'The Indian Army served with honour and distinction in France and Flanders, East Africa, Gallipoli, Aden, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Transcaspia, Persia and even China.'
'The sacrifice of India's soldiers was consigned to the dustbin of history in the post-colonial world.'
On November 11, some 70 heads of State assembled in Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of Great War. India was represented by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who a day earlier had inaugurated the ‘Indian Military Memorial’ at Villers Guislain, in Northern France, to pay homage to the 75,000 Indian troops who did not return to their native land.
One man has been behind the project of remembering these brave sons of India, who fought in a war which was not theirs; it is Squadron Leader Rana TS Chhina, who heads the Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research (CAFHR) at the United Service Institution of India (USI).
Chhina, a world authority in the domain of military history, also participated in a documentary film, The Forgotten Army. Directed by journalist Mandakini Gahlot, the film explored India’s historic participation in the Great War. The premiere took place at the French embassy in Delhi in presence of Mr. Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India, who praised Chhina, “the painstaking research conducted by Squadron Leader Chhina …greatly helped revive interest in India’s role in WWI, embarking as early as 2014 in four-year project on the crucial contribution of Indian soldiers to the Great war.”
Chhina speaks to Claude Arpi about his background, his days in the Air Force, his momentous project to keep the memory of the Indian soldiers alive, the importance of history for a nation and his future projects.
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|Squadron Leader Rana Chhina with French Ambassador Alexandre Ziegler|
|18th King George's Own Lancers near Mametz, on the Somme, 15 July 1916|