Has the World Learned something from the "Himalayan Blunder"? – A Non-Indian Perspect

Discussion in 'China' started by Tim, Apr 16, 2010.

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  1. Tim

    Tim New Member

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    This article is dedicated to those heroic Chinese and Indian soldiers who fought and died for their countries

    April 1, 2010 marked the 60's anniversary of the establishment of a diplomatic relationship between India and China. What little festive mood that existed in the routine exchanges of congratulatory telegrams and India's foreign minister's visit to China seemed to be overshadowed by the lingering bitterness from the brief but bloody boarder war 48 years ago. The war that occurred during October and November of 1962 ended with a total Chinese victory. The Indian Defense Ministry figures put Indian casualties at 1,383 deaths, 1,696 missing in action, and 3,968 captured. Though no official figures are available for Chinese casualties, unofficial estimates suggest about 700 Chinese soldiers were killed but no Chinese soldier was captured. The Chinese leadership led by Mao made a painful decision to counter attack India's encroachment at the boarder, with an aim to achieve "30 years' peace" at the Sino-Indo boarder. 48 years later, aside from occasional skirmishes, the boarder has remained largely peaceful. However, despite the apparent tranquility, a scratch below the surface would reveal that the root cause for the conflict remains unsolved. The two countries not only have not made any progress in resolving the boarder dispute, but also find themselves in total disagreement as to the cause of the war and lessons that can be learned from it.

    Just how did the boarder skirmishes evolve into a full-blown bloody war? The fact that the two sides have completely different interpretations is not surprising. No country would like to admit it itself is responsible for triggering a war. India's official line is, and indeed many Indians firmly believe, that it is China that deceived and betrayed India, despite the help that India extended to China in its joining of the United Nations and non-alliance movement. Nehru failed to see China's invasive nature and was being completely naïve trying to stick to the Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (India-China brotherhood) motto. On the other hand, China maintains that it has never recognized the McMahon line which India's former British colonial rulers forced onto China. The Chinese self defense was a result of India's continuous encroachment on the boarder, and the purpose was not to solve the dispute through force, but rather to bring India to the negotiation table. So, where did the truth lie? And what can India and China, as well as the rest of the world, can learn from the truth?

    British correspondent Neville Maxwell's 1970 book "India's China War" provides a comprehensive and objective account of the war.

    Born in Australia, Maxwell was a Delhi-based correspondent for the British paper "Times" at the time of the war. He filed a series of reports during the war which drew a rather different picture from those depicted by other mainstreamed western media, which invariably took the side of India's line. He pointed out that that the Chinese had always wanted a negotiation and it was India which refused and took a reckless "forward" policy, encroaching into the northern disputed territory. After the war, he spent a few years researching British and Indian historical archives and India government's war records and documents. Particularly, he was secretly granted an access to an investigative report of the war commissioned by the Indian government. The report was prepared by an Anglo-Indian Major-General General Henderson Brooks and another Brigadier P.S. Bhagat. The report was completed in 1963, and almost immediately after its turnover to Nehru and several of his ministers, the report was classified as "top secret". As of today, the report is still lying around somewhere in the archives of India's Defense Ministry gathering dust. The reason is that the report apparently laid the blame squarely on Nehru and his clan for the ill preparedness before the war and the subsequent spectacular debacle for the Indian army. Two of his clan members that received recrimination were the then defense minister Krishna Menon and the IV Corp commander General B.M. Kaul, who apparently was a supplier officer and had no battlefield experience before he was handpicked for the position by Nehru himself.

    There are two fundamental views in the book that are extremely condemning for the self-righteous psyche of the Indian government, army, and the general public. This is why many Indian readers till today still hold the view that Maxwell was biased against India and his book has completely adopted the Chinese version of the story. However, this accusation appears to be ironic and biased itself since the entire book is either based on Indian or western records and there is nothing adopted from the Chinese government, which has published very little about the events and the war itself.

    View #1: It is the Indian government, namely Nehru and his clique, with its foolish and arrogant "forward" policy, which turned a boarder dispute into a full-blown bloody war.

