India’s China war
This book is a dispassionate account of Nehru's policies and actions which lead to the border war. It has been assembled using facts from Indian government official sources and documents. Almost no part of this book has come from the secretive Chinese official sources. There were 2 zones where the 1962 action took place viz. Aksai Chin (Jammu & Kashmir) and NEFA (North East Frontier Agency, currently known as Arunachal Pradesh).
In Aksai Chin, the British never communicated the Johnson-Ardagh alignment as a boundary proposal to China, from which the Indian claim was later derived. Hence the Chinese thought that Aksai Chin was a disputed territory because the British had unilaterally mapped it as India (though India’s claim may have been stronger than China’s).
Then, Nehru unilaterally declared that McMahon line is our international border, but curiously failed to say anything about Aksai Chin.
Highway construction between Srinagar and Leh was stopped in 1954-56 due to allegations of corruption. So during the 1962 war, Leh could be approached only on mules or supplies had to be air-dropped.
of the Indian army
Nehru prohibited import of arms because his Non-alignment image would look bad! He often quoted Gandhi’s ahimsa!
The general altitude in Aksai Chin was 14,000 feet and patrols had to reach as high as 16,000 feet. Temperatures were artic and the Indian troops winter clothing was inadequate. Mules were not of much use at that altitude and so supplies had to be air-dropped. The Indian troops had to trek whereas the Chinese troops moved around in trucks.
To add insult to injury, it was the general impression that Nehru had an inefficient chamcha as a Defense Minister Krishna Menon, whom both Congress and the opposition parties opposed. Krishna Menon did not implement Gen Thimayya’s recommendations and Gen Kaul was made Chief of General Staff (CGS), though Kaul did not have any combat experience (but because Kaul may have been a relative of Nehru and a Kashmiri pandit!). This severely effected the morale of the armed forces.
Nehru, Krishna Menon, Gen Thapar and Gen Kaul implemented a flawed “forward policy” , inspite of the Indian army not being adequately equipped. This policy involved moving patrols and posts into Chinese-held territory (sometimes behind Chinese posts), with the naïve belief that China will not attack a non-violent nation.
Chinese government send a lot of warnings (diplomatic and otherwise) but Nehru dismissed them as bluff. For all his loyal affection to Nehru, Krishna Menon wrote of him “Nehru lets himself be edged bit by bit into a situation from where escape is difficult. He cannot be acquitted of failure”.
President John F Kennedy after meeting with Nehru in Washington DC in Nov 1961, said that it was the worst head of state visit and it was like trying to grab something in your hand only to have it turn out to be just fog.
Nehru withdrew the Indian ambassador to China but all throughout the war maintained that diplomatic relations must be maintained.
The plight in the Eastern sector (Arunachal Pradesh area) was the same. Posts were set up in remote locations (there were no roads here and even air dropping supplies was not possible due to the terrain). The Chinese had all-weather roads on its side and their troops were acclimatized at that altitude. The Indian geography had jungles, mountains, 300 feet deep valleys. Ropes and bamboo suspension bridges were used, which even mules could not cross!
1962 - the trigger
From the nearest road at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, this Dhola post was a 6 days uphill trek, if there were no landslides. And the nearest airbase in Tezpur was a few days away from Tawang. Whereas for the Chinese it was 3 hours from their nearest road (which was constructed to carry 7 ton trucks).
The altitude in this area was 13,000 to 16,000 feet and winter was approaching, so proper clothes and shoes were required. But the Indian troops were given a cotton uniform with a thin sweater to guard against the wind. Only 30% of air dropped supplies reached the troops, as the parachutes used were re-packed and of inferior quality. This was NOT a war. It was suicidal politics!
The Indian troops came face to face with the Chinese at Dhola post, and there was a skirmish on 8 Sep. It seemed to be a ploy of the Chinese to make India provoke the Chinese into a cause for aggression. But now 2,500 Indian troops and 500 porters stood there without winter supplies. Still Indian troops were outnumbered 20:1. Gen Umrao Singh of XXXIII Corps suggested that the troops be withdrawn to 3 km south of the McMahon line, as they were north of it at Dhola. Suggestion was ignored and he was removed!
Gen Kaul (Nehru’s cousin) who was on leave from Sep during the crisis, reached Dhola post to take charge. Kaul immediately claimed of medical pulmonary trouble and withdrew to Tezpur (Assam) on 17 Oct, and then Delhi. He did not go to a hospital, but went home!
Gen Dalvi makes his last of various numerous requests to re-group troops on 19 Oct. When ignored, he resigned as a last resort.
actual war (20 Oct to 21 Nov 1962)
A group of Congress and Opposition MP’s approached President Radhakrishnan to remove Nehru, suspend Parliament and impose President’s rule. Nehru kept defending Krishna Menon till 7 Nov, but finally due to pressure from his own cabinet ministers; Chief Ministers; Members of Parliament and party-men and the public, Menon was forced to resign.
USA and UK supported India and offered arms. Almost all Non-Aligned nations and the Arab world was silent and urged restraint. This hurt Nehru the most, as he always felt he was the leader of the Non-aligned Movement (which included Arab countries). Russia (USSR) leaned towards China and blamed Nehru for the conflict. Finally Nehru accepted US aid on 29 Oct.
China had used 3 divisions in Arunachal Pradesh and penetrated from Tawang to Se La to Dirang to Dzong to Bomdi La AND another at Walong encircling the Indian troops, which were completed scattered and outnumbered. While eastern command (Arunachal Pradesh) was with Gen Kaul, the Chinese troops kept penetrating Arunachal Pradesh and had almost reached Assam. The Western command which was under Gen Daulet Singh was doing great and though India was at a disadvantaged position, it was an even contest there.
Mao Tse Tung had once said “In every battle, concentrate an absolutely superior force… encircle the enemy forces completely and strive to wipe them out thoroughly. Fight no battle unprepared, fight no battle you are not sure of winning…..”
Some key events during the war, that may have altered the Chinese strategy:
On 21 Nov, China unilaterally announced ceasefire and started to withdraw back to the McMahon line.
1962 - after the war
China wanted a settled boundary and had taught Nehru a lesson! Nehru had destroyed India’s psyche, by sticking to his pride and false beliefs. The Indian army’s report of the war was never made public.