Sunday, October 21, 2012

The War that Should not have Happened

On Oct. 20, 1962, The People's Liberation Army moved into Indian territory in Ladakh and NEFA, starting ground operations in the ill-fated Sino-Indian War of 1962, which led to a humiliating defeat for India, an angry and disenchanted citizenry in Assam and a thorough review of India's Armed Forces. However, the seeds of the war were laid well before 1962 and the reasons for the loss were far beyond military.

The Question of Tibet
Following the occupation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China in 1950, India faced a difficult choice because it was the only other country in the region with access to the high plateau which was reinforced by a number of treaties between Tibet and British India, to which the Republic of India was a successor state. However, surprisingly, Prime Minister Nehru decided to accept Tibet as sovereign Chinese territory without expecting a quid quo pro from Mao. Further events, including the granting of asylum to the Dalai Lama, cemented China's mistrust for India.

The Sino-Indian War did not come about overnight - hectic diplomatic parleys continued for years previous. Negotiations between BK Nehru and his Chinese Counterparts, which fell through at Geneva, as well as Zhou Enlai's failed India visit were harbingers of the impending military action.

A Political Military
For reasons unknown, the Indian politico-bureaucracy had viewed the Indian Army as a troublesome legacy of colonialism and no real emphasis was laid on capacity building and modernization. Apart from the First Kashmir War and the Liberation of Goa, the Army was not really used much after World War II, despite its extensive experience. 

In addition, Defense Minister VK Krishna Menon continuously fed lies to the Cabinet and the country, exaggerating India's capabilities and refusing to acknowledge Chinese ones. This added meaningless bravado to the discourse, which ended in deadly consequences. Menon's ally in the Army - Gen.BM Kaul - worked to effectively reduce the forces in NEFA to mere observers, using them to build housing rather than capability.

The strategy of building forward posts even beyond India's territorial claims upto the McMohan Line, despite the lack of political objective or military capability in high mountains, proved to be disastrous and can be pin-pointed as the tactical cause of India's loss.

Two final actions ensured that India would face grave defeat. The first was the lack of diplomatic activity during the war, with the best that Nehru could come up with being a desperate letter to John F. Kennedy asking for help. Apparently, for all his love and respect for them, Nehru's Soviet friends chose to keep out of this and concentrate on the Cuban Missile Crisis instead. Of course, a complete lack of allies otherwise did not help. And finally, Nehru's speech " heart goes out to the people of Assam" eroded all confidence within the country itself and alienated the loyal citizens of the region.

So many mistakes, so many regrets. The Sino-Indian War served as warning to Indian military planners - buck up, for the worst is always yet to come.

1 comment:

Capt. Ajit Vadakayil said...

There is more to all this than meets the eye.
Know the naked truth. We must NOT make the same mistakes again.
Be shocked!
Capt ajit vadakayil