1962 India China War


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
China's Decision for War with India in 1962
John W. Garver

China's Decision for War with India in 1962

John W. Garver
Why Did China's Leaders Decide for War against India?
Why did China go to war with India in 1962? What were the reasons for that war
from the standpoint of China's leaders? What were the considerations that led China's
leaders to opt for large-scale use of armed force against India in 1962? And how
accurate were the views held by China's leaders? These are the questions this essay
The 1962 war with India was long China's forgotten war. Little was published in
China regarding the process through which China decided for war --- unlike for the
Korean War, the Indochina wars, the conflicts over the Offshore Islands in the 1950s, and
the 1974 Paracel Island campaign. Foreign analysts, such as Neville Maxwell and Allen
Whiting writing in the early 1970s, were thus compelled to rely on inferences drawn from
Chinese public statements.1 This situation began to change during the 1990s when there
appeared a half dozen Chinese publications on the 1962 war. On the Indian side, the
publication in 2002 of India's long-classified official history of the 1962 war offered
additional new and authoritative material.2 While these sources are far from complete,
they do offer sufficient new materials to warrant a revisiting of China's road to the 1962
This study will postulate two major, inter-related sets of reasons why China's
leaders decided for war with India in 1962.3 Ordered in the chronological fashion in
which the preoccupied China's leaders, these two sets of factors were:
1) a perceived need to punish and end perceived Indian efforts to undermine
Chinese control of Tibet, Indian efforts which were perceived as having the
objective of restoring the pre-1949 status quo ante of Tibet,
2) a perceived need to punish and end perceived Indian aggression against
Chinese territory along the border.
This study is also concerned with the accuracy of Chinese perceptions in these
two areas. It will attempt to ascertain whether China's decision for war was based, to
some degree, on misperceptions rather than on accurate assessment of the situation. This
study will argue that in terms of deterrence along the border, Chinese perceptions were
substantially accurate. Chinese perceptions regarding Indian policy toward Tibet,
however, were substantially inaccurate.
The historiography of any war is politically sensitive because it touches on the
question of which nation bears responsibility and thus the implicit moral onus for
initiating that war. The 1962 war is especially sensitive in this regard. The
historiography of that war figures prominently in the contemporary political psychology
of Sino-Indian relations --- on both sides of that relationship. While a scholar should
ideally be oblivious to the requirements of any such pressures, this ideal is hard to realize
in practice. Fortunately for a scholar who feels deep empathy with both sides of the 1962
war, this study will argue that both sides share responsibility for that war. This study
will argue that India's policies along the border, and especially the Forward Policy
adopted in November 1961, were seen by China's leaders as constituting incremental
Indian seizure of Chinese controlled territory. Moreover, there is little basis for deeming
these views inaccurate. But this study will also argue that Chinese perceptions of Indian
policies toward Tibet were fundamentally erroneous, and that, moreover, these
misperceptions contributed substantially to the 1962 war. Thus this study will arrive at
the felicitous conclusion that both sides bear onus for the 1962 war, China for
misconstruing India's Tibetan policies, and India for pursuing a confrontational policy on
the border.
Regarding the border, this study will test the Whiting-Maxwell hypothesis
regarding China's road to the 1962 war by drawing on recently available Chinese
accounts of the PRC decision making process. Broadly speaking Whiting and Maxwell
reached the same conclusion: China's resort to war in 1962 was largely a function of
perceived Indian aggression against Chinese territory. As noted earlier, Maxwell and
Whiting were forced to rely largely on inferences based on official Chinese statements at
the time of the 1962 war. Newly available Chinese materials allow us to go "inside" the
Chinese decision-making process in a way that was not possible in 1962. This offers a
useful testing of the Whiting-Maxwell thesis.
This study will also examine the accuracy of Chinese perceptions in a way that
Whiting and Maxwell did not attempt. Maxwell and Whiting stressed the role of
Beijing's concerns regarding Tibet in the formation of Chinese perceptions of foreign
threat in 1962. They generally took Chinese perceptions as a given, however, and were
not concerned with exploring the objective accuracy of those Chinese elite perceptions.
As Whiting said regarding Chinese perceptions of U.S. policy: "It is not the purpose of
this study to evaluate the accuracy of Chinese charges (against the United States)." Yet
Whiting went on to note that "Preconceptions can act as filters for selecting relevant
evidence of intention as well as determinants of bias in assessing the degree of threat to
be anticipated."4
Two concepts from psychology are useful for understanding the Chinese
perceptual filters that linked Tibet and the1962 war: fundamental attribution error and
projection. Attribution involves an individual's inferences about why another person acts
as he or she does. It is a process beginning with the perception of other persons in a
particular social context, proceeding through a causal judgement about the reasons for
the other person's behavior, and ending with behavioral consequences for the person
making the judgment. A fundamental attribution error occurs when one person
incorrectly attributes particular actions to the internal motives, character, or disposition of
another individual, rather than to the characteristics of the situation in which that
individual finds him or her self. Commission of a fundamental attribution error entails
systematic underestimation of situational determinants of other's behavior, determinants
deriving, most importantly, from the political and social roles of an individual, and
compulsions on the individual arising in particular situations due to those roles. Instead
of recognizing that the other individual acts as he/she does because of their particular
roles and the requirements of a particular situation, an observer attributes their behavior
to the personal motives or interior disposition of the other person. Social psychologists
have found this to be a very common malady. There is a pervasive tendency for
individuals to attribute others behavior to interior motivations, while attributing their own
behavior to situational factors.5 Below I will argue that Mao committed a fundamental
attribution error by concluding that Nehru sought to seize Tibet from China.
Projection involves transference by one individual onto another individual of
responsibility for events deriving, in fact, from actions of the first individual. It is very
difficult for people to deal with the dissonance arising from the fact that their actions
were inept and/or created pain for themselves and others. Rather than accept the blow to
self-esteem and the psychological discomfort that comes from that acceptance of
responsibility, individuals will often assign responsibility to some other individual. Thus
the person actually responsible is able to reach the comfortable conclusion that they were
not responsible. The fact that people suffered was not due to one's own actions, but to
the actions of some other person. In this way, the positive self-concept of the first
individual is maintained. Below, I will argue that India became the main object of
Chinese transference of responsibility for the difficulties that Chinese rule encountered,
and in fact created, in Tibet circa 1959.
A premise of the argument developed below is that what leaders think matters.
Some Realists find it satisfactory to look only at interests and policies, black-boxing or
ignoring the specific psychological processes through which leaders arrive at their
determinations about interests and policies. It is not necessary or possible to engage this
fundamental issue here. But it should be stipulated that the argument below rests on the
premise that particular policies derive from specific sets of beliefs and calculations linked
to those beliefs, and that different sorts of beliefs and calculations could well lead to
different policies.
Tibet and the 1962 War: The Chinese View of the Root Cause
A starting point for understanding the Chinese belief system about the 1962 war is
recognition that, from the Chinese point of view, the road to the 1962 war beings in
Tibet. Although Chinese deliberations in 1962 leading up to the war were closely tied to
developments on the border, Chinese studies of the 1962 war published during the 1990s
link Indian border policies to Tibet, and insist that Indian border policies derived from an
Indian effort to weaken or overthrow Chinese rule over Tibet. Chinese studies of the
1962 war insist that an Indian desire to "seize Tibet," to turn Tibet into an Indian
"colony" or "protectorate," or to return Tibet to its pre-1949 status, was the root cause of
India's Forward Policy and the 1962 war. These contemporary assertions mirror the
views of China's leaders circa 1962. In other words, Chinese beliefs about the nature of
Indian objectives regarding Tibet deeply colored Chinese deliberations regarding India's
moves along the border.
There is unanimous agreement among Chinese scholars that the root cause of the
1962 war was an Indian attempt to undermine Chinese rule and seize Tibet. The official
PLA history of the 1962 war argues that India sought to turn Tibet into a "buffer zone"
(huanzhongguo). Creation of such a buffer zone had been the objective of British
imperial strategy, and Nehru was a "complete successor" to Britain in this regard.
Nehru's objective was creation of a "great Indian empire" in South Asia by "filling the
vacuum" left by British exit from that region. Control over Tibet was, Nehru felt,
essential for "mastery over South Asia, and "the most economical method for
guaranteeing India's security."6 A study by Xu Yan, professor at the PLA's National
Defense University and one of China's foremost military historians, follows the same
line of argument: Nehru aspired and worked consistently throughout the 1950s to turn
Tibet into a "buffer zone." According to Xu, Nehru imbibed British imperialist
ideology, and believed that India should dominate neighboring countries. He quotes
Nehru and other early Congress Party leaders about their aspirations that India should
lead and organize the Indian Ocean region. The Indian independence struggle was also
marred by an emphasis on "pure nationalism" --- communist-jargon for non-Marxist
nationalism not underpinned by a "class analysis." Regarding Tibet, Nehru aspired to
turn that region into a "buffer zone" between China and India. This was Nehru's
consistent objective throughout the 1950s. The "decisive factor" in the deterioration of
Sino-Indian relations, according to Xu Yan, was Nehru's policy of "protecting" the
Tibetan "splittists" after the Lhasa rebellion of March 1959. 7
An article by Wang Hongwei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and one of
China's senior India hands, presents a similar view. Prior to 1947, Britain's objective,
Wang argues, was to bring Tibet within its "sphere of influence." Britain sought
"Tibetan independence," and continually attempted to instigate Tibet to "leave China"
(touli zhongguo). Nehru was deeply influenced by this British thinking, Wang argued,
through education in Britain and by assimilation of the mentality of the British ruling
class. In 1959, the Indian government "supported the Tibetan rebels," permitted them to
carry out "anti-China activities" on Indian territory, and even gave some Tibetan rebels
military training. Simultaneous with this, India advanced claims on Chinese territory.8
Implicitly but clearly, the purpose of India doing this was to achieve Tibetan
"independence" by instigating Tibet to "leave China."
One of the most extensive and nuanced Chinese accounts of events leading up to
the 1962 war is by Zhao Weiwen, long time South Asian analyst of the Ministry of State
Security. Zhao's account of the road to war also begins with Tibet and attribution of
aggressive motives to Indian policy moves. From 1947 to 1952, Zhao writes, "India
ardently hoped to continue England's legacy in Tibet." 9 The "essence" of English policy
had been to "tamper with China's sovereignty in Tibet to change it to 'suzerainty' thereby
throwing off the jurisdiction of China's central government over Tibet under the name of
Tibetan 'autonomy'." (shishi shang shi yao ba zhongguo zai xizang de zhuquan cuangai
wei 'zongzhuquan', shi xizang zai 'zizhi' de mingyi xia, touli zhongyang zhengfu de
guanxia).10 By 1952, however, the PLA's victories in Korea, in Xikang province, the
conclusion of the 17 Point Agreement of May 1951, the PLA's occupation of Tibet, and
Beijing's forceful rejection of Indian efforts to check the PLA's move into Tibet, forced
Nehru to change course. Nehru now began direct talks with Beijing over Tibet. There
were, however, "right wing forces" in India who "refused to abandon the English legacy"
in Tibet and who pressured Nehru in 1959. Moreover, Nehru himself "harbored a sort of
dark mentality" (huaiyou moxie yinan xinli), the exact nature of which is not specified
but which presumably included aggressive designs on Tibet.11 These factors led Nehru to
demonstrate an "irresolute attitude" (taidu bu jinyue) in 1959. On the one hand he said
that Tibet was a part of China and that he did not want to interfere in China's internal
affairs. On the other hand, he permitted all sorts of "anti-China activities and words"
aimed against China's exercise of sovereignty over Tibet. Zhao is more sensitive than
other Chinese analysts to the domestic political pressures weighing on Nehru in 1959.
Yet even she suggests that Nehru's "dark mentality" led him to give free reign to "anti9
China forces" in an attempt to cause Tibet to "throw off the jurisdiction of China's central
The attribution to India by contemporary Chinese scholars of a desire to seize
Tibet mirrors --- as we shall see below --- the thinking of Chinese leaders who decided to
launch that war. This is probably due to the fact that published scholarship in China is
still expected to explain and justify, not to criticize, the decisions of the Chinese
Communist Party, at least on such sensitive matters as war and peace.
Indian Policy toward Tibet
Assessment of the accuracy of Chinese views regarding Indian policy toward
Tibet depends on ascertaining what actually transpired in Indo-Tibetan-Chinese relations
in the years prior to the 1962 war. A brief review is thus requisite.
In 1949 and 1950 India covertly supplied small amounts of arms to the Tibetan
government.12 During the same period and while the PLA was preparing to move into
Tibet, the Indian government sought via diplomatic protests to the new PRC government
to prevent or limit PLA occupation of Tibet. Beijing rejected these Indian protests with
stern warnings. New Delhi also initially sought to uphold Indian rights in Tibet inherited
from Britain and embodied in treaties with the old Republic of China. These rights
included trading missions, representative officers, telecommunications facilities, and
small military contingents to guard these facilities in several Tibetan towns. Beijing
viewed these rights as products of imperialist aggression against China and unilaterally
abrogated the treaties upon which they were based. By 1952 or so, Nehru had accepted
China's views of these old treaties and of India's derivative special rights in Tibet. Many
in India, including a number of very prominent individuals though not initially Nehru,
were concerned with the fate of Tibet's Buddhist-based and Indian-influenced civilization
under rule by the Chinese Communist Party. Nehru became increasingly sensitive to this
"sentimental," "cultural" (terms Nehru used) interests in Tibet as the years passed. 13
On the other hand, India actually helped China consolidate its control over Tibet.
In October 1950 India refused to sponsor a Tibetan appeal to the United Nations. When
El Salvador sponsored such an appeal, India played a key role in squashing it. Many
governments, including the U.S., the British, and many Middle Eastern, were willing to
follow India's lead on this issue, and India's opposition to the Tibetan appeal to the U.N.
was, in fact, a major reason for its non-consideration.14 New Delhi also turned down U.S.
proposals 1950 of Indo-U.S. cooperation in support of Tibetan resistance to China.15
India also played a key role in persuading the young Dalai Lama not to flee abroad and
try to rally international support for Tibet, but to return to Tibet and reach an
accommodation with China's Communist government --- an accommodation that
occurred with the 17-Point agreement of May 1951. Then in 1954 India formally
recognized China's ownership of Tibet as part of an effort to reach a broader
understanding with China. Again, most countries recognized India's leadership on this
matter. After the 1954 agreement between China and India regarding Tibet, the Indian
government encouraged the Dalai Lama and his local Tibetan government to assert its
autonomy under the 17-Point agreement. Perhaps most important of all, until mid-1959
India allowed trade with Tibet to continue unimpeded. Prior to the mid-1950s when
newly PLA-built roads into Tibet were opened, India's supply of foodstuffs, fuels, and
basic goods was essential to restraining inflation in Tibet created by demand for these
commodities due to the introduction of large numbers of Chinese soldiers and
construction workers into a region with a subsistence economy.
In mid 1957 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began covert assistance
to rebels in the Kham region of southeastern Tibet. Assistance rendered through this
CIA program was actually quite limited totaling only 250 tons of munitions, equipment,
and supplies between 1957 and 1961.16 But CIA operations came to the attention of
Chinese intelligence, and thus became a concern of China's government. Tibetan
refugees that found asylum in northern Indian cities (especially Darjeeling, Kalimpong,
and Gangtok) in the 1950s also supported in various ways resistance movements inside
Tibet. Covert operatives from various countries including the U.S., Nationalist China,
and the PRC, were also active in those cities. By late 1958 Beijing began demanding that
India expel key leaders of the Tibetan resistance based in India, and suppress activities
supporting opposition to Chinese policies within Tibet. Nehru sought a middle course,
restricting Tibetan activities, but refusing to expel Tibetan leaders. A key question we
will return to below is how much Nehru knew about CIA operations in 1958-61.
Once the Tibetan national rising began in Lhasa on 10 March 1959, India did not
wash its hands of Tibetan affairs as Beijing insisted. Rather, Indian media and elected
Indian politicians, including Nehru and virtually every other Indian politician, expressed
greater or lesser sympathy with Tibet's struggle. Beijing condemned a large number of
Indian moves that it said encouraged the rebellion. These Indian moves included: the
Indian Consul General in Lhasa met with demonstrating Tibetans in the early days of the
Lhasa uprising; granting asylum to the Dalai Lama; having official contact with the
Dalai Lama; treating the Dalai Lama as an honored guest; permitting the Dalai Lama to
meet with the media and foreign representatives; not quashing the Dalai Lama's appeal
to the United Nations; granting asylum to ten thousand or so Tibetan refugees who
followed the Dalai Lama to India; concentrating those refugees in camps near the
Tibetan frontier; not suppressing "anti-China activities" conducted in those refugee
camps; permitting or encouraging negative commentary by Indian newspapers about
China's actions in Tibet; Nehru raising the "Tibet issue" in India's parliament and making
critical comments about China's policies in Tibet; Nehru permitting the Indian
parliament to discuss Tibet; allowing "anti-China activities" by protesters in Indian
cities; not punishing Indian protestors for defacing a portrait of Mao Zedong; instigating
an "anti-China campaign" in the Indian press; restricting trade between India and Tibet;
and allowing the Dalai Lama to speak of "a Tibetan government in exile." All these acts
constituted, in China's view, "interference in the internal affairs of China."17 Beijing saw
these Indian actions as ways in which New Delhi was attempting to "seize Tibet."
CCP Leaders Perceptions of Indian "Expansionism" in 1959
As noted earlier, the uniform belief of PRC historians of the 1990s that India
wanted to seize Tibet, mirrors the beliefs of China's leaders in 1959. In the aftermath of
the uprising that began in Lhasa on 10 March 1959, the CCP decided to dissolve the
Tibetan local government, assert its own direct administration, and begin implementing
social revolutionary policies in Tibet. On 25 March "central cadre" met in Shanghai to
discuss the situation in Tibet. Mao gave his views of the situation. India was doing bad
things in Tibet, Mao Zedong told the assembled cadre, but China would not condemn
India openly at the moment. Rather, India would be given enough rope to hang itself
(guo xing bu yi --- literally "to do evil deeds frequently brings ruin to the evil doer").
China would settle accounts with India later, Mao said.18
Three weeks later, as thousands of Tibetans fled into India where outraged Indian
and international sympathy welcomed them, Mao intensified the struggle against India.
On 19 April Mao ordered Xinhua news agency to issue a commentary criticizing
unnamed "Indian expansionists." Mao personally revised the draft commentary.19 Four
days later Mao ordered a further escalation. Renmin ribao should now openly criticize
Nehru by name, Mao directed. When Mao was presented with the draft, he rejected it.
The draft missed the point, Mao said. The target should not be "imperialism," but "Indian
expansionists" who "want ardently to grab Tibet" (wangtu ba xizang naleguochu).20 Days
later, on 25 April, Mao convened a Politburo Standing Committee meeting. Mao
immediately asked about the status of the revised editorial criticizing Nehru. He then
directed that the criticism should "be sharp, don't fear to irritate him [Nehru], don't fear to
cause him trouble." Nehru miscalculated the situation, Mao said, believing that China
could not suppress the rebellion in Tibet and would have to beg India's help. Here Mao
implied that Nehru was pursuing a strategy of fomenting rebellion in Tibet in hopes that
Beijing would solicit Indian help in dealing with that rebellion. The objective was to
maintain Sino-Indian friendship, Mao said, but this could only be achieved via unity
through struggle. Nehru's incorrect ideas had to be struggled against.21 Implicit in Mao's
comments was the notion that Nehru's instigation was responsible for the rebellion in
The polemic ordered and revised by Mao appeared on 6 May 1959 under the title
"The Revolution in Tibet and Nehru's Philosophy."22 The main charge leveled against
India was conduct of an "anti-China slander campaign" being waged by Nehru and the
Indian media over events in Tibet. Nehru's main offense against China was what he was
saying about Tibet, and the encouragement those words gave to rebels in Tibet. In his
comments, Nehru denied "that a handful of upper-strata [Tibetan] reactionaries are
responsible for the rebellion in Tibet, describes the just action of the Chinese people in
putting down the rebellion as a 'tragedy' and expresses sympathy for the rebellion. Thus,
he commits a most deplorable error," according to the article. The "vociferous selfstyled
sympathizers of the Tibetan people" in fact "sympathize with those who for
generations oppressed, exploited, and butchered the Tibetan people" -- with the "big serfowners"
who tortured and oppressed the Tibetan people under the "cruelest and most
savage serfdom in the world." Nehru was spreading such "slanders" against China in
Tibet via speeches to the Indian parliament and interviews with Indian newspapers. This
"slander campaign" against China had to cease. If it did not, China would hit back:
"So long as you do not end your anti-Chinese slander campaign, we will not cease
hitting back. We are prepared to spend as much time on this as you want to. We
are prepared too, if you should incite other countries to raise a hue and cry against
us. We are also prepared to find all the imperialists in the world backing you up
in the clamor. But it is utterly futile to try to use pressure to interfere in China's
internal affairs and salvage the odious rule of the big serf-owners in Tibet.
Nehru's sympathy for the Tibetan serf-owning class stemmed from the "dual
character" of the Indian "big bourgeoisie," which by its class nature "has a certain urge
for outward expansion." Thus Nehru and the Indian "big bourgeoisie" strove "to prevent
China from exercising full sovereignty over its territory in Tibet." They wanted Tibet to
have "a kind of semi-independent status," to be a "sort of buffer zone between China and
It is significant that Nehru's most egregious offense was his words. It was these
words which were reflective of his "philosophy," of his inner nature, of his class
character, of his role as a representative of the Indian "big bourgeoisie" and its ambitions
for expansion in Tibet. Mao's close involvement in the drafting of this document makes
clear that it fully represented Mao's own views.
The same day Renmin ribao published this commentary Zhou Enlai outlined
Chinese views for an assembly of socialist country representatives in Beijing. In doing
so, Zhou underlined the links between Nehru's words, his "class nature," and his counterrevolutionary
objectives in Tibet. Nehru and people from the Indian upper class, Zhou
explained, "oppose reform in Tibet, even to the extent of saying that reform is
impossible." Their motive in doing this was to cause "Tibet to remain for a long time in a
backward state, becoming a 'buffer state' between China and India." "This is their
guiding mentality, and also the center of the Sino-Indian conflict," Zhou said. (emphasis
added) "A section of the Indian upper class had inherited England's old policy of saying
Tibet is an 'independent country', saying that China only has 'suzerainty', or saying Tibet
is a 'protectorate.'" All these formulations were violations of China's sovereignty, Zhou
said. Nehru and company claimed sympathy for the Tibetans, but "Actually, they
sympathize with the serf-owners. Their objective is to cause Tibet not to advance, not to
reform, to become a 'buffer country,' to remain under India's influence, and become their
protectorate." This was "Nehru and company's" "basic class reaction."23
The question of responsibility for the crisis in Tibet figured prominently in the
contentious talks between Mao Zedong and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Beijing
on 2 October 1959. After a complete disagreement over Taiwan, Khrushchev turned to
India and Tibet, saying: "If you let me, I will tell you what a guest should not say --- the
events in Tibet are your fault. You ruled in Tibet, you should have had your intelligence
[agencies] there and should have know about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama"
[to flee to India]. "Nehru also says that the events in Tibet occurred on our fault," Mao
replied. After an exchange over the flight of the Dalai Lama, Khrushchev made the
point: "If you allow him [the Dalai Lama] an opportunity to flee to India, then what has
Nehru to do with it? We believe that the events in Tibet are the fault of the Communist
Party of China, not Nehru's fault." "No, this is Nehru's fault," Mao replied. "Then the
events in Hungary are not our fault," the Soviet leader responded, "but the fault of the
United States of America, if I understand you correctly. Please, look here, we had an
army in Hungary, we supported that fool Rakosi --- and this is our mistake, not the
mistake of the United States." Mao rejected this: "The Hindus acted in Tibet as if it
belonged to them."24
The proposition that an Indian desire to seize Tibet underlay Indian actions
continued to be central to Chinese thinking in the weeks prior to the 1962 war. On 16
October 1962, two days before the Politburo approved the PLA's plan for a large scale
"self defensive counter-attack" against India, General Lei Yingfu, head of the PLA's "war
fighting department " (zuo zhan bu), reported to Mao on why India had six days
previously launched a major operation to cut off Chinese troops atop Thagla Ridge. Lei
had been appointed to head an ad hoc small group established to probe the motives and
purposes behind Indian actions. Tibet headed Lei's list of five major Indian motives.
"Nehru has consistently wanted to turn China's ethnically Tibetan districts into India's
colony or protectorate," Lei reported to Mao. Lei adduced various Indian actions of
1950, 1956, and 1959 to substantiate this proposition. In March 1959, Lei reported to
Mao, Nehru "incited the Dalai Lama group to undertake rebellious activity of openly
splitting the motherland." Nehru "always wanted to use the strength of a minority of
Tibetan reactionaries to drive China out of the Tibetan areas of Tibet, [western] Sichuan,
and Qinghai." When Nehru saw this "plot" of using Tibetan reactionaries to split China
had failed, he "sent Indian forces to aggress against China's borders." "Yes," Mao said
as he nodded in agreement with Lei's conclusions about Tibet. "Nehru has repeatedly
acted in this way."25
Typically, Mao Zedong stated the matter most directly and forcefully. Speaking
to a visiting delegation from Nepal in 1964, Mao told his foreign visitors that the major
problem between India and China was not the McMahon line, but the Tibet question. "In
the opinion of the Indian government," Mao said, "Tibet is theirs."26
The Erroneous Nature of Chinese Perceptions of Indian Policy toward Tibet
The fact that China's leaders saw Indian efforts as attempts to "grab Tibet," to turn
Tibet into "a buffer zone," to return Tibet to its pre-1949 status, to "overthrow China's
sovereignty," or to cause Tibet to "throw off the jurisdiction of China's central
government," does not necessarily mean that those perceptions were accurate. In fact,
this core Chinese belief was wrong. This belief which Chinese analysts explain
underpinned China's decision for war in 1962, was, in fact, inaccurate. It was a deeply
pernicious Chinese misperception that contributed powerfully to the decision for war in
The Indian government indisputably was attempting to influence events inside
Tibet, as well as relations between the Tibetan local government and Beijing. What is in
question is not Indian actions, but the motives and purposes which lay behind those
Nehru's policies derived not from a desire to seize Tibet or over-throw Chinese
sovereignty there, but from a desire to uphold Tibet's autonomy under Chinese
sovereignty as part of a grand accommodation between China and India --- an
accommodation that would make possible a global partnership between India and China.
Nehru envisioned a compromise between Chinese and Indian interests regarding Tibet,
with Chinese respect for Tibetan autonomy combined with Indian respect for Chinese
sovereignty over Tibet. This accomodation would, Nehru believed, provide a basis for a
broad program of cooperation between China and India on behalf of the peoples of the
developing countries and against the insanity of a nuclear-armed bipolar Cold War.
Nehru believed that by demonstrating India's acceptance of China's ownership and
military control of Tibet while simultaneously befriending China on such issues as war in
Korea, the PRC's U.N. admission, the peace treaty with Japan and transfer of Taiwan to
the PRC, Indochina, and decolonization and the Afro-Asian movement, China could be
won to cooperation with India. The two leading Asian powers would then create a new
axis in world politics. In terms of Tibet, Nehru hoped that China would repay India's
friendship and consolidate the Sino-Indian partnership by granting Tibet a significant
degree of autonomy.27
A series of moves by Nehru in 1959 contradicts the proposition that he sought to
undermine China's rule over Tibet. When he granted asylum to the Dalai Lama in March
1959 he believed, on the basis of earlier comments by Zhou Enlai regarding such a
possibility in 1950, that Beijing would not regard it as an unfriendly act. After the Dalai
Lama's flight to India, Nehru initially thought the Tibetan leader could work out a deal
with Beijing restoring a degree or autonomy and permitting his return to Lhasa --- as had
been the case in 1951. Nehru stated repeatedly and publicly that Tibet was part of China
and that events there were an internal affair of China. After the Dalai Lama's 1959 flight
to India, Nehru urged the Tibetan leader to avoid speaking of independence, saying that
such a goal was "impractical." Instead, Tibet should seek mere autonomy instead, Nehru
said. India refused to support, and indeed actively discouraged, a Tibetan appeal to the
United Nations in 1959 and 1960 --- as it had in 1950. New Delhi urged Britain and
other states not to open contacts with the Dalai Lama and worked to obstruct the Dalai
Lama's efforts to establish such contacts. Even after the U.S. State Department stated in
February 1960 that the United States believed the principle of self determination should
apply to the Tibetan people, India did not welcome this move. These moves do not
suggest a policy of seeking to overthrow China's control over Tibet. As Tsering Shakya
concluded, Nehru's handling of Tibet during 1959-1960 (and indeed all the way to the
1962 war according to Shakya), amounted to an effort to placate Beijing at the expense
of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence.
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Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
continued from previous post......

