CHENNAI: “If Japan had not attacked India, Pakistan might have ended up with better military infrastructure than India,” said Srinath Raghavan, speaking at the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) on ‘India’s long rise as an Asian Power: The Second World War and After,” a seminar jointly organized by MIDS and the Infosys Science Foundation.
Srinath, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and author, puts forth a narrative that India’s image as a country of some standing in the global forum, a fact often attributed to liberalisation, was in fact, a result of something that began much earlier- The Second World War.
Charting out how the war went on to create an economy very different from what it was until then, Srinath said, “The first thing that happens as a result is the tremendous expansion of the Indian Armed Forces.”
The Indian Armed Forces expanded from just around 200,000 to around 2.5 million over a period of three years. According to Srinath, though the spurt in numbers is of importance, what takes centre stage in the discussion is the deviation from the recruitment process that existed until then, of absorbing groups mostly concentrated in the North West of undivided India into the army.
“When expanding an army to this size, it was no longer possible to follow the same recruitment process,” he said, adding that the dalits and backward classes also accounted for the increase apart from South Indians.
“The Indian army that we landed up with in the Second World War is much closer to the army of today,” he went on to say.
This period was also important since it was when the Indian Navy and Indian Air force, that were in a nascent stage until then, really came into being, he said.
India’s economy had also started taking off only around the time that the Japanese attacked Southeast Asia
“If you look at the GDP growth, in 1941-42, there had been a significant growth,” he said.
Ranging from increased production in the country to Indian industrialists capitalising on the war to make a killing, Srinath makes a strong case as to why the 1940s had more to do with the India of today apart from the standard textbook narrative.
Speaking on the sidelines, the strategic analyst said that the recent surgical strikes have more to do with restoring a local balance of power than directly affecting the relationships between countries.
He also believed that there was considerable restraint displayed by India after 26/11 because there were considerations like the slow financial market growth at play during that period.