Army’s Project Udbhav gets under way; aims to integrate ancient wisdom with modern military pedagogy

Project Udbhav aims to promote indigenous military knowledge by merging ancient strategic insights with modern military practices

October 21, 2023 06:46 pm | Updated 08:08 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande, Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari and Indian Navy Vice-Chief Vice Admiral Sanjay Jasjit Singh during the inauguration of the Indian Military Heritage Festival at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi on October 21, 2023.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande, Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari and Indian Navy Vice-Chief Vice Admiral Sanjay Jasjit Singh during the inauguration of the Indian Military Heritage Festival at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi on October 21, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

An ambitious effort for the integration of India’s “ancient strategic acumen” into the contemporary military domain and develop an “indigenous strategic vocabulary”, rooted in India’s “philosophy and culture” was launched under ‘Project Udbhav’, by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on October 21.

The project’s objective is to synthesise ancient wisdom with contemporary military practices, forging a unique and holistic approach to address modern security challenges, said Lt. Gen. Tarun Kumar Aich, Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Strategy) giving an overview.

Project Udbhav, a collaboration between the Army and the United Service Institution of India (USI), a defence services think tank, was launched at the first Indian Military Heritage Festival (IMHF) being organised by the USI.

“It aims to effectively integrate ancient wisdom with modern military pedagogy through interdisciplinary research, workshops and leadership seminars... It will facilitate emergence of previously under-explored thoughts and theories related to strategic thinking, statecraft and warfare, foster deeper understanding and contribute to enriching military training curricula,” Lt. Gen. Aich said.

“Going forward, a series of events and workshops, will dwell on various facets of our strategic culture and culminate in January next year, with a publication, to document and institutionalise such knowledge.”

Elaborating, he said an initiative in this research was earlier taken by the Army Training Command, which after delving into the ancient Indian treatises such as Arthashastra by Chanakya, Nitisara by Kamandaki as well as epic Mahabharata, compiled the ‘compendium of 75 stratagems’. Similarly, the College of Defence Management conducted a study to establish linkages between Indian Culture and art of strategic thinking and these, will also provide valuable inputs for the project, he said.

The primary deliverables of Project Udbhav are to develop understanding of ancient military system and indigenous strategic military culture through the study of evolution of Indian military system and strategic thoughts; educating junior military leaders and informing senior military commanders and academia about the theories concepts and teachings available in classical texts and facilitate the creation of a knowledge pool for scholars and defence personnel for further studies, which will create an understanding of the relevance of these findings in a contemporary context, the Army said. “Incorporation of relevant aspects of historical military thoughts in the present context.”

Reports and papers prepared during various seminars, workshops, and panel discussions will serve as a base for creating valuable publications for wider dissemination and further references.

The objective of the IMHF is to acquaint future thought leaders with the dynamics of comprehensive national security with special emphasis on India’s strategic culture, military heritage, education, modernisation of security forces and atmanirbhar Bharat (Independent India), according to USI.

Lt Gen Aich said that ancient Indian knowledge system is rooted in a 5,000 years old civilisational legacy, which has attached great value to knowledge, with a large body of intellectual texts, world’s largest collection of manuscripts, thinkers and schools in so many domains of knowledge. To begin with, it is essential that we understand the depth of our knowledge systems and philosophies. It is only then, can we comprehend their enduring connect, relevance and applicability in the modern day, he said.

In this regard, the Deputy Chief said literature like Chanakya’s Arthashastra underscores the importance of strategic alliances and diplomacy, aligning with modern military practices such as international cooperation and soft power projection. Incidentally Chanakya’s teachings on statecraft and warfare is taught in the US War College at Pennsylvania, US, he noted. “Similarly, the wisdom of Thirukkural, the classical Tamil text authored by Thiruvalluvar, the Tamil philosopher, advocates ethical conduct in all endeavours, including warfare. This aligns with modern military codes of ethics of just war and principles of Geneva Convention.”

Apart from the ancient texts, a study of prominent military campaigns and leaders is also important, Lt Gen Aich said referring to empires of Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka and Cholas . There is also the example of the Ahom Kingdom, which successfully ruled for 600 years, repeatedly defeating the Mughals. “The Naval Battle of Saraighat in 1671, led by Lachit Borphukan, stands as a stellar example of the use of clever diplomatic negotiations to buy time, employ psychological warfare, focus on military intelligence and exploiting the strategic weakness of the Mughals, that was - their Navy,” he stated.

Referring to Chhatrapati Shivaji and Maharaja Ranjit Singh who defeated numerically superior Mughal and Afghan invaders, Lt Gen Aich added, “While Shivaji’s use of guerrilla tactics is well acknowledged, less highlighted is his foresightedness in construction of a series of Naval Forts along the Western seaboard to ward off external threats.”

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