Nehru believed that India had certain "cultural" and "sentimental" interests in
Tibet by virtue of several thousand years of intimate interaction between Tibet and India,
and from the fact that Tibet's unique culture had been deeply influenced by India. These
interests were very limited, Nehru believed, and could be best be achieved by respect for
China's sovereignty over Tibet. Nehru had explained India's interests, and their limited
nature, to Zhou Enlai in 1956, and believed that Zhou had been quite reasonable and even
generous in his recognition of them. That agreement accommodating Chinese and Indian
interests regarding Tibet was to be the foundation for Sino-Indian partnership in Asia and
the world. Then came Beijing's discarding of Tibetan autonomy in 1959.
Nehru believed that he and Zhou Enlai had reached a meeting of the minds, an
"agreement," in 1956 whereby India agreed to recognize China's sovereignty over Tibet
in exchange for China's granting of a significant degree of autonomy to Tibet. This
"agreement," according to Nehru, accommodated India's "sentimental," "cultural"
interests in Tibet ,and China's security and sovereignty concerns in that region, and thus
provided a foundation for Sino-Indian partnership. India's encouragement of Tibetan
efforts to uphold their autonomy in the 1950s, were, Nehru believed, in accord with
China's promises to uphold Tibet's autonomy. During the mid-1950s Zhou Enlai had
been remarkably understanding of India's cultural interests in Tibet, or so it seemed to
Nehru. India's various moves to strengthen Tibetan autonomy in the mid 1950s (tutoring
the Dalai Lama on the 17 Point Agreement and the ways he could use it to uphold Tibet's
autonomy, etc.) had been in accord with the Sino-Indian agreement. Following the
uprising in Lhasa in March 1959, however, China's destruction of Tibetan autonomy
"broke" this agreement.29 In 1959, Beijing still had its half of the bargain (Indian
recognition of China's sovereignty over Tibet), but had demolished India's part (Tibetan
autonomy). Yet Nehru's response was to press Tibeet to forgoe claims to independence
or appeal to the United Nations;. Only under the mounting pressure of Indian public
criticism, and sharp polemics from Beijing, did Nehru begin to adopt a more sympathetic
attitude toward the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan resistance to Beijing. Nehru's clear if
implicit objective was to return Tibet to its pre- 1959, not the pre-1949 status quo ante.
Nehru was dismayed in 1959 by Beijing's breaking of what he believed was the
agreement between him and Zhou Enlai regarding Tibetan autonomy. He was dismayed
too that Beijing apparently did not value India's friendship highly enough to respect its
side of the bargain with India. Nehru's strategy was not to oust China from Tibet, but to
press China to compromise with the modest and limited Indian "cultural and sentimental"
interests in that region. This compromise that would permit broad Sino-Indian
cooperation on the world scene. Nehru's objective, in other words, was not to "seize
Tibet" or deny Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. It was to persuade Beijing to respect
India's limited interests in that region within the framework of Indian support for China's
sovereignty over Tibet.
A second Indian objective (other than upholding India's "cultural" interest) in
Tibet can be reasonably inferred: minimizing the threat posed to India by Chinese
military forces positioned on India's northern borders in Tibet. While Nehru and other
Indian leaders were not explicit about this, this concern almost certainly helped inspire
their desire to maintain Tibetan autonomy. An autonomous Tibet would be one with
fewer Chinese soldiers and Chinese military bases. Again, this does not equate to a
desire to "seize Tibet" or cause Tibet to "leave China." Rather, persuading Beijing not to
militarize Tibet required reassuring Beijing that India respected and would help uphold,
China's sovereignty over Tibet, and that there was, consequently, no reason for China to
militarize that region. As Nehru told Sadar Vallabhai Patel in late 1949 when Patel
pointed out to Nehru the adverse consequences for India of China's impending military


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occupation of Tibet, since there was not very much that India (or any country for that
matter) could do to prevent China from asserting sovereignty over Tibet, it was best for
India to recognize Chinese sovereignty and work to secure India's interests within that
framework.30 Rather than challenging Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, it is more accurate
to say that Nehru sought to persuade Beijing to respect Indian interests regarding Tibet by
assuring Beijing of India's acceptance of China's sovereignty over Tibet and convincing
Beijing of the benefits that would accrue to China if it compromised with India over
Tibet thereby winning Indian friendship. Nehru's policy for minimizing China's military
presence in Tibet during the mid 1950s was to befriend China to the greatest possible
degree thereby convincing Beijing that it had no need for a large military presence in
Tibet. Nehru's hope was that Beijing would repay India's friendship by keeping the
Chinese military presence in Tibet low.
There were also powerful domestic pressures working on Nehru in 1959.
Criticism of Nehru's policy of befriending and placating China began to mount in 1958
as Indians became aware that China rejected the legitimacy of the McMahon Line. With
China's fierce repression of the Tibetan resistance in 1959, domestic Indian criticism of
Nehru's China policies became intense. Nehru struggled to respond to this mounting
criticism of his handling of relations with China. Nehru explained the political reality in
comments to parliament on 4 May: failure to grant the Dalai Lama asylum would have
won the support of only a "few thousand" Indians, while "hundreds of millions"
welcomed the granting of asylum. It was simply "impossible" not to grant asylum, Nehru
explained.31 Tibetan refugees streaming into India after March 1959 offered first hand
accounts of Chinese repression that were further sensationalized by India's media. There
was widespread revulsion in India at China's bloody and brutal repression in Tibet. As
Jaiprakash Narayan, one of India's foremost Gandhians, put it in mid-1959: "Tibet may
be a theocratic state rather than a secular state and backward economically and socially,
but no nation has the right to impose progress, whatever that may mean, upon another
Ascertaining the exact relation of Nehru to Tibetan resistance, armed and nonviolent,
and to U.S. covert operations is crucial for determining the accuracy of Chinese
perceptions. Regarding non-violent Tibetan resistance, the evidence is fairly clear:
Nehru, and India, did give low-key support to such resistance. Nehru's statements to
parliament in 1959, plus his comments to Intelligence Bureau chief B.N. Mullik in the
mid 1950s, indicate that Nehru saw strong but non-violent and unarmed Tibetan
resistance to unlimited Chinese rule in Tibet as one way to help maintain a substantial
and genuine degree of Tibetan autonomy --- while recognizing and accepting Chinese
sovereignty over Tibet.33
Regarding Nehru's attitude toward armed Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule, and
his knowledge of covert CIA operations in support of that armed resistance, the evidence
is, unfortunately, unequivocal. The closest study of India's decision-making process
during this period, by Steven Hoffman, concluded "It is unclear how much India's
government knew in 1958 or 1959 about the major CIA program" to support the Tibetan
armed resistance.34 Nor does the official Indian history of the 1962 war, published in
late 2002, shed any light on this question. Mullik maintained in his memoir that Nehru
told him that armed Tibetan resistance would be suicidal, counter-productive, and
insisted that peaceful, non-violent resistance was the best way. Tsering Shakya also
concluded that Nehru and other Indian leaders were not aware until after the 1962 war of
the extent of U.S. activities in support of Tibetan armed resistance. They had assumed,
Shakya concludes, that Chinese Nationalist airplanes had been making the various
mysterious flights protested by Beijing.35 On the other hand, John Knaus, the CIA field
officer in charge of covert support for the Tibetan rebels in the late 1950s and early
1960s, points to a communication by an official of the Indian Home Office regarding
fighting inside Tibet and Tibetan insurgent's need for arms. The U.S. government might
be interested in this information the Indian told the U.S. representative. Knaus calls this a
"signal" to the U.S. from Nehru.36 Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, in a study
based on interviews of U.S. participants in those covert operations, concluded that Nehru
and Mullik, at least, knew the general parameters of and tacitly condoned U.S. covert
operations into Tibet.37
This author's guess is that that Nehru, Mullik and perhaps a few other people in
the Indian government understood at least the broad contours of U.S. covert operations
into Tibet, but chose to turn a blind eye to them. Given the scope of U.S. activities
among the Tibetan refugee community at that juncture, and given India's good domestic
intelligence services, to conclude otherwise seems improbable. But even if we stipulate
that Nehru knew of and turned a blind eye toward U.S. covert operations in Tibet, it does
not necessarily follow that the Indian objective was to seize Tibet or overturn Chinese
sovereignty over that region. A far more economical explanation, and one in line with
Nehru's conciliatory handling of the Tibet issue outlined above, and also congruent with
the evidence of Nehru's hope of striking a grand bargain with China, is that Nehru's
objective was to create a set of pressures that would induce Beijing to accommodate
India's interests in Tibet. In other words, Nehru's turning a blind eye to U.S. covert
activities, was probably a way of persuading Beijing of the wisdom of securing Indian
cooperation in upholding Chinese sovereignty over that --- not a way of driving China out
of Tibet or over-turning Chinese sovereignty over that region.
It is clear that Nehru sought to persuade and pressure Beijing to grant Tibet a
degree of genuine autonomy. It is also probably true that Nehru sought to limit the level
of Chinese military presence in Tibet for the sake of India's own security. It is an
insupportable leap from these elements of Indian policy to the conclusion that India
sought to overthrow or undermine Chinese rule over Tibet. The proposition that because
India recognized and acted on interests within Tibet, it was ipso facto attempting to
undermine Chinese sovereignty is untenable, although this proposition certainly
constitutes one element of the Chinese belief system.
Narrower elements of the Chinese belief system were also clearly inaccurate. The
proposition that Nehru sympathized with Tibet's "serf-owning class" and wanted to
maintain Tibet's traditional social-political system unchanged, is palpably wrong. Nehru
deemed himself a socialist, a secularist, and in religious terms, an agnostic. He had little
sympathy for the reactionary, religion-based political system of Tibet. He was also
deeply cognizant of the urgent need for reform of Tibet's traditional structures. Indeed, it
was partially because of that recognition that he concluded circa 1950 that the CCP
would be able to consolidate its rule over Tibet. To some degree, Nehru's conciliatory
approach to Beijing's rule over Tibet in mid 1950s was based on active sympathy with the
CCP's mission of progressive reform in Tibet. In sum, the conclusion that Nehru desired
to maintain Tibet's traditional system, to keep Tibet poor, or to prevent progress in Tibet
was simply wrong.
China's leaders erred in attributing to Nehru a desire to seize Tibet from China,
transforming it into an Indian protectorate or colony, and overthrowing Chinese
sovereignty over that region. Nehru sought, rather, to induce Beijing to respect Indian
cultural and security interests in Tibet within the framework of Chinese sovereignty over
that region. Once "expansionist" motives were attributed to Nehru and judged to arise
out of his "basic class character," "British influences," or "dark psychology," it followed
that China would have to struggle against and punish Nehru and his ilk. A determination
that Nehru sought a balanced compromise of Chinese and Indian interests regarding Tibet
within the framework of Indian support for Chinese sovereignty and for the sake of Sino-
Indian global cooperation, would have led to a very different Chinese course of action.
This fundamental attribution error must be laid at Mao's door. It was he who first
determined, at the central meeting on 23 April 1959, that "Indian expansionists" wanted
to "seize Tibet." Mao completely dominated China's foreign policy decision making
process by 1959. Once Mao made that determination, China's other leaders were
compelled to chime in. Indeed, even today China's scholars are still compelled to affirm
Mao's erroneous judgment.
The consequence of Mao's fundamental attribution error regarding Nehru was
compounded by projection onto India of responsibility for Tibetan resistance to Chinese
rule. Confronted with strong Tibetan resistance to Chinese policies in Tibet, Mao and
his comrades responded by blaming that resistance on India. It was Indian
encouragement, Indian "expansionist" machinations, that was responsible for resistance
to Chinese policies in Tibet.
It is certainly true that demonstrations of Indian sympathy such as conveyed by
Nehru's comments in March-April 1959 did, to some degree, encourage Tibetan
resistance to the dictates of Beijing. Far more fundamental, however, were such factors
as those analyzed by Tsering Shakya in his monumental study of Tibet's history: the
introduction of large numbers of PLA soldiers and road construction crews into Tibet and
the increased demand for foodstuffs and derivative inflation that followed; the socialist
reforms --- especially collectivization of agriculture --- introduced in ethnically Tibetan
regions of western Sichuan and the flood of refugees into Tibet those reforms produced;
the civilizational clash between CCP atheism and Tibet's deep religiosity; and perhaps
most important of all, the pervasive sense of unease Tibetans felt as they watched more
and more Han Chinese pour into the Tibetans ancestral land where Han had previously
been scarce.38 These factors weighed far heavier than anything India may or may not
have done.
Chinese leaders felt very strongly that road building, socialist reforms,
suppression of religion, and other Chinese measures in Tibet were "correct" and
"progressive." This very strong Chinese sense of self-righteousness prevented them
from recognizing the responsibility of their own actions for producing the rebellion
against Chinese rule. How could "correct" and "progressive" policies rouse rebellion
against them --- unless there were outside machination? It was cognitively impossible
for Mao and his comrades to recognize that their own policies had produced a popular
rebellion against them. It was psychologically more comfortable to conclude that India
had fomented the rebellion in order to undermine Chinese rule in Tibet so that India
could turn that region into a buffer zone. Responsibility for that rebellion was projected
onto India.
Chinese misperceptions of Indian motives in 1959 were linked to the border
conflict of 1961-62 (discussed in the next section) in two ways. First, Mao's beliefs
about Nehru's desire to "seize Tibet" structured the Chinese interpretation of Indian
border policies --- especially the Forward Policy. A more accurate understanding of
Nehru's increasingly desperate effort to maintain his cooperative, friendship policies
toward China in 1959-60 might have produced a more conciliatory Chinese response to
the Forward Policy. If the Forward Policy had not been seen --- as Mao saw it --- as part
of an effort to "seize Tibet, but as arising from a desire on the part of Nehru to
demonstrate toughness and resolve in the face of mounting domestic criticism, such a
firm Chinese rebuff as came in November 1962 might not have been deemed necessary.
This deconstruction of Chinese propositions of March-May 1959 might seem
overblown until we come back to the conclusion of Chinese leaders and scholars that
Indian policies regarding Tibet lay at the root of the 1962 war. Indian policies had to be
firmly rebuffed, China's leaders believed, because they were part of an effort to seize
Tibet. Different Chinese beliefs about the Indian motivations underlying more assertive
Indian border policies initiated in 1961 might have led to different Chinese responses to
that policy.
The second link between Mao's misperceptions of 1959 and the border conflict of
1961-62 was that Beijing's strident polemics and diplomatic protests in 1959-1960
helped propel Nehru toward a more forceful border policy, toward the Forward Policy.
Beijing's strident denunciations of Nehru's policies in spring 1959 contrasted sharply
with Nehru's equivocation and weakness during the same period. This discrepancy
fueled the mounting chorus of criticism of Nehru's "weakness" and "naiveté" that drove
him toward the Forward Policy. If Beijing had responded to Tibetan events in 1959 not
by polemicizing against Nehru, but by lauding and courting him, by finding a few facesaving
sops for him regarding Tibetan "autonomy" that Nehru could use in fending off
his domestic critics, Nehru might not have felt compelled to prove his toughness on the
border issue. Instead of adopting the Forward Policy, Nehru might have stood by a stillnot-
discredited friendship policy.
China's Response to India's Forward Policy
If Chinese perceptions regarding India's Tibet actions and policies were deeply
flawed, the same cannot be said about Chinese views of India's Forward Policy.
Succinctly stated, the orthodox scholarly view in this regard, established by Maxwell and
Whiting, is that, in deciding for war, China's leaders were responding to an Indian policy
of establishing Indian military outposts in territory claimed by both India and China but
already under effective Chinese military occupation, the purpose being to expel Chinese
forces from territory claimed by India.
Because war is a continuation of policies, it is important to understand the
evolution of Chinese policies toward the Indo-Tibetan border. The crucial background in
this regard was Nehru's rejection of a Chinese proposal --- subtly and unofficially but
nonetheless effectively raised by Zhou Enlai during his April 1960 visit to India --- that
China drop its claims in the eastern sector in exchange for India dropping its claims in the


