The Sino-Indian War was fought between India and China
|Commanders and leaders|
| Brij Mohan Kaul
V. K. Krishna Menon
General Pran Nath Thapar
| Luo Ruiqing (chief of PLA staff)
Zhang Guohua (field commander)
|Casualties and losses|
The Sino-Indian War (Hindi: भारत-चीन युद्ध Bhārat-Chīn Yuddh), also known as the Sino-Indian Border Conflict (simplified Chinese: 中印边境战争; traditional Chinese: 中印邊境戰爭; pinyin: Zhōng-Yìn Biānjìng Zhànzhēng), was a war between China and India that occurred in 1962. A disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for war, but other issues played a role. There had been a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when India had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. India initiated a Forward Policy in which it placed outposts along the border, including several north of the McMahon Line, the eastern portion of a Line of Actual Control proclaimed by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959.
Unable to reach political accommodation on disputed territory along the 3,225-kilometre-long Himalayan border, the Chinese launched simultaneous offensives in Ladakh and across the McMahon Line on 20 October 1962. Chinese troops advanced over Indian forces in both theatres, capturing Rezang la in Chushul in the western theatre, as well as Tawang in the eastern theatre. The war ended when the Chinese declared a ceasefire on 20 November 1962, and simultaneously announced its withdrawal from the disputed area.
The Sino-Indian War is notable for the harsh mountain conditions under which much of the fighting took place, entailing large-scale combat at altitudes of over 4,000 metres (14,000 feet). The Sino-Indian War was also noted for the non-deployment of the navy or air force by either the Chinese or Indian side.
- 1 Location
- 2 Background
- 3 Events leading up to war
- 4 Confrontation at Thag La
- 5 Chinese and Indian preparations
- 6 Chinese offensive
- 7 Lull in the fighting
- 8 Continuation of war
- 9 Ceasefire
- 10 World opinion
- 11 Involvement of other nations
- 12 Aftermath
- 13 Later conflicts
- 14 Diplomatic process
- 15 In popular culture
- 16 See also
- 17 Further reading
- 18 References
- 19 External links
China and India shared a long border, sectioned into three stretches by Nepal, Sikkim (then an Indian protectorate), and Bhutan, which follows the Himalayas between Burma and what was then West Pakistan. A number of disputed regions lie along this border. At its western end is the Aksai Chin region, an area the size of Switzerland, that sits between the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang and Tibet (which China declared as an autonomous region in 1965). The eastern border, between Burma and Bhutan, comprises the present Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (formerly the North East Frontier Agency). Both of these regions were overrun by China in the 1962 conflict.
Most combat took place at high altitudes. The Aksai Chin region is a desert of salt flats around 5,000 metres above sea level, and Arunachal Pradesh is mountainous with a number of peaks exceeding 7000 metres. The Chinese Army had possession of one of the highest ridges in the regions. The high altitude and freezing conditions also cause logistical and welfare difficulties; in past similar conflicts (such as the Italian Campaign of World War I) more casualties have been caused by the harsh conditions than enemy action. The Sino-Indian War was no different, with many troops on both sides dying in the freezing cold.
The cause of the war was a dispute over the sovereignty of the widely separated Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh border regions. Aksai Chin, claimed by India to belong to Kashmir and by China to be part of Xinjiang, contains an important road link that connects the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. China’s construction of this road was one of the triggers of the conflict.
The western portion of the Sino-Indian boundary originated in 1834, with the Sikh Confederacy‘s conquest of Ladakh. In 1842, the Sikh Confederacy, which at the time ruled over much of Northern India (including the frontier regions of Jammu and Kashmir), signed a treaty which guaranteed the integrity of its existing borders with its neighbours. The British defeat of the Sikhs in 1846 resulted in transfer of sovereignty over Ladakh, part of the Jammu and Kashmir region, to the British, and British commissioners contacted Chinese officials to negotiate the border. The boundaries at its two extremities, Pangong Lake and Karakoram Pass, were well defined, but the Aksai Chin area in between lay undefined.
W. H. Johnson, a civil servant with the Survey of India, proposed the “Johnson Line” in 1865, which put Aksai Chin in Kashmir. Johnson presented this line to the Maharaja of Kashmir, who then claimed the 18,000 square kilometres contained within. Johnson’s work was severely criticized as inaccurate. His boundary line was described as “patently absurd”, and extending further north than the Indian claim. Johnson was reprimanded by the British Government for crossing into Khotan without permission and resigned from the Survey. According to Francis Younghusband, who explored the region in the late 1880s, there was only an abandoned fort and not one inhabited house at Shahidulla when he was there – it was just a convenient staging post for the nomadic Kirghiz. The abandoned fort had apparently been built a few years earlier by the Kashmiris. In 1878 the Chinese had reconquered Xinjiang, and by 1890 they already had Shahidulla before the issue was decided. By 1892, China had erected boundary markers at Karakoram Pass.
In 1893, Hung Ta-chen, a senior Chinese official at Kashgar, handed a map of the boundary proposed by China to George Macartney, the British consul-general at Kashgar. This boundary placed the Lingzi Tang plains, which are south of the Laktsang range, in India, and Aksai Chin proper, which is north of the Laktsang range, in China. Macartney agreed with the proposal and forwarded it to the British Indian government. The British presented this line, known as the Macartney-MacDonald line, to the Chinese in 1899 in a note by Sir Claude MacDonald. In 1911 the Xinhai Revolution resulted in power shifts in China, and by the end of World War I, the British officially used the Johnson Line. However they took no steps to establish outposts or assert actual control on the ground. According to Neville Maxwell, the British had used as many as 11 different boundary lines in the region, as their claims shifted with the political situation. From 1917 to 1933, the “Postal Atlas of China”, published by the Government of China in Peking had shown the boundary in Aksai Chin as per the Johnson line, which runs along the Kunlun mountains. The “Peking University Atlas”, published in 1925, also put the Aksai Chin in India.:101 Upon independence in 1947, the government of India used the Johnson Line as the basis for its official boundary in the west, which included the Aksai Chin. On 1 July 1954, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru definitively stated the Indian position, claiming that Aksai Chin had been part of the Indian Ladakh region for centuries, and that the border (as defined by the Johnson Line) was non-negotiable. According to George N. Patterson, when the Indian government finally produced a report detailing the alleged proof of India’s claims to the disputed area, “the quality of the Indian evidence was very poor, including some very dubious sources indeed”.:275
In 1956–57, China constructed a road through Aksai Chin, connecting Xinjiang and Tibet, which ran south of the Johnson Line in many places. Aksai Chin was easily accessible to the Chinese, but access from India, which meant negotiating the Karakoram mountains, was much more difficult. The road came on Chinese maps published in 1958.
