Saturday, 11 March 2017
From within: Reflections on India’s army
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The book comprises unpublished writings of Ali Ahmed from his time in uniform. The author served in the Indian army for two decades. His reflections in the period that did not make it into print have been compiled into this volume. The commentaries here supplement his other book that contains his published writings of the period, On India’s military: Writings from within (CinnamonTeal 2017). The essays are carried unedited to retain the flavor of the times and conditions in which they were written. It has historical value in providing a snapshot of the concerns that animated the army intellectually in the period at the turn of the century. The observations and insights would be useful for both practitioners and scholars in military studies.
For comrades who did not make it back
The book comprises my article and commentaries while I was in the military for just over two decades. While my book On India’s military: Writings from within is a collection of my articles that were published in military journals, there were several pieces I wrote that did not get carried in the service publications. I have collected these into this book. I think their publication complements my in-service published writings and taken together the two book present a fair record of the
security concerns and professional and intellectual engagement of the military in the years I served in uniform. While about 95 pieces of mine were published in the many service publications, many more
articles and rejoinders sent in as letters to editors did not see light of day. And, I am sure with good reason. However, to my mind mostly this owed to the service bias towards realism, which is perfectly understandable and not unreasonable. But it did lead to the writings presented here
not making it to print, largely because they were anchored in a liberal perspective. In effect, my views were a counter point, running into a brick wall at times. Nevertheless, as the book testifies, I persisted and some of my views did manage to get to print, even as those that did not
then make it, have this book to finally have an audience.
I think this book is therefore the more significant of the two. It is blunt, straight-forward in a typically soldierly way. It is forthright in criticism of some service mores and practices that do not dignify the service any. By including such pieces in this book without any subsequent editing I think a truer picture might emerge of the military in my time. But of course it is only one view point and perhaps not the most comprehensive or accurate one. However, taken with other vantage points on the military, I am certain my labour at the keyboard will pay off a reader in
search for an understanding of India’s military as also help the military along in its never ending trajectory towards professional perfection.
As with my other book On India’s military: Writings from within, I have followed the same sections to compile my writings: regular war, irregular war, military matters, selective book reviews and letters to the editor. The regular war section deals with conventional and nuclear doctrinal
issues. I have discussed these more fully after I left service in my writings for think tanks and on the web. The irregular war section has articles that draw on my personal experience in counter insurgency settings. My liberal perspective shines through in these articles, arguing relentlessly
that the military has to exercise strict self-regulation lest it impose on people in a counterproductive manner. In military matters, I mostly dwell on the soft-core issues such as military sociology. These articles are the more important ones since they are straight from the heart.
Some appear critical but the intent all along has been to be constructive, to engage, to debate and where possible influence change. The book reviews also bring out a few ideas triggered no doubt by the books reviewed. Some sensitive issues are dealt with in the letters to the editor
section. In some letters I spoke up about what I felt was penetration of majoritarian extremist thinking into military journals. I think this remains an area that warrants close attention, lest the politics in wider society seep into the military sapping its professionalism. The letters testify
that there is sufficient ground for concern on this score.
The book is not quite dated, even though I left the service a decade back. In fact most of the current day developments are riding on the back of issues originating in the period I was in service. The book serves as an outspoken, warts and all, no holds barred record of the military
in my time. It must be read alongside my other book with my published work of the period, On India’s military: Writings from within, to gain a fuller insight into India’s military at the turn of the century. It is for this reason, as an aid to scholarship in national security, security studies,
strategic studies and peace studies, I have undertaken to publish these piece a decade and more since they were penned. I trust the book shall serve to better the Indian army’s professionalism and help it serve the nation with pride.
I have had the benefit of a military background and quite like other fauji kids developed early an abiding interest in matters military. The book is a consequence of this interest. It is largely a labour of love since I spent considerable time on the keyboard. Though some of the output
appeared to be critical – perhaps accounting for why the pieces were not published – my writings were with a constructive intent. Where possible I pitched to bolster military good practice and where necessary I was constrained to point out we could have done better. The publication of
this book owes to the same sentiment. It is tribute to my former comrades in arms who made the military the fine institution it was and remains to this day.
I would like to thank my family foremost for permitting me the time and space. The inclusions here testify that it was an uphill journey, clearly one that could not have been undertaken without my family’s support, in particular my wife. Having an absentee husband even while he is at
home is a feeling she perhaps shares with spouses of authors in general. It is to ensure that her time was not spent in vain, I have put this book together, in the hope that some good emerge for India’s army and at one remove for the Indian nation.
First eBook edition published in India in 2017 CinnamonTeal Publishing.
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 Artwork: Painting by Farah Ahmed,
Plot No 16, Housing Board Colony
Goa 403601 India