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western sector. Such a swap would have given each side legal right to territory already in
its possession and most important to each nation's security. Nehru rejected the swap
proposal and insisted that China abandon its claim in the east and withdraw from Aksa
Chin in the west. The grounds for Nehru's position was a belief that are already existed a
legally based boundary between India and Tibet tracing to the 1914 Simla conference.
The question, for Nehru, was whether China would respect that legal and already existing
boundary. Chinese leaders, on the other hand, saw the Simla agreement as without legal
or moral basis. It had been rejected by China's central government in 1914 and had been
implemented by British force majeure during China's century of national humiliation.
China was nonetheless willing to accept the McMahon line as the basis of a settlement, as
was intimated by Zhou to Nehru during discussions in 1956 and 1957. By doing this,
however, China believed it was making a substantial concession that reasonably required
an Indian quid pro quo in Aksai Chin. Nehru, for his part, and in the words of the official
Indian history, "did not agree to barter away the Aksai Chin area, under illegal
occupation of China, in return for China giving up its unreasonable claim to Indian
territory south of the McMahon Line."39 From the Chinese point of view, the offer of an
east-west swap was eminently reasonable and took into consideration the interests of both
countries. Its rejection by Nehru was, China's leaders felt, entirely unreasonable.
Three rounds of border talks were held in 1960 following two visits by Zhou to
India. Those talks soon deadlocked. Zhou's repeated visits to India were seen by Beijing
as further tokens of Chinese sincerity. (Zhou visited India four times, while his
counterpart Nehru visited China only once.) Then in February 1961 India published in
full its final report on the talks along with an English translation of the Chinese report to
India. New Delhi hoped that publication of this voluminous documentary record would
cause China to "adopt a reasonable attitude."40 Beijing saw it as further Indian effort to
force China to accept an unreasonable and unfair settlement. When Indian
representatives found no change in China's position, New Delhi became uninterested in
further talks. This led Beijing to charge, in March 1962, that India "refused to hold
negotiations." New Delhi replied that while it was prepared for negotiations, Chinese
withdrawal from Aksai China was "an essential step for the creation of a favorable
climate for negotiations "¦ regarding the boundary."41
Unlike with Chinese perceptions of India's Tibetan policies in 1959, there is no
basis for concluding that Chinese views of India's border policies were inaccurate. In
part this is due to the difference between evaluating a purely empirical proposition (i.e.,
what motives lay behind Nehru's Tibetan policies?) and a normative question (i.e., were
Beijing's offers of a border settlement fair and reasonable?) Normative propositions are
intrinsically subjective. It should perhaps be noted, however, that had Nehru accepted
Zhou's 1960 offer of an east-west swap, he (Nehru) could very probably have carried
Indian public opinion with him --- and avoided war. Thus Nehru's rejection of Zhou's
package-deal solution, plus his insistence on Chinese abandonment of Aksai Chin, must
be seen as crucial steps on the road to the 1962 war.
Nehru's insistence on Chinese abandonment of Aksai Chin established a link in
Chinese minds between the border issue and China's ability to control Tibet. The road
built via that desolate plateau was very important to PLA logistic capabilities in Tibet.42
Chinese abandonment of that road would have significantly diminished PLA capabilities
in Tibet, further increasing pressure on Beijing to compromise with India regarding Tibet.
Whether this was, in fact, Nehru's intention we do not and probably never will know.
While this surmise was certainly plausible, there is no evidence indicating that this was,
in fact, India's objective. Steven Hoffman traced Nehru's concern with Aksai Chin to a
vision of India's historic boundaries adversely compromised by British colonial
bureaucrats.43 The recently declassified official Indian history of the 1962 war also
attributes the Indian fixation on Aksai China to "national sentiments" roused by "loss of
national territory."44 Very probably the powerful but inaccurate Chinese belief about
India's desire to "seize Tibet " led to an incorrect Chinese conclusion that Nehru's
insistence on Aksai Chin was part of a grand plan to achieve that purpose.
The Militarization of the Border Conflict
The military forces of both sides began pushing into remote and previously
mostly unoccupied mountainous frontier regions in 1958 and 1959. Beijing's greater
public assertiveness in challenging the McMahon line in 1958, combined with growing
Indian awareness of China's road building in Aksai China, led India to begin pushing
Indian forces into forward regions. As for China, following the Lhasa uprising in March
1959, the PLA launched an "all out war" against the Tibetan rebels. The first objective of
the operation was to seal the border between the Lokka region of Tibet southeast of
Lhasa and India's North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA) and Bhutan. By August the
PLA had sealed the border.45 That brought Chinese forces into forward areas.
The first incident of bloodshed on the Sino-Indian border occurred at Longju on
the Lokka-NEFA frontier on 25 August 1959. That clash apparently occurred, or at least
escalated, at the initiative of the Chinese side but without the authorization of China's
central authorities. Soviet leader Khrushchev discussed this incident with Mao and Zhou
during his early October 1959 visit to Beijing. Khrushchev was dismayed with the
spiraling tension in Sino-Indian relations and wanted an explanation of the 25 August
incident. Both Zhou Enlai and Mao assured Khrushchev that the Chinese handling of
that incident had been at the initiative of the local commander and without central
authorization. "We did not know until recently about the border incident, and local
authorities undertook all the measures there without authorization from the center," Zhou
told Khrushchev. "The rebuff was delivered on the decision of local military organs,"
Mao said.46 Mao and Zhou assured the Soviet leader that China desired peaceful
resolution of the border problem and avoidance of conflict with India.
In September, just before Khrushchev's visit, Chinese leaders had met in
Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, to consider how to avoid further bloodshed on the border
with India. Mao, Zhou, PRC President Liu Shaoqi, Beijing mayor and Politburo member
Peng Zhen, Mao's secretary Hu Qiaomu, and General Lei Yingfu participated. The
meeting began with a report by Lei on the border situation. Lei recounted repeated calls
from front line commanders for "rebuff" (huanji) of India's "blatant aggression" against
China. Mao became somewhat exasperated at this and observed that conflict was
inevitable as long as soldiers of the two sides were "nose to nose." He therefore proposed
a withdrawal of 20 kilometers. If India was unwilling to do this, Mao suggested, China
would unilaterally withdraw. "Meeting participants unanimously supported Chairman
Mao's suggestion," according to Lei Yingfu.47 Thus, Chinese forces were ordered to
withdraw 20 kilometers from what China felt was the line of actual control, and to cease
patrolling in that forward zone. Further Chinese measures to decrease tension on the
border were adopted in January 1960 (prohibiting target practice, food gathering,
exercising, etc, within the forward zone). Tension declined for 23 months.
It began to spiral again in November 1961 when India started implementing its
Forward Policy. According to the official Indian history, before 1961 a "wide corridor
of empty area" separated Chinese forward outposts from Indian outposts. But Chinese
forces were steadily pushing forward their posts "occupying more and more of the empty
area." In an effort to prevent further Chinese advances by demonstrating "that the
remaining area was not empty," Indian forces were ordered to "push forward." The
assumption underlying this critical decision was that China was not likely to use force
against Indian outposts "even if they were in a position to do so."48 Under the new
policy, Indian forces were ordered to "patrol as far forward as possible from our [India's]
present position toward the International Border as recognized by us "¦ [and] prevent the
Chinese from advancing further and also to dominate any Chinese posts already
established on our territory." As Whiting observed, this new policy "sowed the seeds of
conflict." 49 When Indian forces initially began implementing the Forward Policy,
Chinese forces withdrew when they encountered the newly advanced Indian outposts.
This "encouraged" the Indian side and led to the further acceleration of the Forward
Policy. According to the official Indian history. "A large number of Indian posts were
established quickly."50
Shortly after Indian forces began implementing the Forward Policy, Mao Zedong
convened a Central Military Commission (CMC) meeting in Beijing to consider China's
response.51 Mao had earlier asked the Tibet and the Xinjiang military regions for
proposals, and those were apparently on the table when the central meeting convened.
Mao compared India's Forward Policy a strategic advance in a game of Chinese chess in
which one side pushes pawns across the centerline of the board, a line known as the Han-
Chu border in reference to the frontier between those two ancient Chinese states:
Their [India's] continually pushing forward is like crossing the Chu Han
boundary. What should we do? We can also set out a few pawns, on our side of
the river. If they don't then cross over, that's great. If they do cross, we'll eat
them up (ba tamen chi diao) [ in a chess metaphor this would mean to take the
opponent's pieces]. Of course, we cannot blindly eat them. Lack of forbearance
in small matters upsets great plans. We must pay attention to the situation.52
In line with Mao's comments, the CMC ordered China's border forces to resume
patrols within the zone 20 kilometers north of the McMahon line --- patrols suspended
since October 1959. Accelerated construction of roads to forward areas was also ordered.
As the crisis built, Mao Zedong took personal charge of the "struggle with India." Mao
stressed to PLA Chief of Staff Lou Ruiqing that the firing of the Chinese "first shot" must
be personally approved by himself, Mao Zedong. 53
On 26 February 1962 Beijing delivered a lengthy and conciliatory sounding note
to India. The note called for negotiations to reach a peaceful settlement of the boundary
problem. India's reply came on 13 March. It reiterated India's standard position that
Chinese withdrawal from Aksai China was an essential precondition for negotiations.54
A while later Mao met again with Lin Biao, then vice chair of the CMC and
minister of defense, Zhou Enlai, and Luo Ruiqing. Again the topic was the situation
being created by implementation of India's Forward Policy. Zhou Enlai first reported on
India's rejection of China's many diplomatic proposals for negotiations. Lin Biao then
reported that Indian forces continued to set up outposts next to Chinese outposts,
continued to dispatch patrols into forward areas, and continued to fire (sheji) on Chinese
border defense personnel. Mao noted it would be hard to make Nehru change course: "A
person sleeping in a comfortable bed is not easily roused by someone else's snoring," he
commented. After discussion, the CMC decided that the PLA absolutely should not
retreat before Indian advances. When Indian forces established outposts encircling
Chinese positions, Chinese forces should build even more outposts counter-encircling the
new Indian positions. In this fashion, Chinese and Indian positions would develop in an
inter-locking, zigzag fashion. But Chinese forces were also to seek to avoid bloodshed.
They were absolutely not to fire without orders from above. In this fashion a situation of
"armed coexistence" (wuzhang gongchu) would develop. Mao's comment on this
situation was:
Nehru wants to move forward and we won't let him. Originally, we tried to guard
against this, but now it seems we cannot prevent it. If he wants to advance, we
might as well (jiu zhi hao) adopt armed coexistence. You wave a gun, and I'll
wave a gun. We'll stand face to face and can each practice our courage (keyi lian
danliang). 55
Following this meeting further orders went out to the Tibet and Xinjiang military
regions accelerating construction of new PLA outposts and roads. All levels of the PLA
and frontier forces were ordered to report developments immediately, and it was
reiterated that lower levels absolutely could not decide matters on their own. At all costs,
troops and units were to avoid actions that would cause a further worsening of the border
situation. Chinese forces were also ordered to conduct propaganda work toward Indian
soldiers, calling out to them on encounters to urge them to stop their aggression against
China, extolling the traditional friendship between China and India, and recounting the
efforts of the Chinese government to achieve a peaceful resolution of the border issue.56
Chinese border forces also abandoned their initial policy of withdrawing when
encountering new Indian posts. Chinese forces began standing their ground. According
to the official Indian history, "When some Indian posts, for example in the Galwan valley
[in Aksai Chin] were established outflanking the Chinese posts, the Chinese attitude
changed and became more threatening." Rather than withdraw as previously, Chinese
forces countered the Indian move by building positions surrounding the new Indian post
and cutting off its supply routes to rear areas. 57
As Whiting and Maxwell maintained, Chinese leaders believed they were
defending territory that they believed was legitimately Chinese and had already been
under de facto Chinese occupation for some time when Indian forces arrived on the
scene. To fail to contest India's forward policy would be to acquiest to continual Indian
"nibbling" of Chinese territory resulting, finally, in unilateral Indian establishment of a
new de facto line of control between Indian and Chinese territory.
China's abandonment of the initial policy of withdrawal in face of Indian
advances, in favor of the tougher policy of armed coexistence, "clearly showed that the
basic assumption behind the Forward Policy decision [that the Chinese would withdraw
rather than use force] was no longer valid, and a serious reappraisal of the new situation
should have been undertaken" by India. "This reappraisal, however, never took place and
the situation was allowed to drift," according to the official Indian history.58 Instead of
reexamining the assumptions of the Forward Policy, Indian leaders made that policy still
more aggressive. Rather than merely seeking to preempt Chinese occupation of vacant
land, "It was now decided to push back the Chinese posts they already occupied." 59
In April 1962 India accelerated implementation of the Forward Policy in the
eastern sector, apparently because Nehru believed that the situation there favored India
more.60 More Indian posts were built on commanding heights near existing PLA
outposts, and aerial and ground reconnaissance was increased. This produced a
"strongest protest" from China's foreign ministry. "Should the Indian government refuse
to withdraw its aggressive posts and continue to carry out provocation against the
Chinese posts," the note said, "the Chinese frontiers will be forced to defend
themselves."61 India pushed forward with implementation of the Forward Policy in spite
of China's protests. On 5 May 1962 the first officially protested exchange of gunfire
occurred. Another Chinese protest followed on 19 May: Unless India "desists
immediately" from intrusions into the Longju region, "the Chinese Government will not
stand idly by."62 By the end of June, the Indian foreign office reported that Indian forces
had brought under Indian control over than 2,000 square miles of China-claimed territory
since the beginning of the Forward Policy.63 Moreover, in July 1962, Indian Army
Headquarters "gave discretion to all post commanders to fire on the Chinese if their
[Indian] posts were ever threatened."64
Egregious Indian miscalculation regarding China's willingness to resort to
military force underlay the increasingly assertive Indian policies that unfolded between
November 1961 and October 1962. There was a virtual consensus among Indian leaders
that China would not respond with military force to Indian advances, or if it did, any
military response would be extremely limited. A Chinese resort to large-scale military
force was deemed impossible. This conclusion was established by Nehru and Defense
Minister Krishna Menon, and became unchallengable political orthodoxy.65 In spite of a
clear Indian recognition of China's military superiority in the frontier regions, Indian
leaders reached the conclusion that that China's superiority was irrelevant. If India
demonstrated firm intent, China would back down. In the words of the Indian Chief of
General Staff regarding the final order to Indian forces in September 1962 to drive
Chinese forces from atop Thagla ridge: "experience in Ladakh had shown that a few
rounds fired at the Chinese would cause them to run away."66
Since our concern is with China's decision making process, we need not delve
into the origins of this monumental Indian miscalculation. It is important to note,
however, the two-fold impact of this Indian assumption on China's thinking. First, it
deeply offended Chinese nationalist pride. China had "stood up," as Mao said when
proclaiming the establishment of the People's Republic in October 1949. It would no
longer be bullied by foreign powers. The PLA had fought the United States in Korea and
performed creditably, at least in the judgment of China's leaders. Yet here was India
acting as though the PLA would turn tail and run rather than fight to defend Chinese
territory and honor. Apparently India had not yet learned the lesson that the Americans
had learned in Korea --- to respect the power of New China. The second implication of
India's apparent disdain for Chinese power, was that a very strong jolt would probably be
necessary to cause Indian leaders to acquire a sober appreciation of Chinese power. The
gradual hardening of China's response to India's forward policy --- ceasing withdrawal
when confronted by Indian advances and adoption of a policy of "armed coexistence,"
acceleration of China's own advance, building positions surrounding, threatening, and
cutting off Indian outposts, steady improvement of PLA logistic and other capabilities in
the frontier region, increasingly strong and direct verbal warnings, and by September
1962 outright but small-scale PLA assault on key Indian outposts --- did not cause India
to abandon its illusion of Chinese weakness. The final Chinese decision to inflict a big
and painful defeat on Indian forces derived substantially from a sense that only such a
blow would cause India to begin taking seriously Chinese power.
The Final Five Months
While India's Forward Policy was gathering steam in mid-1962, Beijing received
indications that a war between China and India would not draw in other powers. First
Beijing secured indications from Washington that the United States would not support a
Nationalist Chinese attack on mainland China. In late May 1962 Premier Zhou Enlai
recalled Ambassador Wang Bingnan from vacation and ordered him to return to his post
in Warsaw to ascertain U.S. intentions regarding the Nationalist Chinese invasion then
being ostentatiously prepared on Taiwan. (Ambassadorial talks in Warsaw was then the
main venue for U.S.-PRC interactions.) The crisis in Laos was still raging and Zhou was
also concerned that Laos might serve as a corridor for a possible Nationalist attack. Were
Washington to support a Nationalist invasion, a conflict between India and China might
become linked to that invasion, possibly touching off a larger conflagration across
China's entire southern borders. Thus Wang was "extremely relieved" when he heard
from his U.S. counterpart on 23 June that the United States did not desire war with China
and would not, "under present circumstances" support a Nationalist Chinese invasion of
the mainland. Wang later learned that this information played a "very big role" in
China's decision making process.67
Next the war raging in Laos between Hanoi and Beijing supported Laotian
communists and U.S. supported Laotian anti-communists was put in hiatus via a de facto
partition of that country. On 23 July, exactly a month after the Warsaw ambassadorial
meeting, the major powers signed at Geneva an agreement "neutralizing" Laos. The end
of intense fighting in Laos, plus a U.S. pledge not to introduce its military force into Laos
(part of the "neutralization" agreement) reduced the prospect that U.S or U.S.-supported
Nationalist Chinese forces might attack China via Laos. This development increased the
prospect that a war between China and India would remain limited.
During the Geneva conference on Laos, Beijing also made another effort to halt
the Indian advance via diplomatic means. Zhou Enlai directed China's representative,
foreign minister and former veteran General Chen Yi, to seek out India's representative,
Defense Minister Krishna Menon, and urge him to find ways of preventing the border
situation from further deteriorating. This would be advantageous not only to Sino-Indian
relations, but even to the peace of the whole world, Zhou told Chen to tell Menon. Chen
Yi was one of the PLA's the most combat-experienced PLA generals, having been left to
defend CCP base areas in the south when the central leadership moved north with the
Long March in 1935. Chen spend the next 14 years fighting with considerable success
Japanese and Nationalist forces. One can imagine the meeting in Geneva between this
hard-headed general and the idealistic Krishna Menon who believed in the susaive force
of moral opinion. On 23 July the two men met. Chen asked Menon what ideas the
"honorable Indian government" had about solving the Sino-Indian border problem?
Menon replied that, in India's view, there was no border problem between China and
India. The location of the boundary was very clearly displayed on Indian maps. Implicit
in this was the notion that the way to a solution lay in Chinese withdrawal from all
territory claimed by India. Moreover, this message was conveyed in an arrogant tone of
voice, according to the Chinese account. Chen Yi then said that Indian forces were
steadily advancing into Chinese territory, and could it be that the Indian representative
did not know this? Menon replied that the movements of Indian troops were taking
place on Indian territory. He did not wish to argue, Chen said, but the border problem
was a "big one," and the two sides should sit down and calmly discuss it. Chen proposed
that he and Menon issue a joint communiqué announcing future talks on the "problem of
preventing border conflict." Menon declined this proposal but said he would report the
matter to his government. The next day Chen flew back to Beijing to report to Zhou
After hearing Chen Yi's report, Zhou commented "It seems as though Nehru
wants a war with us" (yao tong women da jiang). Yes, Chen replied. Menon had
showed no sincerity regarding peaceful talks, but "merely intended to deal in a
perfunctory way with China" (zhibuguo fuyan women). "At least we made the greatest
effort for peace," Zhou reportedly replied. "Premier," Chen replied, "Nehru's forward
policy is a knife. He wants to put it in our heart. We cannot close our eyes and await
death." "We need to discuss the matter with the Chairman," Zhou concluded.69
Circa July 1962 Mao issued a "twenty character directive" in response to India's
"forward policy." The CMC later embodied Mao's directive in a decision that provided
the "general direction" (zong fangzhen) until several weeks before the October war.
According to Mao's directive, the PLA should "absolutely not give ground, strive
resolutely to avoid bloodshed, interlock [with Indian forces] in a zigzag pattern, and
undertake a long period of armed coexistence" (jue bu tui rang, lizheng bimian liu xie,
quan ya jia cuo, chang qi wuzhang gongchu). 70 To implement this new "general
direction, Luo Ruiqing issued to the Xinjiang military region orders specifying 22
measures which PLA front line troops were to follow. If Indian forces advanced on PLA
positions, PLA forces would give warning and urge the Indian forces to withdraw. If the
Indian forces did not heed these warnings, the warnings could be repeated 2, 3, or even
more times. Only if Indian forces advanced to within 50 meters of PLA positions and
Chinese forces "could not survive without self defense," would PLA forces "prepare for
self defense" (shi jun ziwei). If the enemy then withdrew, PLA forces would not seek to
block that withdrawal.
It is not clear whether Lou Ruiqing's 22 Measures authorized Chinese soldiers to
fire on Indian forces closing in a threatening fashion within 50 meters of Chinese forces.
Reading between the lines, Xu Yan's account implies that it did. But that is only implicit.
It may be that PLA forces were ordered to prepare to fire, but not authorized to actually
open fire unless first fired upon by Indian forces. In any case, firefights intensified. On
9 July, following deployments the previous day by an Indian platoon cutting off a PLA
position in the Galwan valley of the western sector, a Renmin ribao editorial delivered
another warning: "The Indian Government should reign in a the brink of the precipice."71
Another major clash occurred on 21 July 1962. According to Xu Yan, some Indian
forces interpreted PLA restraint under the July CMC guidelines as weakness. The result,
according to Xu, was repeated provocations against PLA outposts. In one such
"provocation" on 21 July, Indian forces opened fire first on Chinese forces manning a
"newly constructed" outpost. Chinese forces returned fire. After a 20-minute firefight,
Chinese forces had suppressed Indian fire. The PLA then ceased fire and allowed Indian
forces to withdraw.72 The same day, 21 July, Renmin ribao Observer further intensified
China's warnings to India: China would wage a "tit-for-tat" struggle with India in the
eastern sector, the article said. It also indirectly raised the possibility of a PLA advance
south of the MacMahon Line and even the eviction of Indian forces from India's entire
These Chinese warnings did not cause Nehru to halt the Forward Policy or to
agree to unconditional talks on the border dispute. Beijing noted a speech by Nehru to
the Lok Sabha on 13 August in which he reiterated that the precondition for negotiations
was complete Chinese withdrawal from all Indian territory it had "unilaterally occupied,"
i.e. Aksai Chin. An Indian note of 22 August formally presented the same demands.
From Beijing's perspective, this "closed the door to negotiations."74
Chinese leaders spent considerable time in mid 1962 analyzing Nehru's objectives
in attacking China (wei shemo yao lai gao women). Three main reasons were identified.
First, Nehru wished to direct outward internal contradictions within India. Second, he
hoped to win international, and especially U.S., support. Third, he hoped to "attack
China's prestige in the third world." Pursuit of these objectives by attacking China was
based on the belief, Mao concluded, that China would not hit back (rewei women bu gan
da ta).75 Notably absent from this Chinese understanding of Nehru's motives was the
proposition that Nehru believed that through the Forward Policy, India was recovering
legitimately Indian territory arbitrarily and illegally occupied by China during the 1950s.
Again Chinese leaders simply failed to understand Nehru's motives, and attributed to him
far-fetched motives deriving from his evil class nature.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
continued from previous post....
In August Lei Yingfu received CMC orders to inspect and report on the situation
in the western sector of the Sino-Indian border. Lei's report concluded that without
firing, PLA forces "without firing could no longer prevent Indian forces from advancing
further" (bu da bu zhu yi zhuzhi yinjun ruqin de chengdu).76 While considering Lei's
report, the CMC also noted among Indian public opinion and political personages a rising
chorus for the "expulsion of Chinese aggressors from Indian territory".
The situation in the rugged terrain in the Tawang tract east of the Tibet-Bhutan-
NEFRA tri-border juncture was growing increasingly tense. There the massive Thagla
ridge dominated the local terrain at the forward line of actual control. Indian forces had
established an Indian outpost at Dhola at the southern base of Thagla in June 1962 as part
of the Forward Policy and as part of a plan to push Chinese forces from atop the Thagla
ridge. 77 Chinese forces responded by entrenching themselves atop that ridge in August,
according to the official Indian history.78
By early September Beijing was warning New Delhi that if India "played with
fire" it would be "consumed by fire."79 On 8 September a force of 800 Chinese soldiers
descended from the Thagla heights to surround the Indian post at Dhola. Neither side
opened fire for twelve days, but this display of overwhelming Chinese power was a clear
warning that China would resist the Indian advance. As Whiting demonstrated, there
was careful calibration of Chinese verbiage conveying warnings, plus implementation of
corresponding moves on the ground designed to give substance to the verbal warnings.
Within India, the Chinese military demonstration before Dhola "gave rise to strong public
clamor to throw the Chinese out from Thagla Ridge," in the words of the official Indian
history. "The [Indian government] in its fond belief did not expect serious retaliation
from the Chinese and it assumed that whatever mild reaction came from the Chinese, the
Indian Army would be capable of neutralizing it." Thus "the Government of India
ordered the Army to rid the Thagla Ridge of the Chinese as early as it was possible to so
and the Army accepted the task --- both having based their decision on the unmilitary
assumption that the enemy would not react strongly and that mere starting of military
activity by India would make the Chinese vacate the Thagla Ridge."80 On 18 September
an Indian government spokesman announced the government's intention of driving
Chinese forces from the Dhola area at the base of Thagla.81 Indian Army efforts to
achieve that objective led to clashes at Dhola on 20 and 24 September.
The increasingly tense armed confrontation at Thagla Ridge forced Mao and other
Chinese leaders to reconsider in late September the earlier policy of armed coexistence.
The purpose of armed coexistence had been two-fold: 1) to use armed confrontation to
prevent further aggression by Indian forces into Chinese territory, and 2) to prevent the
expansion of the Sino-Indian conflict. 82 Neither of those objectives had been achieved.
The policy had not halted the Indian advance. Mao and other Chinese leaders now began
considering administering a large scale and "painful" military rebuff to Indian forces.
Nehru had mistaken China's policy of restraint for weakness, they believed. A number of
factors had apparently contributed to an Indian judgment that China would not "counterattack,"
Mao and his comrades concluded. China faced internal economic difficulties.
China-Soviet relations had soured. The center of Chinese security concerns were along
the Pacific coast and regarded the United States and Chiang Kai-shek. China had
relatively few troops in Tibet, having withdrawn most forces after the successful
repression of the Tibetan rebellion circa 1960. On these grounds, China's leaders
surmised, Nehru had concluded that China would not "counter-attack" in response to
India's Forward Policy, but would merely issue protests.83 In these circumstances, a
sharp, major blow was necessary to disabuse Nehru and force him to stop his aggression
against China.
Nehru's insistence on pushing the Forward Policy rendered ineffective China's
previous policy of very limited use of force. Confronted with continual Indian attacks,
the previous policy of defending Chinese positions with "little blows" (xiao da), no
longer worked. Even if Chinese "little blows" in one place forced Indian forces there to
retreat, Indian attacks elsewhere would continue. This might permit the entire border
region to become unstable. A large and punishing blow was thus necessary. The PLA
should strive for a "big blow," for a "war of extermination" (jianmie zhan). In Xu Yan's
characterization of the thinking of China's leaders: "If we strike, we must strike in a big
fashion, moreover wage a war of extermination, resolutely hit the wolf and make it hurt
(da lang da tong). Only in this way can we completely destroy his aggression and cause
the aggressors to receive their proper punishment. Moreover, we can guarantee that for a
long time to come [the aggressors] will not dare to come again to conduct aggression
against China's borders."84
In early October (probably on the 6th) China's leaders met to review the escalating
conflict with India. Deputy CMC chair Lin Biao led with a briefing on the situation.
Reports from both the Tibet and the Xinjiang military regions indicated continual Indian
advance and firings on Chinese outposts in both the eastern and western sectors. Ten
Chinese personnel had been killed or wounded, Lin reported. Yet Chinese forces had
strictly followed the principle of not firing the first shot, and "have throughout not fired"
(shizhong meiyou kai chang). Even more serious, India was concentrating military forces
in both sectors and had deployed artillery to positions threatening Chinese outposts and
camps. The situation was rapidly worstening, according to Lin. Reports by PLA
intelligence units indicated that Indian forces might undertake on 10 October an attack on
Thagla Ridge.85 After hearing Lin's report, Mao commented:
It seems like armed coexistence won't work. Its just as we expected. Nehru really
wants to use force. This isn't strange. He has always wanted to seize Aksai Chin
and Thagla Ridge. He thinks he can get everything he desires.86
Then Mao declared himself for war:
We fought a war with old Chiang [Kai-shek]. We fought a war with Japan, and
with America. With none of these did we fear. And in each case we won. Now
the Indian's want to fight a war with us. Naturally we don't have fear. We cannot
give ground (rang bu) , once we give ground it would be tantamount to letting
them seize a big piece of land equivalent to Fujian province. "¦ Since Nehru
sticks his head out and insists on us fighting him, for us not to fight with him
would not be friendly enough (bu da jiu bu gou pengyou). Courtesy emphasizes
Zhou signaled his concurrence:
We don't wish for a war with India. We have always strove in this direction [of
avoiding war]. We wanted India to be like Nepal, Burma, or Mongolia, and solve
border problems with us in a friendly fashion. But Nehru has closed all roads (ba
suoyoude lu dou sile). This leaves us only with war. As I see it, to fight a bit
would have advantages. It would cause some people to understand things more
Mao concurred:
Right! If someone does not attack me, I won't attack him. If someone attacks me,
I will certainly attack him.
Apparently following this consensus among Mao, Zhou, and Lin, a larger meeting
of military leaders was convened at xishan (western hills) on the western outskirts of
Beijing. Participants included Mao, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yi, Lin Biao, Marshals Ye
Jianying and Liu Bocheng, Chief of Staff senior general Lou Ruiqing, vice Chief of Staff
full general Yang Chengwu, head of the PLA General Political Department full general
Shao Hua, head of the General Logistic Department full general Qiu Huizuo, commander
of the Tibet military region lieutenant general Zhang Guohua, and commander of the
Xinjiang military region major general He Jiachan.88 Mao opened by indicating that war
had already been decided upon and that the purpose of the meeting was to consider
problems associated with that projected war. "The purpose of bringing all of you
together today is to convene a military meeting," Mao began.
Our border conflict with India has gone on for many years. We do not want war
and originally sought to solve it through peaceful negotiations. But Nehru is not
willing to talk and has deployed considerable forces, insistently demanding a fight
with us (ying bezhe yao he women da yi jia). Now it seems not to fight is not
possible (bu da shi bu xingde). If we fight, what should be our method? What
should the war look like? Please everyone contribute your thoughts on these
policy issues.89
Mao then asked Chen Yi to brief the group on the "diplomatic struggle." Chen
traced the problem to 1954 when India had published an official map showing the
MacMahon line as a definitive national boundary. At present, Chen said, India "occupies
or claims" 1,250,000 square kilometers of Chinese territory. Forty-seven Chinese
personnel had been killed or wounded in attacks by Indian forces on the border. China
had devoted considerable diplomatic effort to achieve a negotiated settlement, Chen said,
but "Nehru is not willing to sit down and talk, and moreover has adopted a provocative
forward policy. "¦ It seems we can only meet him [Nehru] on the battlefield."90
Mao then placed the projected war in a broad historical context. "A war between
China and India is truly a most unfortunate event," Mao said. He had recently been
reading books on Indian history and was struck by the friendly, beneficial interactions
between China and India in the 7th - 9th centuries. After some discussion of those
interactions, Mao turned to the history of China-India wars, of which there had been "one
and a half." The first war, Mao said, had been in 648 A.D. when a Tang dynasty emperor
had dispatched troops to assist the legal claimant to a throne to a subcontinental kingdom
(jieri diguo) --- after the other claimant had killed 30 members of a Tang diplomatic
mission. A Tang-strengthened force defeated the usurper, who was captured and sent to
the Tang capital Changan, where he lived out his life. The "half war" came in 1398, said
Mao, when Timurlane captured Delhi. This was a great victory, but was followed by the
slaughter of over 100,000 prisoners and looting of all precious metals and gems across
the land. This was a "half war" because Timur and his army were Mongols from both
Inner and Outer Mongolia. Mongolia was then part of China, making this attack "half"
Chinese. Two key points followed from this history, according to Mao. First, the PLA
had to secure victory and "knock Nehru to the negotiating table." Second, Chinese forces
had to be restrained and principled.91
After Yang Chengwu reported on the military situation in the border regions, Mao
called on Ye Jianying to tell the meeting about his impressions of Indian Army
commander Kaul. Ye had met Kaul during a 1957 visit to India. Even though Kaul had
apparently served in the Burma Theater during World War II, Ye said, the Indian
commander had no acutal combat experience. He also seemed to be a very rigid if
impressive looking soldier. Still, he was one of India's most outstanding commanders.
"Fine," Mao interjected, "he'll have another opportunity to shine." Mao concluded the
meeting by warning that China would find itself internationally isolated during the
coming war, but that this would not be the decisive factor. The United States and the
Soviet Union would, of course, oppose China's action. So too would many other
"uninformed countries." Chiang Kai-shek might "adopt measures." But China needn't
fear this isolation, Mao said. As long as the front line troops fought well, "We will be in
an advantageous position. "¦ It's better to die standing, than to die kneeling." If China
fought successfully and in an awe-inspiring (wei feng) way, this "will guarantee at least
thirty years of peace" (qima yao baozheng sanshi nian de heping) with India.92
On 6 October New Delhi rejected a Chinese proposal of 3 October to start
peaceful negotiations to settle the border issue. Xu Yan terms this a "final effort to
secure peace" and asserts that its rejection The rejection by India of this 3 October final
offer, together with Nehru's declared intent to continue the Forward Policy, led Mao and
the CMC to begin "final consideration" of a large scale "counter-attack" against India. 93
On 6 October Mao and the CMC decided in principle for a large scale attack to
severely punish India. 94 The same day the PLA Chief of Staff Lou Ruiqing received a
directive from the CCP center and Chairman Mao authorizing a "fierce and painful" (da
lang da tong) attack on Indian forces. "If Indian forces attack us, you should hit back
fiercely" (langlangde da ta yi xia) "¦ [you should] not only repel them, but hit them
fiercely and make them hurt" (da lang da tong).95 The 6 October directive also laid out
the broad directions of the projected offensive. The main assault was to be in the eastern
sector, but Chinese forces in the western sector would "coordinate" with the eastern
The CMC staff was then directed to draw up a detailed operational plans for a
campaign to expel Indian troops from the area north of the traditional, customary
boundary (that is, China's claim line at the southern foothills of the Himalayas) in the
eastern sector. It was in the process of this staff work that the idea of terminating the war
by a unilateral Chinese halt, ceasefire, and withdrawal was developed. In view of
"practical difficulties associated with China's domestic situation," the operational plan
developed by the CMC staff proposed that after achieving military objectives, Chinese
forces would quickly disengage and end the fighting as quickly as possible.96
Chinese leaders began finding other reasons for war with India. They observed an
increasingly "hegemonist attitude" by India toward its smaller neighbors, Nepal and
Pakistan. In this way, India's relations with these countries "became connected to " (jie
fa) the border conflict. On 29 September, for example, Indian "armed personnel"
provoked an incident on the border with Nepal. When the Nepali government expressed
anger over he incident, the Chinese government issued a statement of "firm support"
(jinjue zhichi) for Nepal's "protection of national sovereignty." Beijing noted that some
Indians went so far as to suggest that India act to prevent Nepal from becoming a
"Chinese satellite." Toward Pakistan too, Beijing detected a more aggressive Indian
policy. In early October, an armed conflict erupted on the East Pakistan-Indian border. It
continued with artillery and automatic weapons fire for twelve days. 97 It seemed to Mao
and his comrades, that Indian hegemonism was increasingly running amuck. In spite of
sympathy for Nepal and Pakistan, punishing Indian "hegemonism" toward its small
neighbors was probably not a major motive for the 1962 war. Rather, this was probably
an example of the common tendency of people facing a difficult decision to seek out and
"pile up" reasons substantiating their preferred solution. Doing this mitigates somewhat,
at least cognitatively, the recognized negative costs of the favored solution.
In deciding for war with India, Mao recognized many difficulties and dangers.
Nehru enjoyed great international status. India was a leader of the non-aligned
movement. India enjoyed great international prestige as an advocate of non-violence.
Both the United States and the Soviet Union were courting India and Nehru. India saw
itself as the leader of the "third force" in the world. India's military inferiority to China
would play into Indian efforts to depict China as the "aggressor." (Indian military forces
were about 1/6 th of China's, according to China's calculations.) China could anticipate a
negative reaction from both Washington and Moscow. Even among "some Afro-Asian
countries" there would be some "misunderstanding." These costs were more than offset,
however, by the long-term gains of inflicting a severe if limited "war of extermination"
on India.
On 8 October the CMC ordered several additional divisions in the Chengdu and
Lanzhou military regions to prepare to move into Tibet. All these forces were veteran,
high quality units. Most had previously participated in anti-rebel operations in Tibet and
were therefore acclimated to combat operations at high altitude. The PLA judged Indian
forces inferior to the Chinese in combat and war-fighting capability. But uncertainty
about Indian military strength led the CMC concentrated larger forces than might
otherwise have been necessary.98
Even as the PLA moved toward war with India, Mao continued to mull over
vexing problems. Should China permit Indian forces to advance a bit further into
Chinese territory under the Forward Policy, thereby making clearer to international
opinion that China was acting in self defense? What should be the focus of PLA attack?
The major piece of territory in dispute between China and India was Aksai Chin in the
west. This suggested focusing the Chinese offensive there. But geographic
circumstances for China were worst in the west. Roads to that region "were not
convenient" for the PLA. India's geographic situation in the west was also difficult,
making it hard for India to concentrate large forces there. The Chinese objective of
inflicting a big, painful defeat on India that would cause it to sober up, meant that a "big
battle" was required.99 A powerful Chinese offensive that met only thin Indian forces
would not fulfill the political objective. The east, where India could more readily rush in
large reinforcements, better served Chinese objectives in this regard. It was also in the
eastern sector that Nehru insisted the McMahon Line was an "established fact." Focusing
the Chinese offensive there would hit at Nehru's "hegemonist attitude" and compel India
to accept the fact that negotiation with China was the only way to achieve a complete
settlement of the territorial issue.100
A "strategy small group" (zhanlue xiaozhu) set up in the CMC staff paid
considerable attention to problems of conduct of the war. Marshal Liu Bocheng headed
that group. On 10 October Liu laid out four "opinions" regarding the upcoming war. Liu
was one of China's leading military strategists, having studied at Soviet military
academies, commanded a division during the anti-Japanese war and a Field Army in the
post-1945 civil war, before becoming a Marshall and Politburo member in 1955. He was
one of China's foremost exponents of mobile warfare.101 The crux of success in the
coming war, Liu argued in his 10 October letter, was "concentration of local superiority
to achieve a swift war and swift decision" (jizhong zhubu youshi bingli, su zhan su jue).
It was absolutely vital to concentrate superior material, weapons, and forces in one
locality to wage a quick battle and achieve a quick decision. The PLA must not disperse
its forces, Liu warned. It must also absolutely fight well. Victory in the war was a
matter directly connected to the prestige of the Chinese army and nation, Liu warned.102
It was thus essential to deploy crack troops. The upcoming fight would not be against
Indian border police, Liu warned, but against India's best, regular forces that had
participated in World War II. The PLA could not be arrogant in this situation. Nor could
it rely on such "mechanistic" tactics as infiltration, isolation, and encirclement. Such
measures would not produce victory. The correct approach was to "kill, wound, and
capture the enemy" by "gnawing the flesh off their bones" (ken ying gutou), that is by
attacking fiercely.103
On 9 October the anticipated Indian offensive in vicinity of Thagla Ridge began.
The purpose of this operation was to evict Chinese forces from atop that Ridge. Chinese
positions were deemed too powerful or direct assault, so Indian forces moved to outflank
by seizing a previously unoccupied peak to the west of and outflanking Thagla.104
According to Xu Yan, on the evening of 9 October over a hundred Indian soldiers crossed
the stream flowing along the base of Thagla, and closed on a Chinese outpost. The next
morning Indian forces opened fire on the Chinese. In response a full PLA battalion
(about a thousand men) assaulted the Indian advance force. Eleven Chinese soldiers were
killed and twenty-two wounded in the firefight.105 The intensity of the Chinese response
led Indian leaders to delay further offensive operations in the Thagla region, though not
to alter the fixed policy of eventually driving Chinese forces from that dominating
feature. In fact, on 12 October Nehru told the press that Indian forces were still under
orders to "free our country" from Chinese occupation --- a comment embroidered
considerably by India newspapers. 106 Indian forces also continued "aggressive
patrolling" and "harassing fire."107
In Xu Yan's view, this Indian attack on 10 October signaled the beginning of
relatively large scale fighting in the eastern sector.108 The fact that the Indian side "shot
first" created a advantageous political situation for China. Chinese leaders also noted that
Nehru had made public comments on 12 October (just prior to a trip to Ceylon) about
ordering Indian forces to clear Chinese forces from all "Indian territory." This too made
clear Nehru's "stubborn and war-mongering attitude" (ji wangu you haozhan de taidu),
according to Xu. 109
Shortly after the start of the Indian move to out flank Thagla, Zhou Enlai
appointed Lei Yingfu and Lou Ruiqing to research and report on the reason for India's
"expanded offensive" against China. On 16 October Lei reported to Mao. Lei laid out
five key reasons for India's new offensive posture. The first was a desire to turn Tibet
into "a colony or a protectorate" of India --- the core Chinese belief discussed earlier.
Other reasons adduced were: a desire to gain increased U.S. and Soviet military
assistance by becoming a part of their anti-China campaign; a desire to "achieve
hegemony in Asia" by using anti-China activities to increase India's status with poor and
small countries of the Third World; a desire to divert class and national contradictions
with India. The final and probably most important reason adduced by Lei's group was a
belief that China was "bluffing" (dui ta changde shi kongchengji). Lei returned
repeatedly to the notion that Nehru believed that Nehru believed that China "was weak
and could be taken advantage of" (ruanrou ke qi) and "barks but does not bite" (zhi jiao
bu yao). Because of U.S.-Soviet-Indian "encirclement" of China compounded by
China's "economic difficulties," Nehru "believes that no matter how they attack us, we
will not hit back." Mao agreed with Lei's analysis:
It seems like it is indeed that sort of a situation. In this case, we cannot but fight a
war. Well, since Nehru says we only 'bark but don't bite,' we absolutely must
fight. We have no other choice. We might as well accompany him [in fighting a
On 16 October, the same day Lei Yingfu reported to Mao, the CMC formally
decided to "annihilate" (jianmie) Indian forces that had aggressed against Chinese
territory in the east.111 This decision apparently involved approval of the war plan drafted
by the CMC staff.
When China's leaders made their second crucial 16 October decision for war,
they had in hand indications of Soviet support. On 8 October, Beijing had formally
notified Moscow that India might launch an attack on China forcing China to respond.
On 14 October China's ambassador in Moscow, Liu Shao, had secured from Khrushchev
guarantees that if there was a Sino-Indian war, the USSR would "stand together with
China." A neutral attitude on the Sino-Indian border conflict was impossible, the Soviet
leader said. If China were attacked, it would be an act of betrayal to declare neutrality.112
Chinese leaders attributed this Soviet support and the stark reversal of earlier Soviet
policy of neutrality in the Sino-Indian dispute it entailed, to a Soviet desire for Chinese
support in the event of war with the United States over Cuba.113 The Cuban missile crisis
would not erupt until 22 October when President Kennedy announced the U.S. discovery
of Soviet missiles in Cuba along with the U.S. decision for a naval quarantine. It seems,
however, that Moscow had earlier given Beijing some glimpse of the plan to deploy
missiles to Cuba. According to Moscow's timetable, the new deployment of missiles to
Cuba was not to be made public and the anticipated crisis erupt, until mid-November,
after the U.S. mid-term elections.114 Thus Chinese leaders may have anticipated a
Soviet-U.S. confrontation in late November, coinciding with the second, expanded stage
of the projected punitive war against India unleashed, in fact, on 18 November.
Approaching winter also forced China's decision. The best time for military
operations in the Himalayas was July-September. By October the weather was already
becoming cold, and heavy snowfalls were possible. The Tibet Military district reported
to the CMC in that once such snowfalls began the PLA would encounter "great
difficulties" in moving supplies and reinforcements across the high passes to front line
Chinese forces.115 Major PLA action would have to come soon, or be deferred to mid
1963. On the other hand, PLA intelligence made it apparent that the military balance in
the front regions currently weighed heavily in China's favor. In terms of number of
troops, the number of heavy weapons, and logistic roads supporting front line forces, the
PLA held a distinct advantage. Indian forces were short even of winter clothing and
food.116 Were China to postpone the attack by six months, Indian forces might become
better prepared.
On 17 October the CMC cabled the appropriate orders to the Tibet military
region. PLA forces were ordered to "exterminate the Indian aggressor forces." 117 On 18
October, the CMC met yet again to give formal approval to the decision for a "self
defensive counter-attack war" (yi chang ziwei fanji zuozhan).118 Participants in the
meeting included Mao, Zhou, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, Lo Ruiqing, and Marshals Liu
Bocheng, He Long and Xu Xiangqian.119
On 18 October Mao the decision for war was approved by an expanded Politburo
meeting. In attendance were Mao, Zhou, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yi,
He Long, Lou Ruiqing, Yang Shangkun (then Deng Xiaoping's assistant and in charge of
organizational matters for the Central Committee), Tibet MR commander Zhang Guohua,
General Wang Shangrong (professional soldier, Long March participant, then head of the
Operations Department of the PLA), the diplomats Zhang Hanfu and Qiao Guanhua, and
General Lei Yingfu.120 The meeting opened with a statement by Zhou that from many
different aspects, it was apparent that China could not but launch a "self defensive
counter-attack" against India as quickly as possible. Mao seconded Zhou's "opinion," but
warned of the need not to underestimate India's military forces. General Zhang Guohua,
designated to command the upcoming attack, reassured Mao in this regard. Finally the
PLA's war plan was approved. The attack was set for 20 October.121
The PLA offensive launched on that day in the Tawang region continued for only
four days, culminating in the seizure of strategically located Tawang on 23 October. In
the western sector, the offensive continued until 27 October. Chinese forces then halted
and a three-week lull followed. Allen Whiting was probably correct in his surmise that
this hiatus was intended to provide an opportunity for Indian leaders to rethink their
approach and abandon their Forward Policy. The weeklong PLA offensive that began on
20 October followed by a pause was in line with the gradual escalation of Chinese moves
underway since early 1962. The 20 October offensive was a step considerably more
forceful than the encirclement and then attack on the Dhola outpost in September, but a
measure considerably more limited that the massive assault that came in November. Yet
there is nothing in the new Chinese sources, however, that directly substantiates this


