Recollections of the Se la Bomdila Debacle 1962: A Chinese Perspective

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  1. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    Recollections of the Se la Bomdila Debacle 1962

    Indians would have never discussed anything as much as its war with China in 1962 yet it has not lost its interest. It will not be wrong to say that no aspect remains to be written. But, even after being written in the same mould this book is going to stand apart. This book has what was missing since last 50 years from the 1962-the Chinese side of the story of the war. The biggest attraction is the two chapters which have been translated from the Chinese language into English for the Indian readers.

    This book is the story of the 62 Brigade which was located at Se La and was under the command of the one of the most gallant commander of the Indian Army, Brigadier Hoshiar Singh. The writer has penned down his own memory of the battle and they contain the precise details as he held the post of a Brigade Major, Staff Officer of the Brigade Commander for all operational matters. Apart from writing his own experience the writer has given the Chinese story of the same area and same operations. In order to get the Chinese side of the story the writer went to Beijing and did his research and met some Chinese scholars who had knowledge of this conflict. The writer has got insights from Professor Yan Xun of the Academy of Military Sciences of National Defence University who authored the book ‘True History of China India War’.

    One of the famous spots on the way to Tawang is the Jaswant Garh named after one of the gallant martyr of the 4th Unit of the Garwal Regiment which was part of this Brigade during the war. The photographs, uniform, identity card is still kept in the temple along with his other belongings. The readers will get to know the brave acts of the unit in detail. Interestingly, the Indian Army has maintained a grave of the Chinese Soldiers on the side of this temple and has been paid respect with a display there which reads ‘They also fought for their country’. The details of the operation at this spot are given in detail.

    The battle for Se La and Bomdila had lasted for 20 day which was because it was equally important for the aggressor and the aggressed. The Chinese describing the war have written that the effective results were achieved due to resolute determinations, quick deployment and a philosophy of deep penetration and our flanking tactics covering long distances. Indian story was one of fragmented leadership, bad preparations and lack of foresight. Yet there were pockets of display of astute and brave leadership.

    It is the first Indian Book which contains the English translation of the war details as written by the Chinese. Post 1962 debacle it is the first time that we have got to read the Chinese side of the war.

    This makes the book important for the people interested to know more about the 1962 war. It goes to describe each and every approach and route taken by the Peoples Liberation Army. The most important aspect which stands out is the details of the Indian Territory and Army which was appropriated by the Chinese. The details include the terrain description, the description of the units and their locations.

    The readers will get to know factors which led to the victory of the Chinese army apart from getting to know the follies and weaknesses of the Indian side. Giving the details of the ‘casualties of the Chinese Border Defence Forces were 225 killed in action, (27 Officers, 198 men) and 477 wounded (46 officers, 431 others). It also describes the circumstances in which Brigadier Hoshiar Singh was martyred. The book is description of what transpired in the Area where 4th Division of the Indian Army was operating of which this 62 Brigade was a part. Hence it does not have the portions of the details of other sectors.

    The writer has described the terrain and the consequent tactical postures and moves which were adopted by both the Indian and Chinese armies.

    Both the countries keep confronting one another on the various issues like Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, McMahon Line, Brahmaputra River, Visa denial and so many other issues. No one can deny that both the countries have marched forward yet they are pegged with the past. While it is important to study the past but it is equally important to get out of the past so that it does not impinge upon the growth and progress of the two great nations of the world. This book will be a good addition in the readers’ collection.

    Recollections of the Se la Bomdila Debacle 1962 - Mayank Singh - The Sunday Indian
     
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  3. Hari Sud

    Hari Sud Senior Member Senior Member

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    Re: Recollections of the Se la Bomdila Debacle 1962: A Chinese Perspec

    What is there to write about Sela-Bomdila, Indian rout.

    It was a classic case of Chinese having first hand knowledge of foot trails and terrain of the area, whereas all Indian commanders including Hoshiar Singh were new to the area. They forgot to guard the back door of Bailey Trail and other trails of the area.

    Well the Chinese bypassed the fixed defences and surrounded the Indians on their fortresses of Sela and also Bomdila.

    That is when (not in the Indian soldiers) but the commanders panicked and ordered a withdrawal. The rout then began. Even at that time they did not know that they have been surrounded.

    Had Brigadier Hoshiar Singh not abandoned SELA pass and waited for the Chinese to come. it would be a different story today. It is the Chinese who would be starved of supplies and surrendering to the Indian troops in -20 degree centigrade temperature in October-November
     
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  4. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    Re: Recollections of the Se la Bomdila Debacle 1962: A Chinese Perspec

    1962-Himalayan blunder

    'War forced on China'

    No account of India-China war is complete without an interview with Neville Maxwell, a British journalist who has also authored a seminal book on the conflict

    Are India-China relations still frozen in 1962?