    In the eastern sector, India took the opportunity that China was busy with the Korean war to send its troops to occupy the territory south of the McMahon line, approximately 90,000 square kilometers, which China called "southern Tibet" and India called the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA). In the western sector, even the Macartney-MacDonald line drawn by the British left the Karakash Valley and almost all of Aksai Chin proper to China. However, when India found out that China had built a highway in the area linking Xinjiang and Tibet, India claimed the highway was on its territory, and started sending troops to build posts far deep into this area. Some of the posts were even behind Chinese posts. The reason that Nehru behaved in such a way was his belief that no matter how much he pushed with his infamous "forward" policy, China neither had the will nor the capability to fight back. The naïve belief was apparently based on two misjudgments. One was that India was one of the founding members of the non-alliance movement and Nehru enjoyed a high personal fame among virtually all of the third world countries and the big powers such as the Soviet, US and other western countries. India was often invited as a moderator for international conflicts. How could China even think about using force against such a pacifist India. The second misjudgment was that China was in a severe domestic political turmoil and its economy was nearing total collapse. Its military had probably lost its fighting will and power. (After the war this theory has evolved into something like Mao needed the war to divert people's attention from China's domestic turmoil and reestablish himself as the undisputed leader within the Chinese leadership.) In contrast India just liberated Goa from the Portuguese almost effortlessly. Nehru told his parliament: "at no time since our independence, and of course before it, were our defense forces in better condition, in finer fettle, … than they are today."

    Once Nehru has decided that China would not dare to fight back, the best strategy for him is obvious: all actions no talk—continuously converting what the British laid on the map secretly (with the Tibetan local government at the back of the Chinese central government) into ground reality. During this time Chou repeatedly requested talks and even went as far as hinting that China would accept the McMahon line in exchange for peace in the western sector and the entire boarder. Nonetheless, Nehru, facing increasing pressure from the parliament and the general public, refused to talk and insisted on telling his troop to "evict the Chinese from India's territory". Although in 1960 Nehru finally bowed to the world pressure to let Chou come to New Delhi, during the "negotiation", he insisted that the boarder has been properly demarcated and there is really nothing to discuss. Any discussion would have to be "minor adjustments" and even that would have to be done "after the Chinese troops withdrew from the Indian territory". As soon as Chou's plane departed, he accused China of occupying India's territory.

    View #2: Nehru and his clan were as militarily incompetent as politically naïve.
    They were no matches for Mao and his revolutionary comrades who had fought hundreds of battles to come to the position. Once the Chinese realized that war was inevitable, they were not going to sit still and wait to be killed. China unilaterally withdrew 20 kilometers to the north of the actual line of control and started preparing for the looming war by moving troops and supplies to the boarder areas. It was determined to take control of the inevitable war and that included deciding when and where the war would be fought and the purpose and scale of the war. Once again the Indians interpreted the Chinese withdrawal as a sign of weakness and continued its "forward" policy. The situation became more and more absurd—as Indians built more posts deep into the Chinese controlled areas, the Chinese would build posts around the Indian posts but usually left an escape path for Indians to return to where they came from. Supplies became a problem for the Indians and they had to rely on air lifts. However only about 30% air dropped supplies reached the targets and the rest was lost. As a result, many Indian soldiers had no winter clothes and did not even have enough ammunitions.

    There were other reasons for the Chinese landslide victory, not least were the well disciplined and brave Chinese soldiers and experienced generals whose surprise and divide-and-kill tactics worked beyond their best hope. China also had the advantage of higher ground, allowing easier attacks and making best use of their weapons. Indian writing on the war tactics tended to emphasize that China employed a massive number of men. In fact the total numbers of soldiers from both sides were roughly equal, about 20,000. But Mao's teachings to concentrate maximum amount of power for each battle to ensure total victory had once again proved a superior strategy against a much slower moving enemy.

    Google the bood and read it yourself. It's short and well written.

    So can the world learn from this episode of history? As the say goes, those who don’t learn from the history are condemned to repeat it.

    What could India learn from it?