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PLA's clear superiority over Indian forces in the frontier region, should also have been
clear. Given this, it was unfortunate that Nehru did not order suspension of Indian
offensive operations and find a way of starting boundary negotiations, as Zhou Enlai
proposed on 24 October, the day after the first phase of the Chinese offensive ended.
Had Nehru reoriented Indian policy in early November, the next phase of the war very
probably could have been avoided.
In fact, Indian offensive operations to oust Chinese positions both in the Tawang
and Walong areas of NEFA resumed on 14 November.123 Chinese forces responded by
launching a pre-planned massive offensive on 18 November. Indian defenses in the east
rapidly crumbled. PLA forces would not halt until Chinese soldiers looked out from the
Himalayan foothills to the broad valley of the Bramaphutra River.
Internal Mobilization and International Confrontation
It is now pretty well established that Mao's domestic mobilization concerns
occasionally helped inspire his preference for confrontational international policies.
Thomas Christensen has demonstrated this dynamic in Mao's 1950 decision for war with
the United States in Korea and for Mao's 1958 decision to bombard the offshore
islands.124 A similar dynamic may have been operating in 1959 and 1962. In early 1959
when Mao decided to launch polemical struggle against Nehru, Mao was struggling to
push the agricultural collectivization movement to a new high tide. And in fall 1962, as
Mao was guiding his comrades toward war with India, he was also beginning his
struggle to revive "class struggle" in agricultural policy as part of a broader effort to
reverse the post-Great Leap retreat from collectivized agriculture.125 On the other hand,
there is a danger of over-determining an event, and the border conflict viewed on the
Chinese side through the prism of Tibet, certainly seems adequate to explain the 1962
war. In any case, both the highly selective Chinese sources on the 1962 war available
thus far, and constraints of space associated with a single book chapter, do not allow
testing of the internal mobilization hypothesis here.
There was an underlying reason why China's leaders decided for war in 1962
which has been alluded to earlier: a belief that India's leaders did not appreciate the fact
that the People's Republic of China was a "new China," that had "stood up" and, unlike
old pre-1949 "old China," could no longer be "bullied" and "humiliated" by foreign
powers. Indian leaders believed that China would not strike back, but would back down
before Indian provocations, or so China's leaders concluded. Indian leaders did not
respect New China, but arrogantly believed they could impose their will on it, just like
Britain, India's imperial mentor, had done repeatedly in the Nineteenth Century. Indian
leaders were obvilious to the power and determination of New China.
This image of India was linked, I believe, to a fundamental asymmetry of Chinese
and Indian worldviews regarding the role of military power in world affairs, an
asymmetry symbolized perhaps by the meeting of Chen Yi and Krishna Menon at the
1962 Geneva conference. China's leaders saw military power as playing a central role in
politics, both domestic and international. Careful preparation and prudent use of military
power was vital to political success. When and how to use military power were, for
China's leaders, a matter of pragmatic calculation. (This was exemplified by the
prominent role of combat veterans in China's decision making: Liu Bocheng, Lin Biao,
Chen Yi, or even Mao, Deng, and Zhou.) Nehru and Menon, on the other hand, believed
that war among the major powers was an obsolete phenomenon. In the nuclear age,
major power war would inevitably escalate to nuclear war, which was so horrible it
would never be undertaken. Moreover, world moral opinion would constrain potential
aggressor states. And certainly among the African-Asian states who had shared the
common experience of national oppression, resort to war was unthinkable. Thinking
along these lines led India to disregard the realities of power in the Himalayas and to
conclude that China would not resort to war against India. China's hardheaded leaders
took India's disregard for China's power as disdain. They took the Indian belief that
China would not fight, would not resort to war, as a belief that China was weak and
would back down before assertive policies.
Was China's resort to war in 1962 prudent? Did it achieve its policy objectives at
an acceptable cost to China? The official PLA history of the 1962 war stresses that
"quickly achieving peaceful, stable borders in the west" was the objective of the 1962
war (ba xibu bianjiang dichu xunsu wending xialai). This was the "basic direction" of
China's border policy to be achieved by inflicting a painful defeat on India thus
demonstrating the futility and danger of aggressing against borders defended by the PLA,
would force India to abandon the Forward Policy. Sharp military defeat would also
"compel India to again [sic] sit down at the negotiating table and solve the Sino-Indian
border problem." This too would "achieve peaceful stability along the western borders."
The harsh defeat inflicted on India in 1962 did, in fact, cause Indian leaders to
look much more soberly and respectfully at Chinese power. India did in fact swiftly
abandon the earlier policy of suing military force to challenge Chinese control over
disputed territory. India abandoned the policy of attempting through military means to
establish a new de facto line of actual control. The reality of Chinese power also
ultimately led New Delhi to resume border negotiations with China still in possession of
Aksai Chin --- although it would take twenty-seven years for this to happen. After 1962
Indian leaders were, in fact, much more cautious in dealing with China and more
respectful of China's power.
These Chinese gains were secured at significant cost. The PLA's drive to the
southern foothills of the Himalayas had a profound effect on Indian opinion. China
became a nemesis of India ranked only after Pakistan. Even forty-some years after the
war this sentiment remains significant in India. The experience of 1962 made India
deeply skeptical of Chinese professions of friendship and more wary of the expansion of
Chinese security ties with South Asian countries neighboring India. What Indians view
as China's "betrayal" of India's desire for friendship in the 1950s has made India far less
responsive to Chinese diplomatic friendship offensives, and more determined to keep
China out of places like Nepal or Bangladesh. Fear of Chinese rooted in 1962 was a
major factor impelling India to keep open its nuclear weapons options and then, in 1998,
to openly acquire nuclear weapons. There exists in Indian military culture a desire for
payback against China, which would someday erase the humiliation of 1962. The trauma
of 1962 impelled New Delhi into close strategic alignment with the Soviet Union in the
1960s and 1970s, a development "encircling" China with Soviet power. Even in the
2000s when India began developing a military partnership with the United States, the
defeat of 1962 was a remote but distinct factor in India's deliberations. India also began
serious military modernization after the 1962 defeat, and this would eventually change
the equation of military power between the two countries. One component of the new
military capabilities developed by India was a highly trained, professionally led, and
militarily very potent Tibetan armed force of 6,000-or so men, the Special Frontier
Force.127 It quite plausible that had China not opted for war with India, or perhaps had
opted for a far less powerful and traumatic assault, China and "China's Tibet" would
today face far less threat from India.
1 Neville Maxwell, India's China War, Garden City, New York: Anchor Books,
1972. Allen S. Whiting, The Calculus of Chinese Deterrence, India and Indochina, Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan, 1975.
2 History of the Conflict with China, 1962. P.B. Sinha, A.A. Athale, with S.N.
Prasad, chief editor, History Division, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, 1992.
Printed on line by the Times of India in December 2002.
3 There was a third set of factors underlying China's road to the 1962 war --- a
perception of U.S.-Indian-Soviet collaboration against and encirclement of China.
Considerations of space require limitation to consideration of the first two factors which
were, I believe, rather more important than the third.
4 Whiting, Calculus, p. 36, 34.
5 Encyclopedia of Sociology, Edgar Borgatta, Rhonda J.V. Montgomery, New
York: Macmillian, 2000, Vol. 1, p. 194, Vol. 4, p. 2751.
6 Zhong yin bianjiang ziwei fanji zuozhanshi (History of the Sino-India border self
defensive war), Beijing: Junshi kexue chubanshe, 1994, p. 37-40. This is the official
PLA history of the 1962 war. It labors at considerable length to demonstrate that India's
aggressive intentions and actions precipitated the 1962 confrontation, and provides
copious detail on PLA military operations. Yet it gives very short shrift to the actual
process through which China's leaders decided to resort to war. Only four out of 567
pages deal with China's decision making process. Still, these few pages provide
important information when pieced together with other equally fragmentary accounts.
7 Xu Yan, Zhong Yin bianjie zhi zhan lishi zhenxiang (True history of the Sino-
Indian border war), Hong Kong: Cosmos Books Ltd., 1993, p. 28, 29-30, 50, 53. This
is the most important Chinese work thus far on the 1962 war. It is significant that Xu's
work was published in Hong Kong rather than in the People's Republic of China. The
work deals at considerable length with China's actual decision making process. Xu
apparently has access to primary documents, although he does not reference those
8 Wang Hongwei, "Zhong yin bianjie wenti de lishi beijing yu 1962 nian zhong yin
bianjie zhanzheng," (Historical background of the Sino-Indian border problem and the
1962 Sino-Indian border war," Ya tai ziliao (Asia Pacific materials), No. 1, 18 March
1989, p. 1-13.