The McMahon Line
In 1826, British India gained a common border with China after the British wrested control of Manipur and Assam from the Burmese, following the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824–1826. In 1847, Major J. Jenkins, agent for the North East Frontier, reported that the Tawang was part of Tibet. In 1872, four monastic officials from Tibet arrived in Tawang and supervised a boundary settlement with Major R. Graham, NEFA official, which included the Tawang Tract as part of Tibet. Thus, in the last half of the 19th century, it was clear that the British treated the Tawang Tract as part of Tibet. This boundary was confirmed in a 1 June 1912 note from the British General Staff in India, stating that the “present boundary (demarcated) is south of Tawang, running westwards along the foothills from near Ugalguri to the southern Bhutanese border.” A 1908 map of The Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam prepared for the Foreign Department of the Government of India, showed the international boundary from Bhutan continuing to the Baroi River, following the Himalayas foothill alignment. In 1913, representatives of Great Britain, China and Tibet attended a conference in Simla regarding the borders between Tibet, China and British India. Whilst all three representatives initialed the agreement, Beijing later objected to the proposed boundary between the regions of Outer Tibet and Inner Tibet, and did not ratify it. The details of the Indo-Tibetan boundary was not revealed to China at the time. The foreign secretary of the British Indian government,Henry McMahon, who had drawn up the proposal, decided to bypass the Chinese (although instructed not to by his superiors) and settle the border bilaterally by negotiating directly with Tibet. According to later Indian claims, this border was intended to run through the highest ridges of the Himalayas, as the areas south of the Himalayas were traditionally Indian. However, the McMahon Line lay south of the boundary India claims.India’s government held the view that the Himalayas were the ancient boundaries of the Indian subcontinent, and thus should be the modern boundaries of India, while it is the position of the Chinese government that the disputed area in the Himalayas have been geographically and culturally part of Tibet since ancient times.
Months after the Simla agreement, China set up boundary markers south of the McMahon Line. T. O’Callaghan, an official in the Eastern Sector of the North East Frontier, relocated all these markers to a location slightly south of the McMahon Line, and then visited Rima to confirm with Tibetan officials that there was no Chinese influence in the area. The British-run Government of India initially rejected the Simla Agreement as incompatible with theAnglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which stipulated that neither party was to negotiate with Tibet “except through the intermediary of the Chinese government”. The British and Russians cancelled the 1907 agreement by joint consent in 1921. It was not until the late 1930s that the British started to use the McMahon Line on official maps of the region.
China took the position that the Tibetan government should not have been allowed to make a such a treaty, rejecting Tibet’s claims of independent rule. For its part, Tibet did not object to any section of the McMahon Line excepting the demarcation of the trading town of Tawang, which the Line placed under British-Indian jurisdiction. However, up until World War II, Tibetan officials were allowed to administer Tawang with complete authority. Due to the increased threat of Japanese and Chinese expansion during this period, British Indian troops secured the town as part of the defence of India’s eastern border.
In the 1950s, India began actively patrolling the region. It found that, at multiple locations, the highest ridges actually fell north of the McMahon Line. Given India’s historic position that the original intent of the line was to separate the two nations by the highest mountains in the world, in these locations India extended its forward posts northward to the ridges, regarding this move as compliant with the original border proposal, although the Simla Convention did not explicitly state this intention.
Events leading up to war
Tibet and the border dispute
The 1940s saw huge change in South Asia with the Partition of India in 1947 (resulting in the establishment of the two new states of India and Pakistan), and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. One of the most basic policies for the new Indian government was that of maintaining cordial relations with China, reviving its ancient friendly ties. India was among the first nations to grant diplomatic recognition to the newly created PRC.
At the time, Chinese officials issued no condemnation of Nehru’s claims or made any opposition to Nehru’s open declarations of control over Aksai Chin. In 1956, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai stated that he had no claims over Indian-controlled territory. He later argued that Aksai Chin was already under Chinese jurisdiction and that the McCartney MacDonald Line was the line China could accept. Zhou later argued that as the boundary was undemarcated and had never been defined by treaty between any Chinese or Indian government, the Indian government could not unilaterally define Aksai Chin’s borders.
In 1950, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army annexed Tibet and later the Chinese extended their influence by building a road in 1956–67 and placing border posts in Aksai Chin. India found out after the road was completed, protested against these moves and decided to look for a diplomatic solution to ensure a stable Sino-Indian border. To resolve any doubts about the Indian position, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared in parliament that India regarded the McMahon Line as its official border. The Chinese expressed no concern at this statement, and in 1951 and 1952, the government of China asserted that there were no frontier issues to be taken up with India.
In 1954, Prime Minister Nehru wrote a memo calling for India’s borders to be clearly defined and demarcated; in line with previous Indian philosophy, Indian maps showed a border that, in some places, lay north of the McMahon Line. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, in November 1956, again repeated Chinese assurances that the People’s Republic had no claims on Indian territory, although official Chinese maps showed 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 sq mi) of territory claimed by India as Chinese. CIA documents created at the time revealed that Nehru had ignored Burmese premier Ba Swe when he warned Nehru to be cautious when dealing with Zhou. They also allege that Zhou purposefully told Nehru that there were no border issues with India.
In 1954, China and India negotiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, by which the two nations agreed to abide in settling their disputes. India presented a frontier map which was accepted by China, and the sloganHindi-Chini bhai-bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers) was popular then. However, Nehru in 1958, had privately told G. Parthasarathi, the Indian envoy to China not to trust the Chinese at all and send all communications directly to him, bypassing the Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon since his communist background clouded his thinking about China. According to Georgia Tech political analyst John W Garver, Nehru’s policy on Tibet was to create a strong Sino-Indian partnership which would be catalysed through agreement and compromise on Tibet. Garver believes that Nehru’s previous actions had given him confidence that China would be ready to form an “Asian Axis” with India.
This apparent progress in relations suffered a major setback when, in 1959, Nehru accommodated the Tibetan religious leader at the time, the 14th Dalai Lama, who fled Lhasa after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong, was enraged and asked the Xinhua News Agency to produce reports on Indian expansionists operating in Tibet.
Border incidents continued through this period. In August 1959, the People’s Liberation Army took an Indian prisoner at Longju, which had an ambiguous position in the McMahon Line, and two months later in Aksai Chin, a clash led to the death of nine Indian frontier policemen.
On 2 October, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev defended Nehru in a meeting with Mao. This action reinforced China’s impression that the Soviet Union, the United States and India all had expansionist designs on China. The People’s Liberation Army went so far as to prepare a self-defence counterattack plan. Negotiations were restarted between the nations, but no progress was made.
As a consequence of their non-recognition of the McMahon Line, China’s maps showed both the North East Frontier Area (NEFA) and Aksai Chin to be Chinese territory. In 1960, Zhou Enlai unofficially suggested that India drop its claims to Aksai Chin in return for a Chinese withdrawal of claims over NEFA. Adhering to his stated position, Nehru believed that China did not have a legitimate claim over either of these territories, and thus was not ready to concede them. This adamant stance was perceived in China as Indian opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet. Nehru declined to conduct any negotiations on the boundary until Chinese troops withdrew from Aksai Chin, a position supported by the international community. India produced numerous reports on the negotiations, and translated Chinese reports into English to help inform the international debate. China believed that India was simply securing its claim lines in order to continue its “grand plans in Tibet”. India’s stance that China withdraw from Aksai Chin caused continual deterioration of the diplomatic situation to the point that internal forces were pressuring Nehru to take a military stance against China.