    Today, when discussing about the war and lessons learned, most Indians, including politicians, intellectuals, soldiers, and the general public have confined their discussion at the tactic level: why India lost the war, how would India will the next war with China, and here is my all time favorite, what if India had won the war (e.g., Tibet would have been 'liberated' by India). They would rather believe that it is the evil Chinese, somehow out of sheer greed for Indian territory, deceived and attacked the kind and pacifist Indians. The only reason that India lost the war is Nehru—his political naivety and his military incompetence. This thinking is temporally soothing for the wounds that the war has inflicted on the Indian pride and uniting the Indians against a common enemy. But at the same time it is also nurturing a national paranoia towards China.

    The analyses often ignored a vital question: could the war have been avoided while India would still get what it wanted? Why the war at all? The Chinese remembered the master strategist Sun Tse's teaching more than 2000 years ago. Above any other war strategies and tactics, he wrote: "A war is always big event for any country; it determines life or death, and prosperity or destruction, and cannot be taken lightly." The Chinese were ready to give up the claims in the eastern sector and recognize the McMahon line. This would mean that China would lose the 90,000 square kilometers fertile land in what was "southern Tibet", as long as India gave up the claim for the 30,000 no-man's land in the western sector. China has built highway in the area that links Xinjiang and Tibet and had no room for comprise. For India, on the other hand, this area not only had no strategic significance (as it leads to no where), but is also indefensible. For southern Tibet area (or NEFA), India only occupied Tawang in 1951, throwing out the Tibetan local administrators. Completely pre-occupied with the Korean war, China not only did not counter attack the Indian invasion, it did not even register a protest as we so often hear about these days from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Chinese were programmatic. Although they talked about refusing to accept the boundaries imposed by the colonial rulers, they fully recognized that China was not capable of engaging a long lasting boarder wars with its major neighbors. In the north, China had completely accept the fact that Russia ceded 1,500,000 square kilometers of land from its map in the 19th century and was ready to do the same with India if India was willing to make compromise of its own.

    Nehru had a different idea. He would not dare to negotiate with the Chinese since any negotiation would imply give and take. Nehru made such a devil aggressor out of China from the beginning and any negotiation with the "aggressor" would suggest weakness on his side. This would not make a good politics in the noisy India-styled democracy. He continued to tell the country that India's military was in the best ever fighting form. He slowly but surely pinned himself to the corner and left no options but kept on pushing his "forward" policy while praying that China would not counter attack. The events that followed proved his strategy disastrous. Not only the debacle destroyed his God-like statue in India and hastened his death, India also paid heavy price with lives and missed opportunities to get the Chinese to accept the McMahon line. It is much more difficult to achieve that with the present and future Chinese governments with the increasing openness of Chinese media and internet access. The government would find much more difficult to make concessionary treaties on territory with foreign governments. The debacle also had a devastating impact on India's national pride and possibly on the country's development model. India's influence and moral authorities on the international stage collapsed and have never resumed to the pre-1962 level.

    What could China learn from it?

    Throughout the border dispute from 1959 to 1962, China was in a passive posture, although it regained control through military struggle at the later stage. One could characterize this as "strategically reactive but tactically preemptive". It was not a product of deliberate strategy but of the passive and modest nature of the Chinese culture. At the beginning of the conflict India firmly controlled the agenda by initiating all the moves, both militarily and in the war of words, and all China could do was to react. With their eloquent and fluent old-styled English (sometimes better spoken than English themselves could), the Indians were winning the media war hands down and easily convinced the rest of the world that India was being victimized. This was partly because of the fear and hatred against a communist China, and virtually all the major world powers (including the Soviet) invariably took the side with India. The Chinese passiveness was only changed when they realized that a war was unavoidable, and the only way to regain control was to launch a surprise and preemptive attack. The Indians cried that China launched a Himalayan version of the Pearl Harbor attack but they should have thought about that when building their posts behind the Chinese lines against repeated warnings.