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Chinese signaling-opportunity for Indian drawback hypothesis. Currently available
Chinese sources do not indicate another decision for war after the 6 and 16 October
decisions. It seems that those decisions were for a multi-stage war. Indian forces would
first be given a sharp and bloody warning, after which Chinese forces would halt and
reorganize for their next offensive. If after this first bloody warning and during the
interregnum after the first Chinese advance , India did not reorient its frontier policies,
and perhaps if nothing occurred in the international situation pointing toward United
States intervention in a Sino-Indian war, then the next stage, a truly massive assault to
southern fringe of the Himalayas would follow.
Roderick MacFarquhar raises the important point that Nehru could and should
have used the early November lull to reorient Indian policy.122 By then it was abundantly
clear that the key assumption underlying the Forward Policy --- that China would not go
to war over the border --- was wrong. The realities of the military balance, that is the

9 Zhao Weiwen, Yin Zhong guanxi fengyun lu (1949-1999) (Record of the
vissitudes of India-China relations (1949-1999), Beijing: Shi shi chubanshe, 2000, p.
103. Zhao is one of China's authoritative India hands. From 1950 until the mid 1990s she
worked for the China Institute for Contemporary International Studies and the
organizational predecessors of that body. This was the analytical organ of China's
ministry of state security.
10 Zhao Weiwen, fengyun lu, p. 110.
11 Zhao Weiwen, fengyun lu, p. 129.
12 Tsering Sakya, The Dragon in the Land of Snows, A History of Modern Tibet
since 1947, London: Pimlico, 1999, p. 13, 26.
13 Regarding India's Tibet policies see, Sakya, Dragon in Land of Snows. Also,
Claude Arpi, The Fate of Tibet, When Big Insects Eat Small Insects, New Delhi: Har-
Anand, 1999.
14 Arpi, Fate of Tibet, p. 338-43.
15 Sakya, Dragon in Land of Snows, p. 21-23.
16 John K. Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War, America and the Tibetan Struggle for
Survival, New York: Public Affairs, 1999, p. 155. See also, Kenneth Conboy and
James Morrision, The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, University Press of Kansas, 2002.
17 Zhao Weiwen, fengyun lu, p. 124-29. Yang Gongsu also enumerates these Indian
transgressions in Yang Gongsu, Xin zhongguo duiwai zhengce, (New China's foreign
policies), unpublished manuscript, p. 68-69. Yang was foreign affairs assistant to the
PLA in Tibet in the 1950s. He was later China's ambassador to Nepal. Yang charges
the Indian Consul General in Lhasa with encouraging Tibetan demonstrators to draft a
statement of demands, which eventually became a Tibetan declaration of independence,
and with promising to convey such a statement of demands to the Indian government.
Nehru in testimony to the Indian parliament denies this, and says that the Consul merely
talked with the Tibetans who had pushed their way into the Consulate building. Nehru
also said that the consul explained that he could not render any assistance, and declined to
become involved in their protests in any concrete way. See Dalai Lama and India;
Indian Public and Prime Minister on Tibetan Crisis, New Delhi: Institute of National
Affairs, 1959, p. 75. This volume contains Nehru's various comments to parliament
about Tibetan developments in 1959.
18 Wu Lengxi, Shi nian lunzhan, 1956-1966, Zhong Su guanxi huiyilu, (10 year
polemical war, 1956-1966, a memoir of Sino-Soviet relations), Beijing: Zhongyang
wenxian chubanshe, 1999, Vol. I, p. 195. Wu Lengxi was head of Xinhua News Agency
plus General Editor of Renmin ribao at the time. He was also the Politburo's record
keeper for relations with the Soviet Union. His two volume is an extremely rich source
for scholars. See my review in The China Quarterly, No. 171 (September 2002),
19 Wu Lengxi, Shi nian lunzhan p. 197.
20 Wu Lengxi, Shi nian lunzhan p. 198.
21 Wu Lengxi, Shi nian lunzhan p. 198-99.
22 "The Revolution in Tibet and Nehru's Philosophy," Editorial Department of
Renmin Ribao, 6 May 1959, in Peking Review, 12 May 1959, p. 6-15.
23 Zhou Enlai waijiao wenxuan (Diplomatic documents of Zhou Enlai), Beijing:
Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 1990, p. 268-276.
24 Memorandum of conversation of N.S. Khrushchev with Mao Zedong, Beijing, 2
October 1959, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issue 12/13 (Fall/Winter
2001), Woodrow Wilson Internatioal Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C., p. 266.
25 Lei Yingfu, as told to Chen Xianyi, Zai zuigao songshuaibu dang sanmo --- Lei
Yingfu jiangjun huiyilu (Serving on the staff of the high command - memoir of General
Lei Yingfu), Nangchang, Jiangxi province: Baihuazhou wenyi chubanshe, 1997, p. 207.
26 Mao Zedong sixiang wansui (Long live Mao Zedong thought), in "Miscellany of
Mao Tse-tong Thought (1949-1968), p. 2. No. 61269 (20 February 1974), Joint
Publication Research Service, p. 573.
27 Apri, Fate of Tibet, p. 320-47, 392-98; Shakya, Dragon in Land of Snows, p.
28 Shakya, Dragon in Land of Snows, p. 215, 219, 232, 233.
29 Nehru returned repeatedly during his parliamentary testimony in 1959 to this
theme of a two part agreement. See Nehru's statements to parliament, 30 March 1959, 27
April 1959, and press conference on 5 April 1959, all in Dalai Lama and India, New
Delhi: Institute of National Affairs, 1959, p. 80, 103, 105, and 120-21.
30 Correspondence between Nehru and Patel over Tibet is in, R.K. Jain, China and
South Asian Relations, 1947-1980, New Delhi and Brighton: Harvester Press, 1981, Vol.
I, p. 41-47.
31 Dalai Lama and India, p. 127.
32 B.N. Mullik, My Years with Nehru, The Chinese Betrayal, Bombay: Allied
Publishers, 1971, p. 221.
33 Mullik, Chinese Betrayal, p. 70, 180, 182.
34 Steven A. Hoffman, India and the China Crisis, Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1990, p. 38.
35 Shakya, Dragon in Land of Snows, p. 215, 282.
36 Knaus, Orphans, p. 159.
37 Conboy and Morrison, Secret War, p. 95-96, 155-56.
38 Sakya, Dragon in the Land of Snows.
39 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, 56.
40 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 56.
41 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 72.
42 See John Garver, Protracted Contest, Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Twentieth
Century, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001, p. 79-86.
43 Hoffman, India and the China Crisis, p. 23-30.
44 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 412.
45 Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun liushinian dashiji (1927-1987) (Record of 60 years
of major events of the PLA, 1927-1987), Beijing: junshi kexue chubanshe, 1988, p. 579-
46 Memorandum of Conversation of N.S. Khrushchev with Mao Zedong, Beijing, 2
October 1959, in Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issue 12/13, p. 266,
47 Lei Yingfu, huiyilu, p. 202.
48 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. xx.
49 From Whiting, Calculus, p. 46.
50 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. xx.
51 Chinese accounts of the 1962 war are almost entirely devoid of specific dates for
specific events. With several exceptions, reference to meetings is by very general terms
like "later" or in "mid 1962". I have therefore tried to order reported meetings by the
context of other events discussed by the book at the time of the reported meeting, or by
matters discussed in the meeting themselves.
52 Shi Bo, editor, Zhong yin da zhan jishi (Record of events in the big China-India
war) Beijinjg: Da di chubanshe, 1993, p. 182.
53 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 110.
54 Whiting, Calculus, p. 51.
55 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p . 183-84.
56 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p. 184.
57 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. xx.
58 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. xx.
59 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. xx.
60 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 415-16.
61 Whiting, Calculus, p. 55.
62 Whiting, Calculus, p. 58.
63 D.K. Palit, War in High Himalaya, The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962, New Delhi:
Lancer, 1991, p. 177-78.
64 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. xx.
65 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. xx, 415-17, 428.
66 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 430, note 13.
67 Wang Bingnan, Zhong mei huitan jiunian huigu (Recollections of 9 years of Sino-
American talks), Beijing: Shijie zhishi chubanshe, 1985, p. 85-90.
68 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p. 185-86.
69 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p. 187-188.
70 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 87.
71 Whiting, Calculus, p. 78.
72 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 88.
73 Whiting, Calculus, p. 82.
74 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 91. This corresponds to Whiting's judgment in
Calculus, p. 92.
75 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 113.
76 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 91-92.
77 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 415. A map of this region is
available in Palit, War in High Himalaya,, p. 239.
78 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 94.
79 Whiting, Calculus, p. 95-96.
80 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 415, 417.
81 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 95.
82 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 103.
83 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 103-04.
84 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 110.
85 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p. 188.
86 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p. 189.
87 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p. 189.
88 Sun Shao, Chen Zhibin, Ximalaya shan de xue, zhong yin zhanzheng shilu
(Snows of the Himalaya mountains, the true record of the China-India war), Taiyuan:
Bei Yue wenyi chubanshe, 1991, p. 95. As far as I can ascertain, this was China's first
book-length study of the 1962 war. It was not a scholarly, but a popular work. It lacked
reference notes and was written in an often-breezy style. Yet the work was authored by
two long-time PLA soldiers (the front page of the book contains brief biographical
information about the two authors indicating their military background) and contained
one long section with an extensive verbatim quote of Mao Zedong. Much of the text of
these long quotes were lacking in later more authoritative Chinese accounts of the same
events, yet their love of literary and historical allusions give them the ring of truth. Mao
loved such language. The work also conveyed obstensibly verbatem negative comments
by Marshal Ye Qingying about Indian Army commander Kaul. The book was banned
shortly after its appearance, but this author was lucky enough to find the book on a street
bookstall of a small city in Sichuan before it was banned. To date this work provides the
fullest, most direct account of Mao Zedong's thinking about the road to war with India.
CASS's Wang Hongwei gives an account of a CMC meeting in "mid-October" with some
quotations using the exact same language as Sun Shao and Chen Zhibin, but omitting not
only quotation marks and precise dates but also the more off-hand comments by Mao
quoted in the Shao/Chen book. Omitted too in Wang's account are the negative
comments by Ye Jianying about Kaul. Wang Hongwei, Ximalaya shan qingjie, zhong
yin guanxi yan jiu (The Himalayas Sentiment: A Study of Sino-Indian Relations,
Beijing: Zhongguo zangxue chubanshe, 1998, p. 228-30. It may well have been Sun and
Chen's too full and direct quotations of Mao, plus Ye Jianying's negative evaluation of
Kaul's abilities, that were deemed inappropriate for open publication and led to the
volume's recall. For these reasons, I believe the Sun/Chen book is credible, indeed
extremely valuable.
89 Sun Shao, Chen Zhibin, Ximalaya shan, p. 96.
90 Sun Shao, Chen Zhibin, Ximalaya shan, p. 97.
91 Sun Shao, Chen Zhibin, Ximalaya shan,. 97-98.
92 Sun Shao, Chen Zhibin, Ximalaya shan, p. 99-100.]
93 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 104.
94 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 104.
95 Zhong Yin bianjiang ziwei fanji zuozhanshi, p. 179.
96 Shi Bo, da zhan jishi, p. 189.
97 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 106.
98 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 109.
99 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 111.
100 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 111.
101 Howard Boorman, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Vol, I, New
York: Columbia University, 1967, p. 404-05.
102 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 111-112.
103 Zhong Yin bianjiang ziwei fanji zuoshanshi, p. 180-81.
104 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 98-100.
105 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, 112.
106 Roderick MacFarquhar attributes major significance to Nehru's comments to the
press. Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, 3: The Coming of
the Cataclysm 1961-1966, New York: Oxford University Press and Columbia University
Press, 1997, p. 308. Nehru's comments certainly confirmed established Chinese
suspicions about Nehru, but I suspect that the aggressive Indian actions over the previous
week weighed more heavily in Chinese evaluations.
107 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. P. 102.
108 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, 112.
109 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, 112.
110 Lei Yingfu, huiyilu, p. 209.
111 Zhong yin bianjiang ziwei fanji zuozhanshi, p. 179.
112 Liu Shao, Chu shi sulian ba nian (Eight years as ambassador to the Soviet Union),
Beijing: Zhonggong dangshi ziliao chubanshe, 1986, p. 121.
113 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 114.
114 MacFarquhar, Origins of the Cultural Revolution, p. 314-318.
115 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 104.
116 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 107.
117 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 114.
118 Xu Yan, lishi zhenxiang, p. 114. Zhong yin bianjiang ziwei fanji zuozhanshi, p.
119 Zhong yin bianjiang ziwei fanji zuozhanshi, p 180.
120 Biographic information is from Donald W. Klein, Anne B. Clark, Biographic
Dictionary of Chinese Communism, 1921-1965, 2 volumes, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1971.
121 Lei Yingfu, huiyilu, p. 209-210.
122 MacFarquhar, Origins of the Cultural Revolution, p. 309.
123 History of the Conflict with China, 1962, p. 171-74, 242-47.
124 Thomas Christensen, Useful Adversaries, Grand Strategy, Domestic mobilization,
and Sino-American Conflict, 1947-1958, Princeton, N.J: Princeton University, 1996.
125 MacFarquhar, Origins of the Cultural Revolution, p. 261-318.
126 Zhong Yin bianjiang ziwei fanji zuozhanshi, p. 178.
127 Conboy and Morrison offer a good account of the evolution of this force in Secret



Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009

As a result of the Chinese threat on our northern borders, some time in 1959 the headquarters of the Eastern Command at Lucknow was given the operational responsibility for the defence of the borders in Sikkim and NEFA.

