Indo Chinese war of 1962

For most of us born in the fifties and thereafter, the Indo China war of 1962 is a mystery. What was the nature of relations in the fifties was India the aggressor, what were the reasons for the humiliation, who is to blame for the disaster?

I was reading a book on Indian History by Percival Spear where he says that India invaded China. Unable to believe this, I called ten of Mumbai's best book shops for a book on the war, only to be told, try elsewhere. Out of the blue, the Times of India carried an article by defence analyst K. Subramanium, who referred to a book Guilty Men of 1962 by D.R.Mankekar. After getting no response from new and old book shops, publishers, and my last hope was the Veer Savarkar library at Shivaji Park. Yes, they had the book but refused to part with it. They were however, nice enough to give me a photocopy. Subsequently, Penguin has come out with a reprint.

Having satisfied my hunger for knowledge, I decided to share it. While it is not my intent to reproduce the book, my essay would cover all important events to provide you with a historical background and sequence of events. For the sake of simplicity, I have split the essay into chapters as they appear in the book. My comments appear in brackets. Chapter’s are-
1. Offering the other cheek.
2. The Mapmanship phase.
3. The nub of the problem.
4. The die is cast.
5. The phoney war ends.
6. Disgrace abounding.
7. The tragedy reaches climax.
8. Tragedy reaches climax.
9. The Method in madness.
10. The Great Illusion.
11. A Dynamic Minister.
12. Service Chiefs nightmare.
13. A can’t do it Army headquarter.
14. Among the Guilty.
15. Summing Up.
16. Chinese Strategy.
17. Lessons for India.
18. How does India deal with China?

1. Offering the other Cheek
The British had a clear-headed, straight-forward policy for India's defence. They wanted India to be surrounded by a ring of buffer states that safeguarded their interest. The Tibetan plateau in the North was the essence of that policy. While they recognized China's sovereignty over Tibet, they tactically encouraged the Tibetan government by dealing with them directly. Realizing that they were not strong enough to take on the British, the Chinese bid their time. 

After India had resolved its problems in Kashmir and Hyderabad, it got down to the task of nation building. We hoped that the Portuguese would peacefully quit Goa like the French but that never happened! Throughout the fifties India crusaded for international peace and co-existence, non-alignment. The Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950 disturbed us slightly. Realizing that there was little we could do, we reconciled ourselves to the fait accompli on the Roof of the World. With the signing of the Panchsheel Pact in 1954, we believed to have taken care of our only hostile neighbor. Pakistan and the Pak-Sino nexus were subsequent developments.

Thereafter, becoming complacent (we do seem to be doing do most of the time, why!), India went on to play an active role in world affairs, ignoring its defense needs in the process. Subsequent events prove that the country had to pay a heavy price for this myopic vision. (India’s rulers forgot Chanakya's cardinal rule. Move out of your house only after you has covered your flanks or else you could be attacked from behind.) In 1914, the British govt decided that a border between India and Tibet, Tibet and China be laid down. At the tripartite conference held in Simla, the three parties signed the agreement. Subsequently, the Chinese backed out of the agreement, being dissatisfied with the demarcation between Tibet & China but happy with the India-Tibet border. The dividing line between India and Tibet is called the McMohan line.

On October 7, 1950, the Chinese marched into Tibet. Nehru's response, can at best, be described, as mild. Having realized that there was little India could to do; India started wooing China, hoping to win, influence them. It was a policy that was dictated from weakness and not strength. When a country raised the issue of human rights in Tibet at the UN, Krishna Menon said that a discussion on the same could not be held since China was not a member. There are many more instances where India bent backward to please the Chinese.

On, April 29, 1954, India-China signed the Panchsheel Pact. India agreed to relinquish all extraordinary rights it had inherited from the Brits, recognized Tibet as a part of China, withdraw Indian military escorts in Yatung and Gyantse, and transfer post-telegraph services belonging to GOI in Tibet to China. India got Peking to subscribe to Five Principles: Mutual respect for each others territory, mutual non aggression, and mutual noninterference in India's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, peaceful co-existence. (India gave up material possessions for paper commitments.)

Mao Tse-tung said “Power flows from the power of the gun." Nehru believed in Satyadev Jayate, truth shall prevail. From 1950 to 1962, China had given India adequate indications of its intentions but Nehru chose to overlook them, getting carried away by the Bhai-Bhai hype, conciliation machinery of the U.N, non-alignment.

2. The Mapmanship Phase
Starting 1956, China issued new maps that showed parts of Ladakh as Chinese territory, seized by the Chinese in the mean time. When Chou-en-lai visited India in 1956, he informed Nehru that China accepted the McMahon line.

