Saturday, 11 March 2017

On India’s military: Writings from within

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On India’s military: Writings from within
The book comprises the published writings in service journals of Ali Ahmed while serving in the
army. They cover the two decades on either side of the turn of the century, thereby providing a
window into the army in the period. The author was an infantry officer and the articles reflect
the concerns of the infantry and the wider army as the author grew in service from a subaltern
to colonelcy. The articles reflect the intellectual growth of the author and engage with the
issues that were salient in his time in uniform. The book is a record of the times as also serves
to provide insight into India’s army. The book is complemented by his other work, From within:
Reflections on India’s army (CinnamonTeal 2017), which comprises his unpublished work on the
same themes. The two books would interest military buffs and the attentive public; veterans
and practitioners; and students and academics in strategic and peace studies.

For the soldiers who served with me

The book is a compilation of my in-military-service writings. I served in the Indian army for
twenty one years. I wrote avidly for its in-service publications and editors were kind enough
to publish some of my work. Most of the articles comprised my impressions and observations
on matters military. They were informed by a wide reading of professional subjects including
military history and by my graduate studies. I was fortunate to have undertaken sabbatical in
the UK early in my military career. The articles, book reviews and letters to the editor carry the
imprint of my studies and experience. In all, I managed to have about 95 pieces of varying length
published in service journals, which was reasonably good going since at least a decade of my
writing career was in the pre-internet age.
The published pieces reflect the concerns of the military in the period I served circa a decade
on either side of the turn of the century. They comprise in effect a written record of the times as
regards security concerns and issues as seen through a serving infantry officer. In my letters to
editor I engaged with the issues reflected in the publications, mostly presenting a point of view
that was not always the popular one. The collection expresses the liberal perspective in security
studies. This I believe made my articles somewhat different since my fellow officers largely
subscribed to the realist perspective and service journals usually reflected this bias. However,
that I was patronized by editors – all of whom were serving officers - did not owe so much to my
persistence or originality as much to their breath of vision and commitment to quality of their
I have divided the book into themes: regular war, irregular war, military matters and sundry book
reviews and letters to the editor. The commentaries in the regular war section deal with my main
area of interest which is limiting war. These were early articulations of my thinking that into my
doctoral dissertation. I converted the dissertation into a book, India’s doctrinal puzzle: Limiting war
in South Asia (Routledge 2014). In the irregular war section, I have compiled the articles dealing
with the army’s preoccupation through the nineties and early 2000s with counter insurgency.
My military service enabled me a vantage from which I could glean some insights on this and
have used the forum of writing for journals to record my observations. The liberal – soft-line
- perspective makes my take on insurgency and its counter different from the general run of
articles that featured in the journals. The military matters section comprises my impressions on
various issues that the military was engaged with intellectually during my time in uniform. There
were many viewpoints and mine was one of them. The topics range from military leadership to
educating army officers. My interest in military and society finds expression in this section. The
book review section has some book reviews I authored, but most have been left out since they
were short in length. The letters to the editor section is the one I am most proud of since I would
step up to the intellectual fight, forcefully presenting my argument or pointing out the fallacy in
some or other article. My excuse is that I was young then.
I believe the book will repay a reading and even a selective reading. It can over time prove to
be a significant contribution to military studies, strategic studies and peace studies in South
Asia since it is an insider’s view of the military in his time. On that count it might have historical
significance in serving as a national security record of the late twentieth century and early
twenty first century. It needs being read along with my other book, From within: Reflections on
India’s army, which is a collection of my military writings that did not get published when in
service. The two taken together will interest lay readers, veterans, military officers and scholars
interested in the military.

There are two groups in particular who I must thank for this book. The first comprises the
editors of the service journals who were serving officers on tenures with the institution that
published the journal. Their work is generally unsung and their contribution unrecorded but they
have held the intellectual torch high. They have provided me a forum and I must repay them by
acknowledging their support all through my years in service.
The second group are my senior officers in my battalion, in particular my commanding officers.
They allowed me to moonlight and I hope the output of my time does not disappoint them. The
support of my fellow officers in the various units I served in always buoyed me. Some did not
make it home from their field tenures, but our time together has surely gone into these pages in
some manner and measure.
Also, my father’s military postings during my early years in service enabled me a wider window
into the service that I have liberally relied on to inform my writings. A military background
equipped me well to serve as an observer on the military in my time. My earliest memory is
accompanying my father to the firing ranges sometime in the period before the 1971 War. As a
cadet home on vacations and as a gentleman cadet and young officer I was constantly taken
along for some or other military exercise. Some of these in Kashmir turned out to be adventures,
within sight and sound of gun fire. I suspect the early grounding in the military makes for any
acuity of my insights.
Finally, of course, the book owes to my family’s patience with me. I was allowed to goof off to
the computer at the expense of what could have been quality family time in some or other peace
tenure or when I was home for a limited time on leave. I trust the book compensates for the time

Other books by Ali Ahmed
From within: Reflections on India’s army (2017) (Ebook) - Download
India’s National Security in the Liberal Lens (2016) (Paperback) - Buy
On War In South Asia (2015) (Paperback) - Buy
On Peace in South Asia (2015) (Paperback) - Buy

First eBook edition published in India in 2017 CinnamonTeal Publishing.
ISBN: 978–93–86301–25–3
Copyright © 2017 Ali Ahmed
Ali Ahmed asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of the work.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this book are the author’s own and the facts are as
reported by the author, and the publisher is not in any way liable for the same. Although the author and
publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at the time of
going to press, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for
any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result
from negligence, accident, or any other cause.
Page Development and Cover Design: CinnamonTeal Publishing
Cover Photo Courtesy: Author
CinnamonTeal Publishing,
Plot No 16, Housing Board Colony
Gogol, Margao
Goa 403601 India

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