TEN TRUTHS ABOUT THE 1962 INDIA-CHINA WAR:
1. The truth is that of Communist China’s military occupation of Tibet during 1950.
2. The truth is that of India not preparing for this military threat by joining a military alliance or pact like the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization(1955-1976).
3. The truth is that of India’s Prime Minister trying to appease the Communist rulers by signing a treaty of friendship.
4. The truth is that of not recognizing Tibet as an independent nation.
5. The truth is that of not using military force to fight the illegal invasion and occupation of Tibet.
6. The truth is that of failing to impose trade embargo and diplomatic sanctions to curb and contain Communist China.
7. The truth is that of not recognizing enemy’s military and intelligence capabilities.
8. The truth is that of not recognizing the limitations of covert operations.
9. The truth is that of each nation acts in accordance to its vested interest.
10. The truth is that of the War that is not yet fought; the War to establish Freedom, and Democracy in Tibet.
In my opinion, the 1962 India-China was the direct consequence of the military occupation of Tibet. Both the United States and India have responded to this military threat in an incomplete and inadequate manner. They had relied upon a covert CIA mission to help the Tibetan resistance which was not really capable of achieving its objective. Both CIA and Indian Intelligence Bureau had grossly underestimated the Intelligence and Military capabilities of their enemy. China had tricked them to believe that it would not retaliate by using direct, military action. During late 1950s, after Indian Intelligence Bureau had established close relations with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency for support of Tibetan resistance that culminated in a massive, Tibetan National Uprising on March 10, 1959, China had viewed India as a partner of an imperialist conspiracy to challenge its power inside Tibet. In China’s calculation, India was no longer following the principle of “Non-Alignment Movement.” China carefully planned a massive retaliation strike across the Himalayan frontier to teach India a lesson and both CIA and Intelligence Bureau had failed to recognize this risk. China declared unilateral ceasefire on November 21, 1962 and withdrew from captured territory as it realized that United States may use the opportunity to directly intervene in the military confrontation. However, I would still commend both the CIA and India’s Intelligence Bureau for taking the initiative to respond to the military threat posed by Communist China. I would not hesitate to call Richard M. Helms, the CIA Director an unsurpassed Champion in service to Liberty, Freedom, and Democracy. He could be called a Cold War era Hero. In his words, “God did not give prescience to human beings,” I would state that the shortcomings of Intelligence is not important as we cannot depend upon covert operations to defend our vital, national security interests. A direct, military action during 1950s following Communist China’s invasion of Tibet would have prevented the 1962 India-China War and would have helped the cause of Freedom, Liberty, and Democracy. India has no reason to discuss the boundaries of its Himalayan frontier with People’s Republic of China. India has a right to defend its national interests along its entire border with Tibet and should not take cognizance of China’s military occupation and give it any legitimacy. India and China do not share a common border. In future, this War will be fought to liberate Tibet from its military occupation. The only maps that we need are the maps to establish the boundaries between Tibet and People’s Republic of China.
Rudra N Rebbapragada
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-4162, USA
R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Personal Numbers:MS-8466/MR-03277K. Rank:Lieutenant/Captain/Major.
Branch:Army Medical Corps/Short Service Regular Commission(1969-1972); Direct Permanent Commission(1973-1984).
Unit:Establishment No.22(1971-1974)/South Column,Operation Eagle(1971-1972).
Organization: Special Frontier Force.( Special Frontier Force is a multinational defense plan to establish Freedom and Democracy in the occupied Land of Tibet.)
No one in India has studied the tangled India-China-Tibet relations more comprehensively than the Auroville based French-born scholar Claude Arpi. In a series of books beginning with the Fate of Tibet (1999) to his latest 1962 and the McMahon Line, he has laid bare the incompetence of Indian governments, beginning with Nehru and his hunger for international glory culminating in the disaster of 1962. Two chapters in his latest book, Chapter 15 on Mao’s return to power passes through India and Chapter 16 entitled Why the Henderson Brooks report has never been released, justify reading the book. His insight on the dynamics of China’s domestic politics leading Mao to launch the attack as a diversion from his problems is hardly known in India.
