THE ART OF WAR IN ANCIENT INDIA. Maj Gen (Dr) G D Bakshi SM, VSM (retd)

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1 THE ART OF WAR IN ANCIENT INDIA By Maj Gen (Dr) G D Bakshi SM, VSM (retd) The Impact of Techno-Economic and Techno-Military Triggers. Indian history can be scientifically studied in terms of the impacts of a series of techno-economic triggers that generated phase transitions in the historical process. The techno-military triggers ushered in the local Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMAs) that decisively shaped the course of history. In ancient India these techno- military triggers were provided by the use of horse Chariots by the Aryans which gave them the military edge over the forest tribes and other adversaries. The Mahabhartan Four Arms (Chaturanga Bala) Military Paradigm By the time of the Mahabharata War, a four arms based military paradigm had crystallized in South Asia. It was premised upon the combined Arms manoeuevre of four variable speed manoeuevre masses- of the war chariots, the War elephants, the barebacked horsed cavalry and the ubiquitous foot infantry. Tactical battle arrays and battle drills called Vyuhas were derived from representative games like Chausar (Chess). This form of war gave rise to an aristocracy of Kshatriya Princes who became the Maharathis or great car warriors and dominated the social caste hierarchy as the ruling class. The Vyuhas are a characteristic Indian way of war fighting. These not just included geometrical battle arrays or formations but well practiced battle drills that would guide the way the combat unfolded. These were like the opening gambits of a game

2 of chess and were designed to exploit likely enemy reactions to these opening moves in battle. These vyuhas, in fact represent archetypal manoeuevres of war that have been used time and again in the worlds military history. One of these was the Ardha Chandra Vyuha- or half Moon formation. Incidentally, this was used by the Indian Army in the 1965 war to halt the attack of the Pakistani First Armoured Division and destroy over a 100 Pakistani tanks at Asal Uttar. Thus basic war manoeuvres used with Elephants, horses and chariots plus infantry, continue to be repeated with Tanks, Mechanised Infantry and modern Artillery. One of the best examples is the Sakata/Sarbatomukha Vyuha or T-shaped formation of the Mahabharta. This has astounding parallels with the Lagger battle drill of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel s Afrika Corps in the Second World War.

3

4 The Mauryan Paradigm Shift to War Elephants. The major RMA in ancient India however was brought about by the massed use of war elephants by the Mauryas. The Elephant became the Indian liet motif of war. Its use in the mass generated Shock and Awe. The War Elephant was a far superior platform than the Chariot. It could carry 6-8 archers as opposed to just two in the chariot. Its prime advantage lay in its tremendous mobility in any terrain whatsoever. The military revolution was created by its use in the Mass by the Mauryas. Kautilya relegated the Chariot to largely ceremonial purposes and created a Shock Arm of some 9000 War elephants in the Imperial Mauryan Army. It was with this instrument that he first unified India in a vast and highly centralized Mauryan Empire. This unification was largely accomplished in just 25 years. The Caste equations changed in favour of the Shudras who manned these war elephants. The era of the Maharathi Kshatriya was over (Chandragupta Maurya incidentally wa of the Shudra caste). A huge corps of War elephants was prohibitively expensive and required the economic resources of a huge and tightly centralized empire of sub-continental proportions. Kautilyas concept of war-fighting placed great reliance on Information- Dominance. He did this through Humint or human intelligence. For this he employed spies in their thousands. In fact so numerous were these spies that the Greek Ambassador Megasthenes thought that they were a separate cast altogether in India. Kautilya carried out detailed Net- Assessments of the Comprehensive National Power of the enemy states. These included the personality of the

5 Ruler himself, the quality and integrity of his Council of Ministers (to include their personality profiles and inter-se equations with one another and the King). It also included the size, strength and morale of the Enemy Army as also an analysis of the economic power (Treasury or Kosha) of the enemy states as also its border population and strength and weaknesses of its Border Forts. Based upon this meticulous analysis, Kautilya then launched a prolonged Kuta Yuddha, or destabilization campaign to destroy the Politico-Military balance of the opposing state by sabotage, subversion and sowing suspicion and dissonance between the various organs of the state. Once the politico-military balance of the opposing state was broken, Kautilya mounted a rapid offensive to mop up in the wake of his Asymmetric Warfare campaign. Elephants were used in the mass to generate Shock and Awe and simply break the will of the enemy to fight. It was in this way that Kautilya managed to unite the whole of India into a massive Empire. Not only did he unite India, but he went on to defeat the last remnants of Greek power in Afghanistan and Baluchistan, and secured the invasion routes on the North- West frontier. Even the British Empire had failed to secure Afghanistan. In fact, the Mauryan victory over the Greeks of Selukos Niketor can be regarded as the highest point of India s military power in the ancient period. India returned quite unconsciously to the Kautilyan War fighting paradigm in the 1971 War for the Liberation of Bangladesh and won a resounding Military victory. A new nation-state was created in just 14 days and 93,000 prisoners of war (POWs) were taken. It was a classic tri-service campaign and the Indian Air Force was used to generate shock and awe. The actual military campaign was preceded by eight months of destabilization caused by the revolt of the Mukti Bahini.

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