1960 meetings to resolve the boundary question
In 1960, based on an agreement between Nehru and Chou En-Lai, officials from India and China held discussions in order to settle the boundary dispute.:91 China and India disagreed on the major watershed that defined the boundary in the western sector.:96 The Chinese statements with respect to their border claims often misrepresented the cited sources.:99
The Forward Policy
At the beginning of 1961, Nehru appointed General B. M. Kaul as army Chief of General Staff, but he refused to increase military spending and prepare for a possible war. According to James Barnard Calvin of the U.S. Navy, in 1959, India started sending Indian troops and border patrols into disputed areas. This program created both skirmishes and deteriorating relations between India and China. The aim of this policy was to create outposts behind advancing Chinese troops to interdict their supplies, forcing them north of the disputed line. There were eventually 60 such outposts, including 43 north of the McMahon Line, to which India claimed sovereignty. China viewed this as further confirmation of Indian expansionist plans directed towards Tibet. According to the Indian official history, implementation of the Forward Policy was intended to provide evidence of Indian occupation in the previously unoccupied region through which Chinese troops had been advancing. Kaul was confident, through contact with Indian Intelligence and CIA information, that China would not react with force. Indeed, at first the PLA simply withdrew, but eventually Chinese forces began to counter-encircle the Indian positions which clearly encroached into the north of McMahon Line. This led to a tit-for-tat Indian reaction, with each force attempting to outmanoeuver the other. However, despite the escalating nature of the dispute, the two forces withheld from engaging each other directly.
Chinese attention was diverted for a time by the military activity of the Nationalists on Taiwan, but on 23 June the U.S. assured China that a Nationalist invasion would not be permitted. China’s heavy artillery facing Taiwan could then be moved to Tibet. It took China six to eight months to gather the resources needed for the war, according to Anil Athale, author of the official Indian history. The Chinese sent a large quantity of non-military supplies to Tibet through the Indian port of Calcutta.
Various border conflicts and “military incidents” between India and China flared up throughout the summer and autumn of 1962. In May, the Indian Air Force was told not to plan for close air support, although it was assessed as being a feasible way to counter the unfavourable ratio of Chinese to Indian troops. In June, a skirmish caused the deaths of dozens of Chinese troops. The Indian Intelligence Bureau received information about a Chinese buildup along the border which could be a precursor to war.
During June–July 1962, Indian military planners began advocating “probing actions” against the Chinese, and accordingly, moved mountain troops forward to cut off Chinese supply lines. According to Patterson, the Indian motives were threefold:
- Test Chinese resolve and intentions regarding India.
- Test whether India would enjoy Soviet backing in the event of a Sino-Indian war.
- Create sympathy for India within the U.S., with whom relations had deteriorated after the Indian annexation of Goa.:279
On 10 July 1962, 350 Chinese troops surrounded an Indian occupied post in Chushul (north of the McMahon Line) but withdrew after a heated argument via loudspeaker. On 22 July, the Forward Policy was extended to allow Indian troops to push back Chinese troops already established in disputed territory. Whereas Indian troops were previously ordered to fire only in self-defence, all post commanders were now given discretion to open fire upon Chinese forces if threatened. In August, the Chinese military improved its combat readiness along the McMahon Line and began stockpiling ammunition, weapons and gasoline.
Given his foreknowledge of the coming Cuban Missile Crisis, Mao Zedong was able to persuade Nikita Khrushchev to reverse the Russian policy of backing India, at least temporarily. In mid-October, the Communist organ Pravda encouraged peace between India and China. When the Cuban Missile Crisis ended and Mao’s rhetoric changed, however, Russia reversed course.
Confrontation at Thag La
In June 1962, Indian forces established an outpost at Dhola, on the southern slopes of the Thag La Ridge. Dhola lay north of the McMahon Line but south of the ridges along which India interpreted the McMahon Line to run. In August, China issued diplomatic protests and began occupying positions at the top of Thag La. On 8 September, a 60-strong PLA unit descended to the south side of the ridge and occupied positions that dominated one of the Indian posts at Dhola. Fire was not exchanged, but Nehru said to the media that the Indian Army had instructions to “free our territory” and the troops had been given discretion to use force. On 11 September, it was decided that “all forward posts and patrols were given permission to fire on any armed Chinese who entered Indian territory”.
However, the operation to occupy Thag La was flawed in that Nehru’s directives were unclear and it got underway very slowly because of this. In addition to this, each man had to carry 35 kilograms (77 lb) over the long trek and this severely slowed down the reaction. By the time the Indian battalion reached the point of conflict, Chinese units controlled both banks of the Namka Chu River. On 20 September, Chinese troops threw grenades at Indian troops and a firefight developed, triggering a long series of skirmishes for the rest of September.
Some Indian troops, including Brigadier Dalvi who commanded the forces at Thag La, were also concerned that the territory they were fighting for was not strictly territory that “we should have been convinced was ours”. According to Neville Maxwell, even members of the Indian defence ministry were categorically concerned with the validity of the fighting in Thag La.
On 3 October, a week before the start of the war, Zhou Enlai visited Nehru in New Delhi promising there would be no war. On 4 October, Kaul assigned some troops to secure regions south of the Thag La Ridge. Kaul decided to first secure Yumtso La, a strategically important position, before re-entering the lost Dhola post. Kaul had then realised that the attack would be desperate and the Indian government tried to stop an escalation into all-out war. Indian troops marching to Thag La had suffered in the previously unexperienced conditions; two Gurkha soldiers died of pulmonary edema.
On 10 October, an Indian Punjabi patrol of 50 troops to Yumtso La were met by an emplaced Chinese position of some 1,000 soldiers. Indian troops were in no position for battle, as Yumtso La was 16,000 feet (4,900 m) above sea level and Kaul did not plan on having artillery support for the troops. The Chinese troops opened fire on the Indians under their belief that they were north of the McMahon Line. The Indians were surrounded by Chinese positions which used mortar fire. However, they managed to hold off the first Chinese assault, inflicting heavy casualties.
At this point, the Indian troops were in a position to push the Chinese back with mortar and machine gun fire. However, Brigadier Dalvi opted not to fire, as it would mean decimating the Rajput who were still in the area of the Chinese regrouping. They helplessly watched the Chinese ready themselves for a second assault. In the second Chinese assault, the Indians began their retreat, realising the situation was hopeless. The Indian patrol suffered 25 casualties, and the Chinese 33. The Chinese troops held their fire as the Indians retreated, and then buried the Indian dead with military honours, as witnessed by the retreating soldiers. This was the first occurrence of heavy fighting in the war.
This attack had grave implications for India and Nehru tried to solve the issue, but by 18 October, it was clear that the Chinese were preparing for an attack on India, with massive troop buildups on the border. A long line of mules and porters had also been observed supporting the buildup and reinforcement of positions south of the Thag La Ridge.
