Chinese transport lines out of fear of Chinese aerial counter-attack on Indian civilian areas. Much of the blame was also targeted at the incompetence of then Defence Minister, Krishna Menon who resigned from his post soon after the war ended. Despite frequent calls for its release, the Henderson-Brooks report still remains classified. Neville Maxwell has written an account of the war.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

A second confrontation with Pakistan took place in 1965, largely over Kashmir. Pakistani President Ayub Khan launched Operation Gibraltar in August 1965, during which several Pakistani paramilitary troops infiltrated into Indian-administered Kashmir and attempt to ignite an anti-India agitation in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani leaders believed that India, which was still recovering from the disastrous Sino-Indian War, would be unable to deal with a military thrust and a Kashmiri rebellion. India reacted swiftly and launched a counter offensive on Pakistan. Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam in reply on 1 September, invading India's Chamb-Jaurian sector. In retaliation, the India's Army launched a major offensive throughout its border with Pakistan, with Lahore as its prime target.

Initially, the Indian Army met with considerable success in the northern sector. After launching prolonged artillery barrages against Pakistan, India was able to capture three important mountain positions in Kashmir. By 9 September, the Indian Army had made considerable in-roads into Pakistan. India had its largest haul of Pakistani tanks when the offensive of Pakistan's 1st Armoured Division was blunted at the Battle of Asal Uttar, which took place on 10 September near Khemkaran. The biggest tank battle of the war came in the form of the Battle of Chawinda, the largest tank battle in history after World War II. Pakistan's defeat at the Battle of Asal Uttarhastened the end of the conflict.

At the time of ceasefire declaration, India reported casualties of about 3,000 killed. On the other hand, it was estimated that more than 4,000 Pakistani soldiers were killed in the battle. About 471 Pakistani tanks were either destroyed or captured by India. India lost a total of 128 tanks during the conflict. The decision to return back to pre-war positions, following the Tashkent Declaration, caused an outcry among the polity] in New Delhi. It was widely believed that India's decision to accept the ceasefire was due to political factors, and not military, since it was facing considerable pressure from the United States and the UN to stop hostilities.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

An independence movement broke out in East Pakistan which was brutally crushed by Pakistani forces. Due to large-scale atrocities against them, thousands of Bengalis took refuge in neighbouring India causing a major refugee crisis there. In early 1971, India declared its full-support for the Bengali rebels, known as Mukti Bahini, and Indian agents were extensively involved in covert operations to aid them.

On 20 November 1971, Indian Army moved the 14 Punjab Battalion 45 Cavalry into Garibpur, a strategically important town near India's border with East Pakistan, and successfullycaptured it. The following day, more clashes took place between Indian and Pakistani forces. Wary of India's growing involvement in the Bengali rebellion, the Pakistan Air Force(PAF) launched a preemptive strike on 10 Indian air bases at Srinagar, Jammu, Pathankot, Amritsar, Agra, Adampur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Uttarlai and Sirsa at 1745 hours on 3 December. This aerial offensive, however, failed to accomplish its stated objectives and gave India its excuse to declare a full-scale war against Pakistan the same day. By midnight, the Indian Army, accompanied by Indian Air Force, launched a major three-pronged assault into East Pakistan. The Indian Army won several battles on the eastern front including the decisive of battle of Hilli, which was the only front where the Pakistani Army was able to build up considerable resistance. The operation also included a battalion-level airborne operation on Tangail which resulted in the capitulation of all resistance within five days. India's massive early gains was largely attributed to the speed and flexibility with which Indian armoured divisions moved across East Pakistan.

Pakistan launched a counter-attack against India on the western front. On 4 December 1971, the A company of the 23rd Battalion of India's Punjab Regiment detected and intercepted the movement of the 51st Infantry Brigade of the Pakistani Army near Ramgarh, Rajasthan. The battle of Longewala ensued during which the A company, though being outnumbered, thwarted the Pakistani advance until the Indian Air Force directed its fighters to engage the Pakistani tanks. By the time the battle had ended, 38 Pakistani tanks and 100 armoured vehicles were either destroyed or abandoned. About 200 Pakistani troops were killed in action during the battle while only 2 Indian soldiers lost their lives. Pakistan suffered another major defeat on the western front during the battle of Basantar which was fought from 4 December to 16th. By the end of the battle, about 66 Pakistani tanks were destroyed and 40 more were captured. In return, Pakistani forces were able to destroy only 11 Indian tanks. None of the numerous Pakistani offensives on the Western front materialised. By 16 December, Pakistan had lost sizeable territory on both eastern and western fronts.

