"I could say that those years were fascinating, intellectually satisfying and without them, I would have been a lost soul"
- Col Pyara Lal
The first Course started on 27 April I960.The curriculum included study of internal threats affecting the national security. The internal threats included economic, social and political aspects. The external threats incorporated study of external, economic and defence policies of world powers namely, USA, erstwhile USSR and China followed by similar study of policies of adjacent countries, which could threaten the national security, due to their own or world power policies. The last two studies were of the world war and, with this overall background, to recommend strategic policies in diplomacy, economy and defence. This basis proved to be very sound as the studies in the first two Courses forecasted correctly the war with China in the winter of 1962 and with Pakistan before 1966.
Mr. Krishna Menon had also a lot to do with the establishment of the College, "As a matter of fact it was his brain-child " recalled Admiral Chatterjee, the second Commandant of the College. However Mr. Menon in 1962, after the Chinese war, had ordered that NDC would be closed after the third Course. Just to recall, the first Course was run from April 1960 to March 1961, the second Course from July 1961 to May 1962 and the third Course from July 1962 upto May 1963. If Mr. Menon had his way, NDC would have closed in May 1963. Luckily, Mr. Menon was replaced by Mr. Y B Chavan as Defence Minister, by then, and in the words of Lt. Gen. K Bahadur Singh "Once at a lunch, I had requested Prime Minister Nehru to pay a visit to the College. When he arrived, I explained in brief what we studied at the NDC. Mr Chavan, who accompanied the Prime Minister, mentioned that NDC papers had forecast the Chinese war. Nehru turned around and ordered Chavan that this institute must not close." And thus, the College continued to prosper to our nation's advantage.
Right from the start, the accent was on a minimal Faculty and the term Senior Directing Staff was coined to make it clear that the staff merely directed the lecturers were always guests. Recalls Gen Bahadur Singh, "I used to invite experts to speak on a subject, outline of which I used to suggest in the letter of invitation. After the talk, there was coffee break and then the questions". This method appears to have stood the test of time and is still continuing.
Col Pyara Lal, who had probably the longest stint at the College, 12 years to be precise, had a lot to reminisce. He had mentioned, "I could say that those years were fascinating, intellectually satisfying and without them, I would have been a lost soul". He had also commented," I was like a Hollywood scout in those early days, but instead of looking for beautiful women, it was a hunt for eminent people to talk to the students".