    India-China relations have developed intensively in every area since 1962 — except one, the border issue.

    Do you think India has not changed its approach towards the boundary issue in the last 50 years?

    Every Indian government since Jawaharlal Nehru formulated this policy has sustained his obdurate refusal to submit Indian territorial claims to the internationally accepted procedure of boundary settlement — diplomatic negotiations. (All China's other neighbours have amicably settled their borders in this way.)

    Was the India-China war avoidable? What, according to you is the most important event which had cast the die for 1962 war?

    The border war of 1962 was not only avoidable, it was forced upon China when the Indian Army was ordered to attack Chinese positions on Thagla Ridge, a commanding feature on the Chinese side of the McMahon Line at its western extremity, and Nehru announced that decision to the world. China's pre-emptive attack was justifiable under the international legal principle of "anticipatory self-defence".

    What is your solution to the India-China border problem?

    India should accept the long-standing Chinese proposal for opening formal border negotiations, which would involve both sides' accepting that their declared territorial claims are open to compromise. As Nehru himself made clear, "negotiations" are wholly different from the sterile "talks" in which he, and all his successors, have persistently engaged the Chinese government.


    In Tawang's cool breeze, the swaying flame of the lamp at the war memorial remains a mere memory of a terrible skirmish here in September-October 1962, when for the first time in history, the national armies of India and China met and fought. It turned out to be a sordid tale of India's pusillanimity, the inability of its political class to grasp the underpinnings of higher war and the time-tested Indian failing of the leadership not being in touch with ground realities.

    For a country long caught up with its preoccupations on the western front, India's eastern border today, at least on paper, presents an idyllic� picture of serenity.� Half-a-century of peace is enough to lull even the most far sighted. Lama Tsering sits in front of the plaque inside the War Memorial in Tawang which tells visitors that 2,420 Indian brave hearts laid down their lives in the wintry wastes of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1962, now known as Arunachal Pradesh. It is a practice that the Lamas have continued since the desperate days of 1962 when invading Chinese troops had made their appearance at the majestic Tawang Monastery. Since then, they consider this prayer their personal responsibility.

    "We cannot forget how Indian soldiers laid down their lives to protect our ancestors,'' says Tsering feelingly. The gate of the war memorial unveils the magnificent and beautiful monastery of Tawang, which lies at the epicentre of the 90,000 square kilometres of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory which China claims as its own. �

    In the intervening years of peace, a new generation has come up on the route that the Chinese army took to touch the Brahmaputra valley in a month's time, in the process dealing a body blow to Indian prestige and honour. As this reporter drives down the single road that leads up to Bumla� on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Indo-China fence, the names of battle spots spring out of the memory box: Bomdila, Se la and Tawang, places where military memorials poignantly demonstrate how an ill equipped, unacclimatised virtually rag tag Indian Army confronted the much organised, world class and no-frills Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) before going down valiantly in the absence of direction and leadership.� �

    At the Tawang Monastery Museum, its curator Daimoo Lama was one of the many who made good his escape to Guwahati as the Chinese started to close in.�� Sadly, says Daimoo, the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. "This area has not changed much since 1962. It remains underdeveloped, it lacks communications and for some reason the Indian state is not willing to develop it on the grounds� that it will hinder movements of an advancing Chinese force,'' he says with a shrug, arguments once used by ill-informed South Block mandarins back in the 1950s and early sixties before disaster set in.

    There is a difference though. Unlike then, there is no Hindi-Chini bhai bhai. There are little illusions left and for purposes of security, it is not such a bad idea at all. Undoubtedly, 2011 is not 1962. China is today India's largest trading partner pegged in excess of� $60 billion and slated to go up to $ 100 billion in the next few years. Country to country, army to army and people to people exchanges between the two countries have gone up. China is the world's largest growing economy while India is rated as the second largest, so in a sense, competition is in built into the equation. �

    But every now and then, memories of 1962 cloud relations and perhaps mask Chinese intentions. Brig. JP Dalvi in his classic `Himalayan Blunder' recalled (from his POW cell in Tibet) a favourite Chinese statement mouthed several times by its officials since it annexed Tibet in 1950. "On the night of� November, 21, 1962, I was woken up by the Chinese Major in charge of my solitary confinement with shouts of `good news-good news.' He told me that the Sino-Indian war was over and the Chinese government� had decided to withdraw from all the areas they had over run. When I asked the reason for this decision, he gave me a Peking-inspired answer. `India and China have been friends for thousands of years and have never fought before. China does not want war. It is the reactionary Indian government that wants war....''

