Remebering a War

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by Ray, Oct 19, 2013.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The Rediff Special/Wing Commander (retd) R V Parasnis

    By and large Indians have always lacked an understanding of the concept of sovereignty. Therein lie the roots of our slavery by foreign rulers for over 1,000 years. These foreigners all came for plunder or trade, but stayed on to rule and earned the right to call themselves Indians. All the while the local kingdoms squabbled between themselves and myopically called for foreign help to overcome their adversaries.

    The concept of sovereignty calls for a thorough understanding of national interests and goals; developing means (especially economic strength) and infrastructure to achieve them; fair and just rule of law; and military muscle along with a willingness to use it when necessary. Care also has to be taken to ensure that pragmatism and practicality prevail in all national policies, or else sovereignty can never be sustained.

    The great Shivaji understood the concept of sovereignty perfectly well and was therefore able to create an empire out of nothing, surrounded by enemies on all sides. The British creation of 'protectorates' and 'buffer states' for the defence of India too developed because of this concept, and the lack of resources, especially manpower, with Great Britain to conquer, control, and administer every small or big state bordering India. Economically and administratively, it was not viable to expand the borders of the empire thoughtlessly over unproductive terrain.

    The India-China-Tibet treaties of the British days were thus created according to the British defence concept to guard and expand their empire, and deliberately kept vague. The British had the military muscle to remain flexible in philosophy and enforce whatever they thought was best in their interests at any given time.

    But after Independence, in spite of the British understanding with Tibet and the willingness of the Tibetan authorities to expand that understanding to let India help them keep their country safe from external aggression (they only had China to fear), we did nothing.

    On the other hand, a year after the People's Republic of China was declared in 1949, the People's Liberation Army entered Tibet and made it a province of their country.

    That is foresight and quick action. They acted when the time was ripe and before anyone else could react. They knew exactly what their country's goal was and secured it. Sadly, Tibet has become an abandoned land since, and its well-developed, proud culture is on the wane in full sight of the world due to deliberate design and effort, often accompanied with brutal repression.
    Sardar Patel was constrained to state in writing to Nehru that the Tibetans had reposed their trust in and looked up to us to protect them, but we had let them down. India could have entered into a treaty with Tibet and taken over the defence - and, perhaps, foreign affairs -- of Tibet in return for expenses while the Communists under Mao Zedong were busy fighting the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek, whose defeat appeared imminent. The US of those days would have given any amount of military aid to contain the Russia-China Communist axis, so obsessive with pathological hatred for Communism were they at the time.

    That would certainly have created conditions for a serious confrontation with the Chinese in future, but with American help we could have prepared for that eventuality.

    As for our leaders then, only Sardar Patel had some understanding of the concept of sovereignty. Nehru always displayed an abject lack of it. Examples are galore, right from the time of Partition.

    His refusal to accept the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir on September 19, 1947, when it was originally offered by Maharaja Hari Singh, a good five weeks before the invasion of his state by Pakistan. Had the accession been accepted then, the entire state would have been ours. The Pakistan of those days would never have dared attack India, so superior was our military strength on account of the division of the armed forces on religious lines.

    Later, Nehru practically surrendered our sovereignty when he invited Lord Louis Mountbatten, the governor general, to preside over and chair the meetings of his own Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Defence on matters regarding the accession and the military action after Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir. Mountbatten, basically a servant of the British Crown, did his best to delay the decisions.

    Worse, as India started winning the war and liberating parts of north Kashmir, Nehru inexplicably (most likely under the strong influence of Mountbatten and his wife, who shaped much of his thinking in those days) declared a 'ceasefire' and stopped our victorious army dead in its tracks before it could liberate the entire state. He declared the ceasefire arbitrarily, without consulting his full Cabinet, the Constituent Assembly (as Parliament was then known), his military commanders, or the maharaja/prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

    Nehru was the architect of Article 370, with which he burdened India to placate a hurt Sheikh Abdullah.

    The Chinese occupation of Tibet should have forced a reassessment of the threat to India. After they enforced their suzerainty on Tibet in 1951, the threat deserved greater attention. But when General K M Cariappa met Nehru to discuss the defence of the North East Frontier Agency, he was bluntly told to mind only Kashmir and Pakistan as his concerns for defence and leave China to the politicians and the diplomats. As Lieutenant General S P P Thorat recounts in his autobiography 'From Reveille to Retreat', "When [in 1959] I, as GoC-in-C Eastern Command, met Menon in Delhi, I opened the subject [of defence against the Chinese] with him. In his usually sarcastic style he said that there would be no war between India and China and [if there was] he was quite capable of fighting it himself at the diplomatic level."

    Nehru learnt no lessons from the war in Kashmir. Practicality always took a back seat in his mind, which was dominated by idealism. He went on emotionally in his rhetoric of 'Hindi Chini bhai bhai', all the while considering himself a superior international statesman and India an elder brother of China. He was proudly going around as the unchallenged leader of the Third World. He failed to realise that the Chinese leaders had begun to resent his approach and his manner of dealing with them, that as per them China was the natural leader of the Third World, that the initial bond of personal friendship he had formed with the Chinese leaders was not strong enough to withstand this strain, and that personal relations can never score over vital national interests in any case. Countries fight wars when their vital interests are threatened. Nehru and Krishna Menon failed to understand this.

    Nehru's rigidity on the border issue, his insistence on Chinese withdrawal before border talks could begin, his grant of political asylum to the Dalai Lama and permission to him to establish a Tibetan government-in-exile (an act that created conditions for a future invasion of Tibet by India or outside powers through India to restore the Dalai Lama's rule, if desired), the hostile Indian press on the question of the occupation of Tibet, and Nehru's increasingly aggressive statements on the border made the Chinese believe he had become a tool in the hands of the Anglo-American imperialists. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was maintaining a friendly posture, but he had practically begun to hate Nehru, as is clear from the text of his conversations with US President Richard Nixon in 1972, now made public. There were possibly some outward signs of this and some hints were dropped, but Nehru was blind to them. The Chinese, basically secretive in nature, were also not very open about their ill feelings.
    The Chinese also knew that India was unprepared for a high-altitude war, and there was no imperial power behind her with any ready plan to enter Tibet. Since the Indian threat was unreal, punishing Nehru must have been the only, or a major, motive for their attacks.