Under the command of Lt. General J.S. Arora, the three corps of the Indian Army, which had invaded East Pakistan, entered Dhaka and forced Pakistani forces to surrender on 16 December 1971, one day after the conclusion of the battle of Basantar. After Pakistan's Lt. General A.A.K. Niazi signed the Instrument of Surrender, India took more than 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. At the time of the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, 11,000 Pakistani soldiers were killed-in-action while India suffered only 3,500 battle-related deaths. In addition, Pakistan lost 220 tanks during the battle compared to India's 69.

In 1972, the Simla Agreement was signed between the two countries and tensions simmered. However, there were occasional spurts in diplomatic tensions which culminated into increased military vigilance on both sides.

Siachen conflict (1984)

The Siachen Glacier, though a part of the Kashmir region, was not officially demarcated on maps prepared and exchanged between the two sides in 1947. As a consequence, prior to the 1980s, neither India nor Pakistan maintained any permanent military presence in the region. However, Pakistan began conducting and allowing a series of mountaineering expeditions to the glacier beginning in the 1950s. By early 1980s, the government of Pakistan was granting special expedition permits to mountaineers and United States Army maps deliberately showed Siachen as a part of Pakistan. This practice gave rise to the contemporary meaning of the term oropolitics.

India, possibly irked by these developments, launched Operation Meghdoot in April 1984. The entire Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army was airlifted to the glacier. Pakistani forces responded quickly and clashes between the two followed. Indian Army secured the strategic Sia La and Bilafond La mountain passes and by 1985, more than 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) of territory, 'claimed' by Pakistan, was under Indian control. The Indian Army continues to control all of the Siachen Glacier and its tributary glaciers. Pakistan made several unsuccessful attempts to regain control over Siachen. In late 1987, Pakistan mobilised about 8,000 troops and garrisoned them near Khapalu, aiming to capture Bilafond La. However, they were repulsed by Indian Army personnel guarding Bilafond. During the battle, about 23 Indian soldiers lost their lives while more than 150 Pakistani troops perished. Further unsuccessful attempts to reclaim positions were launched by Pakistan in 1990, 1995, 1996 and 1999, most notably in Kargil that year.

India continues to maintain a strong military presence in the region despite extremely inhospitable conditions. The conflict over Siachen is regularly cited as an example of mountain warfare. The highest peak in the Siachen glacier region, Saltoro Kangri, could be viewed as strategically important for India because of its immense altitude which could enable the Indian forces to monitor some Pakistani or Chinese movements in the immediate area. Maintaining control over Siachen poses several logistical challenges for the Indian Army. Several infrastructure projects were constructed in the region, including a helipad 21,000 feet (6,400 m) above the sea level. In 2004, Indian Army was spending an estimated US$2 million a day to support its personnel stationed in the region.

Counter-insurgency activities

The Indian Army has played a crucial role in the past, fighting insurgents and terrorists within the nation. The army launched Operation Bluestar and Operation Woodrose in the 1980s to combat Sikh insurgents. The army, along with some paramilitary forces, has the prime responsibility of maintaining law and order in the troubled Jammu and Kashmirregion. The Indian Army also sent a contingent to Sri Lanka in 1987 as a part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force.

Kargil conflict (1999)

In 1998, India carried out nuclear tests and a few days later, Pakistan responded by more nuclear tests giving both countries nuclear deterrence capability, although India had exploded three hydrogen bombs which Pakistan lacks. Diplomatic tensions eased after the Lahore Summit was held in 1999. The sense of optimism was short-lived, however, since in mid-1999 Pakistani paramilitary forces and Kashmiri insurgents captured deserted, but strategic, Himalayan heights in the Kargil district of India. These had been vacated by the Indian army during the onset of the inhospitable winter and were supposed to reoccupied in spring. The regular Pakistani troops who took control of these areas received important support, both in the form of arms and supplies, from Pakistan. Some of the heights under their control, which also included the Tiger Hill, overlooked the vital Srinagar-Leh Highway (NH 1A), Batalik and Dras.

