Understanding the Chinese invasion of India in 1962.
A lesson on how to dismember a nation by, arrogance, incompetence, idiocy dereliction and sycophancy.
In late 1940s two sleeping giants began to stir awake, India and china.
In 1947 India' leadership lay in the hands of a wealthy, suave, sophisticated, anglophile called Jawaharlal Nehru. Raised in the lap of luxury, Nehru was India's first Prime Minister. Eloquent and idealistic in thought and manner, Nehru an arrogant and vain man.
Nehru, believed power came from diplomacy, trust and friendliness.
Leadership of Communist China (PRC) on the other hand was firmly in the hands of Mao Tse-tung. Rising from a humble background, Mao become the leader after many violent struggles and great cunning.
Mao believed that 'all power comes from the barrel of a gun" and was completely ruthless to attain and retain power.
The two leaders with their different but overpowering personalities went about building their countries in their own image.
Mao was in comparison to Nehru a peasant, and a bumpkin. Nehru who fancied himself a global sophisticate and diplomat, aspired to guide and lead China in a new world order. He envisioned that China and India would join to create a third block different from the Capitalistic American-West block and the Soviet led Communist block.
In Nehru's mind, he would be first amongst equals in this partnership. So he began to woo China with little or no understanding of China, Chinese or global realities and nature of Mao and his team.
Fawning over them, Nehru pandered to every wish and demand of the Chinese.
This approach did not go down well with the Americans nor the Russians, who wanted to retain their global pre-eminence. They both wanted to pull China into their respective orbits of influence.
Both superpowers considered China very important and India insignificant. They had little or no expectations of India surviving as an independent nation.
For their great game of global dominance, America decided that an unbridgeable divide had to be created between the two traditionally friendly Asian giants, in which China would be supported and India would be sacrificed.
The view of the American establishment can be summed up by words of former American president Nixon ‘US had no sympathy for the kind of neutralism which draws no moral distinction between the Communist world and the free world.’
In the world of realpolitik strong nations and leaders seek respect and strategic control, not charm and to be liked. Nehru in his naivety, obtained no reciprocity from China for sacrificing India's vital political, military and strategic interests.
The CIA in an attempt to sow distrust and fuel a conflict between India and China focussed on two fault lines in Sino-Indian relationships. These were, India's suspected support for Tibet and dispute over ownership of territory on the Indo -Sino border.
After China occupied Tibet in 1952, Nehru hurriedly recognised Tibet as belonging to China.
In 1954 the Chinese submitted a list of 9 demands to India, which were unfavourable to India, but Nehru quickly accepted.
Nehru consistently refused military help to the Tibetan people, so as to appease the Chinese leadership.
Declassified KGB and CIA documents reveal that many leaders, bureaucrats of the era were corrupt and bought out at ridiculously low sums, Oleg Kalugin the Russian master spy remarked, "It seems the whole of India was up for sale." The CIA was successful in creating a misinformation program that India was assisting Tibetan freedom fighters.
Both the Soviets and America had purchased the loyalty of India's Congress politicians, and bureaucrats.
Krishna Menon and Nehru
B.N. Mullik (Head of intelligence)
Lt. Gen. Brij Mohan Kaul
Defence minister Krishna Menon was in the Soviet communist camp and Finance minister Morarji Desai and YB Chawan in the American capitalists camp.
Cronyism, was a major weakness in Nehru's character. Loyalty and friendship to him as an individual were more important than merit. So like him, Nehru's team consisted of egoistical men, owing allegiance only to Nehru and themselves to the exclusion of all else.
Everyone in Nehru's team hated and opposed everyone else on the team. It emerges that everyone in Nehru's team did pretty much what they wanted. Naturally their focus was Nehru, not the country, and therefore there existed a total lack of unity and a shared philosophy and an absence of a coherent strategy.
The military leadership too was thoroughly compromised.
Though Gen. Pran Nath Thapar, (father of Karan Thapar and uncle of Romila Thapar) was appointed as the army chief, Thapar exercised no real power or influence.
Al the shots were actually being called by Lt. Gen. Brij Mohan Kaul.. Flamboyant and though incompetent BM Kaul, a close relative and trusted friend of Nehru was repeatedly and rapidly promoted out of turn and given the real power of the army.