    Strategically and despite well-stated intentions, the key question is how much have things changed on India's eastern front, in the beautiful and remote Arunachal Pradesh or further up north at the tri-junction in Ladakh?� �

    A 2010 high-level intelligence assessment from 33 Corps, one of the three corps mandated for the defence of the China border, suggest that the high Himalayan passes need to be watched. "The contrast between India and China is stark in terms of military capabilities.� India’s weaponry remains subcontinental whereas China’s weaponry is intercontinental. The composite development of road-rail-air infrastructure in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), in their alignments and dispositions show a clear bias towards sensitive and disputed areas along the Sino-Indian (international border) IB/ LAC. This has given China a definitive edge over India in speedy mobilisation and sustenance of its forces in the event of a military conflict with India,'' the intelligence assessment� points out.

    It ominously projects that "in terms of conventional forces, China has achieved force application ratios of 2-3:1 in its favour. India’s military capability for deterring or contesting deep non-contact battle with long range key point strikes and comprehensive national objective (CNO) which are essential elements of China’s war zone campaign (WZC) doctrine, remains woefully below par. The existing and growing military asymmetry decidedly in favour of China places India at a serious disadvantage and open to military coercion.'' For locals, the idea that they are residents of a place which one of the most formidable military powers in the world covets as her own is particularly galling.

    Pema Wangchuk, shop owner in the Old Tawang Market, for instance, believes the Indian reaction since 1962 has been less than muscular. He says, "It will not help our country by showing such deference towards the Chinese. I remember their propaganda in the 1960s, which they continue to do even now. They told our people that we look like them, that we are closer to their culture with historical links. But my point is our looks are also similar to people living in Korea, Japan and Vietnam, so how does it matter to us? We are Buddhist and we cannot imagine living under the Chinese."
    Or jeans� -T shirt-clad Chombay Kee, who represents the young generation of Tawang. He runs an NGO, Yuva, designed to assist the town's youth. Kee told TSI that the army had recently organised a recruitment rally and we helped. "A total of 226 boys from areas close to Tawang took part in this drive.''

    Good going. This recruitment drive is part of India's plans to raise battalions of Arunachal Scouts and Sikkim Scouts. "As these are the local boys, they are well acclimatised, tough and know the topography well,'' says a highly-placed army official, on conditions of anonymity.
    Says Zorawar Daulet Singh of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, "The assumptions behind the Chinese boundary approach can be challenged. The basis of Beijing's approach has been to assimilate� and pacify Tibet, and once such a policy succeeds, hope to bargain from a position of strength on the frontiers of India. Such approach has yielded little so far — neither has China attained an unequivocal level of Tibetian or international legitimacy; nor has it lowered their threat perception on the Indian side.'' �

    China's new status as an economic superpower aligned with its military might has been delicately but aptly called `Walmart with an army'. Notwithstanding claims of friendship and improved ties with� India, Beijing has sustained double-digit increase in military spending for two decades. Today China's increasingly sophisticated muscle force is at the heart of its military modernization.

    In addition, analysts say Chinese defence budgeting and military� spending being an opaque process, assessments of its actual spending vary. Pentagon estimates of 2009 arrive at two conclusions: one, in the last decade there has been an average increase of 14 per cent in China's defence� spending. Two, the estimated defence budget for 2009 was double of the 2005 budget. The defence budgetary allocations increased at an average rate of 12.9 per cent whereas GDP grew at an average rate of 9.2 per cent.

    They say that the actual defence� budget could be about three times higher than the declared budget. It would do to take a look at traditional Chinese strategic thinking. Based on ancient writings, the government has promoted the belief of `Culture of Defence' as being their strategic culture. While warfare and military� invasion is not sanctioned in ancient Chinese literature, it grants the ruler to undertake military� expeditions to its outer regions. Such military expeditions or defence against attacks by `barbarians' were sanctioned as “just wars”, a term Beijing (then Peking) used in abundance in relation to its 1962 NEFA operations against India.

    Hence, say observers, the Chinese “Culture of Defence'' is actually not defensive. Offensives beyond borders too are part of this culture as long as it can be supported by a “just cause”. Needless to say, a just cause is one which has the support of the Chinese government.

    India's strategic community has� in the last couple of years debated China's `string of pearls' that the Communist giant has been building around India through Pakistan, Myanmar and now Sri Lanka.

    Christopher J. Pehrson, author of the book “String of Pearls: Meeting the challenge of China’s rising power across the Asian littoral”, says, "String of Pearls’ describes the manifestation of China’s rising geopolitical influence through efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, develop special diplomatic relationships and modernize military forces that extend from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the Arabian Gulf.''