What is clear from Arpi’s monumental effort is that while the armed forces learnt their lessons, the Army today is stronger than before, the politicians apparently have not. The India-China boundary was not demarcated then and it still is not. In the 1950s China was anxious for a boundary settlement but Nehru arrogantly dismissed Zhou Enlai‘s repeated overtures. Since there is no official boundary India is in no position to say that the Chinese violated the boundary and is therefore the aggressor! This simple fact seems to escape the thinking of Indian politicians. I recently heard a senior politician thunder: We are going to take back OUR territory in Aksai Chin! How do we know what is OUR territory when WE have not demarcated any boundary? Pray how are we going to retake it? By sending kar sevaks( temple servants ) but without maps? That is pretty much what Nehru asked the Army to do in 1962.
An official report observes: Across the board, the biggest failure in 1962 war was the inability of our political leadership to visualize Chinese aims in both the Eastern and Western Sectors. Both the government and military hierarchy thought that the Chinese hordes will come down and cross Brahmaputra in the East and capture Leh in the Western Sector giving little thought to where the Chinese claim lines were. In the event the Chinese did not cross their claim line both in the East as well as in the West and withdrew unilaterally.
In short, the Chinese had a clear idea of where their claim lines were while the Indians did not. Apparently they still do not.
Dr. N.S. Rajaram.
Ten truths about the 1962 War – Claude Apri
Here are some truths about the 1962 China’s War which are not often mentioned in history books or reports from the Government. Of course, this list is not exhaustive.
1. No precise location of the border: In the Army HQ in Delhi as well as locally in the NEFA, nobody was really sure where exactly the border (the famous McMahon Line) was. It is the reason why the famous Henderson Brooks report has been kept out of the eyes of the Indian public for fifty years. Till the fateful day of October 20, 1962, the Army bosses in Delhi were unable to tell the local commanders where the border in Tawang sector precisely was? [Sic: Releasing the report would expose Nehru’s incompetence in not having a boundary demarcated despite repeated efforts by China. [ NSR]
2. There was no map: Lt. Gen. Niranjan Prasad, General Officer Commanding 4 Infantry Division wrote in his memoirs (The Fall of Tawang): It is hard to understand how any purposeful negotiation could have been conducted with Communist China [in 1960] when even such elementary details as accurate maps were not produced; or, if they were in existence, they were certainly not made available to the Army, who had been given the responsibility for ensuring the security of the border.
When Lt. Gen. Kaul was evacuated from the Namkha Chu on October 8, having fallen sick due to the altitude, he was carried pick-a-back by local porters. It was later discovered that one of them was a Chinese interpreter in a POW camp in Tibet. The secrets were out!
The Army had no map: There is the story of Capt. H.S. Talwar of the elite 17 Parachute Field Regiment who was asked to reinforce Tsangle, an advance post, north of the Namkha Chu on October 16. Without map, he and his men roamed around for 2 days in the snow; they finally landed a few kilometers east at a 2 Rajputs camp (and were eventually taken POWs to Tibet along with Brig. John Dalvi on October 21).
3. Some troops fought extremely well: Take the example of the 2 Rajputs under the command of Lt. Col. Maha Singh Rikh who moved to the banks of the Namka Chu river by October 10 as part of 7 Infantry Brigade. The brigade was stretched out along nearly 20 kilometers front beside the river. It was a five-day march to walk from an end to the other (the confluence with the Namjiang Chu). Not a single man from the Rajputs was awarded any gallantry medal, because there was no one left to write the citations; all the officers or JCOs who were not killed or seriously wounded were taken POW s Out of 513 all ranks on the banks of the river, the 2 Rajput lost 282 men, 81 were wounded and captured, while 90 others were taken prisoners. Only 60 other ranks, mostly from the administrative units got back.
Major B.K. Pant of 2 Rajput displayed exemplary heroism while wounded in the stomach and legs. Though his company suffered heavy casualties, he continued to lead and inspire his men, exhorting them to fight till the last man. When the Chinese finally managed to kill him, his last words were: Men of the Rajput Regiment, you were born to die for your country. God has selected this small river for which you must die. Stand up and fight like true Rajputs. Ditto for 4 Rajputs under Lt. Col. B. Avasthi in the Sela-Bomdila sector.
