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A Review of Indian National Army Under Subhas Bose and How It Hastened the Independence of India


MG is a service officer and now a senior corporate advisor. A prolific writer with thousands of articles and publisher of 6 novels.


POW's as Freedom Fighters

We must first distinguish between the Indian National Army and the Indian Legion. The Indian region was raised by the Germans during World War II from captured Indian POWs in North Africa while the Indian National Army was a Japanese creation from POWs captured in Southeast Asia. Subhas Chandra Bose was a factor in both these creations. After Bose left Germany in 1943, the India Legion was integrated with the Waffen SS and numbered just about 5 to 6000 continued fighting in Europe till captured by the Americans when they were marching to enter Switzerland.

The Indian National Army was a much bigger organization and was almost of the strength of about 40 to 50,000 and took part in battles along with the Imperial Army from 1943- 45. The Indian National Army fought for Indian Independence with decisive results. Many Indians have some romantic notions of the INA as a creation of Subhas Chandra Bose the fiery Indian nationalistic leader who had sided with the Japanese in fighting for Indian Independence.

The INA was actually formed much before Bose appeared on the scene. When the Japanese advanced against the British and occupied vast colonies of the British, the Japanese higher military echelons thought of harnessing Indian POWs to help them further their war aim. At the outbreak of the war the British had about 70,000 Indian troops in Malaya and after a spectacular campaign, the Japanese were able to make 55,000 Indians as POWs.


The First INA

In September 1942 the first INA was formed under General Mohan Singh (Captain in British Indian Army). The Japanese agreed to arm about 16000 Indian troops who had joined the INA. The INA was an extension of the Indian independence league whose mentor was Rash Behari Bose. But differences between the Japanese Military command and Rash Behari Bose on one side and Mohan Singh on the other side cropped up and the result was that the Japanese arrested Mohan Singh and imprisoned him on the island of Pulau Ubin. The INA was disbanded and many Indian soldiers reverted back to POW status. The Japanese were ruthless and sent a few of these soldiers to work on the death railway in Siam or in New Guinea.

Contribution of INA

Subhas Chandra Bose landed from Germany in 1943 and he along with Rash Bihar Bose revived the INA. In Tokyo General Hideki Tojo the Japanese Prime Minister had a meeting with Subhas Bose who had arrived by U- boat from the German city of Hamburg after a long voyage from the Atlantic around the Cape of Good Hope to a rendevous point in the Indian Ocean. He was transported in mid-ocean to a Japanese submarine and then sailed through the Malacca Straits to Tokyo.

The INA was again formed in mid-1943 and this time under Bose it sided completely with the Imperial Army. The strength of the INA was just about 45,000. This is a small number compared to the Indian strength fighting for the British which was over 2 million. Thus the fact is that the vast majority of Indian soldiers did not join the INA of Bose.

A force of about 45000 is just about 3 divisions. This was a very small strength and the bulk of the fighting was done by the Japanese army. The Indian National Army however fought under the command of the General Officer commanding the Imperial Army. Despite the paucity of numbers in comparison to the Japanese army which had thrown in almost 400,000 soldiers, the INA fought extremely well.

The INA was part of the Imperial army in the offensive in Burma. The INA along with the Japanese army surrounded Kohima. This was the crucial battle of the second world war in Southeast Asia and there was bitter hand-to-hand fighting between the British Indian Army and the Imperial Army aided by the INA. The Imperial army was however handicapped as their supply lines had become greatly extended and they had a shortage of food. In contrast, the British Indian Army had been beefed up and the supply lines had been established right up to Kohima. In addition, the Royal Indian Air Force and the RAF had started an Air-Bridge as well.

The Imperial Army and the Indian National Army with extended and insecure supply lines as well as the loss of air superiority contributed to their defeat. The Japanese basically relied on the magnetism of Subhas Bose to create defection in the British Army but this did not work and the bulk of the Indians soldiers at that time did not switch sides.

Here again, the appeal and magnetism of Bose failed and despite intense propaganda by Bose and the Japanese, asking the Indian soldiers to defect and turn on their British officers it never happened. The Indian soldiers remained loyal to the British and did not join the INA.