    Nehru continued with his blind love for socialism and an oppressed sister nation. Zhou and his generals were invited for many military functions like the passing out parade of the National Defence Academy, firepower demonstration/exercises by the army, and even visits to the various military establishments like the Defence Services Staff College and the College of Combat, Mhow. Zhou embraced the young cadets passing out then with affection, but had no qualms in butchering them when they were guarding our borders in 1962 as young officers. The Chinese premier and his generals went all round India visiting our industrial and military establishments, observing, learning and preparing for an eventuality (or planning for a showdown?), while we enjoyed our reverie. The example of one firepower demonstration in 1956 arranged by none other than General B M Kaul stands out.

    "The firepower demonstration went off admirably well. It had to; we had practised it for months. A Chinese general who was sitting next to General B M Kaul found it a bit too difficult to swallow and asked General Kaul whether it would be possible to achieve in actual battle conditions, the kind of concentration of fire then observed during the demonstration.

    "Instead of answering that question directly, General Kaul went into the mechanics of strategy and tactics vis-�-vis firepower concentration. The Chinese military delegation on their return journey said to the Burmese in Rangoon that the senior officers of the Indian Army were 'chair-borne' soldiers," says Captain C L Datta, who was ADC to Presidents Rajendra Prasad and S Radhakrishnan, in his book With Two Presidents.

    When Gen Kaul evacuated his forces from NEFA in 1962, the opposing Chinese general was the same one who had sat next to him during the demonstration and asked him that question!

    Nehru took it upon himself to prop up China and take up their cause at every possible international forum, at times without even any specific request from them. But that earned him little or no gratitude.

    If China was a friendly country and its claim on Tibet was acceptable to us, where was the question of granting the Dalai Lama and his entourage asylum in India to establish and run a parallel government? We even posted a foreign ministry officer to Dharamsala to represent India in the durbar of the Dalai Lama. If we believed in the justness of the Chinese claim over Tibet, then the maximum we should have done was granted asylum to the Dalai Lama with a small entourage (not thousands of followers) on humanitarian grounds, but permitted no political activities. Alternatively, we could have objected to the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, albeit in soft, diplomatic language, insisted on retaining our mission in Lhasa as per the 1906 convention with Tibet and agreed to and ratified by China; protested when they forced Tibet to surrender its sovereignty and permitted it to maintain only regional self-governance in 1951, and in 1956 when they began to deny them self-governance, eventually forcing the Dalai Lama to flee. Granting political asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959 would then have been justified. As a result, the Chinese would have certainly remained hostile to us on this point, but respected us for what we are.

    Instead, in 1955, while relinquishing the rights and privileges India had enjoyed in Tibet from the times of Colonel Younghusband's expedition in 1904, Nehru declared: "Free India has no wish to continue with any imperialistic rights or privileges."
    India as a nation itself was an imperialistic creation. India's borders, including the addition of the state of Greater Assam to the Union, were a British creation. If we rejected our rights in Tibet as an imperialistic creation, what rightful claim had we on the borders fixed in accordance with British expansionism? But without the military might to back it up, Nehru did exactly that.
    India, under Nehru, was an antithesis of most of the theories he applied in governance. Taking advantage of the British imperial legacy when it suited us while otherwise denouncing it roundly, we managed to lose all the respect China had for us, to be replaced by contempt. Which made it easier for them to ambush and capture or kill our patrols and take punitive action against us in 1962.

    In retrospect, it can be said that Nehru's greatness and his many sterling qualities eventually came to naught on account of his lack of understanding of the concept of sovereignty in general and national interest in particular. He failed to fix the national goal. His hatred of imperialism and love for democracy mixed with socialist leanings and the prime ministerial responsibility that demanded pragmatism and cold national interest left him confused and irresolute.

    Nehru, therefore, knew not where our borders should be fixed, or why. Yet, after Independence, he went on to fix India's northern and northeastern borders, left undemarcated by the British, on his own, without consulting China, leave alone getting them to agree.

    The principle he followed was arbitrary, perhaps not always unjustified or unfair, but possibly wrong in places, and certainly disputable in many places. That often led to vague and irrational diplomatic arguments during talks with China or postponement of negotiations. His vacillating mind didn't stand him well against energetic and radical leaders like Mao and Zhou, both of whom were very clear about the concept of sovereignty.
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    he Rediff Special/Wing Commander (retd) R V Parasnis

    1962 War

    Looking back on our humiliation at the hands of the Chinese 40 years ago, my eyes go moist, the throat goes dry and a heavy, insane rage begins to build within me against those who caused it.

    Many officers and men I looked up to, respected, and felt deep affection for perished in this war. Worse, the national humiliation suffered has left deep scars, which open up even today whenever the bitter memories return.

    It saddens me, however, to notice the general lack of knowledge among the public, the distorted facts being presented by eminent writers and experts, and the misinformation/disinformation campaigns still being carried out by vested interests on this subject.