The Indian troops fought pitched battles in the Walong sector of the NEFA and Chushul in Ladakh inflicting heavy losses on the Chinese. [Sic: The credit for this should go to the superior leadership in the Western sector compared to what was given in the east. (See below.) – NSR]
4. A complete intelligence failure: The flamboyant new Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul planned Operation Leghorn to evict the Chinese by October 10. Kaul took over Corps IV, a Corps especially created to throw the Chinese out. On his arrival in Tezpur, Kaul addressed the senior officers: The Prime Minister himself had ordered these posts [near the Thagla ridge] to be set up and he had based his decision on the highest Intelligence advice.The highest intelligence inputs from Mullick turned out to be a sad joke on the 7 Infantry Brigade.
[Sic: It was the same B.M. Kaul who had himself admitted to a New Delhi hospital on the verge of the Chinese attack due to altitude sickness. A good organizer and staff officer, Kaul had no field experience and should not have been placed in command of a Corps (Corps IV) at such a strategically important theater. But Kaul was related to Prime Minister Nehru and his appointment as Corps Commander was seen as a stepping stone towards his eventual elevation to the post of Army Chief. He was made Commander of Corps IV replacing his senior General Umrao Singh and superseding half a dozen better qualified officers. The Chinese attack and the disintegration of the Corps IV under his ineffective leadership put an end to Kaul’s meteoric career. I (NSR) write this with mixed feelings, even a twinge of regret, for Kaul was a very nice man and a
staunch patriot who took his downfall with exemplary grace. Only he was unfit for command. – NSR]
Until the last fateful minute, the arrogant Intelligence Bureau Chief, B.N. Mullick said the Chinese would not attack, they don’t have the capacity. Such a blunder! The Prime Minister himself, at Palam airport on his way to Colombo told the waiting journalists that he had ordered the Indian Army to throw the Chinese out. He generously left the time to the discretion of the Army. This was on October 12, 1962, just 8 days before the fateful day. He had received intelligence inputs from Mullick.
5. Chinese spies: Just as today Beijing can hack into any computer system, in Mao’s days, the Chinese intelligence knew everything about Kaul’s and his acolyte plans.
The Chinese had infiltrated the area using different methods. In his memoirs, Prasad recalled: From our own Signals channels I had received reports of a pirate radio operating somewhere in our area, but when we referred this to higher authorities the matter was dismissed: we were curtly told that there was no pirate radio transmitter on our side of the border. Subsequently it was confirmed that the Chinese had indeed sneaked in a pirate transmitter to Chacko (on the road to Bomdila) in the Tibetan labour camp. The aerial [antenna] of their transmitter was concealed as a tall prayer-flagstaff so common in the Buddhist belt of the Himalayas.
This is probably how Mao became aware of Operation Leghorn.
Some war veterans recall that on the way to Bomdila, there was a dhaba( a small restaurant) manned by two beautiful local girls. All officers and jawans would stop there, have a chai and chat with the girls. It turned out later that they were from the other side.
An informant told me that when Lt. Gen. Kaul was evacuated from the Namkha Chu on October 8, having fallen sick due to the altitude, he was carried pick-a-back by local porters. It was later discovered that one of them was a Chinese interpreter in a POW camp in Tibet. The secrets were out!
6. Gallantry Awards: The entire operation theater was plunged in deep chaos due to contradictory orders from the Army HQ (Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul, the Corps Commander was directing the Operation from his sick-bed in Delhi). Ad-hocism was the rule before, during and after the Operations. [Sic: According to those who were with him at the time Kaul had a nervous breakdown when he heard the Chinese attacked or even earlier. His Corps IV virtually disappeared and the retreat became a rout with each man having to fend for himself. The consequences
were far more serious than a few misinformed gallantry awards. (See below.) – NSR]
To cite an example, the GOC, 4 Division was not informed that Subedar Joginder Singh was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for some actions in Bumla (he later died of a gangrenous foot in a POW camp in Tibet). An officer who had run away was given the Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest gallantry award. The Government had distributed these lollipops to each regiment to show that everyone fought well. The awards were decided by Delhi without consulting the local commanders. [Sic: There were few local commanders left to consult. The topmost, Corps Commander Kaul had left the scene and was trying to direct operations from a hospital bed in New Delhi, while others on the scene, without a leader were either killed or captured by the Chinese. – NSR]
7. The role of some Monpas: A senior war veteran, Maj. Gen. Tewari who spent nearly 7 months as a POW in Tibet wrote: Kameng Frontier Division (Tawang) itself, they had many local people on their pay roll. They had detailed maps and knowledge of the area, how otherwise can you explain that they were able to build 30 km of road between Bumla and Tawang in less than 2 weeks?