Chinese and Indian preparations
Two of the major factors leading up to China’s eventual conflicts with Indian troops were India’s stance on the disputed borders and perceived Indian subversion in Tibet. There was “a perceived need to punish and end perceived Indian efforts to undermine Chinese control of Tibet, Indian efforts which were perceived as having the objective of restoring the pre-1949 status quo ante of Tibet”. The other was “a perceived need to punish and end perceived Indian aggression against Chinese territory along the border”. John W. Garver argues that the first perception was incorrect based on the state of the Indian military and polity in the 1960s. It was, nevertheless a major reason for China’s going to war. However, he argues the Chinese perception of Indian aggression to be “substantially accurate”.
The CIA’s recently declassified POLO documents reveal contemporary American analysis of Chinese motives during the war. According to this document, “Chinese apparently were motivated to attack by one primary consideration — their determination to retain the ground on which PLA forces stood in 1962 and to punish the Indians for trying to take that ground”. In general terms, they tried to show the Indians once and for all that China would not acquiesce in a military “reoccupation” policy. Secondary reasons for the attack were to damage Nehru’s prestige by exposing Indian weakness and to expose as traitorous Khrushchev’s policy of supporting Nehru against a Communist country.
Another factor which might have affected China’s decision for war with India was a perceived need to stop a Soviet-U.S.-India encirclement and isolation of China. India’s relations with the Soviet Union and United States were both strong at this time, but the Soviets (and Americans) were preoccupied by the Cuban Missile Crisis and would not interfere with the Sino-Indian War. P. B. Sinha suggests that China waited until October to attack because the timing of the war was exactly in parallel with American actions so as to avoid any chance of American or Soviet involvement. Although American buildup of forces around Cuba occurred on the same day as the first major clash at Dhola, and China’s buildup between 10 and 20 October appeared to coincide exactly with the United States establishment of a blockade against Cuba which began 20 October, the Chinese probably prepared for this before they could anticipate what would happen in Cuba. Another explanation is that the confrontation in the Taiwan Strait had eased by then.
Garver argues that the Chinese correctly assessed Indian border policies, particularly the Forward Policy, as attempts for incremental seizure of Chinese-controlled territory. On Tibet, Garver argues that one of the major factors leading to China’s decision for war with India was a common tendency of humans “to attribute others behavior to interior motivations, while attributing their own behavior to situational factors”. Studies from China published in the 1990s confirmed that the root cause for China going to war with India was the perceived Indian aggression in Tibet, with the forward policy simply catalysing the Chinese reaction.
Neville Maxwell and Allen Whiting argue that the Chinese leadership believed they were defending territory that was legitimately Chinese, and which was already under de facto Chinese occupation prior to Indian advances, and regarded the Forward Policy as an Indian attempt at creeping annexation. Mao Zedong himself compared the Forward Policy to a strategic advance in Chinese chess:
Their [India’s] continually pushing forward is like crossing the Chu Han boundary. What should we do? We can also set out a few pawns, on our side of the river. If they don’t then cross over, that’s great. If they do cross, we’ll eat them up [chess metaphor meaning to take the opponent’s pieces]. Of course, we cannot blindly eat them. Lack of forbearance in small matters upsets great plans. We must pay attention to the situation.
India claims that the motive for the Forward Policy was to cut off the supply routes for Chinese troops posted in NEFA and Aksai Chin. According to the official Indian history, the forward policy was continued because of its initial success, as it claimed that Chinese troops withdrew when they encountered areas already occupied by Indian troops. It also claimed that the Forward Policy was having success in cutting out supply lines of Chinese troops who had advanced South of the McMahon Line, though there was no evidence of such advance before the 1962 war. However, the Forward Policy rested on the assumption that Chinese forces “were not likely to use force against any of our posts, even if they were in a position to do so”. No serious re-appraisal of this policy took place even when Chinese forces ceased withdrawing. Nehru’s confidence was probably justified given the difficulty for China to supply the area over the high altitude terrain over 5000 km from the more populated areas of China.
The Chinese leadership initially held a sympathetic view towards India as the latter had been ruled by British colonial masters for centuries. However, Nehru’s forward policy convinced PRC leadership that the independent Indian leadership was a reincarnation of British imperialism. Mao Zedong stated: “Rather than being constantly accused of aggression, it’s better to show the world what really happens when China indeed moves its muscles.”
Chinese policy toward India, therefore, operated on two contradictory assumptions in the first half of 1961. On the one hand, the Chinese leaders continued to entertain a hope, although a shrinking one, that some opening for talks.would appear. On, the other hand, they read Indian statements and actions as clear signs that Nehru wanted to talk only about a Chinese withdrawal. Regarding the hope, they were willing to negotiate and tried to prod Nehru into a similar attitude. Regarding Indian intentions, they began to act politically and to build a rationale based on the assumption that Nehru already had become a lackey of imperialism; for this reason he opposed border talks.
Krishna Menon is reported to have said that when he arrived in Geneva on 6 June 1961 for an international conference in Laos, Chinese officials in Chen Yi’s delegation indicated that Chen might be interested in discussing the border dispute with him. At several private meetings with Menon, Chen avoided any discussion of the dispute and Menon surmised that the Chinese wanted him to broach the matter first. He did not, as he was under instructions from Nehru to avoid taking the initiative, leaving the Chinese with the impression that Nehru was unwilling to show any flexibility.
In September, the Chinese took a step toward criticizing Nehru openly in their commentary. After citing Indonesian and Burmese press criticism of Nehru by name, the Chinese critiqued his moderate remarks on colonialism (People’s Daily Editorial, 9 September) – Somebody at the Non-Aligned Nations Conference advanced the argument that the era of classical colonialism is gone and dead…contrary to facts.” This was a distortion of Nehru’s remarks but appeared close enough to be credible. On the same day, Chen Yi referred to Nehru by implication at the Bulgarian embassy reception: ‘Those who attempted to’ deny history, ignore reality, and distort the truth and who attempted to divert the Conference from its important object have failed to gain support and were isolated.” On 10 September, they dropped all circumlocutions and criticized him by name in a China Youth article and NCNA report—the first time in almost two years that they had commented extensively on the Prime Minister.
By early 1962, the Chinese leadership began to believe that India’s intentions were to launch a massive attack against Chinese troops, and that the Indian leadership wanted a war. In 1961, the Indian army had been sent into Goa, a small region without any other international borders apart from the Indian one, after Portugal refused to surrender the exclave colony to the Indian Union. Although this action met little to no international protest or opposition, China saw it as an example of India’s expansionist nature, especially in light of heated rhetoric from Indian politicians. India’s Home Minister declared, “If the Chinese will not vacate the areas occupied by it, India will have to repeat what it did in Goa. India will certainly drive out the Chinese forces”, while another member of the Indian Congress Party pronounced, “India will take steps to end [Chinese] aggression on Indian soil just as it ended Portuguese aggression in Goa”. By mid-1962, it was apparent to the Chinese leadership that negotiations had failed to make any progress, and the Forward Policy was increasingly perceived as a grave threat as Delhi increasingly sent probes deeper into border areas and cut off Chinese supply lines. Foreign Minister Marshal Chen Yi commented at one high-level meeting, “Nehru’s forward policy is a knife. He wants to put it in our heart. We cannot close our eyes and await death.” The Chinese leadership believed that their restraint on the issue was being perceived by India as weakness, leading to continued provocations, and that a major counterblow was needed to stop perceived Indian aggression.