    For the Chinese, the fact that they were the victim but were wronged by everyone in the world for being a bully was indeed frustrating, to say the least. This trend has continued unabated till today in Chinese dealings with foreign powers. Therefore, first, China must learn to speak a language that can be understood by others, and I don’t mean merely speaking fluent English. China often tries to appeal others' emotional feelings "begging" others not to hurt the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese. This is a weak argument on two accounts. First, the world particularly the west believes in "reasoning" and "law", and not "feelings". Second, it cannot be ruled out that some in the world would love to "hurt" others' feelings if they have something to gain. Another lesson that China can learn is to take proactive actions and let your opponents follow your agenda. This would also create rooms for compromises during negotiation. If you gain two steps, and you take a step back during negotiation, your net gain is still one step. In China's case, it is always being squeezed so hard that every step back represents a net loss. In this aspect, China can learn a lot from the Americans, who are masters of this strategy in dealing with China.

    What could the rest of the world learn from it?

    It needs to be recognized that interest, rather than sense of right or wrong, justice or otherwise, that determine the state-to-state relations. The Anglo-American support for India's stand was to be expected as they shared similar ideological values and the British as the formal colonial masters were also responsible for creating the mess. The Russian's reaction was more ambivalent and typical "Russian". As the big brother of the socialist camp, one would expect that it would support China. Krushchev, however, started by accusing China of triggering the dispute. When the war started, which coincided with the Cuban missile crisis (some believed that China deliberately timed the attack this way so that neither US nor the Soviets had the energy to intervene), Russia felt that it would need the support of China. Pravda published an editorial to send a clear message that Russia was supporting China's stance. Nehru was upset, but he knew Krushchev was under pressure and remarked: once the missile crisis was over, Russia would come back to its former position (of supporting India). He was right. As soon as the crisis is over, Moscow immediately urged both sides to sit down to negotiate, ignoring the fact that was what China wanted all along.

    Given that each country has its own interest to protect, the policy held by many countries to oppose everything that China stands is not only unjust, but is also hurting these countries' own long-term interest. The traditional Chinese culture dictates that China would not attack anybody unless it is attacked first. But don’t interpret this as a sign of weakness. When and if China attacks it would not be a pretty sight for the enemy. India learned it hard way. Many countries are still adopting the same policy with China when it comes to issues related to Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. In their view, Taiwan's Chuan Shui-Bian, the former democratically elected leader, is a human right fighter and peace lover, Dalai Lama is a kind religious leader, and Rebiya Kadeer (a political activist from the northwest region of Xinjiang currently in exile) is loving and sincere. How could they do anything bad other than defend their own people. It must be the evil Chinese government who is the "bad guy". The western media and politicians all have something to gain from demonizing the Chinese government. But demonizing China cannot hide the fact that Chen Shui-Bian have stolen millions of dollars from Taiwan people and is now in jail on corruption charges. Dalai Lama, despite its kind smiles and nice warm images, was the largest slave owner in Tibet and received millions of dollars from CIA and western supports for his anti-China activities. Rebiya is supporting terrorist activities in Xinjiang. Similarly, despite his gentle image, Nehru's arrogance and naivety cost thousands of lives.

    Conclusion
    I would like to conclude this by quoting Maxwell, who wrote in his 2001 article which urged the India government to declassify the Henderson Brooks report: "The report includes no surprises and its publication would be of little significance but for the fact that so many in India still cling to the soothing fantasy of a 1962 Chinese "aggression". Wrong understanding of the facts will lead to learning wrong lessons. If India wants to learn the right lesson, it should start by facing the history. Declassify the Henderson Brooks report! In transparency and information openness, a democratic India should set a good example for a "totalitarian" China.
     
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  3. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Statemen, unlike politicians, need to take seemingly unpopular actions...sometimes, like Charles de Gaulle, Winston Chuchill...
     
  4. nitesh

    nitesh Mob Control Manager Stars and Ambassadors

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    The thread is started without providing link to the article if the link is not provided the thread will be deleted
     
  5. Tim

    Tim New Member

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    The reason is did not provide the link is this site somehow did allow me to do that. Don't know why. The book is viewable on centurychina.com.
     
  6. nitesh

    nitesh Mob Control Manager Stars and Ambassadors

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    Well then we can not allow to continue this thread. Closed
    If you have some query contact staff
     
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