In March 1959, Dalai Lama fled Lhasa into India. China protested but India ignored. In 1959, through a letter to Nehru, Chou-en-lai staked claim to 50,000 square miles. Also the Chinese government did not accept the McMahon line. Starting 1953, Peking converted mapminship into action. Intrusions were many. India's response lacked firmness. China took advantage of the Tibetan exodus to India and sent spies who mixed with the refugees. With the help of pro-Chinese communists they organized extensive Chinese spy rings in NEFA & Assam.

Gradually but steadily, China increased the tempo of activity and seizure of Indian territory. Wanting to avoid a confrontation, Delhi proposed that Indian troops would move back to the line that China claimed her boundary. Instead, China rejected our proposal & started building more roads in Akshai Chin. Chinese incursions were on the rise. In May 1962, govts of China & Pak announced an agreement to enter into Negotiations to locate and align the portion of India-China boundary west of Karakoram Pass, in Kashmiri territory under Pak's illegal occupation. India's protests were ignored, nine in the first seven months of 1962.

3. The Nub of the Problem
Early in 1955, China started constructing a highway through Akshai Chin, providing a strategic link between Sinkiang with Tibet. Nehru officially gave information about the construction in August 1959. The highway was completed in 1957. (Note the gap between the govt knowing about the date of construction & when it informed Parliament. The 1996 annual report of the ministry of defence mentions Chinese intrusions into our territory in NEFA but our govt kept quiet till 1998 when India's current defence minister mentioned it while defending Pokaran II. (Why do we maintain this veil of secrecy about defence matters?) The entire Ladakh area became a part of Jammu &Kashmir as a result of a treaty signed in 1842 between Maharaja Gulabh Singh and Lama Gurusahib of Lhasa and the representative of the Emperor of China. Although there was no demarcation on the ground, maps were prepared on the basis of convention. Its only in 1960, did India start constructing roads in the Northern areas.

Anxious about the border problem Nehru invited Chou-en-lai to visit Delhi. During his visit in early 1960 he proposed a Barter deal. China would accommodate India in NEFA by staying behind the McMahon line if India would be willing to accommodate China in Ladakh by accepting the line of actual control in that region. Nehru buckled under public, opposition pressure, refused the deal and thus, a golden opportunity was lost. China was in possession of Akshai Chin and India could never win it back. Failure of talks escalated matters.

Having made up its mind to teach India a lesson, China began isolating India with her neighbors. It provided liberal aid to Nepal and gave up its claims on Mount Everest. It resolved its boundary dispute with Burma by accepting the Mc Mahon Line. It wooed Pakistan & Indonesia. During talks with China, India had given them information about our military posts but the Chinese had not been so naive in giving out information about theirs. ( During the Joint Working Group meeting in February, 1992, J.N.Dixit, India's foreign secretary was smart enough not to disclose India's negotiating stance on the boundary question to the Chinese Vice-Minister, Xu Din Xin.)

4. The Die is Cast
At the end of 1961 ended with war clouds in the sky. India did not want to confront the problem. Under public pressure, it improvised a forward policy without the power to back it, though Indian troops in NEFA & Ladakh were asked to patrol as far as possible towards the international border to prevent the Chinese from advancing further. Now the Chinese protested claiming that India had entered her territory and warned of serious consequences. Setting up posts had become a cat and mouse game.

Meanwhile China increased its activity levels in Ladakh, built new roads and resumed aggressive patrolling. The Lt General continued to believe that what was going on was a game and war appeared remote (June 1962.) The Chinese began isolating our posts and encircling them. The GOC Western Command in a report to the army headquarters said that he needed more people to defend Ladakh but never got any. It appears that Forward Policy was mere public posturing without a detailed strategy in place.

5. The Phoney War Ends
The phoney war came to an end in October 1962. A clash between India & China forces at Tse Jong in NEFA was the spark that ignited the thunder. While the govt ordered the eviction of the Chinese from Dhola, in view of inadequate resources, senior army Officials suggested that we withdraw from Dhola and concentrate on Tolang. In middle of September of 1962, while this was happening the PM & Defence Minister were abroad. Inched on by public opinion the govt ordered the army to defend Dhola at any costs, a grave error. The Chinese were on a higher level at Dhola and looked down on the Indians. (Similar to the situation in Kargil today where the Pakis overlook the Indians and fire mortars disrupting traffic on the Leh-Srinagar highway.)

On October 13 before his departure to Colombo, Nehru told the press that he had asked the army to throw out the Chinese of our territory, without fixing a date though, that is left for the army to decide. Critics have blamed Nehru for precipitating the Chinese onslaught.

This is untrue since the Chinese had for years been building up military positions along the 2600 mile border. His statement appeared to tell the public and the Chinese that the govt would not hesitate in taking the tough action. (You only indulge in such talk when the country's armed forces are in a position to defend the country. Dogs that bark do not bite is an old saying. People who want to do something do not talk about it; they just go ahead and do it.)