Once the scale of the Pakistani incursion was realised, the Indian Army quickly mobilised about 200,000 troops and Operation Meghdootwas launched. However, since the heights were under Pakistani control, India was in a clear strategic disadvantage. From their observation posts, the Pakistani forces had a clear line-of-sight to lay down indirect artillery fire on NH 1A, inflicting heavy casualties on the Indians. This was a serious problem for the Indian Army as the highway was its main logistical and supply route. Thus, the Indian Army's first priority was to recapture peaks that were in the immediate vicinity of NH1a. This resulted in Indian troops first targeting the Tiger Hill and Tololing complex in Dras. This was soon followed by more attacks on the Batalik-Turtok sub-sector which provided access to Siachen Glacier. Point 4590, which had the nearest view of the NH1a, was successfully recaptured by Indian forces on 14 June.

Though most of the posts in the vicinity of the highway were cleared by mid-June, some parts of the highway near Drass witnessed sporadic shelling until the end of the war. Once NH1a area was cleared, the Indian Army turned to driving the invading force back across the Line of Control. The Battle of Tololing, among other assaults, slowly tilted the combat in India's favour. Nevertheless, some of the posts put up a stiff resistance, including Tiger Hill (Point 5140) that fell only later in the war. As the operation was fully underway, about 250 artillery guns were brought in to clear the infiltrators in the posts that were in the line-of-sight. In many vital points, neither artillery nor air power could dislodge the outposts manned by the Pakistan soldiers, who were out of visible range. The Indian Army mounted some direct frontal ground assaults which were slow and took a heavy toll given the steep ascent that had to be made on peaks as high as 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Two months into the conflict, Indian troops had slowly retaken most of the ridges they had lost; according to official count, an estimated 75%–80% of the intruded area and nearly all high ground was back under Indian control.

Following the Washington accord on 4 July, where Sharif agreed to withdraw Pakistani troops, most of the fighting came to a gradual halt, but some Pakistani forces remained in positions on the Indian side of the LOC. In addition, the United Jihad Council (an umbrella for all extremist groups) rejected Pakistan's plan for a climb-down, instead deciding to fight on. The Indian Army launched its final attacks in the last week of July; as soon as the Drass subsector had been cleared of Pakistani forces, the fighting ceased on 26 July. The day has since been marked as Kargil Vijay Diwas (Kargil Victory Day) in India. By the end of the war, India had resumed control of all territory south and east of the Line of Control, as was established in July 1972 per the Shimla Accord. By the time all hostilities had ended, the number of Indian soldiers killed during the conflict stood at 527. while more than 700 regular members of the Pakistani army were killed. The number of Islamist fighters, also known as Mujahideen, killed by Indian Armed Forces during the conflict stood at about 3,000.

United Nations Peacekeeping Missions

The Indian Army has undertaken numerous UN peacekeeping missions:
  • Angola, UNAVEM I, 1988–1991
  • Angola, UNAVEM II, 1991–1995
  • Angola, UNAVEM III, 1995–1997
  • Angola, MONUA, 1997–1999
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina, UNMIBH, 1995–2002
  • Cambodia, UNAMIC, 1991–1992
  • Cambodia, UNTAC, 1992–1993
  • Central America, ONUCA, 1989–1992
  • Congo, ONUC, 1960–1964
  • El Salvador, ONUSAL, 1991–1995
  • Ethiopia & Eritrea, UNMEE, 2000–2008

Indian Army's T-72 with UN markings at the Belgian compound in Kismayo, Somalia, in support of Operation Continue Hope as a part of UNOSOM.
  • Haiti, UNMIH, 1993–1996
  • Haiti, UNSMIH, 1996–1997
  • Haiti, UNTMIH, 1997
  • Haiti, MIPONUH, 1997–2000
  • Iran & Iraq, UNIIMOG, 1988–1991
  • Iraq & Kuwait, UNIKOM, 1991–2003
  • Israel, UNDOF
  • Liberia, UNOMIL, 1993–1997
  • Lebanon, UNOGL, UNIFIL, 1958
  • Middle East, UNEF I, 1956–1967
  • Mozambique, ONUMOZ, 1992–1994
  • Namibia, UNTAG, 1989–1990
  • Rwanda, UNAMIR, 1993–1996
  • Sierra Leone, UNOMSIL, 1998–1999
  • Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, 1999–2005
  • Somalia, UNOSOM, 1993–1995
  • Yemen, UNYOM, 1963–1964

The Indian army also provided paramedical units to facilitate the withdrawal of the sick and wounded in the Korean War.