    To begin with, there is a generally held view that in the 1962 India-China War, India's military was vanquished by the People's Liberation Army. It is not true. The nation was convulsed by fear, yes, because our top political leadership panicked, but our army was far from vanquished. Our deployed force level in 1962 against China was as follows:

    The command centre was at the newly created HQ (headquarters) IV Corps (one corps consists of a minimum of three divisions + supporting forces + reserves) in Tezpur under Lieutenant General B M Kaul. The IV Corps had a force little less than four infantry brigades (most of them hastily collected and not in their complete form) deployed in the North-East Frontier Agency, ie just about one division looking after over 400km (30,000 square km in area) of frontier starting from Bhutan through Kameng, Subansiri, Siang and Lohit to Tirap division, which finally connects to the Burmese border and Nagaland in the absolute northeastern corner of our country.
    A little more than one brigade force guarded our border against the Chinese in Ladakh, where our forces were scattered even more, and practically all the posts were in isolation of that inhospitable terrain. Thus, only 24,000 troops out of a total of the 4,00,000-strong Indian army of those days fought the Chinese in 1962. That amounts to less than 1/16th of our army's strength at that time.

    Hence, even though our troops suffered a defeat, it can't be said that our army was vanquished. For that matter the entire army in the Northeast didn't suffer defeat either.

    The Eastern Army HQ was at Lucknow and IV Corps, which suffered the defeat, was only one of its elements, and a weak one at that (hardly one division strong at that time). We couldn't have moved our forces from the Pakistan borders without endangering our defences there, while another division was locked against the Naga insurgency, which was also quite serious those days.

    Besides, China didn't figure in the government's defence planning for the country. As per its written directive to the army, the latter's task was defence against Pakistan. In fact, the government had rebuffed the army every time this aspect was brought up for discussion.

    Thus, we had no roads to take the army, its equipment, heavy guns, and supplies up to the border. There was no way we could have positioned and maintained a large army at the border in a short time.

    Frankly, the 1962 war can't even be called a war in the real sense of the word, though everyone refers to it as such. It was at the most three or four battles in which we suffered a defeat in the Northeast.

    A war is generally a long-drawn affair and demands almost the entire resources of a nation and commitment of most of its forces and goes far beyond a few battles. Our political leadership combined with a few inept/pliant generals of those days forced our army to conduct insane battles at ultra-high altitudes without acclimatising to the rarefied atmosphere and sub-zero temperatures. On difficult terrain, in tactically disadvantageous battle positions, without reserves for reinforcements, under conditions such as non-existent supply lines (troops were required to be entirely air-maintained in terrain unsuitable for air-dropping), without suitable/matching arms, criminally insufficient ammunition (only 50 rounds of .303 bullets per jawan in NEFA), insufficient food and clothing.

    After the initial defeat at the positions around Dhola and along the Namkachu river at the base of the Thagla ridge, a few of our officers and troops were admittedly overwhelmed by panic and fear, floating rumours galore about the strength and ultra-superior weaponry of the Chinese and their dreaded "human wave" tactics, though many more were itching to have a go.

    What we needed at this juncture was firm and cool leadership, but to our bad luck we were denied that, as I shall explain later. We lost Se La and Bomdi La without a fight in spite of well-prepared positions and sufficient ammunition as well as reasonable, if not strong, artillery support.

    The Chinese, to their surprise, found the going very easy and reached the foothills of Assam within a couple of days. At this stage our cowardly leadership (both political and military) denied our forces a God-given chance to redeem their honour. We could have, entirely on our own, turned the tide at the Assam foothills, where the temperatures were tolerable, and used our air force to literally massacre the Chinese.

    The Chinese knew well what our forces could have done after recovering from the initial shock, and that is why they withdrew, returning all the land they had conquered (including Tawang) irrespective of their much publicised claims praised as just and fair by authors like Neville Maxwell, Dr Gregory Clark, the Communists, et al.

    Cleverly and hurriedly, the Chinese returned without giving us a chance to collect our wits and hit back, before the possible and likely foreign help, mainly from the US and its anti-communist allies, arrived and, of course, before the snowbound passes closed.

    The logistical lines of the Chinese were stretched beyond limits and they couldn't have sustained warfare for long so far away from their homeland. They had practically no air force and only one or two usable airfields in Tibet at that time and were not prepared for the technical problems of operating aircraft at those heights and temperatures.

    The Chinese hardly had any anti-aircraft guns. Their aircraft were inferior to ours. It was their weakest point, but we did not take advantage of it.

    That a major Chinese invasion of India was afoot with nothing to stop them from knocking on the gates of Calcutta, where the highest concentration of ethnic Chinese lived in India, was the consequence of the entirely idiotic imagination of an absolutely gutless people, totally dominated by panic, without any military thought applied.

    There was also talk among the civilians that once the Chinese tanks arrived at Tezpur, they only had to take off the brakes to use the gentle slope of the land to reach right down to Calcutta with the engines switched off. I am afraid I have seen no such slope in the landscape. That apart, how could the Chinese could have got their tanks across the Himalayas without the road network and through terrain unsuitable for armour movement crossing 16000 foot-high snowbound passes?

    But despite this, even some of the military brass succumbed to this defeatist viewpoint. The disorderly military withdrawal from Se La and Bomdi La followed by panic evacuation of Tezpur after the civil administration top boss bolted to Calcutta, deserting the place of duty and the men under his charge, was nothing short of a disgrace.

    Was it the age-old Hindu cowardice, a habit of leaving the battlefield and running in disarray when the king/general was killed in battle, coming into play yet again in a slightly different form? Maybe.

    Nehru's broadcast to the nation, "My heart goes out to the people of Assam. I don't know what is in store for them," may have endeared him to the people of the state and given the Congress another win in the next election there, but at that time it caused an irrational panic reaction in and the evacuation of Tezpur.

    Why Nehru's heart never went out to the poor jawans whom he ordered into suicidal battles is beyond comprehension.

    Had we fought the Chinese at the foothills of Assam, we could have enforced a crushing defeat on the People's Liberation Army. Our army could have fought them on somewhat equal footing here, where high altitude problems are non-existent and temperatures are tolerable. Though the Chinese had the upper hand in their small arms, we could have brought our heavy weapon superiority into effect.

