The Indian Army Broke the Back of the Ottoman and Japanese Empires and This Needs to Be Publicised
The west knows that the Indian army is among the largest army in the world. Presently it is the second-largest standing army, next only to China. It is a counterpoise to China, but the average American is not aware of the heritage of the Indian army. The Indian army before 1947, was known as the British Indian army but for all practical purposes was an Indian-staffed force with soldiers from the martial races of the sub-continent. The army consisted of Sikhs, Rajputs, Punjabi Muslims, Gurkhas, and Garhwal. It was a seasoned fighting force and both wars saw it play more than a significant role in the defeat of the enemies of the Allies led by the USA.
The west, however, glosses over the contribution of the Indian army though now historians are stating the palpable truth that the war against the Ottoman Empire in WWI and the Japanese in Asia during WW II could not have been won without the Indian army. True, in the European theater the Russians played a part but outside that theater on the ground, it was the Indian soldier who confronted the enemy.
Crushing the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman Empire is one of the big fixtures of world history. During the crucial years of 1914-18, the Ottoman Empire decided to be partners with the Central powers led by Germany. It was a fateful decision as it meant facing the British Empire. The battles in Mesopotamia led to the Turks facing the Allies led by General Allenby.
A fact known to many is that the bulk of the force facing the Turks was the British Indian army. The British transported regiments of the Indian army to confront the Turks. The Turks met their match in the soldiers of the Indian army and soon lost Mesopotamia and were getting boxed in. The much-touted Kemel Moustapha could not do much and at the end of the war, the Turks had to agree to their empire being dismantled. This was the end of the Ottoman Empire which had ruled the area for close to 800 years.
The British and the French carved up the Middle East as per their whim and fancy. But all this was not possible if the British Indian army had not defeated the Turks. There is now a belated realization that the role of the Indian army during World War I is something special. Matters were not helped by a pacifist government after independence that never wanted to talk about its military heritage. Thankfully with Modi at the helm, there is a chance and now there is the better appreciation of the Indian effort to the war in defeating the Ottoman empire.
Holding the Imperial Army at the Gates of India
The Japanese army initially made spectacular advances and the British were pushed back. They Lost Singapore and Burma and the Japanese army had entered Assam and laid siege to Imphal and Kohima. Field Marshal William Slim was the commander of the British 10th army. It was the British army only in name as 90% of the troops were Indians. The British had bad dreams of losing India and so the last-ditch battle was planned by Slim at the gates of India.
The Indian army moved in and the watchword was to confront the Japanese. Severe hand to hand fighting took place and history records that the Imperial arm thrust was blunted. The siege was lifted and counter-attacks drove the Imperial army back. It was the long retreat and pursued by the Indian army the Japanese lost Burma and Singapore. The Indian national army, a motley crowd of defectors of the Indian army could not do much as like a steamroller the 8th army swept forward.
Stopping the Japanese at the gates of India and the battle of Imphal has the same significance as Stalingrad and one wonders what would have happened if the Japanese had prevailed. But it did not happen and the Indian army did its duty in crushing the Imperial army.
The two wars are receding away but now there is a realization that the role of the Indian army cannot be belittled. The British PM has acknowledged that England could not have won the war without the Indian army. Thousands of tombstones in obscure place are a testimony to the dedication of the Indian soldier. He must be rewarded and history must acknowledge that in both wars the pivotal role was of the Indian army.
Close to 3 million men served the allied cause and are the biggest contribution of any nation fighting in WW I and II.