Unfortunately, Nehru was an idealist, who till the very end, refused to believe that China
would attack India. When the China launched massive attacks in Ladakh & NEPA India's military was trying to convince the government to prevent a massacre at the hands of a numerically superior, better equipped force.

6. Disgrace Abounding
After September 1962, even a fool could sense that the Chinese were preparing to attack. On October 20, China launched a massive attack on NEFA. Mao insisted on a numerical superiority of 5:1. Dhola was wiped out. Kalyan Singh displayed outstanding leadership in defending Towlang but seeing our weakening position was ordered to fall back to Jang. On October 22, the Chinese opened a new front in the Lohit Frontier Division. The first phase of the offensive in NEFA ended on October25.

Simultaneously, they launched an attack in Ladakh on October 20. While the objective in NEFA was to capture strategic passes, in Ladakh it was the capture of posts. Lack of communication, numerical superiority forced the Indians to withdraw or die fighting. By October 24, China had the whole of North Ladakh in its control. On October 24, China proposed peace talks, from a position of strength.

The proposals were 1) that both sided should withdraw to 20 km from the line of actual control at both ends of the Himalayan border. 2) That they should agree not to cross the line. 3) Talks should be held to settle the border dispute. Nehru refused these proposals arguing that the Chinese wanted India to accept the areas what it had captured & talk about the rest. Nehru made a counter-proposal asking China to go back to the position they were occupying till September 1962. This break was used by both sides for a military build-up. The Chinese had captured 3000 sq miles in addition to the 12000 sq miles it had taken piecemeal since 1957.

In NEFA Tse La a pass at 13750 ft was converted into a virtual fortress by the Indians. Amidst all this action, Krishna Menon resigned as Defence Minister on October 30. Delhi made an urgent appeal to U.S.A. & U.K. for arms on October 30. The first consignment came on November 3.

7. Tragedy reaches Climax
The second phase of the war started on November 14 in NEFA & four days later in Ladakh. In the next forty eight hours the Chinese overran Ladakh up to their claim line. At Razang la, the Indian force put up a valiant show, in which Maj Shaitan Singh died. The Chinese launched a three prong attack on Tse la attempting to cut off the Indians and attack them from the rear. Sensing this, Pathania called Lt Gen Kaul for permission to withdraw from Tse la as he feared that it might be cut off from Senge that night. Kaul replied that Pathenia was to use his judgment in deciding to withdraw. Pathenia decided to withdraw. In subsequent discussions Pathenia denied that the enemy had numerical superiority but for some mysterious reason, the ranks had no morale whatsoever.

A PTI despatch in 1962 made two observations. First, whenever the Indian troops fought back they performed admirably and proved that the Chinese were no supermen. Second the Chinese had scant regard for human life and gave a vivid idea of their "human wave tactics." It also indicated that if the senior officers had not lost their nerve the juniors were prepared to fight the Chinese. Thus on November 18 Tse le fell into Chinese hands leaving behind stocks enough to sustain 25,000 Chinese troops for two weeks. Meanwhile in Walong Brig Naween Rawlly put enough up a valiant fight but superior numbers decided the issue in favor of the Chinese.

On November 19, Delhi made an urgent request to the US. For air support. Before the U.S. could respond China called a cease-fire on the night of November 20-21. A Maoist dictum says “Attack when sure of victory, and then establish truce." During this brief war, China had made hectic inroads into Indian Territory in NEFA.

8. Where Everything went Wrong
Our army was psychologically unprepared, outnumbered, outgeneraled and went into the war as an unwilling party, knowing very well that there was no way it could win. We were short of rations, winter clothing, heavy weapons, and roads to forward areas, wireless equipment, helicopters and leadership. Commanders were changed time & again. In one case, demand for a Gurkha battalion at Dhola was rejected as they were busy with Dussehra celebrations.

In dire straits, not having used the airforce was a tactical error. In the 1965 war, Shastri had used it most effectively. (In Kargil too) Lack of intelligence coupled with low morale made us over-estimate Chinese air strength in the Kameng sector. Disruption of the chain of command added to the confusion. (When your troops are in a spot, guide and motivate them but for god's sake, do not bypass the local commander and give instructions directly. This only compounds the problem and is exactly what happened at Dhola.)

The Chinese used to overwhelm the jawans with a shock attack by hundreds of troops. They worked to a plan while we had none. On the disaster in Tse la, Pathania had his own grievances against his superiors.

