Indian National Army was formed under the initiative of leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose, Rashbehari Bose and others who, being imbued with the spirit of national independence, sided with the Axis Powers during the Second World War (1939-1945). The Indian National Army (INA) is also called `Azad Hind Fauz`.
In December 1941 the Japanese defeated the British at Malaya and Captain Mohan Singh together with an Indian and a British officer capitulated to them. Indians residing in southeast Asia were much inspired at the victory of Japan at the initial stage of the war. A number of associations were formed aiming at the independence of India. Pritam Singh was a leader of such an organisation. He and Major Fujihara, a Japanese officer, requested Mohan Sing to form an Indian Army comprising the captured Indian soldiers. Mohan Singh hesitated but ultimately agreed. Fujihara handed over about 40,000 Indian soldiers, who had surrendered to him, to Mohan Singh. It was actually the first step towards the formation of the INA.
Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February1942. Advancing further north they attacked Burma (Myanmar) and captured Rangoon (Yangoon) on 7 March 1942. The famous revolutionary Rash Behari Bose was residing in Japan during this time. He arranged a meeting of the leading Indians residing in Tokyo on 28 March 1942 and there it was decided that an Association of `Free Indians` would be formed and a National Indian Army constituted under the command of Indian officers. A conference was held at Bangkok on 15 June with this end in view. The conference continued up to 24 June and 35 proposals were adopted. It was agreed that Subhas Chandra Bose would be invited to Southeast Asia. The Bangkok conference approved the army already formed by Mohan Singh. A five member working committee was formed and Rash Behari Bose was made its president. The formation of the INA was formally declared.
In the mean time Subhas Bose silently left Calcutta on 17 January 1941 and arrived in Germany. In Berlin he formed an India government in exile and extended support to Germany. He began to broadcast his aims and objectives over Radio Berlin and made contact with Japan. This aroused tremendous enthusiasm in India. Indians in Germany gave him the title of `Netaji` and the slogan of `Jai-Hind` was initiated here during this time.
Subhas left for Japan in a German submarine and arrived in Tokyo on 13 June 1943. Hideki Tojo, the Japanese Prime Minister (1941-44), accorded him a cordial reception on his arrival. The Prime Minister declared in their parliament that Japan would advance all sorts of help to India in its fight for independence. A huge crowd gathered at Singapore to receive Subhas when he arrived there on 2 July 1943. On 4 July Rash Behari Bose resigned and Subhas became the president of the Indian Independence Movement in East Asia. He formally took the leadership of INA on 25 August and dedicated himself in bringing discipline within its rank and file. On 21 October 1943 Subhas, popularly called Netaji, declared the formation of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and on the 23rd declared war on Britain and America.
The INA was being organised in such a way so that they could also take part in the invasion of India together with the soldiers of Japan. But Terauchi, the Japanese commander, gave objection to the plan on three grounds. He considered that the Indians (as war-prisoners) were demoralised, they were not painstaking like the Japanese and they were mainly mercenary soldiers. So he opined that the Japanese would take part in the invasion and the INA would stay in Singapore. Subhas could not accede to the proposal. Ultimately, after much discussion, it was decided that only a regiment of the Indian soldiers would take part in the fight with the Japanese as a detached unit. If they could prove themselves equal to the Japanese, more Indians would be permitted to march to the border. A new brigade named Subhas Brigade was formed with select soldiers from the erstwhile Gandhi, Azad and Nehru Brigades.
The INA Headquarters was shifted to Rangoon in January 1944 and sensation was created with the war cry Chalo Delhi (March on Delhi). The Subhas Brigade reached Rangoon towards the beginning of January 1944. In the mean time it was decided that the Indian detachment would not be smaller than a battalion, its commander would be an Indian, the war would continue under Joint plan of Action and Indians would fight as a separate unit on selected spots. It was also decided that battles would occur at the Kaladan valley of Arakan and Kalam and Haka centre of China hills to the east of Lusai hills.
The Subhas Brigade was divided into three battalions. The first contingent advanced across both the banks of Kaladan and captured Paletoa and Doletmai. It captured Maudak, a British border out-post at a distance of 64 km from Doletmai a few days after. It was very difficult to get supply of arms and ammunitions and foodstuff, so the Japanese wanted to fall back, but the Indians refused. So only one company was left behind under the command of Surajmal and the rest went back. The Japanese commander also left behind a platoon of his contingents under the disposal of Surajmal.
In the mean time the other two detachments of the Subhas Brigade took the responsibility of Haka-Kalan borderline. At the fall of Imphal at Manipur it was decided that INA would take position at Kohima, so that it could enter Bengal across the Brahmaputra. Gandhi and Azad Brigades also advanced towards Imphal. On the 21 March the Japanese PM declared that the Indian territories freed from the British would be brought under the administration of a provisional independent government formed under Netaji. In spite of various hazards and want of food and war materials the INA advanced up to 241 km inside India.
A few days after the declaration of the Japanese PM the Americans and the British reinforced their power in the Pacific and took steps to invade Japan. At such a critical juncture the Japan forces had to give up the plan of invading India. Consequently the INA also had to retreat and was forced to surrender when the allied powers recaptured Burma.
The Government of India gave strenuous punishment to quite a good number of INA officers like Capt. Shah Nawaz, Capt. Rashid and others. But the government was forced to lift the order when it caused widespread commotion among the member of the public. The cause of India`s independence was greatly advanced by the spirit of nationalism aroused by the INA.