There is much that is not commonly known about the shocking aspects of the 1962 India-China War, so shocking indeed that S Gopal, Nehru's official biographer, was constrained to comment: “Things went so wrong that had they not happened it would have been difficult to believe them.” The Henderson-Brooks report covered only the limited aspects their authors were tasked with. The book “Foundations of Misery” by Rajnikant Puranik in its chapter “Himalayan Misadventure” details all the aspects of that avoidable war. We are serialising that chapter.
However, that is not the issue. All countries have their own selfish motives. Are we saying that if others happen to be rogues, we would fall prey to them? Should India’s security be dependent upon the good behaviour of its neighbours? The question is why was India not smart enough to protect its own interests. Why did India provide China with an excuse? Why India acted foolish?
China was as suspicious about India’s intentions, as India was about China’s. Each side felt that the other was encroaching upon its territory. Henry Kissinger in his book, On China, writes: “Mao commented on Nehru’s Forward Policy with one of his epigrams: ‘A person sleeping in a comfortable bed is not easily aroused by someone else’s snoring.’ In other words, Chinese forces in the Himalayas had been too passive in responding to India’s Forward Policy—which, in the Chinese perception, was taking place on Chinese soil. (That, of course was the essence of the dispute: each side argued that its adversary had ventured on its own soil.)” It appears that China, on its part, felt that it was being forced into war. Henry Kissinger further quotes Mao: “Since Nehru sticks his head out and insists on us fighting him, for us not to fight with him would not be friendly enough. Courtesy emphasises reciprocity.”
Once China sensed that armed confrontation might be unavoidable, writes Kissinger further “…it triggered the familiar Chinese style of dealing with strategic decisions: thorough analysis; careful preparation; attention to psychological and political factors; quest for surprise; and rapid conclusion.”
Contrast this with India’s preparation! China had invested heavily in building up its armed forces for possible armed conflicts on four fronts: anticipated attack by Taiwan, backed by US; South Korea; Tibet and lastly India. By 1962, China had a first-class army well prepared for any eventuality.
Besides, they had excellent intelligence set up. They practically knew all the moves of the Indian army. Indian intelligence, on the other hand, was blissfully ignorant on almost all aspects of the Chinese political and military strategy, behaved ostrich-like in the manner of their masters, Nehru-Menon, and even believed in the Nehru-Menon gospel: “China won’t attack, even if we play our forward policy chess games and associated pranks.”
Analysis and Persons Responsible
The Guilty Men
Nehru was, without doubt, the principal person responsible for the major failures that proved very costly for India: (1)allowing Tibet to be erased as a nation—without registering protest; (2)not ensuring a peaceful, negotiated border settlement with China despite (a)an overlong comfortable timeline of over a decade to settle it, (b)a spate of golden opportunities that presented themselves like the occasion of signing of the Panchsheel or his visit to China or the numerous visits of Zhou Enlai to India, (c)willingness of China to reach a negotiated settlement, and (d)even initiatives by China in that direction—ignored or soft-pedalled by India; (3)neglect of military requirements and external security, and politicisation (jointly with Krishna Menon) of the army; (4)implementation of the harebrained forward policy without appreciating what it could lead to; (5)being undemocratic and dictatorial in (a)not involving others in the decision making process, (b)not letting the parliament and the public know the truth on the border issues, and (c)misleading the parliament, the media and the public at large on many vital aspects; (6)the pathetic debacle in the war; and (7)not ensuring the boundary question was settled during his lifetime, even after the war, when China was willing to discuss it.
Next to Nehru, but much below him, the person most responsible for the rout was Krishna Menon. Of course, if, for the blame, Nehru was at number 1, Krishna Menon came at number 11, there being none in-between. Krishna Menon was only a protégé of Nehru, with no standing of his own, and he could not have done anything that Nehru didn’t want. Writes Kuldip Nayar in Beyond the Lines: “I once asked why he [Krishna Menon] didn’t tell his side of the story. He said: ‘My story must die with me because I would have to lay the blame on Nehru, and I do not want to do so because of my loyalty to him.’”
-Rajnikant Puranik (www.rkpbooks.com, www.facebook.com/fom.p1, rajnikantp.blogspot.in, twitter.com/Rajnikant_rkp, [email protected]).