A Military History of India since 1972

Full Spectrum Operations and the Changing Contours of Modern Conflict

Arjun Subramaniam

A Military History of India since 1972 is a definitive work of military history that gives the Indian military its rightful place as a key contributor to Indian democracy. Arjun Subramaniam offers an engaging narrative that combines superb storytelling with the academic rigor of deep research and analysis. It is a comprehensive account of Indias resolute, responsible, and restrained use of force as an instrument of statecraft and how the military has played an essential role in securing the countrys democratic tradition along with its rise as an economic and demographic power.

This book is also about how the Indian nation-state and its armed forces have coped with the changing contours of modern conflict in the decades since 1972. These include the 2016 surgical or cross-border strikes by the Indian Army’s Special Forces across the line of control with Pakistan, the face-off with the Chinese at Doklam in 2017 and in Ladakh in 2020, the preemptive punitive strikes by the Indian Air Force against terrorist camps in Pakistan in 2019, and the large-scale aerial engagement between the Indian Air Force and the Pakistan Air Force the following day. These conflicts also include the long-running insurgencies in the northeast, terrorism and proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, separatist violence in Punjab, and the Indian Peacekeeping Force’s intervention in Sri Lanka. The author also includes a chapter on the development of India’s nuclear capabilities.

“Arjun Subramaniam’s A Military History of India since 1972 is a clear, comprehensive, and intriguing account of the conflicts that the Indian state has coped with both on domestic and external fronts. He not only has made deft use of the extant literature but also has drawn on a range of interviews with senior military and civilian defense personnel. This work will be of considerable interest to journalists, analysts, and academics concerned with the evolution of India’s security policies since 1972.”

—Sumit Ganguly, distinguished professor of political science, Indiana University Bloomington, and coauthor of Ascending India and Its State Capacity: Extraction, Violence, and Legitimacy

“Arjun Subramaniam has done it again. Through meticulous research he has uncovered telling details that vivify the familiar story of India’s post-1971 conflicts in a new history that does justice—and honor—to all of India’s armed forces. Both scholars and policymakers will benefit greatly from this intimate window on modern India’s military operations.”

—Ashley J. Tellis, Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs,Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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Arjun Subramaniam enlivens the narrative with a practitioner’s insights amplified by interviews and conversations with almost a hundred serving and retired officers, including former chiefs from all three armed forces, for an in-depth exploration of land, air, and naval operations. The structure of the book offers readers a choice of either embarking on a comprehensive and chronological examination of war and conflict in contemporary India or a selective reading based on specific time lines or campaigns.

About the Author

Arjun Subramaniam is a retired air vice marshal from the Indian Air Force. In addition to serving as a mentor and academic advisor at India’s National Defence College, he has been a visiting fellow at the Harvard Asia Center, at Oxford University, and at Northeastern University. He has taught at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and several universities in India. He is the author of India’s Wars: A Military History, 1947–1971.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series