I was at that time on the staff at HQ Eastern Command. The 4th (Red Eagle) Infantry Division was located at Ambala. Soon after it was ordered to move to Tezpur in Assam towards the end of 1959, I was posted as its Commander, Signals.

This division, trained and equipped for fighting in the plains, had suddenly been deployed to guard the borders in this high mountainous region. While a normal division is expected to defend a 30-40km front in the plains, we were assigned a front spanning more than 1800km of mountainous terrain.

Worse was to come. Even before the division could take over its operational responsibilities to defend the border with Tibet, orders for the execution of Operation Amar 2, for construction of accommodation for ourselves, were received from Army HQ.

This was the brainchild of Lt Gen B M Kaul, then Quartermaster General at Army HQ. We were supposed to build temporary basha accommodation. Besides the fact that my regiment had to provide communications for the division in an entirely new and undeveloped area, we had now to become engineers and labourers!

My first four months in command were a real nightmare. We would certainly have preferred to rough it out in tents and spend the time developing a reasonable communications set-up, getting our equipment properly checked and maintained, and getting the men used to working with the available equipment, which was antiquated and unsuitable for mountainous terrain and the excessive ranges.

Even at that time, there were hardly any roads in any of the five frontier divisions (FD) of Arunachal Pradesh. The road into Kameng FD, the most vulnerable, finished at the foothills just beyond Misamari.

We were faced with shortages of every kind. It was during these early days in NEFA that one of the commanding officers of an infantry battalion sent an official reply written on a chapati. When asked for an explanation, he gave a classic reply:

"Regret unorthodox stationary but atta [wheat flour] is the only commodity available for fighting, for feeding, and for futile correspondence."
Sometime in 1962, orders came from Army HQ for Operation Onkar (the famous "Forward Policy"), which directed all Assam Rifles posts to move forward, right up to the border.
Of course, we in the army were to back them. The idea was to establish the right of possession on our territory and to deter the Chinese from moving forward and occupying the territories claimed by them. But this order was certainly not backed up with resources.

At that time, our division had done almost three years non-family station service, and some of the units were already on their way out on turnover. Suddenly all moves out of the area were cancelled and orders reversed.

Brig John Dalvi, commander of the 7th Infantry Brigade in Tawang, was ordered to move his HQ on a man/mule pack basis to Namka Chu River area. An ad-hoc brigade HQ was created for the Tawang sector overnight with hardly any signal resources.

At that time, I was the only field officer of lieutenant colonel or higher rank who had the longest tenure not only at the divisional HQ but among all the divisional troops. I should have been posted out after a two-year tenure in a non-family station.

But I had also a sort of premonition, and I recorded it in my diary, that a severe test was in the offing for me to assess my faith in the Divine. I certainly had no idea that I would be taken a prisoner of war.

On September 8, 1962, the Dhola post manned by the Assam Rifles on the McMahon Line was encircled by the Chinese. After this incident, a new corps HQ was created to take charge of operations in NEFA. Lt Gen B M Kaul was appointed corps commander. He arrived from Army HQ in a special aircraft at Tezpur in the late afternoon of October 4. He went straight into a conference and at about 10pm, announced in his typical flamboyant style that he had taken over command of all troops in NEFA. It was all so dramatic!

Here was a new situation. Normally, in those days, a corps HQ would be served by a corps signal regiment and another communication zone signal regiment to back it. But these had yet to be raised and my regiment had to take on the load of not only our own division, but the new corps HQ also.

To add to these difficulties, Lt Gen Kaul had his own way of sending messages. Normally, a signal message is supposed to be written in an abbreviated telegraphic language. But all messages from the new corps commander ran into a couple of typed sheets in prose and were all marked Top Secret and Flash.

They were not addressed to the next higher HQ, but directly to Army HQ. You should understand that normally Signals are required to stop all other traffic to clear FLASH messages and these messages also have to be enciphered first.

In September 1962, the higher authorities had obviously assumed that it would be easy to beat the Chinese. Otherwise, one cannot imagine how such an order to engage the enemy could have been issued by Delhi to the ill-equipped, ill-clothed, ill-prepared, fatigued, disillusioned troops.

When Dalvi's brigade arrived near the Namka Chu River after forced marches, he was ordered to throw the Chinese out of the Thagla ridge.

Arriving at the destination after an exhausting journey, my brigade signal officer discovered that the generating engine to charge the wireless batteries was missing. A porter had dropped it in a deep khud on the way, and it could not be retrieved.

I think it was dropped deliberately, because I knew some of these civilian porters were in the pay of the Chinese.

But I was in for a bigger shock when it was discovered that almost all the secondary batteries had arrived without any acid. I presume that what had happened was that the porters must have found it lighter without liquid and they probably decided to lighten their loads by emptying out the acid from all the batteries.

How to establish communications when the batteries were dead and could not be recharged without an engine? Despite our good relations with them, the air force helicopter boys refused to carry acid. There was no question, of course, of dropping sulphuric acid by air. What was I to do?

Finally, we filled up a jar of acid and marked it prominently: `Rum for Troops'. On October 18, I flew from Tezpur to Zimithang where I met the GOC, Maj Gen Niranjan Prasad. Later, I went to Tsang Dhar near the Namka Chu River in a two-seater Bell helicopter with just the pilot and with the 'Rum' jar strapped onto my lap.

I landed there in the late afternoon and marched down to Brig Dalvi's brigade HQ. As I arrived, I could quite clearly see the massing of the Chinese troops on the forward slopes of Thagla ridge.

But when I discovered that every unit on the front had numerous Signals problems, I decided to extend my stay by a day. Not knowing that the fates had other things planned for me.

On the 19th, Brig Dalvi talked on the telephone with the GOC at Zimithang. He pleaded with his boss to let him move out of the `death trap', up to a tactically sound defensive position.

Brig Dalvi was told not to flap, but to obey orders and stay put. He was extremely upset and passed the telephone to me saying, "You won't believe me, Sir, but talk to your 'bloody' commander Signals and he will tell you what all he can see with his naked eyes in front."

I spoke to the GOC equally strongly saying that one could see the Chinese moving down the Thagla ridge like ants with at least half a dozen mortars, which were not even camouflaged. I added that the Chinese could not have been there for a picnic.

But I was also told to concentrate on my work and not to worry.

I stayed on with the Gorkhas during the night of 19th October. Early on the 20th morning, I was woken up from deep sleep by the noise of intense bombardment. There was utter confusion in the pre-dawn darkness, with people shouting and yelling and running around in the midst of these exploding shells.

I came out of the bunker and somehow found my way to the Signals bunker with two of my signalmen. But when I looked out of the bunker, I was mystified to see no visible movement outside. There was no one in sight. But I could hear short bursts of gunfire.

When I peeped out of the bunker again, I saw a line of khaki-clad soldiers with a prominent red star on their uniforms advancing towards our bunker. I had never seen a Chinese soldier till then at such close range.

I used to carry a 9mm Browning automatic pistol in those days with one loaded clip. The thought immediately was that one's body should not be found with an unfired pistol; it must be used, however hopeless our situation. So, when a couple of Chinese soldiers approached our bunker, I let go the full clip at them.

This provoked a lot of yelling and firing and a number of the soldiers converged onto our bunker. My two assistants were killed, but I was still alive, though a PoW now.

The same day we were marched along a narrow track across the Namka Chu River and later we went up to the Thagla Pass (about 15,000 feet). On our way, we passed huge stocks of unfired mortar shells by the sides of all the mortar positions, while on the northern side, we saw Chinese parties bringing up 120mm mortars on a man pack basis.

After three days' walk, we reached a place called Marmang in Tibet. From there we were taken in covered vehicles at night. During the journey, the Chinese tried to demoralize us; they would make fun of our army: "You do not even have cutting tools for felling trees. You use shovels to cut down trees."

It was true; they had seen our troops preparing their defensive positions near the Namka Chu River. There were other remarks, such as, "You people have strange tactics. You sit right at the bottom of the valley to defend your territory instead of sitting on high ground."

We arrived at the PoW camp located at Chen Ye [Chongye in central Tibet] on October 26 and were accommodated in lama houses, which were all deserted, although we could see some activity in the monastery above these houses on the side of a hill.

We were to spend over five months in this camp, located southwest of Tsetang, off the main highway to Lhasa. The prisoners were segregated into four companies: No 1 company was all officers, JCOs and NCOs. Majors and lieutenant colonels were also separated from the JCOs and men. No 2 and 3 companies were jawans of various units. No 4 company consisted only of Gorkhas and was given special privileges, for obvious political reasons. Each company had its own cookhouse where the Indian soldiers selected by the Chinese were made to cook.

In our house, we were four lt colonels (M S Rikh of the Rajputs, Balwant Singh Ahluwalia of the Gorkhas, Rattan Singh of 5 Assam Rifles and myself), while John Dalvi was kept in confinement in Tsetang, a few kilometres away from Chongye.

When we made representations to the Chinese that under the Geneva Convention on PoWs, officers had the right to be with their men, we were told quite bluntly that all these were nothing but imperialist conventions.

I shivered through the first couple of nights, but then had a brain wave. I had noticed a pile of husk outside. We asked the Chinese if we could use it. Luckily, they accepted, and we could use the stuff as a mattress as well as a quilt to keep warm.

For almost a month after our arrival, we were not let out of the room. Each of these lama houses had its own latrine in one corner with an open but very effective system of soil disposal. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the 'disposal squad' of pigs had itself been disposed of by the Chinese.

There was an English-speaking Chinese officer, Lt Tong, who was with us almost throughout our stay in the PoW camp. He would come daily and talk to us individually or together.

The theme of his talk with the PoWs was monotonously the same: the Chinese wanted to be friends and it was only the reactionary government of Nehru, who was a lackey of American imperialism, which wanted to break this friendship. "Then why did you attack us on October 20?" was our reaction. They would try to explain that India attacked first and the Chinese attacked only in self-defence.

On December 5, we were given for the first time some books and magazines to read. This consisted of Mao's Red Book, some literature on the India-China boundary question, and a few Red Army journals. But whatever they were, they were most welcome for me at least. There was something to do at last to occupy the mind. I took notes from the Red Book.

It is a pity that our government had not taken note of some of the Mao's thoughts. I noted down a few at that time: "Fight no battle unprepared, fight no battle you are not sure of winning", or "The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy halts, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue."

Towards the end of December 1962, the Indian Red Cross sent us some parcels, each with two packets in it. One packet had warm clothes, a German battle dress, a pair of long johns, warm vest, muffler, cap, jersey, warm shirt, boots and a towel. The second packet contained foodstuff, including a bar of Sathe chocolate, tins of milk, jam, butter, fish, sugar, atta (wheat flour), dal (pulses), dried peas, salt, tea, biscuits, condiments, cigarettes, and vitamin pills. It certainly was a very well thought-out list of items.

Perhaps to demoralize us, the Chinese would often play Indian music on the public address system in the camp. One of the songs which was played repeatedly was Lata Mangeshkar's "Aa ja re main to kab se khari is paar... (come, I have been waiting for so long...)" This would make us feel homesick.

With my habit of writing a diary, I kept notes as a PoW also. The only available paper to write on in the first week or so were some sheets of toilet paper in my para jacket pocket. The question was how to keep these papers from being discovered by the Chinese. What I had done was to open the stitching on the `belt' part of the trousers and slide the folded papers inside. This was how my diary notes on toilet paper could be brought out to India.

One day, towards the end of our stay, at our request we were taken to see the palace and the monastery. It was a shock to see the palace with all the beautiful Buddha statues of all sizes and fabulous painted scrolls [thankas] lying broken, defiled, and torn and trampled on the ground.

On December 25, we, the seven field officers, were taken in one of the captured Indian Nissan trucks to spend the Christmas morning with Brig John Dalvi at Tsetang. He was kept all alone and was comfortably accommodated. We had breakfast and lunch with him and were shown a movie. But the solitary confinement had left its scars on him.

The first letters we received from home came only in the third week of February 1963. Some of us also received parcels of sweets.

On March 26, we were informed that we would soon be released and taken for a conducted tour of mainland China. Suddenly we became VIPs, though still held prisoner. We were given various comforts and new clothes and shoes.

Before leaving the PoW camp, we asked the Chinese to take us to the graves of our soldiers who had died in our camp. There were seven of them, including Subedar Joginder Singh, who had been awarded a PVC.

The Chinese told us that he had refused to have his toes, which were affected by frostbite, amputated. According to the Chinese, he had told them that his chances of promotion to Subedar Major would be adversely affected if his toes were amputated. We were told that he died of gangrene.

On March 28, we left the camp, ironically in a captured Indian vehicle, and were driven to Tsetang to pick up Brig John Dalvi and three other lieutenant colonels and five majors.

On March 29, we were all driven in a bus to Lhasa. On April 5, we were flown in two Il-14 aircrafts to Sinning. After a long tour of China, during which we were shown China's so-called progress after the Communist revolution, we were informed on April 27 that we would be handed over to India at Kunming on 4 May.

At the handing-over ceremony, we witnessed a last surprise performance by the Chinese. Throughout our tour of China, an immaculately dressed Chinese had accompanied us. He was not dressed in cotton-padded clothes like all the others. He commanded a lot of respect from the other Chinese. We used to refer to him as the 'general'.

He had a chap trailing behind him always, helping him with things, offering a chair, a cup of tea, etc. We used to refer to him as the 'orderly to the general'. At the handing-over ceremony, however, the person who sat down and signed on behalf of China was the 'orderly' and the one who stood behind to pass him the pen to sign was the 'general'! Such are the ways of the Chinese!

On May 5, we took off at 9.10am from Kunming and were scheduled to land at Calcutta at 1.20pm. Before reaching Calcutta, the pilot announced that there was some problem with the undercarriage, which was not opening, and that we might have to crash land. But we somehow landed safely at 2.30pm at Dum Dum with the fire tenders all lined up. It would have been such an irony of fate if we had been killed in a crash landing in India!

We were back on Indian soil after six and a half months in Mao's land.

In conclusion, I would like to say something that still hurts me 40 years later. Some authors have written that the Chinese attack came as a response to India's 'forward policy'. This is utter nonsense. The Chinese had prepared this attack for at least two or three years before.

We saw ample evidence of this on our road to the camp. How ammunition had been stocked, how they were prepared in every field. The PoWs from the Ladakh front confirmed that they too had observed the same state of meticulous preparation.

I can give you a few other examples: one day, much to our delight, a Chinese woman came and recited some of Bahadur Shah Zafar's poems to us. The Chinese had certainly prepared for this war most diligently because they had interpreters for every Indian language right in the front lines.

This Urdu-speaking woman must have lived in Lucknow for a long time. Same thing for one of our guards; though he had not said a single word for five months (we used to call him Poker Face), we discovered that he could speak perfect Punjabi when he left us in Kunming.

In Kameng FD itself, they had many local people on their payroll. They had detailed maps and knowledge of the area. How otherwise could you explain that they were able to build 30km of road between Bumla and Tawang in less than two weeks?

But their constant brainwashing was to make us accept that we had attacked them.

One day, Lt Tong took us out and we were allowed to sit against a wall to sun ourselves. Though we could not see over it, we heard voices in Hindi from the other side. It was a Hindi-speaking Chinese talking to some jawans. The talk was going in the usual way about how India had attacked first.

A jawan told the Chinese that his company was sleeping when the Chinese attack came, so how could India have started the war? The Chinese tried to explain that the jawan was only thinking of his own unit, but India had attacked elsewhere and China had to take action in self-defence.

The jawan was fearless and outspoken. He answered: "I do not know what you are talking about, but the whole of my 'burgerade' (Punjabi for 'brigade') was sleeping when you attacked first."

It is sad that this nonsense of India attacking China is still prevailing today in some quarters.

A last anecdote. One or two years after the war, I once saw Gen Kaul at the Grindlay's Bank in Delhi. By that time, he had retired. I went up to him and wished him. Kaul looked bewildered and had tears in his eyes. I was surprised, thinking I'd upset him somehow. "Do you recognize me, sir?" I said. "I was your Commander Signals."

Moved, he hugged me and said: "Of course, Krishen! I recognize you. But do you know that you are the first officer to greet me? Usually when my officers see me they turn their heads and pretend not to recognize me!"

Like Nehru, he was a broken man.

A highly decorated officer who joined the British Indian Army in early 1942, K K Tewari was taken prisoner during the Chinese attack on India on October 20, 1962, when he was visiting the forward troops. He spoke to Claude Arpi.


Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009

"I can tell this House that at no time since our independence, and of course before it, were our defence forces in better condition, in finer fettle, and with the background of our far greater industrial production...to help them, than they are today. I am not boasting about them or comparing them with any other country's, but I am quite confident that our defence forces are well capable of looking after our security."

- Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru addressing the Lok Sabha on 25th November 1959.


Namka Chu a name seared in Indian memory, a place where the decisions made by a pacifist Prime Minister, an arrogant Defence Minister and a politically connected General caused the rout of a proud Brigade with many of its men dying like animals in a cage. Namka Chu, a gorge situated east of the remote Tri Junction of Tibet, Bhutan and India. It is 200 km from the railhead of Misamari and 60 km from the road head of Tawang. The Nyamjang river flows through from Tibet and enters India at Khinzemane. It meets Namka Chu 1½ miles south of Khinzemane. Local grazers used seven improvised bridges to take their cattle across the Namka Chu. They were from East to West known as Nos I - V, Log bridge and Temporary bridge. Following Hathung La route to Dhola Post, the track hit Bridge I. Across it the track forked, the eastward branch reached Khinzemane, the one going North West along the river and re-crossing to the South across Bridge II. This led to Dhola Post opposite Bridge III.

A little away was Bridge IV and close to Tsangle was Bridge V. Between IV and V were the Log and Temporary bridges. The bridges were useless when the river was in spate. In October one could walk across the river bed. The Thagla ridge which sprawls from west to east overlooks Namka Chu and has four prominent passes Dum Dum La (17,000 feet), Karpola II (16,000 feet), Yamatso La (16,000 feet) and Thag La (14,000 feet). To get to Tawang the road traverses from Misamari up to 2743 metres to a place called Eagle's Nest, another 200 metres to Bomdi La. Then it drops to 1676 metres to Dirang Dzong, followed by an ascent to Se La at 4180 metres, another drop to 1524 metres to Jang with a final climb to Tawang (3048) metres. From here the journey had to be along tracks with mules and porters. There were no staging areas for acclimatisation.


The dispute in this area revolved around Thagla Ridge. The Chinese claimed it was on the Tibetan side and India claimed it was on its side of the McMahon line. Accordingly in 1959 an Assam Rifles post was established at Khinzemane. The Chinese disputed it and a force of 200 Chinese pushed back the weak Indian force towards the bridge on the Nyamjang Chu at Drokung Samba which they claimed was the McMahon line. After the Chinese retired the Indians again reoccupied the post. The Chinese again tried to dislodge but this time were resisted by the Assam Rifles. This time they withdrew and started a chain diplomatic exchanges between the two Governments.

Under Nehru's forward policy some extra posts were ordered to be deployed on the McMahon line. One such post was proposed at the Tri junction. A party under Captain Mahabir Prasad from 1 Sikh went to locate the post. However due to heavy snowfall it could not access it, so they located the post at Che Dong on the southern bank of the Namka Chu. While the post was dominated by the surrounding area, it was easy to maintain with access to water. However this should have been a temporary post and should have been relocated at a later time. For some reason it never was. An Assam Rifles unit was sent to man it.

The Namka Chu Terrain

On September 8th, Chinese troops laid siege to the Assam Rifles post. In order to get a quick response the post commander inflated the number to 600 enemy troops. In many other places similar situations were met with an order to stay put. Probably because the higher number, the 7th Inf Bde were ordered to move in and evict the Chinese. The 7th Brigade was part of 4th Division commanded by Major General Niranjan Prasad. At this time two battalions of 7th Brigade, the 9 Punjab and 1 Sikh were in Towang, the 1/9 Gorkha Rifles in Misamari on its way back after a 3-year tenure in NEFA. There was no airfield and all maintenance was by air drops. Raw and un-acclimatised troops with cotton uniforms and canvas shoes were sent into the mountains. All this was done under public clamour and alerted the Chinese. The first man to protest was Lt. Gen. Umrao Singh. When Lt. Gen. Sen in charge of Eastern Command refused to heed his advice, he followed it up with a written protest.

14 Sept - 09 Oct 1962: Deployment

The 7th Inf. Bde. was commanded by Brigadier J.P. Dalvi and consisted of 9 Punjab, 4 Grenadiers, 2 Rajputs and 1/9 Gorkha Rifles plus some symbolic artillery. 9 Punjab was led by Lt. Col. R.N. Mishra. With harvesting time in the region the men had to move everything by themselves for the long arduous trek. Each man carried one blanket, 100 rounds of ammo, 2 grenades, 3 days rations and LMG clips. It came to 35 kg per person. After a forced march it reached Bridge 1 on September 14. Next morning leaving one company behind at Bridge I, Lt. Col. Mishra took the rest to Bridge II, where a company of Chinese troops was in position both sides of Namka Chu. Ignoring the Chinese shouts in Hindi to go back, he left two companies about 50 metres away and took the last one to the Che Dong post. The logs at Bridge II were destroyed and a 50-man Chinese detachment occupied the opposite side.

The next night the Punjabis at Bridge II crept in close forcing the Chinese to move most of their troops to the north bank. Meanwhile Lt. Gen. Umrao Singh's protests were causing a problem for the Government and the Army HQ. To avoid the impasse, General Thapar and Lt. Gen. Sen formed 4 Corps to handle NEFA leaving 33 Corps with Lt. Gen. Umrao Singh. Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul was put in charge of 4 Corps - an most unusual step for a Chief of General Staff (CGS) to to do with direct access to the Prime Minister. Lt. Gen. Kaul took charge on October 4th. Meanwhile 2 Rajput and 1/9 Gorkha Rifles had reached Lumpu. The men were in cotton uniforms, canvas shoes and were living in the open after marching through slushy roads. The 4 Grenadiers who had arrived at Tawang a few days earlier were in no better shape. The buildup of troops to Tsangdhar was slow. There were no porters and everything had to back packed.

Furthermore poor planning in the air drops did not help. Instead of snow clothes & ammo they got tent pegs, kerosene was dropped in 200L barrels. Many rolled down slopes and although some could be retrieved, many were given up. Especially high were losses from drops by C119s due to the higher speed of the aircraft. Meanwhile two platoons of MMGs from 6 Mahar and 34 Heavy Mortar Regiment reached Lumpu. The mortars had no ammo. A little later four 75mm guns of the 17 Field Parachute regiment were dropped at Tsangdhar. On October 6th, Lt. Gen. Kaul and Maj. Gen. Prasad made their way to Namka Chu. The Brigade HQ was located at Rongla and Tactical HQ at Zimithang. The troops were extended on a frontage of 12 miles or 20,000 yards - more than 6 times their normal frontage. Furthermore the Corps, Divisional and Brigade commanders were all there. Lt. Gen. Kaul now seeing for himself the deathtrap set up for the Indian troops tried get all available resources. He sent a message to Eastern Command for "marshalling of all military and air resources."

