A representative conference of Indians settled in South-East Asia was held at Bangkok in June 1942. It was presided over by the well-known Indian revolutionary, Rash Behari Bose. He had settled in Japan, but continued to work for the liberation of his motherland. This conference was also attended by Captain Mohan Singh and a few Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army who had renounced their allegiance to the British after their capture by the Japanese and were willing to fight for India's freedom. No less than 25,000 Indian prisoners of war in Japanese hands had signified their willingness to join the 'Army of Liberation' under the command of Mohan Singh before he came to attend the Bangkok Conference. It was at this conference that the decision was taken to form an 'Indian National Army' comprising Indian prisoners of war and civilian residents of South-East Asia. Rash Behari Bose was elected President of the Council of Action and Mohan Singh took up the command of the 'Army'. Unfortunately, the Council could not work in a concerted manner and failed to make any headway in the mobilization of men, money and material. The arrival of Subhas Bose at Tokyo on June 13, 1943, and the declaration of his determination to launch an armed attack against the British along the eastern borders of India electrified the entire scene and the Indians overseas felt that their long-awaited savious had at last come. Rash Behari handed over the leadership of the Indian Independence Movement to Subhas Bose, who formed the Provisional Government of Free India and gave the battle-cry 'Chalo Delhi' (on to Delhi) to the Azad Hind Fauz (I.N.A) Subhas also made a total mobilization of the resources of overseas Indians. Defining the task of the Provisional Government, Subhas declared; "It will be the task of the Provisional Government to launch and conduct the struggle that will bring about the expulsion of the British and their allies from the soil of India."
In the beginning, the Japanese were reluctant to give the Indian National Army an important role in their offensive campaign against British India. Netaji, as Subhas used to be lovingly addressed by his followers, refused to accept such a proposition and the Japanese had to agree that, in the campaign for the liberation of India, the soldiers of the Indian National Army had the inalienable right to make the maximum contribution. The I.N.A formed the vanguard of the attack which was launched across the India-Burma border. Netaji himself came to Rangoon and established his advance headquarters there. The I.N.A. brigades, named after Gandhi, Azad, Nehru and Subhas, distinguished themselves in several battles which they won by dint of sheer bravery, courage and superb discipline. A lofty spirit of patriotism impelled the men and women of the I.N.A. to make the supreme sacrifice in the field of battle and undergo all sorts of privations and suffering with a smiling face. They went into ecstatic joy when they succeeded ill capturing Mowdok, a small town on the Indian side of the border. They fell prostrate on the ground and kissed the soil with great reverence to reaffirm their determination to free India from foreign rule. The main objective of the I.N.A. offensive in 1944 was the capture of Imphal, the capital of Manipur. The advance units of the I.N.A. reached within two miles of Imphal and succeeded in besieging the city.
In June 1944, the fortunes of war were turning against the Axis powers. Due to heavy bombing by the Americans, as also due to the rapid American advance in the Pacific, the Japanese decided to withdraw from the India-Burma border. The monsoon started in all the fury and it became impossible to supply rations and ammunition to the I.N.A. forces. This, along with the pressure of the reinforced British forces, compelled the Japanese Army and the I.N.A. to fall further back.
During the winter of 1944-45, the British began their counter-offensive. They occupied Arakan and marched towards Rangoon. The Japanese evacuated Rangoon, asking the I.N.A. to hold it as best as they could. By May 1945, the British forces had occupied Rangoon and a large number of I.N.A. soldiers were taken prisoner. The Japanese surrender in the middle of August 1945 extinguished the last hopes of the I.N.A. to liberate India. On August 18, 1945, Subhas Bose was last seen bearding a Japanese bomber at Taipeh. What happened afterwards is still uncertain.
The I.N.A. was not successful in winning the freedom of the country, but they certainly hastened the dissolution of the British empire in India.
- Dr. P.N. Chopra