Major exercises

Operation Brasstacks

Operation Brasstacks was launched by the Indian Army in November 1986 to simulate a full-scale war on the western border. The exercise was the largest ever conducted in India and comprised nine infantry, three mechanised, three armoured and one air assault division, and included three independent armoured brigades. Amphibious assault exercises were also conducted with the Indian Navy. Brasstacks also allegedly incorporated nuclear attack drills. It led to tensions with Pakistan and a subsequent rapprochement in mid-1987.

Operation Parakram

After the 13 December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, Operation Parakram was launched in which tens of thousands of Indian troops were deployed along the Indo-Pakistan border. India blamed Pakistan for backing the attack. The operation was the largest military exercise carried out by any Asian country. Its prime objective is still unclear but appears to have been to prepare the army for any futurenuclear conflict with Pakistan, which seemed increasingly possible after the December attack on the Indian parliament.

Operation Sanghe Shakti

It has since been stated that the main goal of this exercise was to validate the mobilisation strategies of the Ambala-based II Strike Corps. Air support was a part of this exercise, and an entire battalion of paratroops parachuted in during the conduction of the war games, with allied equipment. Some 20,000 soldiers took part in the exercise.

Exercise Ashwamedha

Indian Army tested its network centric warfare capabilities in the exercise Ashwamedha. The exercise was held in the Thar desert, in which over 300,000 troops participated. Asymmetric warfare capability was also tested by the Indian Army during the exercise.

Operation Sudarshan Sakthi

It took place at Baundi village, 40 km. south east of Barmer in Rajasthan on 6 December 2011.The Exercise, helmed by southern army command and the south western air command, seeks to build synergy between the army and the air force in a network centric environment.The exercise would take place in a theatre of 175 km x 150 km area covering Barmer, Jaisalmer, Pokhran and Pachpadra, said an officer from 21 Corpse. Both T-90 and T-72 tanks along with heavy duty guns would be in action in the exercise, the built up for which had began since September end.

Youdh Abhays

Exercise YUDH ABHYAS is part of an ongoing series of joint exercises between the Indian and United States Armies since 2005, agreed upon under the New Framework of India-US Defence Relationship.

The seventh edition of Yudh Abhyas is currently underway since 5 March 2012 in two locations under the South Western Command. The US Army contingent is from the US Army Pacific (USARPAC), part of their Pacific Command (PACOM). The Command Post Exercise has an engineer brigade headquarters with its planners from both sides, while the Field Training Exercise comprises troops of 2nd Squadron 14th US Cavalry Regiment from 25th Infantry Division, Hawaii, along with a platoon of Strykers, and a similar sized Indian Army contingent of mechanised infantry. The event is all the more interesting as a number of key surveillance, communications and Improvised Explosive Devices detection and neutralisation technologies, available with both sides have been fielded in the exercise.

Exercise Shoorveer

On first week of April 2012 Indian Army has launched a massive summer exercise in the Rajasthan desert involving over 50,000 troops and several hundred artillery guns and infantry combat vehicles as part of its efforts to shore up its battle worthiness on the western front with Pakistan. The exercise, code-named "Shoorveer", is being conducted by the Jaipur-based South Western Command and will end in the first week of May. This is the largest ever exercise conducted by Indian army since 1947.

The collective training started with honing up of basic battle procedures and tactical drills at tactical level. A number of field firings are being carried out to check the accuracy and lethality of the weapon systems. A large number of innovations and modifications carried out by units and formations to enhance combat power are being tested in the field. The troops will build the momentum of training gradually, with increased combat tempo to set the stage for a major joint army-air force exercise in the later part of the exercise. The collective training started with honing up of basic battle procedures and tactical drills at tactical level. The exercise Shoorveer is scheduled to culminate when Sapta Shakti Command along with Indian Air Force will carry out swift battle manoeuvres and joint operations. A number of field firings are being carried out to check the accuracy and lethality of the weapon systems.

