Indo-china War What went wrong?

SP's MAI - - MILITARY -

Sar­dar Pa­tel’s 1950 let­ter to Nehru not only lam­basted the In­dian Am­bas­sador in Bei­jing K.M. Panikkar bend­ing back­wards to China but more im­por­tantly warned of grave dan­ger from China. Dis­play­ing strate­gic vi­sion he wrote, “Chi­nese ir­re­den­tism and com­mu­nist im­pe­ri­al­ism are dif­fer­ent from the ex­pan­sion­ism or im­pe­ri­al­ism of the western pow­ers. The for­mer has a cloak of ide­ol­ogy which makes it ten times more dan­ger­ous. In the guise of ide­o­log­i­cal ex­pan­sion lie con­cealed ra­cial, na­tional or his­tor­i­cal claims…In­dia’s de­fence has to con­cen­trate it­self on two fronts si­mul­ta­ne­ously… a com­mu­nist China which has def­i­nite am­bi­tions and aims and which does not, in any way, seem friendly dis­posed to­wards us.” Nehru, with his dis­dain for mil­i­tary, utopian be­lief that China and In­dia could live peace­fully with open bor­ders (utopi­ans of to­day pro­pose open bor­ders with Pak­istan) and not recog­nis­ing the harsh fact that eco­nomic growth and na­tional se­cu­rity are sym­bi­otic, ig­nored Pa­tel’s ad­vice.

Mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness con­tin­ued to be wholly ne­glected. Nehru con­tin­ued to sup­port China’s con­trol over Ti­bet (ac­tu­ally an au­ton­o­mous re­gion) with­out re­cip­ro­cal com­mit­ment from China on the sta­tus of Sino-In­dia bound­ary (we frit­tered away demise of East Pak­istan and handed over 93,000 pris­on­ers un­der the Shimla Agree­ment of 1972 with­out solv­ing the J&K bound­ary dis­pute with Pak­istan). The net has pho­tos of In­dian demon­stra­tors car­ry­ing ban­ners urg­ing Nehru to take a firm stand to­wards Chi­nese vi­o­la­tions of the In­dian bor­der dur­ing Chou-en-Lai’s visit to In­dia in 1960 (to­day, we ig­nore op­po­si­tion calls to take up the is­sue of bor­der vi­o­la­tions with vis­it­ing Chi­nese of­fi­cials). Chou-en-Lai cun­ningly sang peace lul­la­bies and our gullible hi­er­ar­chy was taken in.

De­fence Min­is­ter Kr­ishna Menon was more in­ter­ested in mak­ing money through im­port­ing jeeps and ap­point­ing B.M. Kaul (an ASC of­fi­cer) to head the Corps fac­ing the Chi­nese bat­tle­front, com­pound­ing the de­ba­cle of 1962 in the process. Both Nehru and Kr­ishna Menon kept say­ing China would not at­tack (Man­mo­han Singh said the same last De­cem­ber). Kr­ishna Menon went to the ex­tent of pooh-poohing a war game con­ducted in Lucknow in 1961 that brought out ex­actly how the Chi­nese would at­tack; which was ex­actly the way it hap­pened in 1962. Just be­fore the Chi­nese in­va­sion, Kr­ishna Menon ad­dressed the Na­tional De­fence Col­lege in Delhi in 1962. When queried about the pos­si­bil­ity of China at­tack­ing In­dia, he hollered at the au­di­ence to shut up and blurted that with such think­ing, the NDC should be shut down.

A.G. Noorani, in his re­cent book Two Sides of Nehru, says that it was Nehru who “shut the door to ne­go­ti­a­tions on the (In­dia-China) bound­ary on 1st July 1954” and his re­fusal to ne­go­ti­ate plus the 1960 re­buff to Chou-en-Lai when he was vis­it­ing and ap­peared ready to set­tle the is­sue may well have sowed the seeds of the 1962 In­di­aChina war.

What hap­pened in 1962 is well known in­clud­ing Nehru’s mis­sive to an ill-pre­pared, ille­quipped and ill-trained army to throw the Chi­nese out of Thagla Ridge, Chi­nese di­vi­sions breach­ing the LoC, their ‘hu­man wave’ tac­tics of as­sault and supreme sac­ri­fices made by our sol­diers – many fight­ing to the last round and bat­tling on with bay­o­nets and khukris to their last breaths. Nehru died a dis­il­lu­sioned man af­ter telling the na­tion that a pow­er­ful and un­scrupu­lous op­po­nent had re­sponded with evil to our good.

At a re­cent de­fence-re­lated in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence, a scholar as­sessed, “To shock In­dia into ter­ri­to­rial con­ces­sions, PLA may con­sider a sav­age cam­paign in­clud­ing lim­ited nu­clear ex­change. While some may con­sider this ex­treme, Man­mo­han Singh and his suc­ces­sors need to re­mem­ber we are in the 21st cen­tury and China has only re­fined her pol­icy of am­bi­gu­ity and de­ceit and PLA con­tin­ues to fol­low sur­prise, de­cep­tion and pre-emp­tion. The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the au­thor.

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