The summary of the Henderson Report submitted to the Defence Minister Y.B.Chavan admits that our troops were not trained for fighting in NEFA. Moreover the troops lacked knowledge of Chinese tactics, weapons as our army was Pakistan oriented. Leadership was lacking. The report states "Even the best equipped armies need to be given proper policy guidance and major directives by the govt whose instrument it is." Two factors have been given for the troop’s low morale in the Tse la and Bomdi la reverses. a) A widespread feeling that they had been let down by the higher authorities in Delhi - a feeling stemming from the fact that they had been asked to  fight  a superior army with inadequate rations, ammunitions etc.b) A lack of confidence in the leadership starting from Army HQ to the Corps, division and Brigade level.

The army had gone soft since Kashmir fighting thirteen years ago. The government had neglected the army and starved it of funds.

9. The Method in Madness

Why did the Chinese stop their victorious march?

It appears that the Chinese expected that in the face of immediate reverses India would sue for peace and they would finish the job before the world woke up to it. Based on reports they had received, India was on the verge of disintegration and the defeat would serve as a catalyst for the ushering in of a communist’s revolution. India, however, united in the face of external aggression. (We always do and then forget about it after the war is over. At a time when low intensity conflict and not war is the opponent’s strategy we have political parties and the media scoring brownie points. For example, The Religious Places Bill in Uttar Pradesh. The Muslims are protesting against it, although it has been well documented by the Intelligence agencies that the ISI is using madrasas on the Indo-Nepal border for anti India activities. But, national security be damned, we must uphold Nehruvian secularism. As if that law applies to Muslims alone and not to other communities.)

Why was China in a hurry to declare a cease-fire in November? Firstly, being November the Himalayan winter was approaching. The Chinese had to decide whether they wanted to take the war to the plains with their communication lines likely to be distended by snow or capitalize on their gains. Also the govt had many problems at home. Secondly, Anglo-American aid was a decisive factor; the first plane load had arrived on November 3. Thirdly the tide of world opinion was turning against China. India realized that many of its friends in the Afro-Asia block did not stand up for her. (Old story! Sorry for sounding cynical but when the Kandhar hijack happened, Britian, Germany, China, Bangladesh – none stood up for us )

Lastly, the Chinese had captured the strategic area in Akshai Chin.

Why was Akshai Chin so important to China?
The Sinkiang & Tibet plateaus constituted a wedge into the Himalayas & were considered by China to be a bulwark against communist influence in Asia. They wanted to grab those areas that allowed it to establish roads between Sinkiang and Tibet. With the undetermined border between Soviet Turkestan and Sinkiang a source of friction & the tension between the Russians & the Chinese intensifying, China needed an effective line of communication with Sinkiang through Akshai Chin.

Nehru was very active in area of foreign policy and founded the Non-Alignment Movement along with Suharto, Tito etc i.e. he became very high profile & attempted to assume leadership of Asia-African nations, unfortunately without any military or economic strength to back him. By humiliating India, China wanted to show these countries who the real leader of Asia was.

After the war, the Chinese continue to hold on 15,000 sq. miles of Indian Territory in Ladakh but has withdrawn up to the McMohan line in NEFA.

10. The Great Illusion
We had a PM who was a towering personality & earned the status of an international statesman. Nehru's idealistic mind conjured of a situation where might was not right & war had been banished. (You might wonder which school he went to and had he, read history at all). The PM decided that India with its spiritualism and history of non-violence could play a leading role in international affairs.

Nehru introduced the mantra of "Peaceful Co-existence" & traveled around the world preaching his gospel to the West and East alike. (If you remember Rajiv Gandhi indulged in similar shuttle diplomacy when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Why it is that PM's belonging to the Nehru dynasty are more worried about their world image than others like homegrown Lal Bahadur Shashtri. ) With the signing of the Panchsheel Pact in 1954, Nehru believed that he set a personal example in how international problems could be resolved in a peaceful manner. Through intensive diplomacy and a personal friendship with Chou En-Lai he sought to cement the friendly relations between the two countries.

(He forgot two things. One in life there are no permanent friends or foes. Second, that
However friendly you might be with a known potential adversary, you must never lower your guard but keep your forces strong enough to take on the friend if need be.) To be fair to Nehru, he anticipated an Indo-Chinese conflict in 1954 but was realistic enough to realize that India could not win, hence the policy of appeasement.

Nehru seemed to have an emotional attachment towards China. (Like I K Gujral’s with Pakistan). He hastened to appoint India's ambassador on independence, knew China had struggled against Western imperialism like India and perhaps, (subconsciously was a reflection of his leftist leanings.) Between 1954 and 1956, when China was busy with military investigations on how to construct the highway Nehru was talking of 2000 yrs of Indo-China friendship. China started patrolling Ladakh in 1951 but Nehru never raised it in his various meetings with Chou En-Lai.