    We could have used our superior armour against the Chinese infantry, which only had limited recoilless guns. Our infantry was well poised in the foothills of Assam to use the hook tactics, which the Chinese had used with telling effect in the higher reaches. While our troops were strangers to the high altitude terrain in the Thagla ridge area, here they were somewhat on home ground and the Chinese would have found themselves in foreign surroundings. It would have been easier for us to regroup for flexibility in tactics here, while for the Chinese it would have been impossible under pressure of our attacks from all unexpected directions.

    We could have prevented and/or countered their every move, especially with the benefit of constant air surveillance, an advantage they lacked. Similarly, getting reinforcements would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them on account of the distances, lack of road network, the approaching winter with the consequent closing of the snowbound passes, and, above all, our marauding knights of the skies causing havoc from above.

    Had they not decided to withdraw, we could have caused them to suffer unacceptable casualties. Their retreat would have been uphill and we could have literally played hell into them in pursuit, especially with the IAF raining fire from the skies. We could have blown their supply lines in Tibet to smithereens as the Tibetan plateau hardly provides any cover or natural camouflage.

    In fact, eyewitnesses of those days recall seeing heaps of military stores, mortars, ammunition, and other supplies lying by the roadside all along in depot-like stores in the open near the border on the Tibetan side. These would have been ready fodder for our Hunters, Mysteres, Gnats, Vampires and Toofanis for strafing runs with front gun cannons and rockets. Major enemy concentrations would have proved excellent targets for carpet-bombing by our Liberators. Our Canberras were ultra-modern bombers then and could have caused havoc.

    But that was not to be. Future generations will only read about the 'crushing defeat' of the Indian Army at the hands of the Chinese forces.

    The 1962 India-China conflict was, in all probability, avoidable. It came about because of many a factor. The internal factors were our lack of understanding of the concept of sovereignty, made worse by political bungling, diplomatic blunders, personal arrogance of our top leader and his short-sightedness, intelligence failure, incorrect information dissemination by the government to Parliament and the media leading to the thoughtlessly jingoistic reaction by all concerned and the demand: 'not even an inch to the enemy'.

    For the ignominious defeat that we suffered, we have to add 'politicisation of the army resulting in cowardly as well as stupid generalship' to the above factors.

    Extraneous factors such as China's vital national interest to guard their strategic road through Aksai Chin, China's wish to be recognized and respected as the greatest Asian power, and therefore her desire to cut India down to size, as also to punish India so as to teach Nehru a lesson and puncture his balloon, played their part.

    Yet careful analysis of the situation indicates that it was possible to have come to a mutually satisfactory understanding with China on the border adjustments, avoided active hostilities, and continued our then blossoming friendship with Beijing, which had tremendous potential for mutual benefit. That would have also discouraged the Pakistan-China friendship, which developed as an offshoot of the Sino-Indian conflict, and the eventual nuclearisation of Pakistan.

    Wing Commander R V Parasnis is probably the only air force pilot to have flown extensively as well as moved on foot in the NEFA area. He particularly remembers an exercise where he marched for 24 days in the Bomdila region on a man-pack basis with General (then brigadier) K Sundarji, whose unforgettable briefings and brilliant strategic theories at night revived the bitter memories of the 1962 war among the young officers, even as ice-cold winds threatened to blow their small tents away.

    rediff.com Special Series: 40 years after the Sino-Indian 1962 war
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Part II

    1962

    By and large Indians have always lacked an understanding of the concept of sovereignty. Therein lie the roots of our slavery by foreign rulers for over 1,000 years. These foreigners all came for plunder or trade, but stayed on to rule and earned the right to call themselves Indians. All the while the local kingdoms squabbled between themselves and myopically called for foreign help to overcome their adversaries.

    The concept of sovereignty calls for a thorough understanding of national interests and goals; developing means (especially economic strength) and infrastructure to achieve them; fair and just rule of law; and military muscle along with a willingness to use it when necessary. Care also has to be taken to ensure that pragmatism and practicality prevail in all national policies, or else sovereignty can never be sustained.

    The great Shivaji understood the concept of sovereignty perfectly well and was therefore able to create an empire out of nothing, surrounded by enemies on all sides. The British creation of 'protectorates' and 'buffer states' for the defence of India too developed because of this concept, and the lack of resources, especially manpower, with Great Britain to conquer, control, and administer every small or big state bordering India. Economically and administratively, it was not viable to expand the borders of the empire thoughtlessly over unproductive terrain.

    The India-China-Tibet treaties of the British days were thus created according to the British defence concept to guard and expand their empire, and deliberately kept vague. The British had the military muscle to remain flexible in philosophy and enforce whatever they thought was best in their interests at any given time.

    But after Independence, in spite of the British understanding with Tibet and the willingness of the Tibetan authorities to expand that understanding to let India help them keep their country safe from external aggression (they only had China to fear), we did nothing.

    On the other hand, a year after the People's Republic of China was declared in 1949, the People's Liberation Army entered Tibet and made it a province of their country.

    That is foresight and quick action. They acted when the time was ripe and before anyone else could react. They knew exactly what their country's goal was and secured it. Sadly, Tibet has become an abandoned land since, and its well-developed, proud culture is on the wane in full sight of the world due to deliberate design and effort, often accompanied with brutal repression.

    Sardar Patel was constrained to state in writing to Nehru that the Tibetans had reposed their trust in and looked up to us to protect them, but we had let them down. India could have entered into a treaty with Tibet and taken over the defence - and, perhaps, foreign affairs -- of Tibet in return for expenses while the Communists under Mao Zedong were busy fighting the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek, whose defeat appeared imminent. The US of those days would have given any amount of military aid to contain the Russia-China Communist axis, so obsessive with pathological hatred for Communism were they at the time.

    That would certainly have created conditions for a serious confrontation with the Chinese in future, but with American help we could have prepared for that eventuality.