The siege was lifted and the Indian national army and the Japanese were pushed back. There were some counter dissertations and many Indian soldiers escaped back to the British lines. It is not well-known that the only place where the INA was able to set foot was in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Here Bose proved himself ineffectual and records show that the Japanese tortured and executed the local Indians. The biographers of Bose have never been able to explain this inaction on the part of Bose to the massacres of the Indians by the Japanese.


Bose in perspective

The mass of the Indian people has great regard for Bose. They looked upon him as a savior. In India there is a paucity of national war heroes and Bose was painted in that light and people began to make many stories about him. The bulk of the Indians felt he was right in having joined the Axis powers to free India. Even in the army and navy, there was disaffection and many soldiers sympathized with the ideas of Subash Chandra Bose. The trials of the INA soldiers and officers began in the Red Fort where the British were hoping to have a trial similar to the Tokyo tribunal but the entire country erupted. There were mutinies at Karachi and Bombay and many British officers were shot dead.

Field Marshal Auchinleck the C-in-C, India at that time, and Field Marshal Lord Wavell the Viceroy sensed the mood of the nation and accordingly conveyed the same to Clement Attlee, the Labour leader who had become the Prime Minister. The trial in the Red Fort turned out to be a damp squib and none of the sentences were carried out as they were commuted by the Field Marshal Auchinleck. Many were sent to transportation for life, but the sentences were never carried out.

Bose statue in Tokyo

Bose statue in Tokyo


The war is over almost 75 years back. The INA has become part of folklore in the history of India. The Indian leadership Led by Gandhi and Nehru were wary of Bose and they feared that if he came back he would become the political leader and they would be sidelined. This was because of the magnetic hold of Bose on the Indian psyche

They downplayed the role of Bose in the Indian independence movement and efforts were made to make him a footnote in Indian history. The fact that he had defeated the nominee of Gandhi in the 1938 Congress presidential election was buried under the sand. After independence, the soldiers of the INA were not taken back into the Indian Army and retired. At the same time, the significance of the INA lies in the fact that it was proved that Indians who were always pacifist and obeyed the law could rise up on their own and confront the alien rulers. The INA had a catalytic effect on the British Raj and hastened the freedom of India. This was accepted by Lord Attlee who in 1955, stated that the British left India only because of the factor of Subhas Chandra Bose and the self-styled Mahatma Gandhi had practically no role in his decision to pass the India Independence act.


His majesty's Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and Indias struggle against the Empire- Sugata Bose( Harvard University Press)

Shameful Flight: The last days of the British Empire in India- Stanley Wolpert, Oxford University press


MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 19, 2021:

thanks Dollie for commenting

Lorin on January 08, 2015:

With all these silly weetssbi, such a great page keeps my internet hope alive.

Dollie on January 07, 2015:

Thanks for coruiibttnng. It's helped me understand the issues.

ITBP on August 29, 2014:



Sir please read them.

And about Jap brutality INA had plans to fight back Japanese if they had decided to to remain in India.

And INA's aim was not to defeat BIA Militarily.

Prem Kumar Sahgal, an officer of the INA once Military secretary to Subhas Chandra Bose and later tried in the first Red Fort trials, explained that although the war itself hung in balance and nobody was sure if the Japanese would win, initiating a popular revolution with grass-root support within India would ensure that even if Japan lost the war ultimately, Britain would not be in a position to re-assert its colonial authority,[6] which was ultimately the aim of the INA and Azad Hind.

Thus what you said INA failed is not true.

ITBP on August 29, 2014:

Your this article is very biased.

Japanese killed many in Andaman and Nicobor, but British were killing in Millions in India, so who was killing more? British.

Indian soldiers fought for British despite leaflets it's truth, but why? Because British largely relied on Soldiers from Martial race- those people who fought for Britain in 1857. Large part of BIA was Muslim and Muslim leader Jinnah was supporting british, so can you understand how much this influenced those soldiers who were Muslim?

