By 1945 the all-volunteer Indian Army had expanded to over two million men, only then to be rapidly demobilized in a context of Asia-wide decolonization. After VJ-Day in August 1945, units of the Indian Army were deployed to contain anti-colonial uprisings in Vietnam and Indonesia, sometimes in conjunction with surrendered Japanese troops serving under Allied command. This paper will examine how ‘political’ India reacted to these events. After demobilization, the remaining Indian Army was partitioned between the successor states of India and Pakistan in August 1947. How could the cross-communal Indian Army be peacefully divided against a backdrop of communal violence, particularly in the Punjab, which had been the wartime army’s most important recruiting ground? Why did the Indian Army’s Punjab Boundary Force fail to contain communal violence in August and September 1947? Why (and how) were four of the Indian Army’s ten regiments of Gurkhas transferred to the British Army after Indian independence in 1947? Why did the bounds of military discipline turn out to prove stronger (it seemed) than nationalist sentiment or communal antagonism?
Dr David Omissi is currently writing a book about the Indian Army and the ‘long’ Second World War, to be published by Cambridge University Press. He holds an MA and PhD in War Studies from King’s College London. His publications include ‘A Dismal Story? Britain, the Gurkhas and the Partition of India, 1945‒1948’ in Alan Jeffreys and Patrick Rose (eds), The Indian Army, 1939‒47: Experience and Development (Ashgate, 2012). His 2007 article ‘Europe Through Indian Eyes: Indian Soldiers Encounter England and France, 1914‒1918’ was judged by Oxford University Press to be one of the 35 ‘most respected’ articles published in the English Historical Review since that periodical’s foundation in 1886. David Omissi has also edited Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, 1914‒1918 (Macmillan, 1999).
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