Exercise Rudra Akrosh

In May 2012 Indian army start testing the preparedness level of its units and to validate new age technology, battle concepts, organisational structures and networked operations, Western Army Command is conducting its summer training exercises in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. "Codenamed Exercise Rudra Akrosh, the war games are aimed to validate the operational and transformational effectiveness of various formations under the Western Army Command. The exercise which entered its culmination phase was also witnessed by Western Army Commander Lt General S R Ghosh. It includes various summer training manoeuvres where approximately 20,000 troops tested battle skills with state-of-the-art weapon systems in complete integration of the fighter and transport aircraft pitched in by the Indian Air Force. Besides interacting with the soldiers and officers coordinating the war games, Lt Gen Ghosh witnessed various battle manoeuvres by infantry troops, mechanised infantry, tanks, artillery, Heliborne troops and surveillance equipment. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and attack helicopters were also coopted in the operational scenario . Recently, the Jaipur-based South Western Command- also known as Sapta Shakti command- conducted its summer war games with more than 50,000 troops, latest weaponry and air assets.


The army has a strength of about a million troops and fields 34 divisions. Its headquarters is located in the Indian capital New Delhi and it is under the overall command of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), currently General General Bikram Singh, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC

Initially, the army's main objective was to defend the nation's frontiers. However, over the years, the army has also taken up the responsibility of providing internal security, especially in insurgent-hit Kashmir and north-east. Recently it has been proposed to enhance the strength of army by more than 90,000 to counter the increasing presence of Chinese troops along the LAC.


The army operates 7 operational commands. Each command is headed by General Officer Commanding-in-Chief with the rank of Lieutenant General. Each command is directly affiliated to the Army HQ in New Delhi. These commands are given below in their correct order of raising, location (city) and their commanders. There is also the Army Training Commanded abbreviated as ARTRAC. The staff in each Command HQ is headed by Chief Of Staff (COS) who is also an officer of Lieutenant General rank.[citation needed] Besides these army officers may head tri-service commands such as the Strategic Forces command and the Andaman and Nicobar Command.


A corps is an army field formation responsible for a zone within a command theatre. There are three types of corps in the Indian Army: Strike, Holding and Mixed. A command generally consists of two or more corps. A corps has Army divisions under its command. The Corps HQ is the highest field formation in the army. Further information is available from Richard A. Renaldi and Ravi Rikhe, 'Indian Army Order of Battle,' for Tiger Lily Books: A division of General Data LLC, ISBN 978-0-9820541-7-8, 2011.

