Re­mem­ber­ing 1962

SP's MAI - - MILITARY VIEWPOINT - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

De­cem­ber brings mem­o­ries of two his­tor­i­cal events – one happy, the other tragic—lib­er­a­tion of Bangladesh in 1971 and In­dia’s ig­nominy in 1962. We suf­fered the lat­ter de­spite Home Min­is­ter Sar­dar Pa­tel’s strate­gic ad­vice to Prime Min­is­ter Jawa­har­lal Nehru of Chi­nese ir­re­den­tism and com­mu­nist im­pe­ri­al­ism be­ing dif­fer­ent from the ex­pan­sion­ism or im­pe­ri­al­ism of the western pow­ers, for­mer hav­ing a cloak of ide­ol­ogy mak­ing it ten times more dan­ger­ous and that in the guise of ide­o­log­i­cal ex­pan­sion lay con­cealed racial, na­tional or his­tor­i­cal claims.

Gov­ern­ments in In­dia have con­sis­tently de­clined from mak­ing the Hen­der­son Brookes Re­port pub­lic by quot­ing the mil­i­tary does not want it de­clas­si­fied but this apart enough is in the pub­lic do­main in­clud­ing ex­cerpts of the Hen­der­son Brookes Re­port it­self re­leased by Neville Maxwell. What hap­pened in 1962 is well known in­clud­ing Nehru’s mis­sive to throw the Chi­nese out of Thagla Ridge. We fought a su­pe­rior en­emy in 1962 not be­cause of the size of China but be­cause we lacked strate­gic fore­thought, were un­able to read the en­emy, had poor po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship and with an army that was armed, equipped and trained very poorly. Nehru died a dis­il­lu­sioned man after telling the na­tion that “a pow­er­ful and un­scrupu­lous op­po­nent had re­sponded with evil to our good”.

The lessons of 1962 can be sum­marised as fol­lows: China used de­cep­tion at the high­est po­lit­i­cal level in dup­ing the gullible In­dian hi­er­ar­chy into be­liev­ing that China would never at­tack; lack of strate­gic thought and po­lit­i­cal be­liefs de­void of re­al­ity led to the ill armed, ill equipped and ill trained state of In­dian mil­i­tary; In­dia failed to read Chi­nese in­ten­tions de­spite Chi­nese oust­ing na­tion­al­ists from Manchuria in 1948, sweep­ing into Ti­bet in 1951, oc­cu­py­ing Sinkiang and shelling Tai­wan in 1954, oc­cu­py­ing Ak­sai Chin (mea­sur­ing 38,000 sq km) from 1955 to 1957, butcher­ing own 30-40 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion dur­ing the ‘Great Leap’ and oc­cu­py­ing Ti­bet in 1959 breach­ing prom­ises made; mil­i­tary ad­vice was to­tally ig­nored by In­dia’s hi­er­ar­chy; the Thagla Ridge in­ci­dent was mere ex­cuse for the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army’s (PLA) al­ready planned pre-emp­tive strikes across a vast fron­tier cre­at­ing mas­sive shock ac­tion; China timed the of­fen­sive co­in­cid­ing with the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis to en­sure US and USSR would not in­ter­fere much in the Sino-In­dian bor­der; cou­pled with hu­man wave at­tacks, PLA em­ployed nu­mer­ous en­velop­ing to force ca­pit­u­la­tion of In­dian po­si­tions for fear of be­ing cut off; In­dian po­si­tions that had ad­e­quate fight­ing po­ten­tial and could have been re-sup- plied by air too were or­dered to with­draw due to poor higher lead­er­ship; the IAF could have been used to bomb the en­velop­ing move­ments, po­si­tions and ad­min­is­tra­tive bases of the China as PLA Air Force (PLAAF) was hand­i­capped with­out req­ui­site air­bases in Ti­bet.

How­ever, this was not done, and ap­point­ing B.M. Kaul as Corps Com­man­der at the Chi­nese front and mak­ing him re­spon­si­ble for en­tire North East Fron­tier Agency (NEFA) front was a huge mis­take. He was in­ef­fec­tive in op­er­a­tions, re­ported sick at a cru­cial junc­ture and was sit­ting in a hos­pi­tal in Delhi while his troops were routed. He re­signed after the war. But what should be se­ri­ous con­cern to us are the sim­i­les with the sit­u­a­tion in 1962, ma­jor ones be­ing: we had no higher de­fence struc­tures worth the name in 1962 and to­day we con­tinue to have noth­ing more than a dis­jointed con­struct; In­dia did not have an in­te­grated tri-ser­vice set up in 1962 and still is in the same state. HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff which should have been fully merged with the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) has come up as a sep­a­rate HQ al­to­gether. There has been lit­tle move­ment to­wards cre­at­ing In­te­grated The­atre Com­mands (ITCs) and In­te­grated Func­tional Com­mands (IFCs); the politi­comil­i­tary dis­cord and dis­con­nect has not im­proved much not count­ing the Prime Min­is­ter meet­ing the ser­vice chiefs on monthly ba­sis; equip­ment and ar­ma­ment voids in­clud­ing am­mu­ni­tion short­ages are alarm­ing—gov­ern­ment web­site of the Min­istry of In­dus­try and Com­merce states 50 per cent of mil­i­tary equip­ment held by the army, navy and air force is ob­so­lete.

The gap be­tween the PLA and In­dian mil­i­tary was large in 1962. To­day the gap has widen­ing ex­po­nen­tially tak­ing into ac­count rapid re­ac­tion, space, cy­berspace, elec­tro­mag­netic, surveil­lance, PGM’s, asym­met­ric ca­pa­bil­i­ties etc; we con­tinue to be with­out a na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy; our voids in strate­gic in­tel­li­gence con­tinue; In­dia’s bor­der in­fra­struc­ture was atro­cious in 1962. It is only slightly bet­ter to­day, which has buoyed the Chi­nese to nib­ble large tracts of our ter­ri­tory. For­ward move­ment of re­serves and forces; the MoD con­tin­ues to be manned by gen­er­al­ist bu­reau­crats sans ba­sic mil­i­tary knowl­edge; the De­fence Sec­re­tary, not the De­fence Min­is­ter, con­tin­ues to be tasked with the de­fence of the coun­try; the Ser­vice Head­quar­ters con­tinue to be at­tached of­fices in­stead of be­ing in­te­grated into the MoD and the like. The present gov­ern­ment has taken some baby steps to­wards im­prov­ing the sit­u­a­tion but what it must re­alise is that de­fence has been a thor­oughly ne­glected sec­tor over the past decade plus and much more needs to be done in the face of mount­ing threats to our na­tional se­cu­rity. This re­quires ma­jor surgery not cos­metic ac­tions—si­mul­ta­ne­ous ini­tia­tives at mul­ti­ple lev­els.

The present gov­ern­ment has taken some baby steps to­wards im­prov­ing the sit­u­a­tion but what it must re­alise is that de­fence has been a thor­oughly ne­glected sec­tor over the past decade plus and much more needs to be done in face of mount­ing threats to our na­tional se­cu­rity.

Sino-In­dian War Memo­rial in Tawang

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