Intro : The RSS call to learn lessons from 1962 China War holds key significance as both the potential states are rising and thriving hard to move outwards.
The 1962 war with China stands one of the most debated subjects in Indian public discourse at three different levels that include academia, defense strategy and public affairs. The last include both politicians and awaken citizenry in their analysis of ‘pros and cons’ of India- China war in 1962. The affect of this war can be drawn from the fact that even after three decades of this ‘unfortunate incident’, Pokhran Nuclear tests in 1998 under Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led NDA regime were diplomatically positioned as a deterrent against China with then Defense Minister referring to China as a potential threat. Considerably lot has changed for the positive side of bilateral relations between Indian and China. However, 1962 war still holds the continuum between both the states along with long standing unresolved border dispute.
The recent debate on 1962 War draws from the call by RSS to include lessons learnt from this incident that still haunts the Indian minds and remains most politically salience matter of post independence Indian history. The analysis of 1962 war reveals sincere mismanagement and poor foresight on behalf of national leadership led by Nehru, absence of cohesive military strategy and poor level of defense preparedness from the India side.
The recent push from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for learning from 1962 war holds importance for some basic reasons. Firstly, the timing of the war was crucial from strategic point of view. The two global powers of the time US and Soviet Republic were involved in Cuban Missile crisis of 1962 and China too was facing a domestic upheaval. PB Sinha (History of Conflict with China, 1992) 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. The war perhaps was a diversion strategy by Mao to shift away the focus from domestic famine, rising chaos under Great Leap forward campaign and to undermine opponent’s voices with in party led by Chinese Communists Party such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Taking from this, one could possibly draw a convergence with Pakistan’s policy to India when rising domestic concerns and state failure is dissolved under the phenomenon of threat from India.
Secondly, the 1962 war was a critical intelligence and military failure from India side. It also marked leadership failure to identify and act timely when news regarding Chinese movements in Aksai Chin, were reported for the first time by the newspaper, The Statesman, on 17 November 1950. Nehruvian idealism failed to pass off the realist assertions from Chinese side reflecting poor show of ideological arrogance. In fact, in September 1962, as war clouds were building up, members of the Defence Committee of Cabinet (DCC) were outside the country. According Military Intelligence assessment Chinese military was not capable enough “to sustain any major drive across the great land barrier.
Thirdly, the war too had message of sacrifice and valour from India side in times of distress. The stories of the war have almost become folktales in border lands and for the Indian soldiers it was a two-pronged war: against the enemy and the hostile terrain and the biting cold. No doubt history has moved ahead since 1962, but the incident is no less salience to be written off easily from our minds. And as potential economic and military capabilities with rising outwards expansion both Indian and China cannot ignore lessons that to be learnt from 1962 war.
Abhishek Pratap Singh (The writer is Doctoral Candidate, School of International studies, CEAS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)