Neville Maxwell, author of â€˜Indiaâ€™s China Warâ€™, is now a visiting fellow at the Contemporary China Centre, Australian National University Night of November 19 The recent flurry of revived interest in the events and actions that marked November 20, 1962 as what the American ambassador in his diary called â€œthe day of ultimate panic in Delhiâ€ showed the Indian political elite at its very worst, wallowing in self-imposed ignorance, lyrical in declarations of loyalty to the sanctified memory of Nehru, intent only on fortifying the falsification of history. They all turned out: the â€œsenior journalistsâ€ who have never forgotten the bitter humiliation that, as cub reporters, they savoured that day; the â€œstrategic specialistsâ€ whose worldview is dazzled by stars (and stripes); the retired diplomats who have never reappraised the veneration that in the adolescence of their careers blinded them to the nationally injurious faults and follies of their minister.All the events of that day have been open and detailed on the public record for decades but still have not penetrated into the Indian public consciousness, so effective has been the governmentâ€™s myth-making and the eliteâ€™s eagerness to endorse and embellish it.It was the day Nehruâ€™s China policy reached its ineluctable crisis. The curtain had gone up on the final act a few days before, with the news that the Indian troops which had been on the offensive in Walong, at the eastern end of the McMahon sector of the border, had been thrown back into headlong retreat. For weeks the political public had been excitedly relishing a â€œphoney warâ€. The shock of the first Chinese blow, with the wiping-out of Brigadier Dalviâ€™s 7 Brigade beneath Thaga La Ridge and the fall of Tawang, had been soothed with the mendacious spin of â€œunprovoked aggression, surprise attackâ€. Daily headlines had brought bromides about major Indian advances against the weakening Chinese. Prime Minister Nehru posed as a figure of calm Churchillian resolution. Small wonder that Indian commanders at Walong had thought it a gracious gesture to garland his birthday with a victory by ordering troops into a rash attack on a strong Chinese position.The most senior of the commanders involved in the squalid â€œbirthday attackâ€ was General Kaul, an officer promoted far beyond his capability by the decades-long favouritism of the prime minister, and now, as the latterâ€™s privy military adviser, to play a key role in the developing tragi-farcical drama. Flitting ineffectively about the battle zone in a helicopter, from Walong he sent this breathless signal to GHQ in Delhi: â€œIt is now my duty to urge that the enemy thrust is now so great and his overall strength is so superior that you should ask the higher authorities to get such fresh foreign armed forces to come to our aid as are willing to do so, without which, as I have said before and which I now reiterate, it seems beyond the capacity of our armed forces to stem the tide of the superior Chinese forces which he has and will continue to concentrate against us to our disadvantage.â€This was not the first time Kaul had broached the idea of bringing allied expeditionary forces into India. From his sick-bed in Delhi some days before he had urged the cabinet secretary, Khera, that â€œsome foreign armies should be invited to come and assist the Indian army to mount a major offensive over the Himalayasâ€. The Americans should â€œunleashâ€ Chiang Kai-shek to invade China from Taiwan, with the South Koreans opening a second front. In India 10 new divisions should be raised, and all national military and economic efforts should be concentrated under (by implication) his supreme command.There was the sort of thinking that directly or by osmosis became Nehruâ€™s on the night of November 19/20 when the prime minister, learning of the rout of Indian forces in the Northeast, authorised the dispatch of two successive personal appeals to President Kennedy for immediate American intervention. The messages were panic-stricken, wholly unrealistic, garnished with fake technical details â€” he sought a â€œminimum of 12 squadrons of supersonic all-weather fightersâ€, crewed, necessarily, by American pilots. These calls for, in effect, an Indo-American alliance in war on China were at the best demi-official. They were issued without any consultation with the cabinet or even with the informal military-civilian grouping Nehru had recently set up to consider the China confrontation. Even his own Ministry of External Affairs was not informed about Indiaâ€™s clandestine, even furtive, policy reversal, the original texts were kept in the prime ministerâ€™s secretariat, not copied to the ministry.What Kennedy, wrestling by then with his own fateful Cuban Missile Crisisâ€™s threat of all-out nuclear war with the USSR, thought about Nehruâ€™s cries for help is not on the record. The Indian ambassadorâ€™s is: the humiliation of having to deliver the second letter to the White House, a few hours after the first, brought him, he recorded in his memoirs, to the brink of tears.Kennedy told Sudhir Ghosh, a visiting Lok Sabha member, about the letters soon after he received them, but off the record, and Ghosh kept silent; they became public knowledge only in December 1964 when the White House, by then President Johnsonâ€™s, leaked them to the Washington correspondent of The Times. His report was not noted in India, or was ignored anyway. But Ghosh must have seen in it licence for him to tell his story, and did so in March 1965. He met denials and accusations of treachery to the memory of Nehru â€” and the tone of the recent discussion shows that little has changed since then.But it is the background assumption of Indian innocence in all the discussion of the 1962 events that is so depressing. The Indian elite still denies the basic ABC of the Sino-Indian confrontation. A: India was the aggressor, having been, since the launching of the â€œForward Policyâ€ nearly two years before, using armed force to make good Nehruâ€™s territorial claims. B: A few weeks before Nehru had publicly proclaimed the intention directly to attack and evict the Chinese from positions they had taken up to the north of the McMahon Line. C: China had no alternative but to â€œget its retaliation in firstâ€, and its resort to counter-force was measured, proportionate and aimed at pacification and a diplomatic settlement, not territorial aggrandisement.