As hostilities broke out, Kaul as the Corp Commander, reported sick and fled to his residence in Delhi, from where he continued to incompetently direct the war.
Gen. Kaul, “met the US under Secretary of State Chester Bowles the summer of 1962 without the knowledge of the Prime Minister and Defence Minister. He learnt from Bowles that the Chinese were quite advanced in their preparation for war, and the possibility of war was high before year end.
Another villain in the piece was BN Mullik (Head of Intelligence). He incompetently or deliberately fed Nehru false information and met with CIA staff and carried out their bidding.
Nehru based on the advice of these men, adopted the 'Forward Policy', which was the provocative building of many Indians army outposts further north of the McMahon Line in disputed territory claimed by China and even behind Chinese border posts with a view to preventing supplies to the Chinese and forcing their withdrawal from disputed territory. Mullik repeatedly assured Nehru, Menon and others that China would not react. Kaul assured Nehru that he would throw the Chinese out even if they reacted. This action was in retaliation to China's unilateral action of building a road across Aksai Chin.
The Chinese claimed that 120,000 sq. kms of land in India's control actually belonged to China. What China really wanted most was access between their two main western provinces - Xinjiang and Tibet. China proposed a settlement, it was willing to take an uninhabited but strategically important Aksai Chin from India and give up its claim on NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh). Nehru refused to even discuss the matter. This became a major point of contention.
Mullik thought it best to show an aggressive stand. When Nehru and Menon denied permission to deploy , troops along the non militarised and quiet border, lest it may be seen as unnecessary provocation, Mullik exceed his brief.
Mullik borrowed from the Inspector General of police of Jammu & Kashmir, and posted in the Ladakh area, a company of armed CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force). The deployment of these forces fanned Chinese fears and raised suspicions of India's aggressive intentions and duplicity.
Several questions arise. Why did Mullick exceed his brief? Why did Kaul, a serving army officer meet Bowles? If Kaul knew about the imminence of the attack, then why did he not mobilise the army and further more, why did he proceed on holiday?
It is difficult to imagine that Nehru was unaware of what was happening. The CIA with help from Mullik, helped supply arms, gave training, and support to the 40,000 strong Tibetan National Volunteer Defence Army (NVDA), led by the Dalai Lama's brothers Gyalo Thondup and Thubten Jigme Norbu. The CIA gave the Tibetan fighters outdated weapons, insufficient supplies and ammunition, no radio or communications equipment, trained them in jungle guerrilla warfare which was unsuitable for Tibetan terrain etc.
In view of Nehru's disinterest in saving Tibet, The American objective shifted from not saving Tibet to triggering the destruction of the Tibetan freedom movement and anger China at India's expense. Chinese reports mention that 87,000 Tibetans being eliminated during the March 1959 Lhasa uprising. As a consequence, His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled to and sought refuge in India.
All these actions convinced a livid China that India was playing a double game. China decided that negotiations with India were leading nowhere. India had to be taught a lesson once and for all. They thought rather than partner with, it was better to subordinate India to China.
China was however worried about the support of America to Formosa (Taiwan) for an impending attack on China. This would mean fighting a war simultaneously on a second front, something China could not afford.
However in June 1962 the Americans gave China a categorical assurance that there would be no attack from Taiwan and that America would remain neutral in the case of a Indo -Sino conflict. Thus China was able to redeploy all its best troops, artillery and equipment from its Eastern front to Tibet for the invasion of India.
The Soviet support to India remained a serious concern. Then in early October 1962 the Soviets assured China that it would drop its India tilt in case of a Chinese attack on India.
The die was cast, the trap was set.
Indian intelligence reported that Chinese preparations of war were afoot. China mobilised equipment and 80,000 troops over the year for the offensive. In the meantime an Nehru and Menon, both arrogant and supremely confident of their diplomatic prowess and the assumed support of the superpowers did nothing. They retained just 10,000 poorly clothed, almost unarmed brave soldiers at the border. Those with weapons had hardly any ammunition, and the troops were provided inadequate equipment, no transport, and communication equipment, was virtually non existent.
From August 1962 onwards skirmishes at the border were now increasing both in frequency and intensity. While the clouds of war loomed on the horizon, Nehru was busy travelling to Paris, Lagos and Accra and Colombo, returning only on 16 October 1962. Krishna Menon left for New York on 17 September 1962 to attend the UN General Assembly and returned to India only on 30 September 1962. Kaul went on holiday to Kashmir.