Xu Yan, prominent Chinese military historian and professor at the PLA’s National Defense University, gives an account of the Chinese leadership’s decision to go to war. By late September 1962, the Chinese leadership had begun to reconsider their policy of “armed coexistence”, which had failed to address their concerns with the forward policy and Tibet, and consider a large, decisive strike. On 22 September 1962, the People’s Daily published an article which claimed that “the Chinese people were burning with ‘great indignation’ over the Indian actions on the border and that New Delhi could not ‘now say that warning was not served in advance’.”
The Indian side was confident war would not be triggered and made little preparations. India had only two divisions of troops in the region of the conflict. In August 1962, Brigadier D. K. Palit claimed that a war with China in the near future could be ruled out.Even in September 1962, when Indian troops were ordered to “expel the Chinese” from Thag La, Maj. General J. S. Dhillon expressed the opinion that “experience in Ladakh had shown that a few rounds fired at the Chinese would cause them to run away.”Because of this, the Indian army was completely unprepared when the attack at Yumtso La occurred.
Recently declassified CIA documents which were compiled at the time reveal that India’s estimates of Chinese capabilities made them neglect their military in favour of economic growth. It is claimed that if a more military-minded man had been in place instead of Nehru, India would have been more likely to have been ready for the threat of a counter-attack from China.
On 6 October 1962, the Chinese leadership convened. Lin Biao reported that PLA intelligence units had determined that Indian units might assault Chinese positions at Thag La on 10 October (Operation Leghorn). The Chinese leadership and the Central Military Council decided upon war to launch a large-scale attack to punish perceived military aggression from India. In Beijing, a larger meeting of Chinese military was convened in order to plan for the coming conflict.
Mao and the Chinese leadership issued a directive laying out the objectives for the war. A main assault would be launched in the eastern sector, which would be coordinated with a smaller assault in the western sector. All Indian troops within China’s claimed territories in the eastern sector would be expelled, and the war would be ended with a unilateral Chinese ceasefire and withdrawal to prewar positions, followed by a return to the negotiating table. India led the Non-Aligned Movement, Nehru enjoyed international prestige, and China, with a larger military, would be portrayed as an aggressor. However, he said that a well-fought war “will guarantee at least thirty years of peace” with India, and determined the benefits to offset the costs.
China also reportedly bought significant amount of Indian Rupee currency notes from Hong Kong, supposedly to distribute amongst its soldiers in preparation for the war.
On 12 October, Nehru declared that he had ordered the Indian army to “clear Indian territory in the NEFA of Chinese invaders” and personally met with Kaul, issuing instructions to him.
On 14 October, an editorial on People’s Daily issued China’s final warning to India: “So it seems that Mr. Nehru has made up his mind to attack the Chinese frontier guards on an even bigger scale. … It is high time to shout to Mr. Nehru that the heroic Chinese troops, with the glorious tradition of resisting foreign aggression, can never be cleared by anyone from their own territory … If there are still some maniacs who are reckless enough to ignore our well-intentioned advice and insist on having another try, well, let them do so. History will pronounce its inexorable verdict … At this critical moment … we still want to appeal once more to Mr. Nehru: better rein in at the edge of the precipice and do not use the lives of Indian troops as stakes in your gamble.”
Marshal Liu Bocheng headed a group to determine the strategy for the war. He concluded that the opposing Indian troops were among India’s best, and to achieve victory would require deploying crack troops and relying on force concentration to achieve decisive victory. On 16 October, this war plan was approved, and on the 18th, the final approval was given by the Politburo for a “self-defensive counter-attack”, scheduled for 20 October.
On 20 October 1962, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army launched two attacks, 1000 kilometres apart. In the western theatre, the PLA sought to expel Indian forces from the Chip Chap valley in Aksai Chin while in the eastern theatre, the PLA sought to capture both banks of the Namka Chu river. Some skirmishes also took place at the Nathula Pass, which is in the Indian state of Sikkim (an Indian protectorate at that time). Gurkha rifles travelling north were targeted by Chinese artillery fire. After four days of fierce fighting, the three regiments of Chinese troops succeeded in securing a substantial portion of the disputed territory.
Chinese troops launched an attack on the southern banks of the Namka Chu River on 20 October. The Indian forces were undermanned, with only an understrength battalion to support them, while the Chinese troops had three regiments positioned on the north side of the river. The Indians expected Chinese forces to cross via one of five bridges over the river and defended those crossings. However, the PLA bypassed the defenders by crossing the shallow October river instead. They formed up into battalions on the Indian-held south side of the river under cover of darkness, with each battalion assigned against a separate group of Rajputs.
At 5:14 am, Chinese mortar fire began attacking the Indian positions. Simultaneously, the Chinese cut the Indian telephone lines, preventing the defenders from making contact with their headquarters. At about 6:30 am, the Chinese infantry launched a surprise attack from the rear and forced the Indians to leave their trenches.
The Chinese troops overwhelmed the Indians in a series of flanking manoeuvres south of the McMahon Line and prompted their withdrawal from Namka Chu. Fearful of continued losses, Indian troops escaped into Bhutan. Chinese forces respected the border and did not pursue. Chinese forces now held all of the territory that was under dispute at the time of the Thag La confrontation, but they continued to advance into the rest of NEFA.
On 22 October, at 12:15 am, PLA mortars fired on Walong, on the McMahon line. Flares launched by Indian troops the next day revealed numerous Chinese milling around the valley. The Indians tried to use their mortars against the Chinese but the PLA responded by lighting a bushfire, causing confusion amongst the Indians. Some 400 Chinese troops attacked the Indian position. The initial Chinese assault was halted by accurate Indian mortar fire. The Chinese were then reinforced and launched a second assault. The Indians managed to hold them back for four hours, but the Chinese used sheer weight of numbers to break through. Most Indian forces to withdraw to established positions in Walong, while a company supported by mortars and medium machine guns remained to cover the retreat.
On the morning 23 October, the Indians discovered a Chinese force gathered in a cramped pass and opened fire with mortars and machine guns, leading to heavy fighting. About 200 Chinese soldiers were killed and wounded in this action. Nine Indian soldiers were also killed. The fighting continued well into the afternoon, until the company was ordered to withdraw. Meanwhile, the 4th Sikhs made contact with the Chinese and subjected them to withering mortar and machine gun fire as the Chinese set off a brushfire and attempted to sneak forward. Sepoy Piara Singh tried to douse the fire while fighting the enemy, but died after he was wounded and refused to be evacuated.
Over the following days, there were clashes between Indian and Chinese patrols at Walong as the Chinese rushed in reinforcements. On 25 October, the Chinese made a probe, which was met with resistance from the 4th Sikhs. As some Chinese soldiers began to close in, Sepoy Kewal Singh charged them with his bayonet and killed a few of them in hand-to-hand combat, but he himself was killed. The following day, a patrol from the 4th Sikhs was encircled, and after being unable to break the encirclement, an Indian unit sneaked in and attacked the Chinese flank, allowing the Sikhs to break free.