Nehru was under this illusion that China would never go to war with India. China's intrusion into Ladakh in 1957 or its aggressive tone post Dalai Lama's asylum in India could not shake India out of its complacency. As late as October 2, 1962 i.e. eighteen days before the war started he believed that the Chinese would not take strong action against us. (Oh God how naive could he be, cut away from reality.) The tragedy was that Nehru, a man of peace, disliked war and was not cut out to play the role of a war leader.( If only Sardar Patel were alive)

Having said that, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he was aware of the looming Chinese threat. Since 1954 he had been impressing on the Defence Organization about the need for physically holding the frontier of north-eastern India. If only the forces had acted upon his instructions, the situation might have been different. (Why he did not follow up and take stringent action against those who disobeyed his orders is a?)

Where Nehru went wrong was in putting faith in personal diplomacy & rejecting war as an instrument of foreign policy. Foreign policy was Nehru's forte as well as obsession. He had staked his all on it and found it hard to recover after the Chinese humiliation knocked out the bottom of his policy.( At work never take a stand out of which you cannot wrangle yourself out of later or else you will become like Abhimanyu, who having got into a Chakravuya could not get out of it. The 1962 war was a chakravuya which he never got out of that eventually led to his death.)

11. A   Dynamic Minister
V.K.Krishna Menon became Defence Minister in 1957 bringing with him a fresh breadth of air into a ministry that had been ignored for seven-eight years. Menon fought for his men, improved their scales, and introduced welfare programs etc.Menon is to have proposed doubling of the officer strength in the army & manufacture of automatic weapons but the proposal was shot down by Gen Thimayya. Menon concentrated on indigenous production of defence needs. At his initiative aircraft factories at Kanpur and Bangalore, explosives, tanks, guided missiles factories were set up too, amongst others. In 1958, various research outfits were merged to form DRDO. Thus, Menon laid down the foundation for India's defence self-sufficiency that proved extremely useful in the 1965 war with Pakistan.

The question is, Why did Menon ignore the country's defence needs inspite of repeated warnings from the Chinese? Menon blindly followed the thesis as propounded by Nehru that there was no threat to India's external security. Menon was a pacifist, not cut out for the role of a war leader.

He ignored the crying needs of the forces. In 1947 there was plenty of equipment which had deteriorated by 1962. Thus Menon is open to the charge for not having prepared the forces for warfare at high altitudes inspite of having three years notice. He overplayed the Paki threat and underplayed the Chinese one. (We continue to do so even today.) Many consider Menon to have behaved irresponsibly by visiting the UN when the situation in NEFA was getting hot. Menon's autobiographer, however, blames the Finance Ministry for not releasing adequate rupees and dollars, to help defence preparedness. Constant friction between the finance and defence ministries only compounded the problem.

Menons autobiographer claims that he had drawn Nehru's attention to the Chinese threat in the first years of independence but was unable to back his arguments with claims. After the problems in Akshai Chin he launched a crash program on road-building but it was too late.

If Menon was convinced of the Chinese threat he should have raised hell in the cabinet and got everyone to allow release of required monies. The other school of thought was that he chose not to confront Nehru on this issue. Whatever may be the case, his failure was in not getting his colleagues to realize the gravity of the situation, for which the country has paid a heavy price.

12. Service Chiefs Nightmare
Once Menon found his bearings in the Defence Ministry he decided he knew all about defence, could teach a thing or two to the service chiefs, played junior officers against their seniors, bypassed service chiefs, tried to build his own coterie. He got Kaul to army hqs in the face of stiff opposition. His feud with Gen Thimmaya was public till the Gen resigned but Nehru got him to withdraw his resignation. Menon surely denied all responsibility. He would call service chiefs at mid-night and keep them waiting.

When Gen Thimmaya retired he got Gen Thapar in since Thapar's qualification was that he was malleable. Thapar refused to be a rubber stamp. To reinforce his relationship with Nehru he got Gen Kaul as Chief of General Staff. Kaul had Nehru's ear and was his confidant. (Incidentally both Nehru and Kaul were Kashmiri Pandits.)

In 1962 elections, Menon's victory over Acharya Kriplani was assumed by him to be an indicator of the country & Congress going left. With Nehru showing signs of aging, the? On everyone's lips was, Who next? With the situation in the country expected to be fluid Menon wanted his man in the army ie Kaul while Kaul seeing military rule in Pakistan and Burma wanted to be on the right side of Menon in case of any eventuality. Kaul's relationship with Menon can be described as love-hate.

As GOC of the Eastern Command, Lt Gen Thorat had in 1959, prepared a plan, to take on the Chinese at Bomdi la instead of Tse la and a military appreciation of the problem in NEFA. The plan was, however, destined to rot. Menon played around with the air-force by importing different types of aircraft, misemploying air force personnel.

