An Iconic Institution in the Making
The National Defence Academy is an iconic institution, a global brand of excellence in the sphere of military education. Over the years it has emerged as a unique military academy, attracting the best of youth from our nation and also from friendly foreign countries and transforming them into officers and gentlemen. During the last six decades of its glorious existence, the National Defence Academy has grown both in grace and grandeur and from its portals have emerged 'leaders of men', who have demonstrated the essence of inter-services camaraderie and jointsmanship, thereby vindicating the faith and vision of its founding fathers. Apart from leaders of men, the alumni have proved to be great mountaineers, cosmonauts,sportsmen, researchers, creative writers, artists, corporate honchos and more recently, Olympic champions. Their achievements are all pervading and showcased in every echelon of our Armed Forces and also in the civil society. The 'cradle' has indeed rocked the nascent youth and groomed them properly as 'leaders' who have lived up to its ethos: 'Seva Paramo Dharma' (Service Before Self).
The permanent home coming up
The concept of the NDA was conceived at the conclusion of the Second World war when six years of fierce combat had emphatically underlined the need for 'Jointness' in modern warfare, as it was correctly believed that it is primarily the element of synergy which provides the significant asymmetric edge in a conflict situation. The NDA was, at the time of its inception, a unique and pioneering concept that was far ahead of its time. In fact, so exciting and novel was the concept that many nations looked at it with avid interest to see how it would shape out in practice.
Prior to the plan for an Academy being mooted, in 1941, the Government of Sudan had given a generous gift of a hundred thousand pounds to Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India, to build a war memorial to commemorate the sacrifices of the Indian troops in the Second World War for the liberation of Sudan. It was this core corpus that was later utilised to build the grand edifice of the National Defence Academy. On 02 May 1945, a Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of the Commander-in-Chief, India, Field Marshal Sir Claude J Auchinleck, GCB, GCIE, DSO, OBE, popularly known as 'Auk', to examine the feasibility of forming an institution with excellent facilities for training
Field Marshal Sir Claude J Auchinleck,
GCB, GCIE, DSO, OBE
the officers of the Armed
Forces jointly. Many foreign training academies were visited to analyse the efficacy of their working and evolve a suitable concept for an Indian War Academy.
The committee members consisted of the following:-
(a) The Chief of the General Staff.
(b) The Officers Commanding, Royal Indian Navy.
(c) The Air Officers Commanding, Royal Indian Air Force.
(d) Secretary to the Government of India, War Department.
(e) The Educational Advisor to the Government of India.
(f) Sir Mirza Mohammed Ismail, Prime Minister, Jaipur State.
(g) Rao Bahadur Rao Raja Narpat Singh, Jodhpur.
(h) Dr Amarnath Jha, Vice Chancellor, Allahabad University *.
(i) Khan Bahadur Mian Afzal Hussian, former Vice Chancellor of
(j) WX Mascarenhas, Principal, College of Engineering, Poona.
(k) AE Foot, Headmaster, Doon School, Dehradun.
* Dr Amarnath Jha was appointed Vice Chairman of the committee that worked on the project for 16 months from 23 July 1945 to 12 November 1946.
Pt. Nehru lays the foundation stone
'Auk' ceased to be the Commander-in-Chief of the undivided Indian armed forces on 15 August 1947, and the blueprint of the unique academy envisaged by him remained in cold storage for about eight months. But the enthusiasm it had generated and the alarming vaccum in the officer cadre did not allow it to be shelved. In fact, its birth became a paramount necessity. The report was finally referred to the Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1947. Their suggestion for the formation of an Interim Joint Inter Services Wing at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, was accepted for implementation. Concurrently an action plan to commission a permanent war academy at Khadakwasla(Pune) was commenced and Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself laid the foundation stone on 06 Oct 1949.
Mr Morarji Desai inaugurates NDA
On 1 January 1949, the Armed Forces Academy having its military Academy and the Indian Military Academy and the Joint Services Wing were commissioned. After two years of training at the JSW, Army cadets went on to the Military wing for a further two year pre-commission training. The Naval and the Air force cadets were sent to Dartmouth and Cranwell in UK for advanced training. On 07 December 1954, the interim process crystallized with the commissioning of the National Defence Academy. Formal inauguration of the Academy took place on 16 January 1955.
The National Defence Academy is located south-west Pune city and north-west of Khadakwasla Lake on 7015 acres of land, Out of the 8022 acres donated by the Government of the erstwhile Bombay state. The other suggested sites were Bombay (particularly Marve) , Bangalore, Dehradun, Belgum, Deolali, Nasik, Puri, Secunderabad and Vizag.
Pune was ultimately chosen after careful deliberation for its salubrious climatic conditions, suitability of terrain for military training, proximity to the Arabian sea, existence of an operational existence of a combined training center and the 'mock' landing ship, HMS Angostura, on the north bank of the Khadakwasla Lake lent additional leverage to the claims of Khadakwasla over other contenders for being chosen as the site for the prestigious NDA, with the daunting Sinhagad Fort as a panoramic backdrop.
Operation 'Badli' was the code name given to the great migration from Dehradun to Khadakwasla, Pune. The word Dehradun comes from the etymological root of "Dera-Drona" or the 'Camp of Drona'. The shifting of the epicenter of this Academy from the historic Camp of Drona to Khadkwasla was not without its symbolism in military historical terms. Khadakwasla is nestled at the foot of the Sahyadri Ranges in the Western watershed of the Mula river Vattey.
Operation Badli in progress
It is located 12 miles from Pune (former Poona of the Raj days)- the 200
year old administrative seat of the Peshwas. The Khadakwasla complex is dominated by the looming blue skyline of the Sinhgarh Fort Complex It looms over the Academy like a colossus, an overpowering iconic presence. It is a peak with a personality. Situated atop this blue massif is the famous Sinhgarh fort which Tanaji Mlusare, the favorite General of Shivaji, had captured from the Moghuls in a daring and incredible assault up a cliff face. Ironically, the NDA had originated from the ancient Camp of Drona (of the Mahabharata fame) and migrated to Shivaji's seat of the Indian Military Revival that had occurred near Pune. The standards of planning and execution of Operation Badli can be gauged from the amazing fact that the total damage incurred was 'Rupees five only'!!
Aerial view of NDA