College Comes into Being
A small news item appeared on the third page of Hindustan Times, dated 22 April I960, which stated:
The National Defence College, organised on the pattern of the Imperial Defence College (now Royal College of Defence Studies) of U.K., will start functioning in New Delhi on 27 April. The College, which will be formally opened by Mr. Nehru, has been set up to provide joint training and instructions to senior service and civil officers in dealing with the wider problems relating to the defence of the country."
During this period, the country was facing problems with China on the Himalayan frontiers and Mr. Chou-enlai was in India to discuss the border disputes. Mr. Chou-enlai, in fact, left for Nepal on 26 April 1960 and the College was inaugurated the next day.
The historic occasion was fixed for 10.00 AM on Wednesday, the 27 April 1960. The Prime Minister, while inaugurating the College gave his famous quotes which formed the Motto for the College. Keeping in background the situation and security environment, prevailing at that time, Pandit Nehru, the great visionary that he was, outlined the importance of broader defence strategy. He stressed this to meet new dangers of a "continuing nature" on India's frontiers. He said:
"Our desire is to live peacefully and co-operate with all neighbours. Nevertheless, no defence apparatus could live in pure idealistic way. It has to be very realistic and remain prepared for any emergency." The Prime Minister emphasised that it had become very important that there should be effective coordination between defence services and other aspects of the country's economic, industrial and administrative life, including the country's foreign policy. At such a moment, it becomes very important to think in this broad way and not be swept aside by sudden urges of either complacency or anger which may result in doing something without thinking of all aspects of the problem of defence.
Talking about the setting up of Defence College, Pandit Nehru said, "The organisation of this institution had become a positive necessity to meet the defence problems as they were likely to be in future. India had to face these problems for a continuing period and a considerable period." He further added that the Defence College had to develop the broader outlook, broader understanding out of which would grow a broader strategy. Defence itself is not an isolated matter now. It is intimately connected with the economic aspect, industrial aspect and many other aspects in the country.
Emphasising further on his vision and expectations from the College, Pandit Nehru hoped that inputs here would enable one to get a wider vision of thought and proper co-ordination of minds which are essential in any position of responsibility and leadership. He said that the country which had not got that wider vision cannot function as a top class country. It is not merely expert knowledge in each individual field but a co-ordination of that knowledge which helps in understanding the world and the future. This is the vision that the institution should aim at
The Prime Minister ended his speech by saying, "I have no doubt that the officers, defence or civil, who come here, will profit by their stay and then be able to improve others who come in contact with them in the positions they may be serving. And, I agree that this College should have contact with the Civil Services and people from Civil Services should come here, not only to develop these contacts but it is necessary for them to know the problems in this wider field. So I am glad to be here to give a slight push, this morning, to this National Defence College and I believe I am supposed to say the formal words, "I inaugurate it with pleasure."
The glittering ceremony on that August Wednesday morning was attended by a small but distinguished gathering. The then Defence Minister Mr. V K Krishna Menon in his opening remarks said that the National Defence College represented the change that had taken place in the character of national defence and strategy. He stated that the study in the College would cover strategic, scientific, industrial, economic and political aspects of defence. He expressed the hope that the College, though based on the Imperial Defence College (now Royal College of Defence Studies)UK would become a trail blazer and not merely a carbon copy.
Lt General K. Bahadur Singh, the Commandant said," I think, I am right in saying that we are pioneers in Asia in establishing this type of an institution. The need for the institution has arisen out of independence since policies were now being made in Delhi and not in Whitehall."
Among the elite present on the occasion were also the three Service Chiefs, the Commonwealth and Foreign Secretaries, the British High Commissioner and prominent MPs. Others present were the Senior Directing Staffs, namely, Shri BN Varma, ICS, Rear Admiral A Chakravarti and Air Vice Marshal R Raja Ram, DFC, and last but not the least, the chosen 21 Course Members who were there to embark upon the historic First Course lasting 11 months.