And soldiers were fed British propaganda, Fay in his book even quoted British intelligence service saying INA agents were successful to convince Indian soldiers to defect. Later British used Japanese-Indian army theory.

But when same Indian soldiers when advanced in deep SE Asia, then they found out what they were told are plain lies. Later those soldiers themselves spread news about INA after returning to India.

INA despite it's small size fought very well, it defeated British-African division in Battle of Admin Box, and successfully laid ambushes on enemy, in one incident INA opposed BIA from crossing Irawardi river so much that even General Slim said it was longest opposed river crossing and defection of INA soldiers to British were very low compared to what about British told.

Sir, you know very little. Go study history before you spread your lies.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 15, 2014:

Your comment belies truth. I speak from first hand knowledge as my great uncle fought against the Japs. Thosands of leaflets were showered on Indian soldiers to defect in the battle of Imphal, but it didnt happen. Also read the auto biography of General Harbaksh singh who was made a POW and asked to join the INA, but he refused. Bose has a lot to answer for the deaths and atrocities on the people of Andaman islands. I suggest you vist Car Nicobar, because i flew so often there and realize the monstrous crime done by Japs undr the nose of Bose. They killed the entire male population and took the women as comfort women.

Come on man know your facts.!

A Very Baised Article on May 15, 2014:

Yes your article has been written from the point of view of a imperialist power and rightly u described the INA as a small force, yes it was, but it was organised in a very short time.. Another point of yours that majority of Indian soldiers fought for the british... the reason was they didnt know much about the INA and Netaji, they were fed the information that they were fighting under japanese command, which is entirely wrong, INA was commanded by Indian general, most of INA funding was done by overseas INDIANs, even weapons used by the INA was self manufactured , they were making their own weapons. Now another point i would like u to read since ur knowledge history lil weak of perverted as your article proves, please read about the RIN revolt and Jabbalpur revolt etc all these happened because of the INA, Indian soldiers came to know about the INA after the world war as the british now lifted the ban from the media and they started putting up the facts about the INA.. And Indian army under british command felt that they too could protest... yes bose ignored many of japan's atrocities because he was looking for larger , that is independence for all INDIANs , EVEN THE SWINES LIKE THOSE WHO R COMMENTING HERE, without even reading proper facts... It was the INA's sacrifice that did the trick for India.. even largest scholar of the world can challenge me with that...

MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 09, 2014:

Dear iweet, it was nice reading your comment

lweet on March 05, 2014:

I think it would be true to say that the British Rajah did kill more Indians than the Japanese.

It would also be important to point out that the numbers were over the the entire period of British rule.

The great famine or the slaughter of peaceful demonstrators or even the reprisals after the Indian mutiny had rationals such as administrative failings,an out of control general or shock reaction that such a loyal army could ever mutiny(thou in truth the vast majority stayed loyal to the existing order).

THe Japanese seemed to be much more irational in such actions..

One should never allow sentiment to have sway but hard facts.

Its true to say that the victors will always write the history books but time also allows for view points to be modified.

The British had no real policy beyond trade and profit or just preventing the french from gaining control in India.

Imperial rule will always have faults but can also have benefits such as the destruction of the pindari bands and free lances,the outlawing of of suttee and thugee to the creation of a great railway,canal construction for famine relief etc.

OK it was to enhance British control but it would be a mistake to suggest that India did not benefit along the way.

Nothing in the history of ww11 or since suggests that the greater co prosperity sphere instigated by Japan would have been of any benefit to India.

I suggest that Japans occupation or control of India would have been very harsh indeed.

look at Japans actions in korea,manchuko or china.

A British general wrote in 1912 that the Indian soldier could be compared to the cat inso much that the cat may not be attached to the master but to the house.

The master being the British and the House being the Indian army..

I again suggest that the Indian soldier may have seen British rule as unwelcome but better than Japanese.