Late in the game Lt. Gen. Kaul realised what he had gotten into and was now desperate. The Govt. however was not ready to escalate the border clash into an all out war. Meanwhile the Grenadiers, Rajput and Gorkhas were on the way to Tsangdhar. The units had marched through severe cold, with groups of 3 men sharing 2 sheets. As mentioned they were in cotton uniforms resulting in a good deal of sick casualties; frostbite and pulmonary disorders. Two Gorkhas died of pulmonary-edema the next day. So Lt. Gen. Kaul now turned to his pet 'positional warfare' theory while Major General Prasad and Brigadier Dalvi wanted to find a way from their untenable position. The Chinese meanwhile had advantage of position and had now mustered up to a division at Thagla.

So Lt. Gen. Kaul set his plans in motion on the morning of October 8th. He decided that 2 Rajput would occupy Yamatso La west of Thag La peak as it was unoccupied using the Tseng-Jong approach. Brigadier Dalvi was stunned. The plan meant moving a battalion to a peak 16,000 feet above sea level under Chinese view with no artillery support. Brigadier Dalvi convinced Lt. Gen. Kaul to at least send a patrol of 9 Punjab to find a suitable crossing place for the Rajputs and cover them by taking positions at Tseng Jong. The Rajputs, less one company, left behind at Bridge 1 were to advance on first light October 10th.

The patrol of 9 Punjab led by Major Choudhary left on October 8th and established itself by 3 p.m. Meanwhile two companies of the 2 Rajput was in the Bridge 4 area with the rest at Dhola post. It was as unprepared with only 90 sleeping bags, no ammo for its 3" mortars. Meanwhile the close proximity between Chinese and Indian troops caused skirmishes. A grenade attack on September 20th on the Punjabis, was met with effective retaliation. 4 Punjabis were wounded and 1 Chinese was killed. October 9th passed uneventfully except for a grenade attack in the Bridge 4 area. One more platoon from the 9 Punjab had reinforced the Tseung Jong area and one section from it, was stationed at the spur of Karpo La II.

10 October 1962: The Skirmishes Begin

October 10th dawned without a hint of what was to come. At first light, Lt. Gen. Kaul was shaving while his batman was preparing tea. Suddenly the calm of the morning was shattered by the incessant fire of small arms fire and the thumps of mortars. The Tseung Jong position had come under fire and was retaliating. Around 8:00 a.m., 600 Chinese troops attacked the post. The Indians totaled 56 men with only pouch ammunition. Still they beat back the first assault. Around 9:30 a.m. the Chinese attacked a second time. By now the section at Karpo La II had moved to the flank of the Chinese. When the Chinese emerged, it opened up on them inflicting heavy casualties. The Chinese retaliated by bringing down mortar fire. As the first fire rang out the Rajputs were strung on the Southern bank of the Namka Chu. According to their orders they were hurrying up to Yamatso La. The forward company was about 450 meters from the Temporary bridge with Lt. Col. Maha Singh Rikh following behind with the second company. Lt. Gen. Kaul now proceeded to give another order. He asked Lt. Col. Rikh to hold on and set defensive positions. Protests about the positions being dominated by the Thag La ridge were brushed aside. He then left handing over command to Brigadier Dalvi saying, "It is your battle." Moreover a company of the 1/9 Gorkhas had to accompany the party to provide protection.

Meanwhile Major Chaudhary was asking for mortar and machine gun fire. Brigadier Dalvi had two 3" mortars and two machine guns but he had to make the painful decision of not opening fire as the retaliatory fire from the south bank would decimate the Rajputs who were still milling around. Helplessly they watched the Chinese reinforcements clamber up for a second attack. The Chinese attacked a third time from three directions and at this time Major Chaudhary asked the unit to withdraw. By that time the Chinese were on Major Chaudhary's position, hand-to-hand combat was in process. Somehow he withdrew what was left of his two platoons. Sepoy Kanshi Ram brought back a AK-47 snatched from a Chinese soldier. The withdrawal was made possible by the gallantry of Naik Chain Singh. Asking his men to fall back, Naik Singh covered their withdrawal with an LMG, till he was gunned down by a machine gun burst. Major Chaudhary, Sepoy Ram and Naik Singh were awarded the Maha Vir Chakra. The Punjabis outnumbered 20 to 1 lost 6 dead, 11 wounded and 5 missing. Peking Radio admitted to a 100 casualties. Later that day the Chinese buried our men with full military honours in view of our men. It was a clever move to beguile the Indians into complacency. Meanwhile the Chinese started reinforcing their positions with more troops and heavy mortars. A long line of mules and porters were seen carrying equipment. Firing lines were cleared with mechanical saws, and barbed wire & punji sticks used to defend their positions.

Meanwhile the Grenadiers, led by Lt. Col. K.S. Harihar Singh, arrived and started deploying. The Chinese taunted them for their efforts to cut trees with machetes and digging tools. Attempts to withdraw the Punjabis from Tsangle were rebuffed by Lt. Gen. Kaul. The Lt. Gen. who was sick, instead of giving up his command and admitting himself to the hospital, went to his residence and commanded from from his sick bed. In the Army of 1962 this no longer seemed strange. On October 18th the Chinese preparations intensified. Officers were holding conferences and pointing out Indian positions at Namka Chu and Tsangdhar. Bearings were taken and noted down. Tsangle Post and Bridge V came under fire for 90 minutes. With a foot of snow falling, Brigadier Dalvi was forced to take whatever snow clothes from the men at Namka Chu and give it to those in Tsangle. A company of the 1/9 Gorkha Rifles was ordered to be deployed at Tsangle. Brigadier Dalvi protested at this piece meal deployment but was threatened with a court martial. The next day the Chinese activities climaxed. The Rajputs counted 2000 men with stores in the area between Tseng-Jong and Temporary Bridge. Mules and porters came across Thag La. Men were laying tape markers for night assaults. Brigadier Dalvi protested again asking to withdraw his men from this deathtrap. He offered to resign, rather than watch his men get massacred. Brigadier Dalvi thought the attack was going to come the next day and in three days his brigade would be wiped out. Major General Prasad promised he will be there the next day to share the fate of the brigade.

So by October 19th the troops were deployed as follows;

"¢ 4 Grenadiers, commanded by Lt. Col. K.S. Harihar Singh
- 1 Bn less 2 Coy - Bridge I
- 1 Coy - Drokung Sambha (under Div HQ)
- 1 Coy - Serkhim with 1 platoon at Hathung La

"¢ 9 Punjab, commanded by Lt. Col. R.N. Misra
- 1 Bn less 1 Coy - Bridge II
- 1 Coy - Bridge V and Tsangle

"¢ 2 Rajput, commanded by Lt. Col. M.S. Rikh
Total Strength - 513 men, 8 Officers
- 1 Bn less 3 Coy - Bridge IV
- A Coy - Bridge III
- B Coy - Log Bridge
- C Coy - Temporary Bridge

"¢ 1/9 Gorkha Rifles, commanded by Lt. Col. B.S. Ahluwalia
- 1 Bn less 2 Coy - Che Dong - Tsangdhar Track
- 1 Coy - behind Bridge II (near Brigade HQ)
- 1 Coy less platoon - Tsangdhar
- 1 Platoon - between Tsangdhar and Bridge V

"¢ Assam Rifles
1 Platoon - Che Dong

"¢ 34 Heavy Mortar Battery less platoon - Tsangdhar (no ammo)

"¢ Field Regiment - 17 Para
1 Troop - Tsangdhar (2 operational - 260 rounds of ammo, no radio sets for OP)

"¢ 6 Mahar
1 MG Coy less platoon*
(*Platoon with 1/9 GR, rest with Rajputs at Bridge V)

"¢ 100 Field Coy - Rong La

"¢ Brigade HQ - 100 yards behind Rola (Dhola Post)

Against this the Chinese forces consisted of 11th Division with 3 regiments (equal to a brigade). On the night of the 19th the Chinese went into their forming up areas. In utter contempt of the Indians across the river, they lit fires to warm themselves. To Major Gurdial, the 2-in-C of the 2 Rajputs, the idea of his under strength battalion fighting the hardened veterans of the Korean war seemed suicidal. He looked around at his isolated weak companies, un-acclimatised & weak, 150 rds/rifleman, 17 magazines (28 rounds) per LMG and 2 grenades per soldier. The battalion's 3" mortars had 60 rounds of ammo, equal to five minutes firing time. The night was dark and bitter cold. The stars stood out brightly. The sentries of 2 Rajput stood wrapped in blankets shuffling around to keep warm. The men were huddled in twos and threes for warmth. Still sleep eluded them as they waited for the stand to at 0430 hours. Unknown to them in the thousands of yards that separated the posts, with visibility under 20 yards, Chinese infantry columns were infiltrating through the large gaps. Fording the river was easy. To avoid slipping they removed their shoes and walked barefoot across. Once across they dried and wore warm socks. They quickly moved past the link roads where Indian patrols might operate.

The overhead communication wires were left alone to be cut just before the attack so that the Indians may not be alerted. Once in the dark shadows of the coniferous forests the noises were muffled by the thick moss on rocks. Slowly the Chinese columns gathered into battalions. Each got into a position above and behind the Rajput companies. Other columns likewise moved to the Tsangdhar position to take on the Gorkhas. Other Chinese columns had moved 2 nights before and gone to Hathung La to carry out blocking movements. The fires and other activity of the earlier nights had kept the defenders focus on the front. The plan was to hit like a battering ram at the centre, into the Rajputs, and the left flank and cutting off the rest of the troops. At 4:30 hours Lt. Col. Rikh was woken up by his batman. Outside the temp was well below zero and the fires lit by the Chinese still flickered. His adjutant, Captain Bhatia, who was to be posted to Poona soon was checking with the companies & patrols and they reported all was well. The first pre dawn light could be seen when the darkness was broken by the hollow booming sound of mortars. The muzzle flashes were followed by a pause before the valley erupted in a roar. It was 0514 hours and the Battle of Namka Chu had begun.

20 October 1962: The Battle

At 5:14 a.m. 150 guns and mortars opened upon all the localities at Namka Chu and Tsangdhar. The 82mm and 120mm rounds crashed into trees & rocks, forcing the men in the open to take refuge in the bunkers whose firing bays faced forwards. It continued for an hour, as the Indians helplessly watched unable to counter it with any weapon. The Indian 3" mortars made an futile attempt to fire back. Even as they tried to get the range right, the Chinese ranged in on them and blew them away. The signals bunker was zeroed in quickly using 75mm recoilless guns, and blown up, killing all in it including Captain Mangat - the Signals Officer.

Progress of Battle

After an hour or so there was a brief lull for 7 - 15 minutes before the Chinese bugles and whistles for an infantry attack became audible. To the shock of the defenders, the attack was from above and behind. This meant their trenches were exposed and they had to scramble out of their bunker to face upwards. At Temporary Bridge, Subedar Dashrath Singh realised what was happening and moved Naik Roshan Singh's section to a bump 150 yards upslope. Barely had Roshan's men taken position when the Chinese came into view. With AK-47s opening up, they charged. Roshan and his men poured fire into the bunched up Chinese cutting down many.

2nd Lt Onkar Dubey with 7th platoon along with Subedar Janam Singh rushed with 15 LMG clips and 2 men to support Roshan. From the flanks he and his men poured fire on the Chinese breaking up two attacks. Firing the last 2 clips at the enemy he was severely wounded in the stomach & chest and fell down unconscious. He was later taken prisoner. Meanwhile Subedar Dashrath Singh's men turned uphill and opened fire on the advancing Chinese. The Chinese rushed down using cover from tree to tree. Dashrath and his men repulsed 3 attacks. On the fourth they came in to hand-to-hand combat losing four more men. Subedar Dashrath fell unconscious and was taken POW. On the eastern flank, Major B.K. Pant's D Coy platoon under Jemadar J.N. Bose came under attack. The crescendo of AK-47 fire overshadowed the noise of Indian LMGs and rifles.

Roshan's unit was finally overcome with every man killed. The attention now turned to Jemadar Bose's platoon. After three waves of assault there were only 10 men surviving. The gallant Bengali led the remaining men into a bayonet charge. Most of the men were killed. Major B.K. Pant meanwhile tried to rally the men. Hit at the beginning of the battle in the leg he had to take over after Major Sethi was killed in the first round of mortar attacks which collapsed his bunker. Hobbling from position to position he kept inspiring his men on. He was hit again in the stomach and leg. Still he continued to inspire his men to break a fourth attack. At this point the enemy targeted him and hit him all over with machine gun fire. He uttered the Regiment's war cry before his last breath.

Meanwhile at Log Bridge, B Company was having its own problems. As the first shells landed, Lt. Subhash Chander reacted quickly and turned his men around to face uphill. However a salvo of mortar shells set fire to his command post as well as the company kitchen. The resulting fire to ghee & wheat engulfed the post trapping him inside and burning him to death. Subedar Har Lal, of 5th platoon, now rallied his men quickly dispersing them amongst the trees and rocks. He kept exhorting his men and when ammo ran out asked them to use their rifles as lathis. Jemadar Gian Chand's 4th platoon too got a few minutes to get into position amongst the trees. They held of 3 waves of attacks before he too was overwhelmed. With Subedar Mohan Lal killed early in the battle only Naik Hoshiar with 6th platoon was left. With the other two platoons absorbing the first few attacks, 6th platoon got more time to get into position. Using their Lee Enfield .303s they inflicted heavy damage. In spite of firing upwards, the Rajputs were effective because the ricocheting bullets continued to drop the Chinese.

Little by little the superior volume of the Chinese AK-47s overwhelmed the Indians. With ammunition running out the Chinese moved in. Each and every soldier had to be overcome by hand-to-hand to combat. Percussion grenades were extensively used. As Naik Hoshiar ran out of ammo he grabbed a Sten gun and was trying to reload when a percussion grenade exploded, hitting him in the arms & chest. As he regained consciousness, he found four Chinese holding him. A services wrestler, Naik Hoshiar struggled for some time before being overpowered. Meanwhile the area under Bridge IV continued to get pounded with the Btn HQ getting special attention. Major Gurdial, 2-in-C, under mortar fire rallied his men around. Seeing no enemy activity across the river he realised the attack was coming from uphill. Frantically he tried to set the Vickers MG around to face uphill. Men were being hurried out of bunkers to face uphill. Lt. Bhup Singh joined up with Lt. Col. Rikh in the Btn command post.

The full brunt of the attack struck Lt. Bhup's 12th platoon under Jemadar Biswas, the Btn command post in the centre and Subedar Ram Chander's C platoon to the east. The bunched up Chinese were cut down by volley's of rifle and LMG fire. Yet the Chinese continued to attack. The advantage of the Ak-47s along with HE and percussion grenades thrown down proved decisive. The Indians had to throw uphill, a task much harder. As the men in the upper slopes struggled, some of the men in the lower slopes started withdrawing towards Bridge III including the 11 platoon led by Subedar B.C. Roy. Meanwhile the now depleted C Coy and the Btn HQ had held off two attacks. The Chinese attacked a third time from the south and south west. With Major Gurdial rallying them, they desperately tried to fight back but succumbed to the inevitable. Major Gurdial was overpowered and captured.

With the flanking platoons almost wiped out to a man the remnants fell back to the battalion bunker. Captain Bhatia and Lt. Col. Rikh and a few others were now in the bunker. The Chinese opened up with a machine gun trying to break through the bunker. When that failed, a Chinese soldier crawled up to the bunker and threw a grenade just as Lt. Col. Rikh was peeping out. The grenade hit his rifle and exploded, breaking his jaw and cutting his lips. Lt. Bhup rushed out and shot the Chinese soldier and dragged Lt. Col. Rikh back in. He was propped up and given an LMG to resume firing. Another Chinese LMG burst through the door killing Captain Bhatia and hit Lt. Col. Rikh again in the shoulder breaking it. He however managed to gun down the Chinese soldier. Yet another Chinese broke through and rounds hit him in the elbow and leg, consequently breaking them. The pain and loss of blood caused him to collapse. Lt. Bhup continued to hold them off with one jawan. The Chinese had now encircled three sides and were pouring machine gun fire. Finally the defenders' ammunition ran out. On this the Chinese threw percussion grenades and overpowered Lt. Bhup and the jawan.

The fourth and last locality, Bridge 3, was held by A company with a platoon of Assam Rifles holding the Che Dong are. The Assam Rifles held the top of the spur while 2 platoons No.1 and No.2, held the lower slopes 600 hundred feet below. A 3rd platoon held a position another 800 feet lower overlooking Bridge 3. The initial hour long shelling drove the Assam Rifles unit from the post. As the shelling lifted Captain Ravi Eipe began to move towards the Assam Rifles post to get a better view. As he approached there was firing from the post. Thinking it was the AR men firing in panic he shouted out. Soon he saw some figures in khaki and realised the Chinese had already taken over the post. He alerted Company Havildar Major Saudagar Singh's men to reposition themselves just as the attack began. The Chinese then attacked from the top and the West. Facing them were the 2 platoons of CHM Singh and Subedar Basdeo Singh. CHM Saudagar's men had reorganised and took a heavy toll on the attacking Chinese. CHM Singh himself snatched an AK-47 from a Chinese soldier and blew away 5 Chinese soldiers. By 0700 hours the platoons were being swarmed by Chinese troops. 1 platoon got cut off and fought to the death.

Captain Eipe was hit on the shoulder and could not take any further part. The remnants of the battered 2 and 3rd platoons were asked to withdraw. With this the last Rajput position was overrun. Temporary and Log Bridge were overpowered and the systematic mopping up began. The attack had begun at 5:14 a.m. with the shelling lasting till 6:30 a.m. By 9:30 a.m. mopping operations were in full swing till it ended at 11:30 a.m. The main positions of 1/9 Gorkha Rifles were above Che Dong on a track from the Assam Rifles post. 'D' Coy held the central location with 'A' and 'C' Coy on either side. The fourth company was above bridge II protecting the Brigade HQ. As the Gorkhas were getting into their morning stand, the first salvo of Chinese shells hit their positions. As the officers scrambled to figure the situations they found the telephone lines were dead. Now the Chinese who had infiltrated past them in the last 2 nights launched their attack. The Gorkhas fought back.

Their 3" mortars opened up only to be silenced by the Chinese guns. By 6:25 a.m., C Coy was under attack by 500 Chinese troops. Company Commander, Captain Gambhir, was killed and 2nd Lt. Dogra, platoon commander, was wounded. Lt. Col. Ahluwalia asked Subedar Major Jit Bahdur Chetri to take his men and reinforce 2nd Lt. Dogra's platoon. By 7:15 a.m. 2nd Lt. Dogra's platoon was overrun. Wounded, he continued to fight with an LMG allowing the remnants of his platoon to fall back. Subedar Dhan Bahadur Chand also covered with an LMG. By 7:30 a.m., A Coy was under attack from rear as well as the front. Lt. Col. Ahluwalia was wounded in the shoulder as hand-to-hand fighting began. With no hope, the CO ordered a withdrawal towards Tsangdhar. Meanwhile word came of Subedar Chetri's platoon being encircled and captured. Captain Mahabir Prasad and Lt. Mahindra were wounded and missing. The Gorkhas fell back in confusion. One lot went towards the Tsangdhar track the other towards Bridge II.

Many of the attempts to reach Karpo La II or Rong La were thwarted by the Chinese who got there ahead of them. Even at this point there were defiant attacks of bravery. Subedar Bhab Bahadur Katwal with 15 men was heading for Karpo La I. The route was blocked by a Chinese MMG. Subedar Bahadur lead his men in a charge with the Gorkha war cry, Ayo Gorkhali (The Gorkhas have come). The machine gun chattered and then there was silence. All the men were killed or wounded & captured. Small parties of men however did make it across the Chinese encirclement and reached Bhutan. Many others perished due to the cold & starvation as they tried to make their way in the cold, hostile and desolate mountains with no blankets or winter clothing. The Sikh Para Gunners also displayed an astonishing defiance. With no ammo they took up LMGs & rifles and fought the Chinese after the Gorkha platoons were overrun. The Chinese encircled them and called them to surrender. They refused and continued fighting till they ran out of ammo. One third were killed and the rest were wounded and captured.

7th Brigade had lost all cohesion within the first hour of the battle. By 8 a.m. the first stragglers of the 1/9 Gorkha's came back to HQs with news that the Btn was overrun. This meant his middle & left defences were already broken. Small arms fire was now homing in on Brigade HQ. Brigadier Dalvi now got Div HQ's permission to leave Rong La and fall back to Tsangdhar hoping to reform and fight. The Rajputs and Gorkhas were expected to fall back to Tsangdhar. Brigadier Dalvi and his men left for Tsangdhar after destroying all documents. However they soon found that Tsangdhar was already breached and changed directions to Serkhim. The group wandered around for days avoiding Chinese patrols. At one point they had been without food for 66 hours. Sometime on the morning of October 22nd they ran into a Chinese Company and were captured. At Bridge II, the 9 Punjab had not been shelled. After communications with Brigade HQ was cut off, they remained in touch with Div HQ. At 11 a.m. on October 20th, Major General Prasad ordered them to withdraw to Hathung La. The withdrawal attracted heavy Chinese mortar fire. This was followed by an attack on the positions of 'D' Coy under Major Chaudhary.

Once again repeated attacks collapsed the defence and all the men went down fighting. Another group of 20 men under Havildar Malkiat Singh were on their way to reinforce the Tsangla defences. They stumbled into a large Chinese force. In the unequal encounter, the Punjabis inflicted heavy casualties before going down. Havildar Singh was amongst those who were killed. With the Chinese reaching Hathung La before the Punjabis, they too had to take the route through Bhutan. At Drokung Samba, C Coy of Grenadiers came under attack from three sides by a battalion of the Chinese. Soon the bridge was blown up cutting off any withdrawal. With no hopes, the men under 2nd Lt. Rao fought wave after wave of attacks. Most including the 2nd Lt. Rao were killed. The rest of the Grenadiers at Bridge I received orders to pull out and managed to escape through Bhutan. It took them 17 days. Thus ended the Battle of Namka Chu. The word 'battle' is grossly misleading, for what was essentially a massacre. Within the first hour of the battle 7th Brigade had lost all cohesiveness. It was then essentially a desperately one-sided battle with many Indian platoons fighting to the death, to the last round, last man.

