07 Dec 22
Posted by: BRIAN TRIM

This is an interesting book, which aims to follow on the authors’ previous volume A Nation and its Navy at War, expanding the narrative at least with the benefit of de-classified archival material. In 264 pages it covers a broad sweep of Indian Navy operations from the seizure of Goa (1961) to stabilisation ops in Sri Lanka (1991). Within that period, much of the book looks in detail at the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war, in which Bangladesh won its independence from Pakistan through, inter alia, a substantial armed intervention by India.

I found the book interesting and informative, particularly its expansion of detail around the 1971 war. There is much here that I have only read ‘around’ previously and taken as a whole, its three-decade survey of IN operations sets a useful context for understanding that force. It is peppered with comments from senior leaders, as well as some pen- and word-sketches of prominent characters, and some outline drawings of ships.

While it holds much promise, I also found the book frustrating in many ways. It relies far too heavily on personal reminiscences by the author and others; at their worst these are distractions, at best subjective assessments. While the author has clearly drawn heavily on sources and interviews across his wide professional network, there is no bibliography and only occasional in-text references. This makes it impossible to place the book within any wider academic framework. Compounding these issues, the tone meanders between conciliatory (once-enemies-now esteemed) to nationalistic and overtly political. At intervals, the language becomes maudlin.

Hence, though I am glad to have benefitted from its perspective, I fear I cannot recommend it for any reader seeking analysis or scholarship. I would be happy to forward my copy to any NR member wishing to read it for enjoyment.