On the Aksai Chin front, China already controlled most of the disputed territory. Chinese forces quickly swept the region of any remaining Indian troops. Late on 19 October, Chinese troops launched a number of attacks throughout the western theatre. By 22 October, all posts north of Chushul had been cleared.
On 20 October, the Chinese easily took the Chip Chap Valley, Galwan Valley, and Pangong Lake. Many outposts and garrisons along the Western front were unable to defend against the surrounding Chinese troops. Most Indian troops positioned in these posts offered resistance but were either killed or taken prisoner. Indian support for these outposts was not forthcoming, as evidenced by the Galwan post, which had been surrounded by enemy forces in August, but no attempt made to relieve the besieged garrison. Following the 20 October attack, nothing was heard from Galwan.
On 24 October, Indian forces fought hard hold the Rezang La Ridge, in order to prevent a nearby airstrip from falling to the Chinese.
After realising the magnitude of the attack, the Indian Western Command withdrew many of the isolated outposts to the south-east. Daulet Beg Oldi was also evacuated, but it was south of the Chinese claim line and was not approached by Chinese forces. Indian troops were withdrawn in order to consolidate and regroup in the event that China probed south of their claim line.
Lull in the fighting
By 24 October, the PLA had entered territory previously administered by India to give the PRC a diplomatically strong position over India. The majority of Chinese forces had advanced sixteen kilometres south of the control line prior to the conflict. Four days of fighting were followed by a three-week lull. Zhou ordered the troops to stop advancing as he attempted to negotiate with Nehru. The Indian forces had retreated into more heavily fortified positions around Se La and Bombdi La which would be difficult to assault. Zhou sent Nehru a letter, proposing
- A negotiated settlement of the boundary
- That both sides disengage and withdraw twenty kilometres from present lines of actual control
- A Chinese withdrawal north in NEFA
- That China and India not cross lines of present control in Aksai Chin.
Nehru’s 27 October reply expressed interest in the restoration of peace and friendly relations and suggested a return to the “boundary prior to 8 September 1962”. He was categorically concerned about a mutual twenty kilometre withdrawal after “40 or 60 kilometres of blatant military aggression”. He wanted the creation of a larger immediate buffer zone and thus resist the possibility of a repeat offensive. Zhou’s 4 November reply repeated his 1959 offer to return to the McMahon Line in NEFA and the Chinese traditionally claimed MacDonald Line in Aksai Chin. Facing Chinese forces maintaining themselves on Indian soil and trying to avoid political pressure, the Indian parliament announced a national emergency and passed a resolution which stated their intent to “drive out the aggressors from the sacred soil of India”. The United States and the United Kingdom supported India’s response. However, the Soviet Union was preoccupied with the Cuban Missile Crisis and did not offer the support it had provided in previous years. With the backing of other great powers, a 14 November letter by Nehru to Zhou once again rejected his proposal.
Neither side declared war, used their air force, or fully broke off diplomatic relations; however, the conflict is commonly referred to as a war. This war coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisisand was viewed by the western nations at the time as another act of aggression by the Communist bloc. According to Calvin, the Chinese side evidently wanted a diplomatic resolution and discontinuation of the conflict.
Continuation of war
After Zhou received Nehru’s letter (rejecting Zhou’s proposal), the fighting resumed on the eastern theatre on 14 November (Nehru’s birthday), with an Indian attack on Walong, claimed by China, launched from the defensive position of Se La and inflicting heavy casualties on the Chinese. The Chinese resumed military activity on Aksai Chin and NEFA hours after the Walong battle.
On the eastern theatre, the PLA attacked Indian forces near Se La and Bomdi La on 17 November. These positions were defended by the Indian 4th Infantry Division. Instead of attacking by road as expected, PLA forces approached via a mountain trail, and their attack cut off a main road and isolated 10,000 Indian troops.
Se La occupied high ground, and rather than assault this commanding position, the Chinese captured Thembang, which was a supply route to Se La.
On the western theatre, PLA forces launched a heavy infantry attack on 18 November near Chushul. Their attack started at 4:35 am, despite a mist surrounding most of the areas in the region. At 5:45 the Chinese troops advanced to attack two platoons of Indian troops at Gurung Hill.
The Indians did not know what was happening, as communications were dead. As a patrol was sent, China attacked with greater numbers. Indian artillery could not hold off against superior Chinese forces. By 9:00 am, Chinese forces attacked Gurung Hill directly and Indian commanders withdrew from the area and also from the connecting Spangur Gap.
The Chinese had been simultaneously attacking Rezang La which was held by 123 Indian troops. At 5:05 am, Chinese troops launched their attack audaciously. Chinese medium machine gun fire pierced through the Indian tactical defences.
At 6:55 am the sun rose and the Chinese attack on the 8th platoon began in waves. Fighting continued for the next hour, until the Chinese signaled that they had destroyed the 7th platoon. Indians tried to use light machine guns on the medium machine guns from the Chinese but after 10 minutes the battle was over. Logistical inadequacy once again hurt the Indian troops. The Chinese gave the Indian troops a respectful military funeral.The battles also saw the death of Major Shaitan Singh of the Kumaon Regiment, who had been instrumental in the first battle of Rezang La. The Indian troops were forced to withdraw to high mountain positions. Indian sources believed that their troops were just coming to grips with the mountain combat and finally called for more troops. However, the Chinese declared a ceasefire, ending the bloodshed.
Indians suffered heavy casualties, with dead Indian troops’ bodies being found in the ice, frozen with weapons in hand. Chinese forces also suffered heavy casualties, especially at Rezang La. This signalled the end of the war in Aksai Chin as China had reached their claim line – many Indian troops were ordered to withdraw from the area. China claimed that the Indian troops wanted to fight on until the bitter end. However, the war ended with their withdrawal, so as to limit the amount of casualties.
The PLA penetrated close to the outskirts of Tezpur, Assam, a major frontier town nearly fifty kilometres from the Assam–North-East Frontier Agency border. The local government ordered the evacuation of the civilians in Tezpur to the south of the Brahmaputra River, all prisons were thrown open, and government officials who stayed behind destroyed Tezpur’s currency reserves in anticipation of a Chinese advance.
China had reached its claim lines so the PLA did not advance farther, and on 19 November, it declared a unilateral cease-fire. Zhou Enlai declared a unilateral ceasefire to start on midnight, 21 November. Zhou’s ceasefire declaration stated,
Beginning from 21 November 1962, the Chinese frontier guards will cease fire along the entire Sino-Indian border. Beginning from 1 December 1962, the Chinese frontier guards will withdraw to positions 20 kilometres behind the line of actual control which existed between China and India on 7 November 1959. In the eastern sector, although the Chinese frontier guards have so far been fighting on Chinese territory north of the traditional customary line, they are prepared to withdraw from their present positions to the north of the illegal McMahon Line, and to withdraw twenty kilometres back from that line. In the middle and western sectors, the Chinese frontier guards will withdraw twenty kilometres from the line of actual control.