Headquarters, Indian Army,New Delhi

50th Independent Parachute Brigade headquartered at Agra
  • Central Command, headquartered at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
    • I Corps — Currently assigned to South Western Command
  • Eastern Command, headquartered at Kolkata, West Bengal
    • 23rd Infantry Division headquartered at Ranchi
    • ? Artillery Division(PROPOSED)
    • ? Corps, headquartered at Panagarh, West Bengal(PROPOSED)
    • III Corps, headquartered at Dimapur, Nagaland
      • 2nd Mountain Division headquartered at Dibrugarh
      • 57th Mountain Division headquartered at Leimakhong
      • 56th Mountain Division headquartered at Zakhama
    • IV Corps, headquartered at Tezpur, Assam
      • 71st Mountain Division headquartered at Missamari
      • 5th Mountain Division headquartered at Bomdila
      • 21st Mountain Division headquartered at Rangia
    • XXXIII Corps, headquartered at Siliguri, West Bengal
      • 17th Mountain Division headquartered at Gangtok
      • 20th Mountain Division headquartered at Binnaguri
      • 27th Mountain Division headquartered at Kalimpong
      • ?th Artillery brigade
  • Northern Command,headquartered at Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir
    • XIV Corps, headquartered at Leh, Jammu and Kashmir
      • 3rd Infantry Division headquartered at Leh
      • 8th Mountain Division headquartered at Dras
      • ?th Artillery brigade
    • XV Corps, headquartered at Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir
      • 19th Infantry Division headquartered at Baramulla
      • 28th Mountain Division headquartered at Gurez
      • ?th Artillery brigade
    • XVI Corps, headquartered at Nagrota, Jammu and Kashmir
      • 10th Infantry Division headquartered at Akhnoor
      • 25th Infantry Division headquartered at Rajauri
      • 39th Infantry Division headquartered at Yol
      • 10 Artillery brigade
      • ?th Armoured brigade
  • Southern Command,headquartered at Pune, Maharashtra
    • 41st Artillery Division, headquartered at Pune, Maharashtra
    • XII Corps, headquartered at Jodhpur, Rajasthan
      • 4th Armoured Brigade
      • 340th Mechanised Brigade
      • 11th Infantry Division headquartered at Ahmedabad
      • 12th Infantry Division (converting to RAPID) headquartered at Jodhpur
    • XXI Corps, headquartered at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
      • 31st Armoured Division headquartered at Jhansi
      • 36th RAPID Sagar
      • 54th Infantry Division (India) headquartered at Hyderabad/Secunderabad
      • ?th Artillery brigade
      • ?th Air defence brigade
      • 475th Engineering Brigade
  • South Western Commandheadquartered at Jaipur, Rajasthan
    • 42nd Artillery Division headquartered at Jaipur
    • I Corps, headquartered at Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
      • 4th Infantry Division (converting to RAPID ) headquartered at Allahabad
      • 6th Mountain Division headquartered at Bareilly
      • 33rd Armoured Division headquartered at Hisar
      • ?th Engineering Brigade
    • X Corps, headquartered at Bhatinda, Punjab
      • 16th Infantry Division headquartered at Sri Ganganagar
      • 18th RAPID at Kota
      • 24th RAPID at Bikaner
      • 6th Independent Armoured Brigade
      • 615th Independent Air Defence Brigade
      • 471st Engineering Brigade
  • Western Commandheadquartered at Chandimandir
    • 40th Artillery Division headquartered at Ambala
    • II Corps, headquartered at Ambala, Haryana
      • 1st Armoured Division headquartered at Patiala
      • 14th RAPID at Dehradun
      • 22nd Infantry Division headquartered at Meerut
      • 474th Engineering Brigade
      • 612th Mechanised Independent Air Defence Brigade
    • IX Corps, headquartered at Yol, Himachal Pradesh
      • 26th Infantry Division headquartered at Jammu
      • 29th Infantry Division headquartered at Pathankot
      • 2nd Independent Armoured Brigade
      • 3rd Independent Armoured Brigade
    • XI Corps, headquartered at Jalandhar, Punjab
      • 7th Infantry Division headquartered at Firozpur
      • 9th Infantry Division headquartered at Meerut
      • 15th Infantry Division headquartered at Amritsar
      • 23rd Armoured Brigade
      • 55th Mechanised Brigade
  • Training Commandheadquartered at Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

Regimental organisation

In addition to this (not to be confused with the Field Corps mentioned above) are the Regiments or Corps or departments of the Indian Army. The corps mentioned below are the functional divisions entrusted with specific pan-Army tasks.


  • Indian Infantry Regiments
  • Armoured Corps Regiments – The Armoured Corps Centre and School is at Ahmednagar.
  • Regiment of Artillery – The School of Artillery is at Devlali near Nasik.
  • Corps of Signals – Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE), Mhow is a premiere training institute of the Corps of Signals.
  • Corps of Engineers – The College of Military Engineering is at Dapodi, Pune. The Centers are located as follows – Madras Engineer Group at Bangalore, Bengal Engineer Group at Roorkee and Bombay Engineer Group at Khadki, Pune.
  • Corps of Army Air Defence-Center at Gopalpur in Orissa State.
  • Mechanised Infantry – Regimental Center at Ahmednagar.
  • Army Aviation Corps(India)

The Indian Territorial Army has battalions affiliated to the different infantry regiments and some department units which are either from the Corps of Engineers, Army Medical Corps or the Army Service corps. They serve as a part-time reserve.


