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India needs to revisit 1962 humiliation for catharsis

Discussion in 'International Relations' started by Steel, Oct 10, 2012.

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  1. Steel

    Steel Lieutenant SENIOR MEMBER

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    Any reading of the Sino-Indian war of 1962 does not look good for India. Whether it was Jawaharlal Nehru's misreading of Chinese intentions in the wake of his support to Tibet's rebellion, India's "forward policy" that meant different things to different people, Mao Zedong's desire to teach India a "lesson" or the subsequent national security paranoia that it bred in the Indian political and security systems ...1962 evokes mixed feelings in India even after half a century.

    But for India to grow out of the morass of humiliation, it's necessary to revisit that war, and perhaps admit to major blunders committed at every level, not least at the very top.

    In 1951, China began its occupation of Tibet, which, by 1959, became a full-throated conquest. Until 1959, India tried to diplomatically persuade Beijing to give some kind of autonomy to Tibet along with providing covert arms shipments to the Tibetan rebellion.

    India's discomfort stemmed from the fact that it believed the loss of Tibetan independence robbed New Delhi off an important buffer in the Himalayas. But Beijing viewed India's actions as interference in its internal affairs, and Mao ordered "harder approach" to India's meddling.

    In India, Nehru maintained the romance of Hindi-Chini friendship. A more realistic Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel proposed better border development, strengthening of the military presence etc and to better integrate the north-eastern states. John Garver, in Protracted Contest, writes, "Patel saw clearly the linkage between Tibet and what would become the crux of the border/territorial issue."

    Nehru looked at the inhospitable Tibetan terrain and decided first, not to push the Chinese too far, second that they would not be able to maintain troops in distant Tibetan plateau, and third that China would not engage in any major attack against India. However, he completely missed the technology argument, which China could and did.

    By 1959, a huge change came over Indian public opinion at China's open repression in Tibet, which led the Dalai Lama to flee to India in 1959. In April, 1960, Nehru reject Zhou Enlai's boundary settlement proposal. Mao was convinced India was working with the US and USSR against China. Contemporary Chinese thinking believed that India's desire to keep Tibet was the cause of the 1962 war. India has refused to declassify documents of that era.

    Nehru's forward policy, his demand that China vacate "all Indian territory" and his support of the Tibetan rebellion were all part of these classified docements. China had been active in Aksai Chin for over a decade before 1962. India was aware of Chinese activity there from 1951. But in 1953, Nehru decided to redraw the boundary that included Aksai Chin within India, as opposed to British policy of 1899, which kept Aksai Chin out of India. In 1957, Beijing's road building activities could not be ignored any longer, and India sent patrols to the area. It would be the beginning of the India-China conflict that would culminate in 1962.

    By 1961, Nehru's forward policy had taken shape, creating 60 forward posts, 43 of them north of the McMahon Line. Meanwhile, China, too, had been preparing for war with India because Mao wanted to teach India "a lesson".

    Indian units reported increased Chinese aggression, but the Nehru government did not read the tea leaves. China prepared for war, while India missed the clues. After intermittent clashes in the preceding days, when on October 20, 1962, China launched massive strikes in the north-east and Ladakh, India was completely caught off guard.

    The Himalayan war ended in a rout of Indian forces. Chinese then withdrew although their victory was not without cost. The defeat, however, changed India's view of China forever. India claims the moral high ground, blaming China for a stealthy strike but it completely misread its giant neighbour. Mao, who saw Nehru as a conniving and pretentious leader, began and ended the war on his own terms.

    In between, Indian troops suffered successive reverses. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) overran Indian positions south of the Mcmahon line. Chinese troops overwhelmed Indian defences by the sheer weight of numbers and Tawang was soon under attack.

    In the north-east, confusion and courage, foolhardiness and daredevilry were all playing out as a dazed military leadership dithered about its response. Major General A S Pathania, commanding the fourth division in Kameng in Arunachal Pradesh, ordered his troops to withdraw in humiliation.

    On October 24, 1962, Zhou offered Nehru a settlement that was rejected. Parliament passed a resolution resolving to "drive out aggressors" from Indian soil. Hostilities resumed with Chinese attacks on Sela and Bomdila. PLA was close to Tezpur, when China declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew 20km from the Line of Actual Control. According to Henry Kissinger, Mao did not see India as a perpetual foe, but famously remarked that force will "knock Nehru back to the negotiating table".

    India needs to revisit 1962 humiliation for catharsis - The Times of India
     
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  2. Steel

    Steel Lieutenant SENIOR MEMBER

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    Sino-Indian ties: Peace prevails, but in the shadow of mistrust


    It may not be their intention, but the consequences could be disastrous. With a breakthrough to the border dispute still elusive, India and China remain engaged in one of the biggest conventional military build up along a frontier unprecedented in the post-Cold War era.

    Both nations are yet to show political courage to move forward and end mistrust and past mistakes. Though tenuous peace exists along the 4,057-km border, some sources see a gradual toughening of postures by both the sides along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

    The border is spread across the eastern sector (in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh), middle sector (Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal) and western sector (Jammu and Kashmir). The dispute between the two sides is primarily located in the eastern and western sectors.

    In the western sector, India claims Aksai Chin, some 37,000 square km of high-altitude desert with no human habitation, as integral part of the Ladakh region, while China claims it to be part of its Xinjiang autonomous region. The dispute is rooted in the shifting stance of the British Empire on the border between Ladakh and Xinjiang.

    Through the 1950s China constructed a highway via Aksai Chin to connect Xinjiang with Tibet. Until 1958, India was unaware of the move, and when it learnt of it then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru lodged a strong protest. Of the 1,200-km Chinese road, around 180km falls in Aksai Chin, within India, according to the border recognized by New Delhi.

    The Chinese argument was that the border in Ladakh region was never agreed upon by both the sides. If at all a border was informed to China it was the MaCartney-MacDonald line that puts Aksai Chin within Chinese territory.

    Some of the fiercest fighting during the 1962 war occurred in the western sector. Though the Indian Army was defeated in Ladakh region, it did not suffer the kind of humiliation they faced in the eastern sector.

    In the eastern sector, the dispute again flows from the history of the border mapping from the British era and China's claim over Tibet. The McMahon Line drawn in Shimla convention of 1914 between British Empire and Tibet was rejected by China.

    China officially claims the entire Arunachal Pradesh as its territory based on its traditional boundaries from the imperial past. The most contentious of it is the town of Tawang, which was under Tibetan administration until almost 1940. Later it was taken over by the British. During the 1962 war though Chinese occupied Tawang, later they gave up probably because of the logistical challenges in retaining the town. In fact, a senior official said if India was willing to give up its claim over Tawang, the border dispute could almost end. But India wouldn't give up inhabited areas, he added.

    There has also been dispute about Sikkim, which formally became part of India in 1975. Chinese dismissed this annexation and continued to claim dispute over the tiny state, too. However, in 2003 under an agreement between the two sides, Chinese have formally recognized Sikkim as an integral part of India. The border between Sikkim and China, though, is still not fully demarcated.

    Some of the most humiliating defeat of Indian Army took place in this eastern sector. Many were killed, many others taken as Prisoners of War and the People's Liberation Army overran Indian defences and came deep inside. Chinese have blamed the forward policy of India, under which Army established forward posts that were logistically very difficult to sustain and secure, for precipitating the war. Many in India still blame Nehru's naive approach towards China for the military reverses.

    Sino-Indian ties: Peace prevails, but in the shadow of mistrust - The Times of India
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2012
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