Zhou had first given the ceasefire announcement to Indian chargé d’affaires on 19 November (before India’s request for United States air support), but New Delhi did not receive it until 24 hours later. The aircraft carrier was ordered back after the ceasefire, and thus, American intervention on India’s side in the war was avoided. Retreating Indian troops, who hadn’t come into contact with anyone knowing of the ceasefire, and Chinese troops in NEFA and Aksai Chin, were involved in some minor battles, but for the most part, the ceasefire signalled an end to the fighting. The United States Air Force flew in supplies to India in November 1962, but neither side wished to continue hostilities.
Toward the end of the war India increased its support for Tibetan refugees and revolutionaries, some of them having settled in India, as they were fighting the same common enemy in the region. The Nehru administration ordered the raising of an elite Indian-trained “Tibetan Armed Force” composed of Tibetan refugees. The CIA had already begun operations in bringing about change in Tibet.
The Chinese military action has been viewed by the United States as part of the PRC’s policy of making use of aggressive wars to settle its border disputes and to distract from its internal issues. According to James Calvin from the United States Marine Corps, western nations at the time viewed China as an aggressor during the China–India border war, and the war was part of a monolithic communist objective for a world dictatorship of the proletariat. This was further triggered by Mao Zedong‘s views that: “The way to world conquest lies through Havana, Accra, and Calcutta”. Calvin believes that Chinese actions show a “pattern of conservative aims and limited objectives, rather than expansionism” and blames this particular conflict on India’s provocations towards China. However, Calvin also expresses that China, in the past, has been adamant to gain control over regions to which it has a “traditional claim”, which triggered the dispute over NEFA and Aksai Chin and indeed Tibet. Calvin’s assumption, based on the history of the Cold War and the Domino Effect, assumed that China might ultimately try to regain control of everything that it considers as “traditionally Chinese” which in its view includes the entirety of South East Asia.
The Kennedy administration was disturbed by what they considered “blatant Chinese communist aggression against India”. In a May 1963 National Security Council meeting, contingency planning on the part of the United States in the event of another Chinese attack on India was discussed. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor advised the president to use nuclear weapons should the Americans intervene in such a situation. McNamara stated “Before any substantial commitment to defend India against China is given, we should recognize that in order to carry out that commitment against any substantial Chinese attack, we would have to use nuclear weapons. Any large Chinese Communist attack on any part of that area would require the use of nuclear weapons by the U.S., and this is to be preferred over the introduction of large numbers of U.S. soldiers.” After hearing this and listening to two other advisers, Kennedy stated “We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India.” It remains unclear if his aides were trying to dissuade the President of considering any measure with regard to India by immediately raising the stakes to an unacceptable level, nor is it clear if Kennedy was thinking of conventional or nuclear means when he gave his reply.By 1964 China had developed its own nuclear weapon which would have likely caused any American nuclear policy in defense of India to be reviewed. The Johnson Administration considered and then rejected giving nuclear weapons technology to the Indians. However India developed its own nuclear weapon by 1974, within 10 years of the Chinese.
The non-aligned nations remained mostly uninvolved, and only the United Arab Republic openly supported India. Of the non-aligned nations, six, Egypt, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Indonesia, met in Colombo on 10 December 1962. The proposals stipulated a Chinese withdrawal of 20 km from the customary lines without any reciprocal withdrawal on India’s behalf. The failure of these six nations to unequivocally condemn China deeply disappointed India.
In 1972, Chinese Premier Zhou explained the Chinese point of view to President Nixon of the US. As for the causes of the war, Zhou asserted that China did not try to expel Indian troops from south of the McMahon line and that three open warning telegrams were sent to Nehru before the war. However, Indian patrols south of the McMahon line were expelled and suffered casualties in the Chinese attack. Zhou also told Nixon that Chairman Mao ordered the troops to return to show good faith. The Indian government maintains that the Chinese military could not advance further south due to logistical problems and the cut-off of resource supplies.
While Western nations did not view Chinese actions favourably because of fear of the Chinese and competitiveness, Pakistan, which had had a turbulent relationship with India ever since the Indian partition, improved its relations with China after the war. Prior to the war, Pakistan also shared a disputed boundary with China, and had proposed to India that the two countries adopt a common defence against “northern” enemies (i.e. China), which was rejected by India. However, China and Pakistan took steps to peacefully negotiate their shared boundaries, beginning on 13 October 1962, and concluding in December of that year. Pakistan also expressed fear that the huge amounts of western military aid directed to India would allow it to threaten Pakistan’s security in future conflicts. Mohammed Ali, External Affairs Minister of Pakistan, declared that massive Western aid to India in the Sino-Indian dispute would be considered an unfriendly act towards Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan made efforts to improve its relations with China. The following year, China and Pakistan peacefully settled disputes on their shared border, and negotiated the China-Pakistan Border Treaty in 1963, as well as trade, commercial, and barter treaties. On 2 March 1963, Pakistan conceded its northern claim line inPakistani-controlled Kashmir to China in favor of a more southerly boundary along the Karakoram Range. The border treaty largely set the border along the MacCartney-Macdonald Line. India’s military failure against China would embolden Pakistan to initiate the Second Kashmir War with India. However, it effectively ended in a stalemate as Calvin states that the Sino-Indian War had caused the previously passive government to take a stand on actively modernising India’s military. China offered diplomatic support to Pakistan in this war but did not offer military support. In January 1966, China condemned the Tashkent Agreement between India and Pakistan as a Soviet-US plot in the region. In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Pakistan expected China to provide military support, but it was left alone as India successfully helped the rebels in East Pakistan to found the new nation-state of Bangladesh.
Involvement of other nations
During the conflict, Nehru wrote two desperate letters to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, requesting 12 squadrons of fighter jets and a modern radar system. These jets were seen as necessary to beef up Indian air strength so that air-to-air combat could be initiated safely from the Indian perspective (bombing troops was seen as unwise for fear of Chinese retaliatory action). Nehru also asked that these aircraft be manned by American pilots until Indian airmen were trained to replace them. These requests were rejected by the Kennedy Administration (which was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis during most of the Sino-Indian War). According to former Indian diplomat G Parthasarathy, “only after we got nothing from the US did arms supplies from the Soviet Union to India commence.” In 1962, President of Pakistan Ayub Khan made clear to India that Indian troops could safely be transferred from the Pakistan frontier to the Himalayas.
According to the China’s official military history, the war achieved China’s policy objectives of securing borders in its western sector, as China retained de facto control of the Aksai Chin. After the war, India abandoned the Forward Policy, and the de facto borders stabilised along the Line of Actual Control.
According to James Calvin of Marine Corps Command and Staff College, even though China won a military victory it lost in terms of its international image. China’s first nuclear weapon test in October 1964 and its support of Pakistan in the 1965 India Pakistan Wartended to confirm the American view of communist world objectives, including Chinese influence over Pakistan.
Lora Saalman opined in a study of Chinese military publications, that while the war led to much blame, debates and ultimately acted as causation of military modernization of India but the war is now treated as basic reportage of facts with relatively diminished interest by Chinese analysts.