  • Army Dental Corps – Centered at Lucknow.
  • Army Education Corps – Centered at Pachmarhi.
  • Army Medical Corps – Centered at Lucknow.
  • Army Ordnance Corps – Centered at Jabalpur and Secunderabad (HQ).
  • Army Postal Service Corps – Centered at Kamptee near Nagpur.
  • Army Service Corps – Centered at Bangalore and Gaya
  • Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers – Centered at Bhopal and Secunderabad.
  • Corps of Military Police Indian Corps of Military Police – Centered at Bangalore
  • Intelligence Corps – Centered at Pune.
  • Judge Advocate General's Dept. – Centered at the Institute of Military Law kamptee, Nagpur.
  • Military Farms Service – Centered at the Military Farms School and Center, Meerut Cantt.
  • Military Nursing Service
  • Remount and Veterinary Corps
  • Pioneer Corps

Division: An Army Division is an intermediate between a Corps and a Brigade. It is the largest striking force in the army. Each Division is headed by [General Officer Commanding] (GOC) in the rank of Major General. It usually consists of 15,000 combat troops and 8,000 support elements. Currently, the Indian Army has 37[53] Divisions including 4 RAPID (Re-organised Army Plains Infantry Divisions) Action Divisions, 18 Infantry Divisions, 10 Mountain Divisions, 3 Armoured Divisions and 2 Artillery Divisions. Each Division composes of several Brigades.

Brigade: A Brigade generally consists of around 3,000 combat troops with supporting elements. An Infantry Brigade usually has 3 Infantry Battalions along with various Support Arms & Services. It is headed by a Brigadier, equivalent to a Brigadier General in some armies. In addition to the Brigades in various Army Divisions, the Indian Army also has 5 Independent Armoured Brigades, 15 Independent Artillery Brigades, 7 Independent Infantry Brigades, 1 Independent Parachute Brigade,3 Independent Air Defence Brigades, 2 Independent Air Defence Groups and 4 Independent Engineer Brigades. These Independent Brigades operate directly under the Corps Commander (GOC Corps).

Battalion: A Battalion is commanded by a Colonel and is the Infantry's main fighting unit. It consists of more than 900 combat personnel.

Company: Headed by the Major, a Company comprises 120 soldiers.

Platoon: An intermediate between a Company and Section, a Platoon is headed by a Lieutenant or depending on the availability of Commissioned Officers, a Junior Commissioned Officer, with the rank of Subedar or Naib-Subedar. It has a total strength of about 32 troops.

Section: Smallest military outfit with a strength of 10 personnel. Commanded by a Non-commissioned officer of the rank of Havildar Major or Sergeant Major.


Infantry regiments

Upon its inception, the Indian Army inherited the British Army's organizational structure which is still maintained today. Therefore, like its predecessor, an Indian Infantry Regiment's responsibility is not to undertake field operations but to provide battalions and well trained personnel to the field formations, as such it is common to find battalions of the same regiment spread across several brigades, divisions, corps, commands, and even theatres.

Infantry Regiments of the Indian Army recruit based on certain selection criteria, such as geographical location (the Punjab Regiment), Assam Rifles etc. some regimental recruitment criteria are unique to India with some regiment's recruitment pool falling on ethnicity, caste or religion such as the Gorkha Regiments, Jatt Regiment and Sikh Regiment respectively. Over the years various political and military factions have tried to dissolve the unique selection criteria process of the regiments over a fear that loyalty to the regiment or its ethnic people opposed to loyalty to the union of India and have succeeded somewhat with the creation of caste-less, religion-less, non-regional regiments, such as the Brigade of Guards & Parachute Regiment, but have generally met with little success or gained popular support amongst the rank and file Jawans.

Like its British and commonwealth counterparts troops enlisted within the regiment are immensely loyal and take great pride in the regiment they are assigned too and generally spend their entire career within the regiment.

Regiments in order of seniority within the Indian Army are:

  • The Parachute Regiment
  • Brigade of the Guards
  • Maratha Light Infantry
  • Mechanised Infantry Regiment
  • Punjab Regiment
  • Madras Regiment
  • The Grenadiers
  • Rajputana Rifles
  • Rajput Regiment
  • Jat Regiment
  • Sikh Regiment
  • Sikh Light Infantry
  • Dogra Regiment
  • Garhwal Rifles
  • Kumaon Regiment
  • Assam Regiment
  • Bihar Regiment
  • Mahar Regiment
  • Jammu & Kashmir Rifles
  • Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry
  • Naga Regiment
  • 1 Gorkha Rifles (The Malaun Regiment)
  • 3 Gorkha Rifles
  • 4 Gorkha Rifles
  • 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force)
  • 8 Gorkha Rifles
  • 9 Gorkha Rifles
  • 11 Gorkha Rifles
  • Ladakh Scouts
  • Arunachal Scouts
  • Sikkim Scouts(Planned)
  • Mizo regiment(Planned)
  • Meghalaya regiment(Planned)
  • Manipur regiment(Planned)

