THE OTHER SIDE OF THE 1962 WAR STORY

India Today - - UPFRONT - By Niru­pama Rao

Ber­til Lint­ner has a for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion as a jour­nal­ist who has ex­ten­sively ex­plored what Nari Rus­tomji called our en­chanted fron­tiers—our north­east­ern bor­der­lands. His ob­ser­va­tions of the re­gion are in­for­ma­tive and bal­anced.

His lat­est book, ti­tled China’s In­dia War, is partly a ri­poste to Neville Maxwell’s in­fa­mous (for most In­di­ans) In­dia’s China War, a work pub­lished in 1970. Maxwell’s work is known for its pro-China in­ter­pre­ta­tion of events sur­round­ing the 1962 con­flict. Lint­ner rightly de­bunks the whole ‘For­ward Pol­icy’ the­ory ad­vanced by Maxwell as be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the Chi­nese of­fen­sive of 1962. In fact, by 1959, af­ter the up­heavals in Ti­bet and the flight of the Dalai Lama, the Chi­nese lead­er­ship was clear that ac­counts would be set­tled with In­dia, and cold, care­ful plan­ning was in­volved in achiev­ing this goal.

Lint­ner is dis­cern­ing about the still-clas­si­fied Hen­der­son Brook­sBha­gat Re­port that was made pub­lic by Maxwell in 2014. The re­port is of­ten imag­ined as the last word on the 1962 con­flict, a kind of philoso­pher’s stone on how blus­ter and brag­gado­cio lost us the war, even list­ing a na­tional rogues’ gallery in this re­gard. Far from it. Lint­ner says rightly, “The ques­tion of who attacked whom, or de­ter­min­ing who was re­spon­si­ble… was not even within the scope of the en­quiry, which had been set up to look into four spe­cific as­pects: pos­si­ble short­com­ings in train­ing and equip­ment; the sys­tem of com­mand; the phys­i­cal fit­ness of the troops; and the ca­pac­ity of com­man­ders at all lev­els to in­flu­ence their sub­or­di­nates.”

But beyond Maxwell, Lint­ner is a scholar of the strategic knot of bor­der­lands that link South, South­east and East Asia.

He is acutely con­scious of the ri­valry and com­pe­ti­tion be­tween In­dia and China both in this re­gion and in the vast mar­itime space of the In­di­aPa­cific. It is a ri­valry that runs along the spine of the con­ti­nent, as jour­nal­ist Frank Mo­raes quot­ing Jawa­har­lal Nehru said in 1952.

To­day, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween these two gi­ant neigh­bours in Asia has en­tered an un­cer­tain phase. Lint­ner’s book cer­tainly places mat­ters in per­spec­tive. Be­tween the two coun­tries, there is a ‘New Great Game’ “founded on his­toric mis­trust and cur­rent com­pe­ti­tion”. China’s con­flict, or war, with In­dia is a long one: from the di­rect con­test of 1962, it is now a proxy war: a jock­ey­ing for space along the dis­puted fron­tier, cross-bor­der in­sur­gen­cies, the shar­ing of wa­ter re­sources, a joust­ing for strategic in­flu­ence and po­lit­i­cal weight in Nepal, in Myan­mar and in the ports and sea­ways of the In­dian Ocean. This is an ad­ver­sar­ial re­la­tion­ship where the two coun­tries lit­er­ally shadow each other.

The book is not based on new archival re­search. It is more an anal­y­sis that draws on pub­lished works. How­ever, this should not de­tract from its com­pre­hen­sive sweep and the fact that Lint­ner’s time-tested knowl­edge of the vi­tal is­sues in­volved mer­its our se­ri­ous re­flec­tion.

Niru­pama Rao is a for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary and am­bas­sador

Lint­ner de­bunks Maxwell’s the­ory that the ‘For­ward Pol­icy’ was re­spon­si­ble for the Chi­nese of­fen­sive of 1962. By 1959, af­ter the up­heavals in Ti­bet, China was quite clear about tak­ing on In­dia

CHINA’S IN­DIA WAR Col­li­sion Course on the Roof of the World by Ber­til Lint­ner Ox­ford Univer­sity Press £25.99

Pp: 352; Price:

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