The aftermath of the war saw sweeping changes in the Indian military to prepare it for similar conflicts in the future, and placed pressure on Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was seen as responsible for failing to anticipate the Chinese attack on India. Indians reacted with a surge in patriotism and memorials were erected for many of the Indian troops who died in the war. Arguably, the main lesson India learned from the war was the need to strengthen its own defences and a shift from Nehru’s foreign policy with China based on his stated concept of “brotherhood”. Because of India’s inability to anticipate Chinese aggression, Prime Minister Nehru faced harsh criticism from government officials, for having promoted pacifist relations with China. Indian President Radhakrishnan said that Nehru’s government was naive and negligent about preparations, and Nehru admitted his failings. According to Inder Malhotra, a former editor of The Times of India and a commentator for The Indian Express, Indian politicians invested more effort in removing Defence Minister Krishna Menon than in actually waging war. Krishna Menon’s favoritism weakened the Indian Army, and national morale dimmed. The public saw the war as political and military debacle. Under American advice (by American envoy John Kenneth Galbraith who made and ran American policy on the war as all other top policy makers in USA were absorbed in coincident Cuban Missile Crisis) Indians refrained, not according to the best choices available, from using theIndian air force to beat back the Chinese advances. The CIA later revealed that at that time the Chinese had neither the fuel nor runways long enough for using their air force effectively in Tibet. Indians in general became highly sceptical of China and its military. Many Indians view the war as a betrayal of India’s attempts at establishing a long-standing peace with China and started to question the once popular “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai” (meaning “Indians and Chinese are brothers”). The war also put an end to Nehru’s earlier hopes that India and China would form a strong Asian Axis to counteract the increasing influence of the Cold War bloc superpowers.
The unpreparedness of the army was blamed on Defence Minister Menon, who resigned his government post to allow for someone who might modernise India’s military further. India’s policy of weaponisation via indigenous sources and self-sufficiency was thus cemented. Sensing a weakened army, Pakistan, a close ally of China, began a policy of provocation against India by infiltrating Jammu and Kashmir and ultimately triggering the Second Kashmir War with India in 1965 and Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. The Attack of 1965 was successfully stopped and ceasefire was negotiated under international pressure. In the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 India won a clear victory, resulting in liberation of Bangladesh (formerly East-Pakistan).
As a result of the war, the Indian government commissioned an investigation, resulting in the classified Henderson Brooks–Bhagat Report on the causes of the war and the reasons for failure. India’s performance in high-altitude combat in 1962 led to an overhaul of the Indian Army in terms of doctrine, training, organisation and equipment. Neville Maxwell claimed that the Indian role in international affairs after the border war was also greatly reduced after the war and India’s standing in the non-aligned movement suffered. The Indian government has attempted to keep the Hendersen-Brooks-Bhagat Report secret for decades, although portions of it have recently been leaked by Neville Maxwell.
According to James Calvin, an analyst from the U.S. Navy, India gained many benefits from the 1962 conflict. This war united the country as never before. India got 32,000 square miles (8.3 million hectares, 83,000 km2) of disputed territory even if it felt that NEFA was hers all along. The new Indian republic had avoided international alignments; by asking for help during the war, India demonstrated its willingness to accept military aid from several sectors. And, finally, India recognised the serious weaknesses in its army. It would more than double its military manpower in the next two years and it would work hard to resolve the military’s training and logistic problems to later become the third-largest army in the world. India’s efforts to improve its military posture significantly enhanced its army’s capabilities and preparedness. This played a role in subsequent wars against Pakistan.
Internment and deportation of Chinese Indians
Soon after the end of the war, the Indian government passed the Defence of India Act in December 1962, permitting the “apprehension and detention in custody of any person [suspected] of being of hostile origin.” The broad language of the act allowed for the arrest of any person simply for having a Chinese surname, Chinese ancestry or a Chinese spouse. The Indian government incarcerated thousands of Chinese-Indians in an internment camp in Deoli, Rajasthan, where they were held for years without trial. The last internees were not released until 1967. Thousands more Chinese-Indians were forcibly deported or coerced to leave India. Nearly all internees had their properties sold off or looted. Even after their release, the Chinese Indians faced many restrictions in their freedom. They could not travel freely until the mid-1990s.
India also reported some military conflicts with China after the 1962 war. In late 1967, there were two incidents in which both countries exchanged fire in Sikkim. The first one was dubbed the “Nathu La incident”, and the other being “Chola incident” in which advancing Chinese forces were forced to withdraw from Sikkim, the then a protectorate of India and later a state of India after annexation in 1975. In 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish, both sides show military restraint and it was a bloodless conflict.
In 1993 and 1996, the two sides signed the Sino-Indian Bilateral Peace and Tranquility Accords, agreements to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC). Ten meetings of a Sino-Indian Joint Working Group (SIJWG) and five of an expert group have taken place to determine where the LoAC lies, but little progress has occurred.
On 20 November 2006 Indian politicians from Arunachal Pradesh expressed their concern over Chinese military modernization and appealed to parliament to take a harder stance on the PRC following a military buildup on the border similar to that in 1962.Additionally, China’s military aid to Pakistan as well is a matter of concern to the Indian public, as the two sides have engaged in various wars.
In October 2011, it was stated that India and China will formulate a border mechanism to handle different perceptions as to the LAC and resume the bilateral army exercises between Indian and Chinese army from early 2012.
In popular culture
- Vidyadhar Shastri wrote a Sanskrit poem Himadri Mahtyam to exhort Indians to defend the Himalaya
- Australian author Jon Cleary wrote a novel set at the time of the conflict, The Pulse of Danger (1966).
- A Hindi movie Haqeeqat (1964) and a Tamil movie Ratha Thilagam (1963) were based on events of the Sino-Indian war.
- On June 27, 1963, against the backdrop of the Sino-Indian War, Lata Mangeshkar sang the patriotic song Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon (literally, “Oh, the People of My Country”) in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India. The song, composed byC. Ramchandra and written by Pradeep, is said to have brought the Prime Minister to tears.
- Fisher, Margaret W.; Rose, Leo E.; Huttenback, Robert A. (1963). Himalayan Battleground: Sino-Indian Rivalry in Ladakh. Praeger – via Questia. (subscription required (help)).
- Himalayan Blunder by Brigadier John Dalvi. Natraj Publishers
- Calvin, James Barnard (April 1984). “The China-India Border War”. GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 2006-06-14.
- Lamb, Alastair (1964). The China-India Border: The Origins of the Disputed Boundaries. L. Oxford University Press.
- Neville Maxwell’s India’s China War, Pantheon Books, USA, 1971
- Gunnar Myrdal. Asian Drama; An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations. New York: Random House, 1968
- History of the Conflict with China, 1962. P.B. Sinha, A.A. Athale, with S.N. Prasad, chief editor, History Division, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, 1992. — Official Indian history of the Sino-Indian War.
- Allen S. Whiting. The Chinese Calculus of Deterrence: India and Indochina.
- The Sino-Indian Boundary Question [Enlarged Edition], Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1962
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