Artillery regiments

The Regiment of Artillery constitutes a formidable operational arm of Indian Army. Historically it takes its lineage from Moghul Emperor Babur who is popularly credited with introduction of Artillery in India, in the Battle of Panipat in 1526. However evidence of earlier use of gun by Bahmani Kings in the Battle of Adoni in 1368 and King Mohammed Shah of Gujrat in fifteenth century have been recorded. Indian artillery units were disbanded after the 1857 rebellion and reformed only in 1935 when the Regiment was established.

Armoured regiments

There are 97 armoured regiments in the Indian Army. These include the following historic regiments dating back to the nineteenth century or earlier: 1st (Skinner's) Horse, the 2nd Lancers (Gardner's Horse), 3rd Cavalry, 4th (Hodson's) Horse, 7th Light Cavalry, 8th Light Cavalry, 9th (Deccan) Horse, 14th (Scinde) Horse, 17th (Poona) Horse, 15th Lancers, 16th Light Cavalry, 18th Cavalry, 20th Lancers, and the 21st (Central India) Horse. A substantial number of additional units designated as either "Cavalry" or "Armoured" Regiments have been raised since Independence.

Indian Army statistics
Active Troops 1,129,900
Reserve Troops 800,000*
Indian Territorial Army 160,000**

* includes 300,000 1st line troops and 500,000 2nd line troops
** only 40,000 regular establishment


  • 4 RAPIDs (Reorganised Army Plains Infantry Divisions)
  • 18 Infantry Divisions
  • 10 Mountain Divisions
  • 3 Armoured Divisions
  • 3 Artillery Divisions
  • 3 Air Defence Brigades and 2 Surface-to-Air Missile Groups
  • 5 Independent Armoured Brigades
  • 15 Independent Artillery Brigades
  • 7 Independent Infantry Brigades
  • 1 Airborne Brigade
  • 4 Engineer Brigades
  • 41 Army Aviation Helicopter Units


  • 57 Tank Regiments (??)
  • 32 Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 50 Artillery Regiments
  • 4 Parachute Battalions
  • 8 Special Forces Battalions
  • 23 Combat Helicopter Units
  • 50 Air Defence Regiments

Rank structure

Rank structure

The various rank of the Indian Army are listed below in descending order:

Commissioned Officers

  • Field Marshal
  • General (the rank held by Chief of Army Staff)
  • Lieutenant-General
  • Major-General
  • Brigadier
  • Colonel
  • Lieutenant-Colonel
  • Major
  • Captain
  • Lieutenant

Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) (Active and honorary)

  • Subedar Major/Honorary Captain
  • Subedar/Honorary Lieutenant
  • Subedar Major/Risaldar Major
  • Subedar/Risaldar
  • Naib Subedar/Naib Risaldar

Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs)

  • Regimental Havildar Major/Regimental Daffadar Major
  • Regimental Quarter Master HavildarRegimental Quartermaster Daffadar
  • Company Havildar Major/Squadron Daffadar Major
  • Company Quartermaster Havildar/Squadron Quartermaster Daffadar
  • Havildar/Daffadar

Other Personnels

  • Naik/Lance Daffadar
  • Lance Naik/Acting Lance Daffadar
  • Sepoy (infantry and other arms)/Sowar(Indian Army Armoured Corps)


  • Only two officers have been made Field Marshal so far: Field Marshal K M Cariappa—the first Indian Commander-in-Chief (a post since abolished)—and Field Marshal S H F J Manekshaw, the Chief of Army Staff during the Army in the 1971 war with Pakistan.
  • This has now been discontinued. Non-Commissioned Officers in the rank of Havildar are elible for Honorary JCO ranks.
  • Given to Outstanding JCO's Rank and pay of a Lieutenant, role continues to be of a JCO.


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