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A Postcolonial Record


Rana Banerjee

INDIA'S NEIGHBOURHOOD: THE ARMIES OF SOUTH ASIA
Edited by Vishal Chandra
Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 194, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 2-3 February/March 2013

This compilation on neighbourhood armies in South Asia is a timely academic effort by a team of area experts at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and brings together a bird’s eye perspective of the security environment, geo-political and strategic background under which armies in different countries in India’s neighbourhood have evolved. Threat perceptions of these countries, doctrinal orientations, organizational principles, relationships with civilian counterparts and possible future trajectories are looked at from the point of view of their own evaluation of key domestic, external or even environmental challenges, all of which seem inevitably coloured by the dominant geographical presence of the ubiquitous neighbour, India. Armies play a significant role in the maintenance of sovereignty and integrity of states. Their role, reputation and status may vary, depending on the nature of political system, strength of civil society and institutions of state inherited from the colonial experience, intensity and maturity of popular participation in governance, as also the attitude, ambition and relationship of the leadership of the armed forces themselves with power brokers in the overall political structure. This work brings out in a rather succinct manner, the postcolonial record of armies in South Asia. While those in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan have largely stayed under civilian control, armies in Pakistan, Bangladesh and to a certain extent, in Afghanistan have not hesitated to stage coups, derailing the nascent democratic process in these countries, to the ultimate political, economic and social detriment of civil society and the common masses. The prevalent ethno-political divide and factionalized Afghan power politics have been described in detail, determining the major internal challenge of the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) evolution under the post-Bonn Agreement political process. Though its current strength is 1,65,700 personnel its size may have to be pruned as financial assistance goes down after the withdrawal of US forces from the country in 2014. Comprising six ground manoeuvre corps which are based in Kabul, Kandahar, Gardez, Herat, Maiwand and Mazar-e-Sharif, it is organized with a total of 76 battalions or kandaks, under 13 light infantry brigades. There is one mechanized brigade with M 113 Armoured Protection Carriers and M 114 Howitzers (155 mm), one commando brigade helping the 111 th Capital Division at Kabul. An Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC) also exists (5,000 personnel) but with an ageing and small fleet of 11 Mi- 35 attack helicopters, 33 Mi 17 s, 9 Cessna aircraft (3 on ground, 6 in pipeline) and 21 C-27 A ...


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