In 1988, the Indian Army experienced a small success in squashing an attempted coup in Maldives, 600 kilometers south of India in the Indian Ocean. Maldivian minister of foreign affairs Fathullah Jameel had called Rajiv Gandhi (India's prime minister from 1984 to 1989) at 5:30 a.m. on November 3, 1988 to request India's assistance. By 9:00 a.m. the same morning, India's Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs had been convened. At noon the same day, the committee gave its approval for military support to the regime of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Later in the day, the first Indian troops were airlifted from a military base at Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Some 1,600 Indian troops were dispatched within hours. During the next three days, the mercenaries involved in the attempted coup were rounded up by Indian troops who had parachuted in. The Indian navy also effectively blocked maritime escape routes the coup leaders might have taken. The operation was completed by November 6.
Three important inferences can be made from this successful attempt at force projection. First, it demonstrated that sufficient interservice cooperation existed to allow the armed forces to respond rapidly to political directives. Second, it showed the capability of the armed forces to airlift troops regionally at short notice. And third, it demonstrated the willingness of the Indian political leadership to use its military strength in the region to support a friendly regime.
United Nations Peacekeeping Forces
Indian armed forces personnel have been involved in a variety of UN-sponsored peacekeeping missions and military observer operations, giving them invaluable experience in interacting with the armed forces of other nations. In addition, although it was not a peacekeeping force per se, an Indian airborne field ambulance unit participated in the Korean War (1950-53).
Indian infantry, supply, transportation, and signal units served between 1956 and 1967 with the First United Nations Emergency Force in the Suez Canal, Sinai Peninsula, and Gaza. From 1960 to 1964, Indian infantry, aircraft, and medical personnel, and air dispatch, signal, supply, and postal units served in the Congo (as Zaire was then named). Indian military observers participated in UN observation groups in Lebanon in 1958; Yemen in 1963-64 (where India supplied one of the chiefs of staff); West Irian (which later became Indonesia's Irian Barat Province) in 1962-63; the Iran-Iraq border in 1988-91; Angola in 1989-91; and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in 1989-92. Military observers, police monitors, and election supervisors were sent to Namibia in 1989 and 1990 to help oversee elections.
In the 1990s, more military observers were sent abroad. There was a second observers' mission to Angola (1991-92) as well as missions to El Salvador (starting in 1991), former Yugoslavia (starting in 1992), and Mozambique (starting in 1992). The last was a force of more than 900 administrative, engineering, and logistic personnel. A sappers' contingent charged with clearing landmines and related construction projects participated in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia in 1992-93. An infantry brigade--including army physicians, nurses, veterinarians, a tank sqaudron, a mechanized battalion, a 120-millimeter mortar battery, an engineer company, and two flights of helicopters--and an air force helicopter detachment, a force totalling nearly 5,000 personnel, were sent to Somalia in 1993-94 to participate in peacekeeping and humanitarian relief efforts.
In an effort to achieve some joint operational understanding with other nations' forces, India has also cooperated in various peacetime joint exercises with Indian Ocean nations and with the United States. In 1992, India and the United States conducted joint naval exercises in the Arabian Sea near Kochi (Cochin), and in 1994 Indian marine commandos and United States Marines conducted joint exercises with little fanfare.
Data as of September 1995