At best Netaji was mistaken in his understanding of the Japanese or at worst a traitor to his people.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 02, 2014:

Thank you Waffen SS. The fact is Netaji failed. However i appreciate your sentiments

Waffen SS on March 01, 2014:

Sir, Netaji did not think he would be able to liberate India. We cant be sure that if his plan was successful then would Japanese really manage to capture India type large country? By 1944 Japanese Military was exhausted, and scattered in Eastern Asia and Pacific, in Burma Japanese had only 350000 soldiers. Would British Indian army's Indian soldiers allow Japan to be India's new ruler? No. People in 1940's were much more conscious then they were in 1857. Japanese yes killed many Indians, even freedom fighter in Andaman, but British killed more Indians, so IMHO British was India's more bigger enemy, and Netaji did no wrong by taking help from Japanese. Thanks.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 01, 2014:

Thank you Waffen SS for your comment, but rhetoric cannot replace actual history.

Waffen SS on February 27, 2014:

This article is completely misleading. Did not british kill 3 Million Indians in 1942-43 famine?

To stop British-Indian army's Indian soldiers from defecting British said Indian soldiers that these INA soldiers are actually Japanese Indian army, fighting for Japanese to enslave India, it was propaganda that prevented Indian soldiers from defecting, still some soldiers defected, of course Japanese was very ruthless, but how goo british was? Dont forget Jalianwalabagh. There was no difference between british imperialism and German Nazism. Please read history before writing such article. British indian army was nothing but a mercenary army who were paid to kill their own countrymen, they dont deserve respect.

What Gandhiji could not do in 3 movements, Netaji did that in within just 1 movement, btw De Gualle also took help from Allies, do it is clear here is nothing wrong in taking help from enemy's enemy.

And those who say Netaji was like another freedom fighter to them-Ignorance is bliss and little education is dangerous.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on February 15, 2014:

Thank you L weet for a wonderful comment

L weet on February 15, 2014:

one of the things that puzzles me with the view points of many Indians is the appreciation of the INA and very little for the imperial Indian army.

Whilst the vast majority of the peoples of India both military and civilian were pro independance they were inteligent enough in my opinion to appreciate the old saying " better the devil you know than the devil you dont know".

post war history has some what confirmed this.

The japanese military were far more ruthless than the British had ever been.

appreciate the peoples that stayed loyal to the old order and untill the end of hostilities.

is it not an indian military tradition of being loyal to the salt.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on November 13, 2013:

Thank you rana masood for commenting. I appreciate your view point

rana masood on November 13, 2013:

It is purely the British side of the story. My father was a proud soldier having fought against colonial rule in India.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on August 23, 2012:

Mr Sudeep, Please read the history books. Bose and the INA were defeated by December 1944 and the Japanese army was looking for a face saving way to end the war. This is brought out by the Japanese historians themselves. Truman knew about it but for political reasons the A Bomb was used.

As far as Bose is concerned the less said about him the better. The one place the INA flag flew was in the Andaman islands and there the Japanese executed thousands of Indians with Bose just watching.

madan g singh on August 22, 2012:

Dear Sudeep, You have mentioned ' alleged atrocities ' about the Andaman islands. I have been 5 times to Andamn and Nicobaar islands and the attrocities are REAL AND TERRIBLE.. Thank you for commenting

sudeep on August 21, 2012:

Sir your comments are akin to what a true blooded Britisher would say & perhaps justify nuclear bombing of hiroshima & nagasaki killing 2.5 lac mostly civilians women & children.

Compare these to the British propaganda on A& N Islands & alleged atrocities of indigenous population by Jap forces, 45000 strong INA & the Japanese force could have prevailed but for the sudden aend to WW-II due to above bombs...sir history changed in 5 minutes and a huge standing army of Imperial Japan was left with no choice but to go for unconditional surrender

Vinayakan on June 05, 2012:

Mr MG Singh I find your article very illuminating and damning of "Netaji". Rajbhan's comment about the "freedom fighters" of India (the dubious variety who lied to and cheated the average Indian) must be exposed.

First up - Bose. Excellent work MG Singh. Exposure of his conduct in the Andaman's would have been the fitting icing on the cake for the many deluded individuals who go about prating "Netaji's" courage and patriotism. I won't bother answering the die-hard supporters of "Netaji", but here is a tiny, but white-hot question for them: If dear "Netaji" was the undying nationalist and patriot he proclaimed to be, why marry an Austrian? Needless to say, this fact is hushed today.