    As for our leaders then, only Sardar Patel had some understanding of the concept of sovereignty. Nehru always displayed an abject lack of it. Examples are galore, right from the time of Partition.

    His refusal to accept the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir on September 19, 1947, when it was originally offered by Maharaja Hari Singh, a good five weeks before the invasion of his state by Pakistan. Had the accession been accepted then, the entire state would have been ours. The Pakistan of those days would never have dared attack India, so superior was our military strength on account of the division of the armed forces on religious lines.
    Later, Nehru practically surrendered our sovereignty when he invited Lord Louis Mountbatten, the governor general, to preside over and chair the meetings of his own Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Defence on matters regarding the accession and the military action after Pakistan invaded Jammu and Kashmir. Mountbatten, basically a servant of the British Crown, did his best to delay the decisions.
    Worse, as India started winning the war and liberating parts of north Kashmir, Nehru inexplicably (most likely under the strong influence of Mountbatten and his wife, who shaped much of his thinking in those days) declared a 'ceasefire' and stopped our victorious army dead in its tracks before it could liberate the entire state. He declared the ceasefire arbitrarily, without consulting his full Cabinet, the Constituent Assembly (as Parliament was then known), his military commanders, or the maharaja/prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
    Nehru was the architect of Article 370, with which he burdened India to placate a hurt Sheikh Abdullah.
    The Chinese occupation of Tibet should have forced a reassessment of the threat to India. After they enforced their suzerainty on Tibet in 1951, the threat deserved greater attention. But when General K M Cariappa met Nehru to discuss the defence of the North East Frontier Agency, he was bluntly told to mind only Kashmir and Pakistan as his concerns for defence and leave China to the politicians and the diplomats.
    As Lieutenant General S P P Thorat recounts in his autobiography 'From Reveille to Retreat', "When [in 1959] I, as GoC-in-C Eastern Command, met Menon in Delhi, I opened the subject [of defence against the Chinese] with him. In his usually sarcastic style he said that there would be no war between India and China and [if there was] he was quite capable of fighting it himself at the diplomatic level."

    Nehru learnt no lessons from the war in Kashmir. Practicality always took a back seat in his mind, which was dominated by idealism. He went on emotionally in his rhetoric of 'Hindi Chini bhai bhai', all the while considering himself a superior international statesman and India an elder brother of China.

    He was proudly going around as the unchallenged leader of the Third World. He failed to realise that the Chinese leaders had begun to resent his approach and his manner of dealing with them, that as per them China was the natural leader of the Third World, that the initial bond of personal friendship he had formed with the Chinese leaders was not strong enough to withstand this strain, and that personal relations can never score over vital national interests in any case. Countries fight wars when their vital interests are threatened. Nehru and Krishna Menon failed to understand this.

    Nehru's rigidity on the border issue, his insistence on Chinese withdrawal before border talks could begin, his grant of political asylum to the Dalai Lama and permission to him to establish a Tibetan government-in-exile (an act that created conditions for a future invasion of Tibet by India or outside powers through India to restore the Dalai Lama's rule, if desired), the hostile Indian press on the question of the occupation of Tibet, and Nehru's increasingly aggressive statements on the border made the Chinese believe he had become a tool in the hands of the Anglo-American imperialists.
    Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was maintaining a friendly posture, but he had practically begun to hate Nehru, as is clear from the text of his conversations with US President Richard Nixon in 1972, now made public. There were possibly some outward signs of this and some hints were dropped, but Nehru was blind to them. The Chinese, basically secretive in nature, were also not very open about their ill feelings.

    The Chinese also knew that India was unprepared for a high-altitude war, and there was no imperial power behind her with any ready plan to enter Tibet. Since the Indian threat was unreal, punishing Nehru must have been the only, or a major, motive for their attacks.

    Nehru continued with his blind love for socialism and an oppressed sister nation. Zhou and his generals were invited for many military functions like the passing out parade of the National Defence Academy, firepower demonstration/exercises by the army, and even visits to the various military establishments like the Defence Services Staff College and the College of Combat, Mhow. Zhou embraced the young cadets passing out then with affection, but had no qualms in butchering them when they were guarding our borders in 1962 as young officers.
    The Chinese premier and his generals went all round India visiting our industrial and military establishments, observing, learning and preparing for an eventuality (or planning for a showdown?), while we enjoyed our reverie. The example of one firepower demonstration in 1956 arranged by none other than General B M Kaul stands out.

    "The firepower demonstration went off admirably well. It had to; we had practised it for months. A Chinese general who was sitting next to General B M Kaul found it a bit too difficult to swallow and asked General Kaul whether it would be possible to achieve in actual battle conditions, the kind of concentration of fire then observed during the demonstration.

    "Instead of answering that question directly, General Kaul went into the mechanics of strategy and tactics vis-à-vis firepower concentration. The Chinese military delegation on their return journey said to the Burmese in Rangoon that the senior officers of the Indian Army were 'chair-borne' soldiers," says Captain C L Datta, who was ADC to Presidents Rajendra Prasad and S Radhakrishnan, in his book With Two Presidents.

    When Gen Kaul evacuated his forces from NEFA in 1962, the opposing Chinese general was the same one who had sat next to him during the demonstration and asked him that question!

    Nehru took it upon himself to prop up China and take up their cause at every possible international forum, at times without even any specific request from them. But that earned him little or no gratitude.

