Indian Army is largest in the world in terms of active manpower

A Letter From Grandpa

By Niranjan Shah
My dear Nikita and Sanjna:

The Indian Army is the world’s second largest army in terms of military personnel, and the largest in terms of active manpower. The Indian Armed Forces are the overall unified military of the Republic of India encompassing the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, the Indian Air Force and various other inter-service institutions. With an estimated total troops of 4,514,300 personnel, India maintains the second-largest standing army in the world. Auxiliary services, include the Indian Coast Guard, the Central Paramilitary Forces (CPF) and the Strategic Forces Command. Undergoing rapid expansion and modernization, the Indian Armed Forces plans to have an active military space program and is currently developing a potent missile defense shield and nuclear triad capability. India is also a Nuclear Power; India successfully conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 “Operation Smiling Buddha.” India also conducted additional test in 1998. India is moving to build a $2 billion or Rs 9,970.16 crore dedicated, highly secure and state-of-the-art optical fiber cable (OFC) network for the Army, Navy and Air Force. This will be one of the world’s largest, closed user group (CUG) networks for exclusive use by the million-plus personnel of the Indian armed forces.

It is a completely voluntary service, the military draft having never been imposed in India. The Army has rich combat experience in diverse terrains, due to India’s diverse geography. India also has a distinguished history of serving in United Nations peacekeeping operations. 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. The Indian Army has seen military action during the First Kashmir War, Operation Polo, the Sino-Indian War, the Second Kashmir War, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Sri Lankan Civil War and the Kargil War. Currently, the Indian Army has dedicated one brigade of troops to the UN’s standby arrangements. Through its large, sustained troop commitments, India has come in for much praise for taking part in difficult operations for prolonged periods. Headquarter of the Indian Armed Forces is in New Delhi, the capital city of India. The President of India serves as the de jure commander-in-chief of the armed forces, while the de facto executive power is held by the Union government headed by the Prime Minister of India. The Ministry of Defense is the Ministry charged with the responsibilities of countering insurgency and ensuring external security of India.

India has a long military history dating back several millennia. The first reference of armies is found in the Vedas as well as the epics the Ramayana and the Mahabaratha. The Rig Veda  credits Varuna with knowledge of the ocean routes and describes naval expeditions. There were many powerful dynasties in India. The earliest known reference to an organization devoted to ships in ancient India is to the Mauryan Empire. Emperor Chandragupta Maurya’s Prime Minister Kautilya’s Arthashastra devotes a full chapter on the state department of waterways under navadhyaksha.  The term, nava dvipantaragamanam i.e. exploration, appears in this book. Sea lanes between India and neighboring lands were the usual form of trade for many centuries, and are responsible for the widespread influence of Indian culture in other societies. Powerful navies, included those of the Maurya, Satavahana, Chola, Vijaya-nagara, Kalinga, and Maratha empires. The Cholas excelled in foreign trade and maritime activity, extending their influence overseas to China and Southeast Asia. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Maratha and Kerala fleets were expanded, and became the most powerful Naval Forces in the subcontinent, even defeating European Navies at various times. The fleet review of the Maratha navy took place at the Ratnagiri fort in which the ships Pal and Qalbat participated.  Maratha Kanhoji Angre and Kunjali Marakkar, were two notable naval chiefs of Maratha period.

— Grandpa’s blessing

Niranjan Shah, a civil engineer, who pioneered famous high-rise buildings in Baroda, is a broadcaster in India and the USA and a prolific writer. Under “A Letter from Grandpa.” he has been writing since 2002 on India’s historical, philosophical, and literary heritage. He can be reached at

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