The next heads on the block should be Nehru and his family followed by Annie Besant, Jinnah and finally Gandhi. Greater India was lost because of these people.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 10, 2012:

Thank you Vignesh for your comment. One cannot live on dreams and notions. Everysingle polnt made by you is answered in my hub. I also write from first hand experience,my great uncle was a captain in Burma. No Indian soldier wanted to join the INA. Only some POWs did. Bose conduct in Andaman islands was not the best

Vignesh on May 09, 2012:

Mr.Rajbhan Singh ended his comment with "Jai Hind"(a phrase coined by Bose).It just shows Netaji's influence will always be there in every Indian.He might have failed, but never ever question his patriotism!! In Gandhi's own words "Subhash's patriotism is second to none".

Well Mr.MG Singh, your facts are right.But your interpretation of these facts is awfully wrong. Bose was not a fool to think that he could defeat British with a troop of 45000.He only wanted to use INA as a catalyst to arouse the patriotism of Indians in British army and create a mass revolt. If the trials of INA generals much after the supposed death of Bose aroused the people so much, imagine what would have happened if the strict censor on INA activities was not in place during the war(march of INA till Imphal). One must also note that more than the British forces, poor logistical support,monsoon & disease outbreak were the prime reasons for INA's downfall. One must salute their bravery!!It's a shame that people like you take great pride in belittling the efforts of Bose & INA. How long will you people continue to admonish Bose for not following Mahatma's line??? You guys say "India would never have been truly free as She is today." I ask you one question.Are we really free today?? Even if it's so,of what use is this freedom? How much progress did the nation make in the last 65 years?? What was once a single united nation split into two and eventually into three with none progressing!

If there was a leader who could have made India a better country, it was none other than Bose. His intellect, farsightedness,discipline & administrative skills are simply unmatchable.Please give the "Leader of the nation" the respect that he deserves.

All those who still believe that Netaji & INA's contributions were insignificant, please read this http://folks.co.in/blog/2012/01/23/who-brought-fre... JAI HIND.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 23, 2012:

Thank you Raj, a wonderful comment

Rajbhan Singh on April 21, 2012:

I have always felt "Netaji" was just another of the numerous "freedom fighters" willing to carve up and sell India, our beloved Bharat for a price, just as our politicians do today. This article dispels just one of the myths about "Netaji". If he had become the PM of India as has been asserted, the Japanese shadow goernment backing him would have been utterly more crude, cruel and barbaric than the British. Just a case of trading one master for the other. India would never have been truly free as She is today. Jai Hind.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on February 22, 2012:

Thank you Craig

MG Singh (author) from UAE on February 22, 2012:

Thank you Saminathan. Great to hear from you

Saminathan Munisamy on February 22, 2012:

A fair gudgement! very well written, Sir. As a grandson of a survivor of Death Railway ordeal, I feel that Subhas Chandra Bose was incapable of standing against the atrocities of Japanese Imperial Army towards the Indian indentured laburers from Malaya. Almost 33 thousand Indians died in the process of building the railway and many Indian in cluding my grandfather was deceived by the Japanese in the name of liberating India. Even today, many of the Tamils in Malaysia, who had their fathers and brothers "snatched" away by the Japanese Army, find it very difficult to justify Subhas Chandra Bose's vision of liberating India!

Craig Allen on December 15, 2011:

A fine & very well written article. Well done Sir!

MG Singh (author) from UAE on August 07, 2011:

Thank you Cecile, a potent comment

Cecilie Blikker on August 07, 2011:

Finally an article by someone who has informed himself about the facts. Excellent.

Most writing on Bose and the INA is written by people who want there to have been a real Indian warrior and they are ignorant of what really happened.

Sugata Bose´s claim that his granduncle was a warrior statesman is at least half incorrect. Bose was no warrior, but his charisma seduced thousands to follow his dream only to die of hunger and desease. Bose had no training, no experience and the uniform was the only military aspect of the man. Generals do not appear out of nowhere.

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