    If China was a friendly country and its claim on Tibet was acceptable to us, where was the question of granting the Dalai Lama and his entourage asylum in India to establish and run a parallel government? We even posted a foreign ministry officer to Dharamsala to represent India in the durbar of the Dalai Lama. If we believed in the justness of the Chinese claim over Tibet, then the maximum we should have done was granted asylum to the Dalai Lama with a small entourage (not thousands of followers) on humanitarian grounds, but permitted no political activities.
    Alternatively, we could have objected to the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950, albeit in soft, diplomatic language, insisted on retaining our mission in Lhasa as per the 1906 convention with Tibet and agreed to and ratified by China; protested when they forced Tibet to surrender its sovereignty and permitted it to maintain only regional self-governance in 1951, and in 1956 when they began to deny them self-governance, eventually forcing the Dalai Lama to flee. Granting political asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959 would then have been justified. As a result, the Chinese would have certainly remained hostile to us on this point, but respected us for what we are.

    Instead, in 1955, while relinquishing the rights and privileges India had enjoyed in Tibet from the times of Colonel Younghusband's expedition in 1904, Nehru declared: "Free India has no wish to continue with any imperialistic rights or privileges."

    India as a nation itself was an imperialistic creation. India's borders, including the addition of the state of Greater Assam to the Union, were a British creation. If we rejected our rights in Tibet as an imperialistic creation, what rightful claim had we on the borders fixed in accordance with British expansionism? But without the military might to back it up, Nehru did exactly that.

    India, under Nehru, was an antithesis of most of the theories he applied in governance. Taking advantage of the British imperial legacy when it suited us while otherwise denouncing it roundly, we managed to lose all the respect China had for us, to be replaced by contempt. Which made it easier for them to ambush and capture or kill our patrols and take punitive action against us in 1962.

    In retrospect, it can be said that Nehru's greatness and his many sterling qualities eventually came to naught on account of his lack of understanding of the concept of sovereignty in general and national interest in particular. He failed to fix the national goal. His hatred of imperialism and love for democracy mixed with socialist leanings and the prime ministerial responsibility that demanded pragmatism and cold national interest left him confused and irresolute.

    Nehru, therefore, knew not where our borders should be fixed, or why. Yet, after Independence, he went on to fix India's northern and northeastern borders, left undemarcated by the British, on his own, without consulting China, leave alone getting them to agree.

    The principle he followed was arbitrary, perhaps not always unjustified or unfair, but possibly wrong in places, and certainly disputable in many places. That often led to vague and irrational diplomatic arguments during talks with China or postponement of negotiations. His vacillating mind didn't stand him well against energetic and radical leaders like Mao and Zhou, both of whom were very clear about the concept of sovereignty.

    rediff.com Special Series: 40 years after the Sino-Indian 1962 war
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Scrap the Army

    I remember many a time when our senior generals came to us, and wrote to the defence ministry saying that they wanted certain things... If we had had foresight, known exactly what would happen, we would have done something else... what India has learnt from the Chinese invasion is that in the world of today there is no place for weak nations... We have been living in an unreal world of our own creation."
    Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajya Sabha, 1963


    nstead of "I", Nehru used the collective "we", a clear indication of his reluctance to own up his own mistakes as a man.

    "The fact of the matter is that Nehru felt a gnawing of conscience throughout this episode. He knew that the blame for the disaster was more his than that of his loyal friend [defence minister V K Krishna Menon]," says journalist and historian Durga Das.

    "The decision-making system during 1959-62 was starkly ad hoc and designed primarily to suit the personality of the Prime Minister -- who preferred to deal with these matters personally -- even Krishna Menon seldom took a stand on any point or even made a contribution when the Prime Minister was in the chair... in the Army Headquarters, it was General Kaul who had caught the Prime Minister's eye... It was not Krishna Menon who was primarily culpable for the practice of General Officers establishing direct access to politicians... It was Nehru who, many years previously, first established this irregularity," says the then director general of military operations, Brigadier (later Major General) D K Palit, in his book War in High Himalayas.

    After the 1962 war, Nehru wrote to General B M Kaul ('Untold Story by Kaul) lamenting about Kaul having been blamed and having had to resign from the army for no fault of his.

    This indicates Nehru's poor sense of judgement even after the event. Practically all military experts agree that Kaul was responsible for the debacle in NEFA in many ways. He showed utter lack of the knowledge of the higher-level conduct of war. More often than not, he was found away from his HQ flying in a helicopter personally doing things best left to his staff, while crucial battles were in progress on the borders. Though he displayed personal courage and dash of very high degree, he fully justified the doubts about his efficiency then expressed by many senior officers on account of his lack of operational experience.

    The roots of politicisation of the army are to be found in Nehru's hatred for the man in uniform. Soon after Independence the first commander-in-chief of the Indian armed forces, General Sir Robert Lockhart, presented a paper outlining a plan for the growth of the Indian Army to Prime Minister Nehru.

    Nehru's reply: "We don't need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We foresee no military threats. You can scrap the army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs."

    He didn't waste much time. On September 16, 1947, he directed that the army's then strength of 280,000 be brought down to 150,000. Even in fiscal 1950-51, when the Chinese threat had begun to loom large on the horizon, 50,000 army personnel were sent home as per his original plan to disband the armed forces.

    After Independence, he once noticed a few men in uniform in a small office the army had in North Block, and angrily had them evicted.

    It was only after the 1947-48 war in Jammu and Kashmir that he realised that the armed forces are an essential ingredient of any independent, sovereign nation. But he still wanted a compact army rather than great volume, whatever that meant. Defence requirements worked out after a careful assessment of threats carried no weight with him.

    For some reason, he disliked Field Marshal K M Cariappa despite his excellent leadership during the 1947-48 war that saved Kashmir. But his attempts to supersede him and make General Rajendrasinhji the first commander-in-chief of India failed when Gen Rajendrasinhji declined.

    Soon after Independence he separated the army, navy, and air force from a unified command and abolished the post of commander-in-chief of the armed forces, thus bringing down the status of the seniormost military chief.

    He continued to demote the status of the three service chiefs at irregular intervals in the order of precedence in the official government protocol, a practice loyally continued by successive governments to the benefit of politicians and bureaucrats.