    In south Asia, China seems to have been working consistently over the last four decades to strengthen its presence and that naturally has India worried. As a first step, most experts are agreed that for� better integration of people in what was former NEFA, the Indian government must embark on a road building and infrastructure-developing spree. "Roads� will help amalgamate the people with the rest of the country and will earn their goodwill because in their difficult times, it is these roads which help. If you cannot help them in their difficult times there is no point in expecting their loyalty,'' says former director general of military operations (DGMO) Lt Gen VK Singh, a former POW in Chinese captivity in 1962.

    However, most of the roads are in bad shape. Out of 61 roads of total 3,429 km roads to be constructed only 12 roads (total length of 518 km) have been completed in the region. The reason for the delay, according to Border Roads Organisation (BRO), is that the government has failed to facilitate lifting of construction material till now.

    Notwithstanding the Chinese guns, Tawang and its enormous natural beauty continues to attract tourists annually and there are close to 50 hotels there, including a proposed Five Star hotel. Their only bug bear: the roads continue to be medieval. Says Thutan Lama, secretary of the Old Tawang market who was 12 when the Chinese came, "Tourists love to visit Tawang and the number of hotels are going up every year. The roads, of course, are a sore point,'' evidently both for defence and civilian purposes.

    Most sober analysts rule out an all out confrontation between the two Asian giants on the lines of 1962. The economic stakes and global imperatives are too steep a gradient for even China to indulge in another round of adventurism. For India, some lessons of 1962 have been learnt. Behind the smiling handshakes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese premier Hu Jintao, there is the resolve not to shoot from the hip again — `throw out the Chinese from India's sacred soil' kind of statement. These are some of the geographical imperatives that New Delhi has to learn to live with.

    Equally, there remains little doubt that Beijing would continue to needle New Delhi on the border question and try to hasten the several rounds of futile talks that have been held to determine the real line of actual control between the two countries. It serves China's economic purpose as well: it keeps India bottled up in south Asia. With Pakistan as a staunch China ally, India will be kept on their toes. The only road to peace, therefore, would be to raise the economic stakes in a way that war becomes a no-option. Could south Asia be turned into another Europe where centuries-old rivals now happily sup together?
    Memories: Durga Bahadur.

    The smile on the face of 78-year-old Durga Bahadur Basnet is contagious. He hoodwinked death in two devastating wars, 1962 with China and 1965 with Pakistan, but still carries on with the enthusiasm and energy of a young military recruit. His dignity and aura are unmistakably that of a soldier. At his house in Assam's Goalpara, he looks immaculate in his well ironed cream coloured kurta pyjama — and ready to talk.

    Born on August 14, 1933, Basnet decided early that he would serve his country — like his three brothers — when the opportunity arose. It came on December 8, 1952, when he joined the Indian Army in artillery and served with the 29 Arty which manned light anti-aircraft guns. Action came with the Chinese in 1962 and it was his unit which gave covering fire to 1/9 Gorkha Rifles in the battle of Tawang. Like most warriors of that border war, those days are etched in his mind. Amidst enemy fire from Chinese heavy artillery, his unit was unable to carry their own heavy artillery guns. Instead of baulking, they took up the fight with their light artillery guns.

    "We had no tracks, we tried to take the Sikkim route but as it was a different country then, it did not allow us. The worst came when Chinese heavy guns started raining explosives on us. We were not even given proper orders to fire back," Basnet remembers.

    He continues: "We were sitting close to our dug up area when suddenly artillery shells started falling from every direction. We started running to our bunkers. We were told to fire our light artillery guns as our units were kept constantly engaged by the Chinese soldiers who were attacking in waves," he added.

    Basnet, his eyes misty and mind wavering to that fateful day, still rues the decision to withdraw from battle. "We were not weak and would have fought had we been not ordered to fall back." Like most Indian warriors of the ill-fated NEFA campaign, he cannot help but make comparisons with the enemy — in the process he holds a mirror to decision makers and military planners who botched the campaign. "We were fighting with Second World War weapons while the Chinese had automatic rifles. Our routes were precarious for they were mired with landslides, road blocks and thick forests,'' Basnet recalls.

    When he retired from service on December 18, 1970, he started a� dhaba which served free meals to� Indian soldiers who fought against the Pakistan Army in then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

    For Basnet, nation comes first. He has not left army discipline and gets up at 4 every morning and goes for his 6- kilometre walk. "Serving� the nation is an opportunity which I will never let go," he announces. Even against the Chinese, should that occasion arise? No question about it, he says the professional soldier in him rising to the occasion.

    50 years of solitude - Mayank Singh - The Sunday Indian
     
  5. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    Re: Recollections of the Se la Bomdila Debacle 1962: A Chinese Perspec

    Double Post
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2013
  6. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    Re: Recollections of the Se la Bomdila Debacle 1962: A Chinese Perspec

    Double Post
     

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