According to local Monpas( Tibetan ethnicity ) only a few villages sided with the Chinese under duress (after all they were ‘chinkya’ like us, said the Chinese). Tewari recalled: I was in for a still bigger shock when it was discovered that almost all the secondary batteries had arrived without any acid. I presume that what had happened is that the porters must have found it lighter without liquid and they probably decided to lighten their loads by emptying out the acid from all the batteries. It was an indirect collaboration with China, though the majority of the Monpas were quite patriotic.
8. Pensions and pay: About 500 Indian jawans and officers were taken prisoner in the Tawang sector alone. As Brig. A.J.S. Behl says in his interview: My family got two telegrams: 2nd Lt Behl missing, believed dead. Till the Chinese authorities sent the names of the prisoners to the Indian Red Cross, all those killed and taken prisoners were considered as missing-in-action and their salaries were cut. For no fault of theirs, their wives and families had to manage on their own.
9. Mao’s return to power: In early 1962, Mao was out of power due to the utter failure of his Great Leap Forward. Some 45 million Chinese had died after a 3-year man-made famine. Mao Zedong managed to come back on the political scene in September 1962. If he had not managed to return at that time, the war with India would have probably not taken place. Of course, with many sections of world history could be rewritten, but it is a fact that once Mao’s ideological hard-line prevailed in Beijing, it was difficult to avoid a clash. [Sic: This is new insight offered by the author, Mao launched the attack for domestic reasons, to divert attention from his failures. Interestingly, Chinese history books barely mention the 1962 war and 90 percent of the Chinese are totally unaware of what happened! Where mentioned at all the Chinese claim that India attacked and
they fought in self-defence. – NSR]
10. America’s dubious role: Averell Harriman, the US Assistant Secretary of State and Duncan Sandys, the British Secretary for Commonwealth Relations visited India on November 22, 1962. This was the day China declared a unilateral ceasefire in the war with India. The visit was supposedly to assess India’s needs to resist Communist China; but both envoys made clear their government’s willingness to provide military assistance to India but pointed out the related need for negotiations to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
A clear signal was given to India who had hardly recovered from the blackest month of her history: she had to compromise on Kashmir. Consequently six rounds of talks between India and Pakistan were held to find a solution for the vexed issue, but to no avail. However, Ayub Khan, the Pakistani President, must have taken the Western intervention as an encouragement for his claim. The Kennedy and later the Johnson Administrations thought of re-balancing the assistance to Pakistan, with the condition that India should accept to settle the Kashmir issue.
[Sic: Kennedy who like many Western leaders had fought in World War II had nothing but contempt for Indian leaders. When the Indian Ambassador (and Prime Minister Nehru’s cousin) B.K. Nehru went to see Kennedy and appealed for help, Kennedy scornfully said: The British fought the Germans for two years before we went to their help, and you couldn’t fight them for two days? [NSR]
Claude Arpi is French-born (1949) author, journalist, historian and tibetologist who lives in Auroville, India.
- Special Frontier Force and China – Tibet Dispute (bhavanajagat.com)
- From Tibet to Tawang, a legacy of suspicions (thehindu.com)
- Soldiers who died in 1962 war honoured for the first time (ibnlive.in.com)
- For the first time, martyrs of 1962 war officially honoured (thehindu.com)
- ‘1962 war detrimental to both India and China’ (thehindu.com)
- Opinion: Tibet rejects Chinese rule (edition.cnn.com)
- War of words between China, Britain over Tibet issue (tibetstruth.com)
- Special Frontier Force-operation Eagle-gallantry Award (bhavanajagat.com)
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