    During the 1947-48 war with Pakistan in Kashmir, Nehru interfered with purely military decisions at will, which delayed the war and changed the ultimate outcome in Pakistan's favour. He developed a precedent to violate channels and levels of communications at that time. His penchant for verbal orders to the various army commanders, of which he kept no records, violated the chain of command.

    The army thereafter reversed this trend as there was no direct interference from any of the defence ministers in the army's job and Nehru was totally engrossed in his statecraft.

    That is until V K Krishna Menon arrived on the scene.

    Menon, along with Nehru, caused havoc in the army's working, disregarding professional opinion and advice, violating all channels and levels of communication and encouraging the same within the army hierarchy, which ended with disastrous results in the Sino-Indian conflict. Like his boss, Menon believed in giving verbal orders and disliked records.

    When the prime minister and the defence minister give an ear to a junior general over the heads of other generals, including the army chief, and the junior boasts about this, the morale and effectiveness of the senior officers is bound to suffer, even as the army hierarchy begins to disintegrate.

    This is just what happened progressively in 1961-62. The cancer eventually entered the mainstream services and though there are strong tendencies to counter such evils ingrained within the armed forces culture, it is slowly but surely spreading, thanks to the generally weak Indian character.

    After the infamous 'Jeep scandal' (purchase of Jeeps for the use of the army, which the army rejected on account of their poor condition, but was forced to accept since the Jeeps were already paid for), it became necessary to remove Krishna Menon, who had fixed that deal, from the post of high commissioner to the United Kingdom because of political and media pressure.

    But Prime Minister Nehru rewarded him by making him Minister for Defence with Cabinet rank. This tradition has been faithfully carried forward to date by the followers of Nehru and by politicians who vehemently opposed him and the policies of the Congress party, with equal vigour. In power and out of power, political compulsions seem to demand different ethics.

    It is not out of place to mention here that the government dropped the case slapped on the nondescript company that had supplied the Jeeps soon after Krishna Menon took over as defence minister.

    Krishna Menon was an extremely strong-willed, intelligent man with a caustic tongue. The credit for making the first efforts to make India self-sufficient in defence production goes to him. According to B K Nehru, he alone among the politicians, other than Jawaharlal Nehru, had any understanding of foreign affairs in those early years after Independence. (Among the bureaucrats the only knowledgeable person was Girija Shankar Bajpai.)

    It stands to reason, therefore, that they depended only on each other for advice and everyone else, mainly the bureaucracy (as politicians hardly understood or took an interest in anything about foreign affairs, which were indeed very foreign to them), looked up to the Nehru-Menon combine for all foreign policy directives. Without any official position in the external affairs ministry, Menon was treated like royalty by sycophantic officials, mainly because Nehru looked on him with favour.

    Menon thus wielded a lot more power than what his official position in the Cabinet permitted because of Nehru, and received far more importance than he deserved. Senior defence services officers, who should have been part of the government's foreign policy-making body, especially as regards the border problems, were never even consulted. In fact, those days apart from the ICS, they were the only ones with international exposure and possibly the only service that had had some training in international relations.

    Keeping the defence services out resulted in a lame Indian foreign policy, without the backing of the required military muscle. Defence services officers are brought up to be straightforward and forthright. But having exercised their right to differ and express dissent, they will carry out the orders received to the best of their ability.

    It must be said to Nehru's credit that he was at least open to differing points of view. Nevertheless, he would discard them easily after giving them a hearing. Menon, on the other hand, had no such generosity. He would mercilessly stamp down hard on any kind of dissent. Military men suffered severe insults from Menon and heavy snubs from Nehru, which virtually cut communications between the military high command and their civilian bosses.

    Krishna Menon didn't possess an independent power base and drew his power from his proximity to Nehru. In fact the entire inner circle of Nehru, of which Krishna Menon was de facto whip, had no independent power base and drew its power from its proximity to Nehru. Naturally, its members guarded access to Nehru very carefully. Though politics was a lot more democratic and open those days and Nehru a lot more accessible and democratic than his daughter (who perfected the coterie politics) and those who followed her, the seeds of coterie politics were firmly sown under his stewardship, and in his days Menon was feared due to his sharp, swift and abrasive tongue as his chief whip.

    Krishna Menon probably would have done better as foreign minister, but he proved to be a bad boss for defence. He disliked the set army procedures and tried to short-circuit them at every stage in every matter. He had a bad habit of treating his subordinates as if they were children. He took an immense pleasure in throwing files at the faces of senior officers. He often liked to summon his subordinates at odd times of the night to his residence for no work of importance. Insulting people came easily to him.

    But the proud defence services officers refused to be cowed down. There were instances of the files getting thrown out of the office or back on the table. Some abruptly walked out on Menon without taking his permission.

    So, to assert the civilian superiority over the military, Menon began to play favourites, tried to supersede capable commanders with pliant, weak-willed officers, and create protégés with, in all probability, Nehru's tacit approval. These officers naturally proved to be short on self-respect also and failed to stand up for their convictions when occasion demanded.

    Major General Palit writes in Menon's defence: "In spite of his methods such as barbed tongue, biting criticism and blatant cajolery to subvert opposition, if any army officer stood his ground, he wouldn't overrule him. The trouble was that most of his [Menon's] directions to the army were ill-conceived, ill-informed and foolhardy."

    But in a democracy, a majority of the government's directions, right or wrong, must prevail. Besides, Gen Palit is the only person to have defended Menon. Probably he saw his boss Kaul standing his ground before Menon, but then Kaul being Nehru's protégé could afford to do it.

    Also, Gen Palit, though working in fairly close proximity to the defence ministry and minister, appears to have been surprisingly unaware of Menon's habit of threatening officers who dared to raise genuine questions with a court-martial. Lieutenant General S L Menezes recounts this habit of Menon in his book, Fidelity and Honour.

