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A Walk Through Untraversed History

Lt Gen Kamal Davar

By Srinath Raghavan
Allen Lane an Imprint of Penguin Books, 2016, pp. 554, Rs. 699.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 9 September 2016

That Indians lack a strategic culture is an oft quoted and universally expressed truism. An aspect exemplifying this not-so-flattering a reality was the non-availability of military history books especially of India’s participation in wars and military campaigns of the last hundred years or so. However, this trend is changing fast and dozens of books on recent military exploits of the Indian Armed Forces have been hitting the bookshelves especially as regards military conflicts in post-Independence India. A fair number of books on the first Kashmir War(1947–48), India’s China War (1962), India-Pak War of 1965, the 1971 War leading to the liberation of Bangladesh and even the Kargil operations in 1999 have been well published by authors, both military and civilian, in India. Across the globe both the World Wars have been covered extensively in most languages, yet the story of Indian arms in them has not received adequate attention of either foreign or even Indian writers. This aspect gets more poignant considering the fact of India’s massive contribution and the valour of Indian soldiers which was second to none in both these wars. Though World War II would easily have the maximum number of books written upon across the world, yet there hardly exists any book exclusively documenting the India story in this momentous conflict. Srinath Raghavan’s magnum opus India’s War is indeed a welcome and a long awaited addition and fills this vacuum. That the author served as an Army officer for a few years, subsequently shedding his uniform for the scholarly embrace of the academic world, helps the narrative of the book to be both holistic and balanced. In the author’s own words, he has endeavoured to chronicle a ‘rounded narrative and an integrated account’ of that tumultuous period which in his view shaped the last years of India’s freedom struggle underscored by India’s participation in the Second World War. He has elucidated in his book five ‘intertwined strands’ that collectively race through his narrative. He lucidly expounds the ‘strategic dimensions of the war’ with the ‘international dimensions of India’s participation’ in this war. Srinath Raghavan also dwells upon the turbulent ‘domestic politics’ of that period, most of it fanned by the wily British rulers of that time while also explaining the ‘economic and social dimensions’ of the war. He has written extensively and with painstaking detail about the ‘war front’—the many ...

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