By monkeying with the forces discipline and morale Menon had succeeded in demoralizing the officers from top to bottom. His enemies allege that Menon was entrenching himself in the military headquarters in preparation for a military coup.

13. A "Can’t do it" Army HQ
The Army, instead of finding solutions, seemed to have reconciled that there was no way India could defend its border with China. Subsequent to the Chinese taking over Tibet in 1950, there was activity at the Army HQ. It was decided to set up 21 check-posts in NEFA. Hardly any action was taken as it was hoped that negotiations would solve the border problem. There were conferences, committees which gave suggestions but resulted in little ground action.

Subsequent to the Panchsheel Pact in 1954, Nehru wrote to the Defence Secretary amongst others that check posts be set up along the entire frontier esp in the possible disputed areas. This important instruction was unfortunately not followed up with a plan of action. Following the Shipki La incident in Himachal Pradesh in 1956, Nehru issued detailed instructions, the corner stone of which was, if you cross the present position, we shall not permit you, but will not attack but report to Delhi to take up the matter with Peking.( This is taking the doctrine of non-violence to the extreme.) Third spurt of activity was in 1958 following the knowledge of the Chinese action in Akshai Chin. In January 1959, it was agreed to open some civilian check posts. The Western Command instructed that while protecting our area if the Chinese were encountered they were to be persuaded to leave our territory and the matter would be taken up through diplomatic channels. (Tell me how naive could the army be. Had not the Chinese given us sufficient warnings of their intentions)? In the October of 1959 the army suddenly woke up to the inadequacies of its preparedness in Ladakh but resulted in insignificant action again.

At the end of 1959, despite repeated warnings from the PM, the situation was similar to what it was in 1954. Meanwhile, China had built a network of roads in Ladakh. A decision taken in May 1960 to patrol unoccupied, undisputed territories was not implemented due to various logistical difficulties. To be fair to the army they had a problem. (You can either handle such a situation by keeping quiet, taking the responsibility onto yourself or bring the cabinet down by creating hue and cry.) The army is at fault for not making people realize the gravity of the situation.

After 1960 the army realized that a war was imminent and decided to put a sense of urgency into the govt. However, the Hindi-Chin bhai bhai had caught everyone's imagination so it was not easy to goad them into action. In 1960, considerable Chinese activity was noticed around the Hot Springs area in Ladakh, deep inside Indian territory. It was decided at the highest level to strengthen our posts but sadly enough three months later; the decision remained on paper only. In early 1961, Kaul admitted that the army was not in a position to repel any Chinese incursions into our territory.

In the amidst of all this action there appears to be no strategic thinking by the Army to study Chinese tactics etc. In the army, words like "This cannot be done" cannot exists. Things just have to be done to protect the country. Meetings with no action are a waste of time and have a demoralizing effect on action oriented soldiers. (Sometimes I wonder what prevents us from engaging Pakistan in a full scale war. Defence Minister George Fernandes recently spoke of huge casualties if the proxy war were to escalate. Was it a tacit admission of under preparedness?)

14. Amongst the Guilty
When things go wrong the buck gets passed on from one to another like children playing the game of passing the pillow. The civilian intelligence agency came in for a lot of criticism. The Henderson Brooks report said that collection of intelligence was not satisfactory. Also a clear picture of the Chinese build up was not available. Thirdly timely dissemination of information to the right people did not happen. To be fair to the civilian agency it must be said that there was a regular flow of information about enemy activity, esp. after 1959. These reports were not acted upon by the ministries of defence and external affairs, solely because it did not suit them.

Amongst the guilty, next to Nehru, Menon and the military leaders, was the Opposition. They were largely responsible for pushing Nehru into a corner and forcing him to fight the Chinese at the wrong time and place. Nor can they escape responsibility for ignoring the defence needs esp. after 1959.

Noted Gandhian Acharya Kriplani speaking on the Defence Budget in the Lok Sabha in 1957, “The mounting expenses on the Army must be cut down. The followers of Gandhi and adherents of universal piece should not increase military expenditure."(The respected Acharya's words can be compared to Praful Gidwai criticizing the current defence expenditure of Rs 46,000 crs or Rajiv Gandhi neglecting defence exps in the late eighties. Sweetie please remember that our country has been attacked by Pakistan thrice and China once. We have never been the aggressor.)

The Parliament and the country had been sold on the futility for the land of Gandhi to have an army. In a nuclear age, the bomb was expected to be a natural deterrent and the possibility of a war was remote. How than, can one blame the army when the political arm i.e. the government believed that an army was really not necessary. (Looking back, one wonders how naive could our leaders be. It was the army that helped liberate Kashmir and Hyderabad. The Chinese had given us 12 years notice. How then, could our leaders turn a blind eye to developments around us? The country has paid a heavy price for their negligence.)