    Generals Thapar, Sen and Kaul were literally forced by the Nehru-Menon combine to undertake actions that the military found unsound. But eventually trusting the judgement of intelligence chief B N Mullick and foreign affairs experts Nehru and Menon (in any case the highest decision-making body) that the Chinese were not serious about war and would not fight, these generals not only carried out their orders meekly but often with active co-operation.

    Kaul, who got taken in by Mullick's philosophy after initially differing with it, probably was also responsible for giving some wrong ideas to Nehru and Menon and/or strengthening some of their wrong ideas. Gen Sen, sadly, displayed no mind of his own and vacillated greatly between two extremes right to the end of the war.

    Finally, there came a time when these generals realised that 'an armed conflict with China was inevitable'. They also knew that our army was unprepared, ill-clothed and ill-armed and that the supply lines just didn't exist in that inaccessible terrain. If war broke out, our defeat was guaranteed. It must have also become clear to them that war meant sacrificing the officers and men under their command on their direct orders. They must have also clearly understood then that the battles they were getting forced into would bring disgrace to the nation and dishonour to the army.

    Yet they did not have the courage of their convictions to offer their resignations, preferring to be tools in the hands of their political bosses and carrying out a suicidal act. A mass resignation of the senior generals would have forced the government to back down and seek a diplomatic solution to the border problem while simultaneously strengthening the armed forces to take on China in high-altitude terrain.

    The government would have certainly gone out of its way to keep the whole matter secret, and thus there was no chance of any other risk emerging out of the episode. There was not a ghost of a chance of the acceptance of their resignations by the government, which just couldn't have risked the facts about the border conditions, poor diplomacy, and hasty demarcation of the borders without ratification by China becoming public.

    But these generals, indulging first in self-ambition and later in survival, forgetting that the men under their command, whom they were soon to order to their deaths, had no public voice and depended entirely on their superiors' good judgement and strong backbone for protection.

    General K S Thimayya was an officer with a brilliant military career. The British had always avoided giving higher command to Indian officers as a matter of policy. In such circumstances Thimayya was the only Indian officer to be made a brigadier and given command of an operational brigade during the Second World War.

    Later, during the 1947-48 war with Pakistan, Major General Thimayya gave an excellent account of himself. He was, without doubt, the most popular general, loved by one and all in the army. In due time he became chief of army staff. To his bad luck, that time happened to coincide with Krishna Menon's entry into the ministry of defence.

    Krishna Menon was a master in the art of one-upmanship, with many tricks up his sleeve. The writer Khushwant Singh has narrated many a humorous anecdote about this habit of Menon's. To get one up on General Thimayya and the military top brass, Menon employed a unique trick. On ceremonial occasions, he would often go and sit in the front seat of the car next to the driver, putting the accompanying army chief in a dilemma. How could he sit at the back while his boss, the defence minister/chief guest, was sitting in the humble front seat?

    General Thimayya found a diplomatic answer to this. He would ask the driver to sit behind and take the wheel of the car himself, and engage the defence minister in casual chat. Engrossed in his self-importance, Krishna Menon never grasped the essence of this tactic. Perhaps he felt elated that he was making the general drive him around, as he made a habit of it and extended this practice to all times, everywhere.

    The differences between Menon, the defence minister, and General Thimayya, chief of army staff, grew over the former's interference in military matters and promotions and postings of officers, as Thimayya refused to be browbeaten. There came a time when he resigned in protest (possibly on the matter of promoting Gen Kaul out of turn). Nehru worked his charm and managed to get Thimayya to withdraw his resignation, but eventually spoke in Parliament criticising the general, contrary to what he had promised.

    Thimayya, the soldier, who had no public voice, was greatly pained at having been let down in this manner. The episode also showed that Nehru was capable of doublespeak and could go back on his word. There were pro and contrary views on the resignation episode. Thimayya was a recipient of considerable criticism for his resignation as well as its retraction. In the bargain, the nation was the loser.

    When the time came for Thimayya to retire, it was expected that the brilliant commander of proven ability, Gen S P P Thorat, would be made chief superseding Gen Thapar. But the government opted for the meek and submissive Thapar, much to the disappointment of almost the entire officer cadre in the army.

    This animosity between the army and the civilians led to loss of interaction between the two. And in the long term, the armed forces began to get increasingly politicised, a process that continues.

    Civilian interference in defence matters, particularly promotions and postings, came to be accepted. There entered a most un-soldierly tradition into the services (some, not all) -- a tendency to be subservient to the bosses like junior civil officials. A tendency to toe the official line rather than display independent thinking/courage of conviction became the rule rather than the exception. Senior officers approached politicians for postings/appointments and courts for redressing their grievances. The Admiral Nadkarni-Koppikar-Bhagwat episode and the Admiral Bhagwat-Sushil Kumar-Harinder Singh episode are all offshoots of this same malaise.

    In the short term, pliant officers got promoted. The depressing effect of this on the previously highly promoted officer-like qualities, such as fearless expression of opinion and initiative and dash, was incalculable. The era of mediocrity was hastened in the defence services on account of the politicisation, which, to our good fortune, the services did make an honest effort to resist then and have continued resisting till date. With mixed results.

    rediff.com Special Series: 40 years after the Sino-Indian 1962 war
     
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  6. Blood+

    Blood+ Regular Member

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    A very informative and nicely written piece,THANX for posting sir.So for once the stories are true that the debacle of 1962 was more to do with the stupidity of us than the excellence of the chinese.Just hope that the lessons have been learnt and the mistakes are not repeated.
     
  7. Free Karma

    Free Karma Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nehru & Co. :( The more I read about him,I really feel he sort of piggy backed on his closeness to Gandhi, and was an Indian trying to be British, while trying to uphold what he thought of was Gandhian Ideas. It seems a lot of the problems we are facing today were created in that era :(

    This is a really good article, I could really feel the frustration and anger in the writer.
     

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