An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 20 May 2002


Recently the media was full of reports of Indian defence scientists studying and experimenting with the practice of Yoga and use of other indigenous means to improve the fighting capabilities of soldiers in adverse/extreme environments. We reproduce below two Articles, sent to us through David Leffler, Ph.D,. which provide interesting insight into the range and applicability of ancient Indian ‘know how’ in modern warfare.

Military Gurus Turn to Yoga


India's military research industry is to launch experiments with yoga to sharpen the skills of troops in modern warfare and help cope with the stress of battling domestic insurgencies. Scientists are also tinkering with exotic herbs in search of potions to drive away altitude sickness and frostbite and say they have concocted a new chemistry that can block out artillery-induced deafness in the ranks.

For the first time journalists were taken on a tour today of one of the military's top research facilities, the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences. It was set up after 1962 when Indian troops were badly mauled in a border battle with China.  "We lost the war with the Chinese because we were not prepared for high-altitude warfare," said R V Swamy, chief controller of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation, an umbrella organisation for 51 military laboratories.

Besides yoga and novel cures for mountain ailments, the institute is also on the verge of patenting a water-cooled combat suit for high-temperature battlefields. "It is a priority," chief scientist W Selvamurthy said. Thousands of Indian troops are deployed on the border with Pakistan where temperatures in the summer can rise to as high as 60C. Selvamurthy said research into yoga had shown the ancient discipline to be more effective than routine physical exercises as it could be practiced on a glacier, in the confines of submarines or even a battle tank.

"Yoga reduces wear and tear of the heart and on our objective scientific scales we have seen it produce mental tranquility, greater alertness, flexibility and enhanced tolerance to cold." Experiments so far have been conducted on groups of 60 volunteers. "Our objective is the soldier's survivability, efficiency and increasing his kill-power and the spin-offs can also benefit the civilian sector," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel G Hemashree, an expert in extreme cold conditions, said
she was planning a fusion of yoga with her classified research at the New Delhi facility to find new ways to fight hypothermia. "Very soon we will ask yoga volunteers in this specially-cooled chamber and map their physiological changes in minus 20 degrees Celsius," she said from inside a giant steel vault. Every year, hypothermia kills more than 200 Indian soldiers and five out of every 1,000 are hospitalised with life-threatening high-altitude sicknesses. Most of the victims are among army units deployed on the strategic Siachen glacier that straddles the Indo-Pakistan border at an altitude of 6,363 metres.

Similar casualties occur in the desert heat of northern India or in the tropical marshes of the country's strife-torn northeast. Director Selvamurthy said his scientists were experimenting with a variety of herbs including Korean ginseng to concoct a potion to sharpen the efficiency of India's 1.3-million army, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since 1947. "We are on an exciting threshold," he said, adding that initial tests with rats had led to trials on a group of 200 soldiers and more recently the herbal potion was given to 4,000 combat troops. "Very soon the experiment will be large-scale," he said.

Indian Defence Looks to Ancient Text

By Shaikh Azizur Rahman

(Courtesy: BBC News)

Indian scientists are turning to an ancient Hindu text in their search for the secrets of effective stealth warfare. They believe the book, the Arthashastra, written more than 2,300 years ago, will give Indian troops the edge on their enemies. The book was written in the fourth century BC, by military strategist Kautilya, a prime minister in the court of India's first emperor Chandragupta Maurya,. The author was an adviser to India's first emperor. "All of us are excited about the possibilities and do not for a moment think that the idea is crazy," said Professor SV Bhavasar, a space scientist who has spent many years researching the Arthashastra. "Decoding ancient texts is not an easy task but we are very hopeful of success," he added. India's Defence Minister George Fernandes has approved funding for the project, and told parliament recently that experiments had begun. The research is being carried out by experts from the Defence Research and Development Organisation and scientists from the University of Pune and National Institute of Virology in western India.

Powders and Remedies

The book includes the recipe for a single meal that will keep a soldier fighting for a month, methods of inducing madness in the enemy as well as advice on chemical and biological warfare. According to a Pune University report, the book says that soldiers fed with a single meal of special herbs, milk and clarified butter can stay without food for an entire month. Shoes made of camel skin smeared with a serum made from the flesh of owls and vultures can help soldiers walk hundreds of miles during a war without feeling tired. A powder made from fireflies and the eyes of wild boar can endow soldiers with night vision.

Chemical Warfare

Kautilya wrote in the Arthashastra that a ruler could use any means to attain his goal, and Book XIV touches on aspects of chemical and biological warfare. Scientists say the text can help in modern warfare. The book says that smoke from burning a powder made from the skin and excreta of certain reptiles, animals and birds can cause madness and blindness in the enemy. The book also provides the formula to create a lethal smoke by burning certain species of snakes, insects and plant seeds in makeshift laboratories.

"Our focus at present is on how humans can control hunger for longer durations and walk for longer period without experiencing fatigue. Project leader Dr VS Ghole, head of the environmental engineering department of Pune university, said the team was now focusing on the methods of controlling hunger and increasing stamina. "Once we have made some headway we will go into researching Kautilya's notes on night vision and other fields," he said.

Professor SV Bhavasar said the team also had plans to research other ancient Hindu texts. These include manuscripts, which "claim to provide secrets of manufacturing planes which cannot be destroyed by any external force, could be motionless in the sky and even invisible to enemy planes."

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