15. Summing Up
The war with the Pakis and the Chinese exposed deficiencies in our defence set up. It had become imperative for our defence forces to keep with the times. The Henderson Brooks committee partly covered this ground. But a subject as vital as this should have been covered by a more high powered committee, probably headed by somebody like Gen Cariaapa. Right through the ages, Indian armies have never suffered in courage and heroism but in leadership and matching weapons. History repeated itself in the war with the Chinese. The Indian army clings on to the British military system even when the British army has changed. Also our army has a large administrative tail. (In today’s technology driven world many attach greater importance to machine than man. I disagree and believe that when armaments are relatively equal, victory goes to the side that is better trained with higher morale.)

One of the reasons why the Chinese did so well was the excellent lines of communication between the forward posts and hinterland. This is an area that the Indian govt needs to work on. (I believe that even today, in some places, the Chinese have roads right up to the border but our troops have to walk two days to reach there. In situations like these the Chinese can seize border areas but the Indian army will know only when a patrol a party goes there.)

Lastly, the army top brass must be politically conscious and be able to intelligently follow the political developments in the country, if it is to discharge its duties effectively and efficiently.

16. Chinese Strategy
1. Bid your time: The Chinese knew that they could not fight the British so they signed    an     agreement with the Brits in 1914, only to disown it later. When the chips are down be humble and  wait for your enemy to be in a weak situation before striking back.

2. Perfect the Art of Doublespeak: The Chinese talked friendship but also captured Indian Territory in Ladakh simultaneously. India got taken in by the sweet talk and let its guard down.

3. Do what you want without making a noise about it: Starting 1951 the Chinese silently built     maps, seized thousands of square miles in Ladakh while India went public with its plans. Besides warning your adversary, you build pressure on yourself by making your targets public. (There was no need for India's defence minister to call China, India's enemy number one. Instead of needlessly kicking up a diplomatic row, he should have kept quiet and got the armed forces to do the needful to protect the countries borders.)

4. Information is key ammunition: Starting the 1950s the Chinese had been collecting
Information about our check posts in Ladakh and NEFA, preparedness of our army etc. In any     negotiation or in planning attack strategy they knew exactly ki hum kitne paani main hain.

5. Isolate your Enemy to cut off his support base: When China decided to teach India a lesson it built bridges with our neighbors and supporters in Asia so that when they attacked India those countries would not support us.

6. Quick Response Time: By building a good communication network with the Forward areas it ensured that man and machine could move to the required destination in the shortest possible time.

7. Quit when at the Top: (Like Sunil Gavaskar, who retired from cricket after winning The Champions Trophy in 1985,) the Chinese declared a cease-fire after they were on top having captured the area in Ladakh and humiliating India. A prolonged battle might have exposed chinks in their armor and given the Indians time to regroup themselves.

8. If your opponent gives you his finger take his arm: Inspite of being aware of the Chinese intrusions into our territory, Nehru never mentioned it to Chou-En lai. This encouraged the Chinese to continue with their aggressive plans.

17. Lessons for India:
1. Foreign Policy needs to be backed by defense capability.
2. Appeasement postpones but magnifies problems.
3. The leadership must have the guts to take tough, pragmatic decisions in national interest:  If only Nehru had accepted Chou-En lai's peace proposals in 1959 by standing up to the opposition, the country would have been saved the humiliation of 1962.
4. In International relations there is no scope for Emotions.
5. Instead of being idealists, cut off from reality, always have your ear close to the ground, not as close as the one and only Laloo Prasad Yadav.
6. A country that ignores its own Defence needs does so at its own peril.
7. The PM's responsibility ends with implementation and not merely giving instructions.

18. Foreign Policy
Our foreign policy was rooted in anti-colonialism and non-alignment - both objectives have expended themselves by now. This gap between our policy and needs of the situation were responsible for the problems with China. Our policies appear Pak oriented. We are hyper sensitive about Kashmir instead of calmly communicating our point of view. We are the aggrieved party but the Pakis have, through effective propaganda, made world sympathy lie with them. We have always responded to situations instead of changing them to our advantage.

The biggest lesson from 1962 is that a foreign policy, without a defense capacity to back it, is impotent. Therefore our defence needs have to be stretched to meet the demands of our policy. This calls for close liaison between the Foreign Office and the Joint Chief of Staff Committee. There has to be some crystal ball glazing where you imagine all your potential enemies and prepare a strategy to encounter each one of them. Running away from reality as we did in 1962 will only leave scars of humiliation that would get passed onto future generations.