To India's shock and dismay on 20th October 1962 China invaded India occupied an area of 90,000 square kms including numerous key towns, and strategic locations, before announcing a unilateral ceasefire on 20th November.
India suffered a humiliating defeat, and we lost 3,250 soldiers, nearly 2,000 of them died due to improper clothing, many bodies of brave Indian soldiers frozen to death, were recovered with guns in hand but empty bullet pouches.
The shocking Indian performance was a disaster waiting to happen, the result of a politically and militarily, stupid, incompetent and corrupt leadership. So dysfunctional was the leadership that the relatively powerful Indian Air Force was not even asked to intervene, which would have turned the tide in India's favour.
The main driving force of Nehru and his successors for
adopting the philosophy of 'non violence' is not morality but paranoia. Nehru had a morbid fear that the Indian army might one day stage a coup.
Nehru therefore preferred a weak military leadership and ignored the building of adequate competencies nor strengths in India's armed forces.
Ignoring proof that both Pakistan and China were heavily arming themselves. Nehru, proclaimed that since India was a peace loving nation, an army was superfluous.
So rather than increase capacities and capabilities Nehru and his band of merry men went about rapidly reducing the strength and capabilities of the already depleted armed forces by a further 25%.
They reduced capital expenditure on equipment, infrastructure etc. not purchasing ammunition, and phasing out much of local defence production of arms and ammunition and all defence items.
Nehru was assisted in his absurd geo political and incompetent military leadership by his brilliant but equally misguided egoistic friend, Krishna Menon the defence minister.
All my life I grew up detesting the Chinese, and never trusting them. Only after the Doklam incident when I researched did I discover the truth. How we Indians have been mostly uninformed and greatly misled and misinformed.
Because the Indian government, has mostly been led by the Nehru family since independence, the truth has been concealed, lest it reduces the halo of Nehru. Nehru may have possibly had some good personal qualities, but his qualities as a leader were very seriously wanting and this resulted in the Himalayan debacle of India.
Our text books omit the truth. I believe this can be attributed to the fact that most of our historians, and educationists along with the media are leftists, with considerable sympathy for communists.
Sadly most Indians remain unaware, about the sacrifice of our valiant and noble soldiers, and therefore unable to appreciate their contribution, then and always. Therefore we fail to honour and mourn them.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat the blunders with even greater costs.
Every cloud has a silver lining even such a tragic one as the 1962 war.
1. Parliament and the people had tolerated enough. They wanted the guilty to be held accountable. Menon, Gen. Thapar, and the entire team were sacked, inspite of Nehru desperately trying to save them. Kaul became the most discredited military commander of the 1962 debacle.
2. Indian leadership received a wakeup call to reality.
3. The Indian army was beefed up and further professionalised, with much less political interference. As a result India was able to very effectively handle the subsequent invasions of Pakistani in 1965, 1971, and 1999. It also gave India the ability to cope effectively with Chinese aggression in 1967. It was then that India gave China such a bloody nose, that it has not resorted to any real aggression again.
4. Now India is officially in possession and control of 87,000 sq. kms in Arunachal Pradesh.
People and nations respect only strength.
If India seeks to be great once again, then we must be culturally socially, economically, militarily and politically so strong, that we can actually afford to be the peace loving gentle giant that we have always aspired to be.
Written and Posted: Oct 2019 ~ Gurvinder Singh on the anniversary of this tragedy.
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* Events leading to the Sino Indian conflict of 1962 by Sunil Khatri - IDSA
* Gyalo Thondup’s autobiography, 'The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong': The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet (2015)
* Thubten Jigme Norbu's book, 'Tibet is My Country'
* Bruce Reidel’s book, JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA, and the Sino-Indian War (2015)
* Ghosts of 1962: Henderson Brooks - Bhagat leaked report by Neville Maxwell
* 1962: The War That Wasn't - By Shiv Kunal Verma
* When Nehru hid the truth about China building a road across Indian territory
* China-Tibet-India: The 1962 War and the Strategic Military Future - By Gautam Das
Acknowledged with thanks from the learned author.