A defence perspective
India-China detente possible?
By Brig Dr BD Mishra
On October 20, 1962, China launched a full-fledged attack against India across the Himalayas in NEFA and Ladakh regions. The whole country went into a state of despair as the Indian border posts started falling one after the other against the Chinese onslaught. Chinese had assiduously conceived, planned and executed this attack. They had made detailed and long preparations for this attack but had kept their intentions, very carefully, under thick veils of secrecy. This was an unprovoked invasion by China on India albeit the Chinese blamed it on the Nehruvian Border Policy of “Forward Posture”. This attack completely nonplussed the then Defence Minister of India VK Krishna Menon, a person of clear leftist leaning.
Paradoxically, the then Prime Minister of India, Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, considered the Chinese Premiere Zhou en Lai, who had masterminded and ordered the attack, as a friend of India. Most shocked, surprised and unnerved, from this attack, thus, was no one other than Pt Nehru himself. This was the era of Panchsheel, “peaceful co-existence between the nations” a brainchild of Pt Nehru. His untold ambition for Nobel Peace Prize deeply influenced him to perceive no danger from India’s neighbours. In his diplomatic wisdom, he coined the phrase “Hindi Chini–Bhai Bhai” with a view to foster close neighbourly ties between India and China. Ironically, this was the slogan, which the Chinese soldiers used as their war cry during the assaults on the Indian posts.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Indian Army in 1962 was least prepared to face the human wave tactics of the Chinese across the McMahon Line. The foremost reason for the unpreparedness of the Indian Army was the belief of the then Indian top political leadership that the wars were not likely in the civilised contemporary world. Ipso facto, military preparedness of the country remained neglected at the cost of our national honour and sovereignty. Indian armed forces were neither equipped nor prepared to fight in Himalayas. Outdated weapon system, Second World War vintage equipment, clothing, and absence of tactical defence doctrine to thwart an aggression became their lot.
China’s present Communist regime came to power approximately two years later than our Independence from the British rule. Both the countries started their march with large impoverished population and moderate rural agrarian economy. Both the countries had great challenges and problems of being under developed. Nevertheless, they adopted totally opposite routes of administration.
China started with the dictatorship of proletariat while India adopted democratic model of adult franchise and human suffrage. While Chinese believed in the dictum, “power flows out of the barrel of the gun” the Indians believed in peace and civility as the key factors in the progress of the nation. Today as the two countries stand in their military and economic strength, China is way ahead of India. Chinese have the largest standing army in the world. They have organised their Army on very effective regional and territorial patterns. Chinese defense production is picking up fast and they are almost self sufficient in their weapon and equipment requirement. Their Military infrastructure is very sound with extremely good border roads network and staging facilities. Their military mobility is very efficient. They are developing their blue water Navy and aircraft carriers. Chinese are phasing out their obsolete combat aircraft fleets and modernising their air force. They have effective nuclear deterrence. Their nuclear missiles and nuclear delivery system are now well advanced.
Chinese trade and commerce are making dents world over. Their trade balance in the global market is extremely favourable and runs in trillions of dollars. Chinese industry and infrastructure are well honed to support the Chinese armed forces. The Chinese leadership is working with single motive of making China the world’s strongest and wealthiest nation.
India, however, has not been able to keep pace with China in military, industrial and infrastructural development. We are still not self-sufficient in defence production. The deterioration of internal security is causing great concern to our government. Our nuclear deterrence is far less credible than that of China. Up gradation of our naval and air force, capabilities are long over due. Infrastructure wise we are still struggling to complete our Golden Quadrangle Road Network, which we started a decade ago. Our industries still suffer from political upheavals and unbridled labour unionism. We need to cover a long distance to match the Chinese military and economic progress.
Chinese as a nation are not well disposed towards India. Chinese leadership would always want India to remain weak and politically and economically destabilised. Chinese would also want India to be isolated and threatened. Chinese have, thus, all along supported Pakistan to the detriment of Indian interest. This should be a great cause of worry for our leadership. It is high time that the Indian political leadership takes the security threat, which China poses against us, seriously. India must beef up its military capability in all three configurations: ground, sea, and air. Equally, there is an urgent need to stabilize internal security and thwart any nefarious design, which our less friendly neighbours may have against us.
Let India not suffer another 1962 episode in its history.