From 1950 we knew of Chinese nefarious designs. Besides beefing up our military preparedness we could have made attempts to isolate China from its neighbors by developing close relations with them. Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia etc feel insecure with an increasingly powerful China and perhaps, were looking up to India for support. We could have exploited the animosity between China and Japan, due to events during World War 2, to our advantage.

We recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, removed our military garrisons without getting anything in return. We did not recognize Taiwan for fear of offending the Chinese yet China never recognized Kashmir, Sikkim or Arunachal Pradesh. India keeps on giving without insisting that we get something in return. We appear to have lost the fight even before the battle had begun. 

In international politics there are no permanent friends or enemies. What is paramount is only national interest. China swears by it while we pay it lip-service. After India had in 1959, refused to accept Chou-En lai’s peace proposals, China systematically went about building its bridges with South-East Asian countries, sometimes changing its original stand, only to isolate India. Our mandarins in the external affairs, defence ministries should have seen through this strategy and made counter moves but!

During the recent economic crisis that has engulfed the whole of South-East Asia by helping them in their hour of need, we could have isolated China and strengthened our relationship with these countries but! Dynamism, playing your cards skillfully, tactics is skills that our foreign office needs in abundance. Is it not ironical that Chanakya, the father of statecraft, has been forgotten in the land of his birth?

China Enemy Number One:  After Pokran II, India's Defence Minister justified the blasts calling it an insurance against China, our enemy number one. Is it true?

To find an answer we would need to examine India's security environment. Out of India's neighbors India faces external threats from only two of them ie China and Pakistan. Pakistan, a smaller country, economically weaker, unable to win a conventional war, has strategically decided to go in for a proxy war in Kashmir and through the ISI in other parts of the country. On the other hand, China wants to concentrate on economic development and does want any problems with India. However, China is aware that India, a sleeping giant, may challenge its authority in Asia someday. It wants India to be a weak nation remaining pre-occupied with its own problems. The Chinese strategy is to let Pakistan destabilize India; help it in its nuclear and missile programs while telling the world that it desires cordial relations with India.

Would Pakistan have been aggressive without Chinese support is something you might like to ponder over. No Chinese support might have meant that bomb and missiles would be difficult to come by esp after the U.S. cut off defence aid to Pakistan. These weapons together with tactical Chinese support gave Pakistan the courage to go in for a low-intensity war. They know that India will not wage war, bomb or go in for hot-pursuit of terrorists for fear of Pakistan using the bomb.

Even if India were to do so, the fear of a Chinese attack and the army's inability to handle two fronts simultaneously would have a sobering influence on India.

19. So how does India deal with China 
1. We must extend a hand of friendship, without letting our guard and defence preparedness down besides aggressively guarding our borders. Resolution of the border dispute should not be a prerequisite for moving ahead. The debacle of 1962 should be put behind us. Self-interest and not emotions or appeasement should be the cornerstone of our policy.
2. We should befriend China's neighbors namely Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma etc.
3. We should become a member of the ASEAN; encourage trade with & foreign direct investment from member countries.
4. We should develop an Agni missile that targets Beijing, armed, preferably, with a nuclear warhead. It is widely reported that China has in Tibet, facing India, stationed missiles with warheads.  China understands, only, the language of strength.
5. We must, encourage foreign direct investment so that the world has a stake in our prosperity and stability, emulate China's economic success.

Defence Expenditure as a % of GDP
Much has been made of India's defence expenditure. Lets take a look at our two potential adversaries.  In 1996, the defence expenditure as a % of GDP for both China and Pakistan was 5.7% while the corresponding figure for India was 2.7%. The figure in 1986 for India was 3%. So in relation to GDP our expenditure has gone down although in absolute numbers it has gone up. Amongst the reasons for the higher expenditure are inflation and the pay outs due to the recommendations of the Fifth Pay Commission.

What is worrying that the share of administrative expenditure in the defence budget is going up every year, leaving lesser resources for modernization and upgradation of our armed forces?

Alas, we have not learnt our lessons. We continue to treat China with kid’s gloves and Pakistan like a long lost brother in Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony. China’s support to Pakistan nuclear program is well known and believed to be known to the U.S. Yet! We continue to ignore the defence needs of our forces. The Indian Airforce has for years, been planning to buy a Trainer aircraft, as a replacement of the vintage MiG 21. How many pilots have lost of their lives, mothers have lost their sons, wives their husbands, not to forget the lakhs spent on training each pilot? But in this country of ours, it seems that life has ceased to have any value.  Amarnath yatris, a Brigadier killed and all that we get are some statements. The media hypes up the situation to sell more copies and then the matter is forgotton.

For all the sermons that we take from the United States of America, need I ask, how would Bill Clinton have reacted if a hundred Americans and a Brigadier level army officer were killed in Bomb Blasts at New York’s Kennedy Airport?  Any Guesses?

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