The 2 Rajputs suffered horrendously but lived up to the Regiment's reputation. Of the 513 all ranks, 282 were killed that morning, 81 were wounded and captured, 90 were captured unwounded. Only 60 men, mostly rear elements got away. The Gorkhas lost 80 dead, 44 wounded and 102 captured. The 7th Brigade lost a total of 493 men that morning. The Chinese also lost heavily. Lt. Col. Rikh was captured & subjected to repeated interrogations on the characteristics of the Rajputs. He was told it was because the Chinese suffered their maximum casualties in NEFA (North East Frontier Agency). In the bitter flush of defeat, the valour of these men went un-recognised. In the small village of Lumpu, on the track leading to the Hathung La pass, stands a memorial. A memorial consisting of a tin shed under which loose wooden boards are stacked with names of those who fell in the battle. To rub salt in the wounds, not all the men are mentioned. This is considered sufficient to honour them!

Copyright © BHARAT RAKSHAK. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of BHARAT RAKSHAK is prohibited.
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Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
The following things went wrong in the campaign in the Kameng division.

*There was a lull in the fighting after Namka chu - till the the point where the Sela collapse happened. it was not a hurried deployment, there was about a three week lull between Namka Chu and the battles of se la , DZ and bomdila. The fact that the presence in Kameng was built from a single or two brigade force to a very strong three brigade force (Despite loss of 7 Brigade) showed that the build up happened at a good pace.
* As you said Bomdi La was the best place to defend. However once the decision to split troops along bomdila AND SeLa was taken, it was a fatal decision to place the Div HQ in between the two places at Dirang Dzong - there were not enough defensive troops.
*You have to give credit to the chinese for using other trails, bypassing SeLa and attacking the div hq at Dirang dzong , effectively unsettling the Div commander and his staff. What did they call that - Positional Warfare?
* The Div Commander made a fatal mistake of ordering the Se La brigade to withdraw - inspite of the protests of Brigadier Hoshiar Singh - and especially when the lead elements were coming under attack. The result, the Brigade broke up just as it was coming under attack and simultaneously withdrawing. they might have held their ground if they had been holding se la as a fortress.
*From what I read, While deploying at SeLa was not a wise decision, withdrawing the force while under attack when they still had resources to defend was even worse. You can say that the battle was lost in the mind and not on the ground.
*The story of the Div Commander calling the Corps HQ frantically for permission to withdraw from Se La is well known. The COAS and the Army Commander were there but refused to give any firm decision to the Div Cdr. The Corps Commander returned from his sortie, and while insisting there is no withdrawal , passed the buck and left the div commander to take the decision to teh best of his abilities , who promptly issued the order to withdraw.

The gist of all this is.
The Chinese did show initiative in outflanking maneuvers and not sticking to the road and bypassing strong defences.
The top brass (Atleast in Kameng) lost the battle in their mind - a chance to redeem ourselves in kameng was lost.
The losses at SeLa had very little to do with the "Chinese human wave attacks" or "heavily outnumbered indian troops" and more due to bad decision making by div hq

Above pages are from official history of 1962 sino-indo war chapter 5 linked below.....

Debacles at SE LA BOMDILA :Chapter 5

**Thanks Jagan for his comments...
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Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
No Use of Combat Air Power in 1962


In 1962 as the war clouds gathered over the Himalayan mountains, Indian Army beefed up its defences. As a result IAF was asked to undertake tremendous surge in air maintenance – nearly thrice the normal amount. The air maintenance flying in Sep 1962 was 1179 hours. It increased to 3263 hours in Nov 1962. However, the inflow at the receiving end of air maintenance was not as spectacular. The dropping zones (DZ) were sub optimum; there was shortage of dropping equipment; there were too few porters to retrieve the dropped load and take it to Army posts; the identification between different items of dropped air load was ineffective or absent. All this resulted in around 80 percent of the drop being irretrievable. 1This despite the valiant effort of IAF transport crew and helicopter crew which continued to provide much needed support. This has been well recorded and appreciated. They are the reasons of not using combat air – that are little known. This article is devoted to this second part.

During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the political leadership did not use the combat air arm of the IAF. General Kaul the Army Commander responsible in NEFA, later confessed, "Lastly, we made a great mistake in not employing our Air Force in a close support role during these operations".2 This costly and catastrophic omission was a result of multiple factors which impinged on the decision-making process at the highest level. To begin with was the influence of Prof PMS Blackett on PM Nehru in defence matters soon after Indian independence. Blackett was a British advisor for defence. He had advocated only a tactical role for the IAF firmly advising against escalating any war that India may get involved in the future.3 The second major influence was the analysis of Director Intelligence Bureau BN Mullick, a close confidant of Nehru. Mullick concluded that Chinese bombers will bomb Indian cities in response to IAF's combat use. Probably the horrors of the bombing of the cities during the Second World War were still vivid on Nehru's mind. The next factor was a counsel on similar lines by the American Ambassador John K Galbraith half way through the war who over estimated the capability of the Chinese air force in the absence of proper air defence infrastructure in India.4 Following was the strength of the two air forces on the eve of 1962 war:

The fourth factor could be the lack of joint planning between Indian Army and Air Force as opined by George Tanham, "The air force knew nothing about the army plans and was not consulted in any way about defence against a Chinese attack - not surprisingly as the army did not have any specific plan".5 While this may be partly true at the strategic level, nevertheless, it is also well documented that Army-Air Force planners had explored use of air power and recommended the same to the Army Chief on more than one occasion. It is here that the plan came up against a dead end.6 When the chips were down even Kaul demanded combat air.7 Tanham goes on to state, "The Indian government, although in a desperate state and calling for massive American air support, did not investigate what its air power might do to redress the situation".8 While the political-bureaucratic combine pleaded to US President John F Kennedy for 12 Squadrons of Star fighters (F-104) and four squadrons of B-47 Bombers as an immediate USAF help to stem the Chinese advance, they did not deem it fit even to consult the Indian Air Force Air Chief.9 The question that arises is as to what was the IAF's professional opinion?

It appears that the IAF leadership was quite confident about using combat air to own advantage and did advise the political leadership at every possible opportunity.10 It is a fact that Canberras flew 22 photographic reconnaissance missions between Oct 13 and Nov 11, 1962, during the conflict period, over Aksai Chin, Towang, Se la and Walong area. Some of the sorties were at 300 feet above Chinese concentrations. No damage to the Canberras from Chinese anti aircraft artillery was the proof showing the poor level of Chinese capabilities.11 However, as Lieutenant General Kaul states in the "Untold Story", "Our intelligence set-up, of course, knew little on the subject and was only adept at presuming some facts and not realising the dispensation of exaggerated information about the enemy was as dangerous as understating vital facts".12 Here General Kaul is referring to Mullick granting exaggerated capabilities to Chinese Air Force. Major General DK Palit put the quandary in the right perspective when he stated that the Intelligence agency (IB) which should have been supplying inputs to user agencies was not only collating information, but also interpreting the same and recommending policy action, mostly directly to the Prime Minister. A case of cart before the horse.

Air Marshal Raghvendran then a staff officer (Wing Commander) goes on to recount the exact professional advice given to PM and RM about marginal capability of the Chinese air force operating from Tibet and beyond. He underscores PM's apprehension about even a single bomb falling over Delhi and the war escalating out of control. Raghvendran minces no words when he states, "The debacle, partly due to the non use of air power but more so due to our foreign policy blindness as well as emasculation of the Army by playing `favourites' by Krishna Menon, interfering with the promotion and posting of senior officers in the Army, ordering a totally unprepared army to `throw out the Chinese' and above all insisting on giving the command of the operations to a totally unqualified and inexperienced `favourite' General were all the work of the political leaders and the blame must be squarely laid there." General Kaul airs the same views when he states, "The professional judgement of the Air Force Commanders had been completely disregarded and their operational plans ignored to the extent that they called for greater infrastructural resources".13

Late JN Dixit, former Foreign Secretary (1992-94) and National Security Advisor (2004 – 05) writing on this stated, "I was the Under Secretary in the China Division dealing with external dimensions of the Sino-Indian crisis. So I claim some personal knowledge"¦ suggestion put forward was that India should consider air strikes against the Chinese forces in Tibet all along the front"¦ Our information was that the Chinese logistical arrangements and supply lines were too stretched and that China did not have sufficient air power in Tibet at that point of time"¦. India's air strikes would stop the Chinese advance and neutralise the military successes which they had achieved. The suggestion was dismissed on the ground that the officers concerned were not military experts and their suggestion did not merit serious consideration"¦ And by the time Nehru was coming round to the view of using air power the Chinese declared unilateral cease-fire"¦ Later analyses and records of conversations between Chinese leaders, Henry Kissinger and Nixon clearly indicate that the Chinese considered the decision-making elite in the Indian establishment somewhat naïve and the Indian military planners inept in utilising the strengths which India had at that point of time, particularly in terms of airpower".14

Air Force could have been employed for interdiction, battlefield air interdiction, attack on areas captured by the Chinese, attack as a retribution on deeper targets. This definitely was possible. It could have been done from July 1962 onwards after Chinese had surrounded our forward post at Galwan in Ladakh. And definitely between Oct 24 and Nov 17 when Chinese were building up the road from Bumla to Tawang inside Indian territory and were restocking themselves. Indian Air force was ready. The ad hoc - so called "China-Council", to evaluate threat and formulate the strategy and even tactics to counter Chinese formed by the PM in Sep 1962 did not include the Chief of Air Staff.15 Lt Gen Kaul later stated that, "Unfortunately, it was the reluctance on the part of the IAF to be able to mount offensive sorties as a legitimate exercise of self-defence which added to the fears of Government in Delhi. If the Air Staff had undertaken to do this, the political appreciation might have been different (?)"16 This is sort of finding a scapegoat after the event. Unfortunately Air Chief was never consulted. Kaul was the same General who earlier as Chief of General Staff for Goa operations a year before had refused to include the IAF and the IN in the planning process, despite repeated advice of his DMO then Brigadier Palit. Since he wielded enormous clout with the PM and RM why didn't he suggest seeking IAF's appreciation of the matter?

It is only when Kaul faced the music as Corps Commander in the field that he realised the importance of air support and asked for it. Mullick admits that around Sep 18, 1962 he was asked to present Chinese air force capability. Since IB did not have first hand knowledge they sought help from `our good friends' (CIA). Following is a list of arguments put forward by Mullick and my analysis as to why all these were wrong.

Chinese Airfields

Chinese air force could operate from airfields in Tibet, Sinkiang and Yunan province, from all of which air attacks on India could be mounted.
Comment: The airfields of Zinning, Lanchous and Kunming (2080 m) were located too far away from the international border to have any bearing on the ground battle. Nachu, though closest to the battle zone, was situated at an altitude of 4500 m, hence, was unfit for fighter/bomber operations. Jye Kundo, elevation 3800 m, and Chamdo, elevation 3230 m, were fit for MiG-19 operations against NEFA area, though with payload reduced by as much as 2000 kg, a penalty for high elevation. Thus, these fighters could use only cannons. IL-28 bomber could have operated from these bases striking cities like Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Guwahati, Shillong and Kohima. But certainly not Madras (Chennai) as stated by Mullick or for that matter even Calcutta and Kanpur. The strikes would have been with reduced payload. The IL-28 flying a high-low-high profile to extend its range would have had a radius of action of only 700 km and not 2500 km as implicated by Mullick. Even over the ground battle area, MiG-19, only with cannons would not have made significant impact. Moreover due to very primitive infrastructure at Chinese air bases, none of these air bases could have housed more than few aircraft. That too in the open and themselves highly vulnerable to IAF attacks.

Night Interceptors

Mullick categorically states that India did not have any night interceptors. Therefore, Chinese bombers could have attacked at will without any opposition.
Comment: The IAF had night fighter squadrons of Vampires. No 10 Sqn had been dedicated for air defence of Delhi by night in 1954. And if the IL-28 had elected to come by day, they would have been intercepted and shot down by the Hunters and Gnats. No 10 Sqn which operated Vampires had airborne interception radar called A-10.

Quantum of Chinese Air Effort

Chinese air force was the third largest in the world. Despite spares shortages, against India it would have mounted large and significant air effort, insisted Mullick.
Comment: Chinese air force had only 150 MiG 19 and about 500 IL-28 bombers the contemporary aircraft. MiG – 15 & 17 were obsolete aircraft. It faced major threat across the Taiwan Strait and so could deploy only limited numbers in Tibet. These few would have had very serious limitations in performance operating from high altitude airfields.

Canberra Operations & MiG-19

Mullick states that MiG-19 being a night interceptor would have made it difficult for our Canberra to operate against Chinese targets.
Comment: The IL-28 was inferior to the Canberra. MiG-19 was inferior to Hunters and Gnats and was unfit for night interceptions. Yet while IL-28 was granted the capability to roam freely all over India unmolested, our Canberras capability was prematurely written off.

Chinese Targets

Targets in China were beyond the reach of our bombers. So using Canberras would serve no purpose.
Comment: The Canberra's radius of action is 830 Km in High-Low-High Profile with 8000 pound bombs. This could be extended further using drop tanks or reducing the bomb load and operating from airfields at Chabua which could have attacked Chinese cities of Lhasa, Kunming and Chengdu.

Escalation of War

Using the IAF would have escalated the war which would have been an advantage to China.
Comment: Smart nations prosecute war to achieve set goals. They also prepare for the eventuality of escalation. From one extreme of "throw the Chinese out of Indian territory" announced in the Parliament as an order given to Indian Army, now the leadership and its advisors were afraid to use the air force even when its own army was disintegrating as never before in its entire history. Assam had been given up mentally and yet they called it 'limiting' the war. Whereas Lieutenant General Thorat only two years back had submitted a pragmatic plan in which purposeful escalation of the war was planned to trap the Chinese into our killing ground. This was a professional advice based on cold military logic. It was better than not yielding even 'an inch of territory', immaterial if that piece of land happened to be in desolate forlorn icy wastes of Himalayas.

With the second phase of ground war starting on Nov 17, which saw another disintegration of the famous No 4 Division and headlong retreat into the plains, now Indian government was totally flustered. Rather than investigating with its own air force leaders it made a desperate plea to US President asking for 12 Squadrons of F-104s and four squadrons of B-47 bombers. But Indian Defence Secretary was not authorised to consult the Air Chief.17 If a professional appreciation had been given a chance the factual comparison would have revealed:

IAF could carry far more bomb load than the Chinese air force over targets in battlefield.
IAF could attack city of Lhasa, Kunming and Chengdu.
IAF had more modern and capable aircraft compared to Chinese.
IAF infrastructure, though not optimum, was far better than the Chinese air force.
IAF could have attacked the Chinese airfields and rendered them totally unusable. Thus winning the command of air over contested area.18
The Chinese air force was deployed in east China to counter major threat from Taiwan and USAF in Japan and Korea, Philippines etc..
IAF fighter aircraft were deployed both in North and East. Air support net had been established. HQ XV Corps asked for Close Air Support on Oct 31, 1962; HQ IV Corps asked for the same on Sep 7, 1962 and again on Oct 7, 1962. Because 7 Brigade deployed forward had no artillery support. These demands were vetoed by Army HQ, fearing Chinese air force interfering with IAF's transport supplies to the troops. IAF continued to maintain alert posture for the air support. Series of inexplicable decision continued to be taken. Tezpur runaway was to be demolished on Nov 22.19 The Air Force was asked to fly its aircraft out from forward bases and destroy those that could not be flown out. Fortunately the Chinese announcement of unilateral cease-fire on Nov 21, on radio saved the aircraft and airfield at the last moment.20
It appears that at different times, Air HQ expressed differing assessment of the Chinese air threat. While one section appreciated all the advantages for India in committing its air force into war, the other section was strayed by the reasoning of political leaders and senior leadership of the Indian Army. They argued that close air support against dispersed and dug in infantry in the jungles obtaining in lower Himalayas will not be effective. In fact close air support demands from the army units in the field were raised. But these were vetoed by Army Commands and the Army HQ even though air force pilots remained on cockpit alert for the same. It was also reasoned that this action by IAF may invoke Chinese Air Force to interfere with our transport and helicopter operations which were the lifeline for forward deployed army troops. And of course in case of escalation Chinese Air Force could bomb Indian cities. No doubt the Director Operations, then Air Commodore HC Dewan advised against using combat air. But there were officers including the Air Chief who felt India would benefit by use of combat air force. Another such officer was then Air Vice Marshal Arjan Singh, then Air Officer Administration at Air HQ. Another was Wg Cdr Raghavendran, a staff officer in Operations Directorate, who later became an Air Marshal. Having stated so it must also be emphasised that from all accounts available, that after the start of the conflict it is quite clear that Air Chief including majority of air force officers advocated use of combat air, time and again but to no avail. Some sources do mention initial reluctance on part of the Air Chief but this is at best hearsay and not based on any evidence.21 Such contradiction in professional opinion on air power matters goes to highlight the accurate description of the complexity in air warfare by Winston S Churchill during World War II. That the air warfare is one of the most complicated affair and difficult to understand even by the professionals. Therefore the need to be thoroughly air minded.

The first phase of ground fighting lasted from Oct 20-24, 1962. Thereafter, Chinese having established themselves within the Indian territory used the lull period upto Nov 17 to build up a road from Towang to Bumla and restock themselves. During this period they would have been highly vulnerable to IAF. Even during the second phase of the ground war, from Nov 13 to 19, the Chinese would have been highly vulnerable to air power. On Nov 20, when Assam had been mentally surrendered to the Chinese by the Indian politicians, the Director Military Operations (Palit) in Army HQ was busy planning for further defence. Palit writes, "I again stressed the need for allowing the IAF to be committed to battle to provide air support for the ground forces but Sarin (Joint Secretary MoD) was still charry of committing the air arm to a ground support role before we had ensured air cover for north Indian cities. When I insisted he said that he would speak to Nehru once again on the subject".22

In final analysis the use of combat air power would have turned the tables on Chinese and the 1962 war could well have been a debacle for China.


1. Niranjan Prasad, Major General, "The Fall of Towang – 1962 (Palit & Palit, 1/9 Shanti Niketan, New Delhi, 1981). p. 76. Also see, DK Palit, Major General, "War in High Himalaya" (Lancer International, New Delhi, 1991) p.224.
2. BM Kaul, Lieutenant General, "The Untold Story", (Allied Publishers, Bombay, 1967) p. 441.
3. Bharat Karnad, "Nuclear Weapons & Indian Security - The Realist foundations of Strategy" (Macmillan India Ltd, New Delhi, 2000), p. 172.
4. Jasjit Singh, Air Cmde, "Role of Air Power in India's Defence", a paper presented at conference on Air Power in India's Security, New Delhi, Oct 2000.
5. George K Tanham, "The Indian Air Force - Trends & Prospects (Vision Books, New Delhi, 1995), pp. 44-45.
6. DK Palit, Major General, "War in High Himalaya" (Lancer International, New Delhi, 1991). pp166-168 & p. 180.
7. Ibid, p. 224.
8. Tanham, op. cit. pp. 44-45.
9. Palit, op. cit. p. 375. Also see RD Pradhan's, "Debacle to Revival" (Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1998), pp. 104-05.
10. Information given by Air Marshal (Retd) S Raghavendran on 02 Dec 02.
11. Ibid.
12. Kaul, op. cit. p. 441.
13. Ibid. p. 442.
14. J. N. Dixit, "Indian Foreign Service – History and Challenge", Konark Publishers, New Delhi, 2005. p. 99 and p.171.
15. Pushpinder Singh, "The Air War that Never Was" article in Vayu magazine VII/92.
16. Kaul, op. cit. p. 442.
17. Pushpinder, op. cit. p.32
18. Ministry of Defence Report of 1987, pp. 415-430.
19. Kuldip Nayar, "Between the Lines", (Allied Publishers, Bombay, 1969) p. 172.
20. Pushpinder, op. cit. p. Vayu. p.33.
21. Palit, op. cit. p. 211.
22. Ibid. p. 341.

About the Author
Air Vice Marshal AK Tiwary, VSM, IAF, author of the book "Attrition in Air Warfare"
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Tihar Jail
Oct 2, 2009
this declassified letter by a US diplomat on india's weaknesses vis-a-vis China in 1962 is an interesting read... What is amazing is that the letter, written in 1962.

Letter from India

July 17, 1962

Alan Carlin

Submitted by
Albert Wohlstetter


November 19, 1962

The following is the text of a letter received from Alan Carlin dated July 17, 1962, in which he relates a discussion with B.K. Desai of the Democratic Research Center, Bombay, India, which took place earlier in the summer. The letter also contains observations by Carlin relating to Chinese expansion which may be of interest at this time in view of the Sino-Indian conflict.
Carlin has been a consultant to the Economics Department, where he has done work in systems analysis on their summer programs. He has a degree in Physics from Cal Tech and is finishing his doctorate in Economics at M.I.T. He is presently on a Ford Foundation Fellowship concerned with economic aid to India.

During a recent trip to Bombay I went to see B. K. Desai. In outline, this is what he had to say:
The China section of the Ministry of External Affairs is dominated by a pro-Chinese group of which R. K. Nehru is a leading member. The Indian policy regarding China is based on a continuing belief that China does not want war (since Communism, according to Nehru, does not imply violence or expansionism),[1] the pacifist fear that even if she does, such a war might develop into a major one, and the hope that the Russians would come to the rescue if worse came to worse. Until such time as this pro-Chinese group may be removed from the Ministry, no serious policy planning is likely to take place. The main obsession continues to be Pakistan, especially on the part of Menon.

India's favorable policy towards China dates from the early days of the Chinese Communist Revolution and the favorable attitude of India's then Ambassador to China, K. M. Panikkar, who may also have been largely responsible for Nehru's decision to recognize Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. His daughter, according to Desai, is married to a leading Communist labor leader.

Chinese aggression against India commenced within three months after the signing of the 1954 Indo-Chinese Treaty. The Army favored resistance, but was overruled by Menon who insisted that Pakistan was the real enemy. Desai claimed that supplies were deliberately withheld from Indian troops in the affected areas and that they were ordered not to retaliate. There was considerable unhappiness about this in the Army, and even open rebellion once or twice. Menon, he said, went to Ladakh personally two years ago to quiet such a rebellion.

The Army is confident that it could stop the Chinese if it were ordered to do so, but they have received no special training or equipment for mountain warfare, according to Desai. Helicopters were purchased from Russia, but were found to be unsuitable for high altitudes. Russian pilots were used for training purposes, however, and were allowed to fly over the strategic areas.

The guerrilla struggle continues in Tibet, where the Chinese are training Indian guerrillas, but no similar action has been taken by the Indians.

Desai is primarily concerned about the possibility that Menon may become the next Prime Minister, and he places the odds at 50-50. Menon is trying to create favorable cliques in the Army. After Nehru, he might try salami tactics against a divided opposition within the Congress Party, using the threat of Chinese intervention to aid him.

Desai regards American diplomats in India as stupid ("unimaginative" to me) on the whole for failing to realize the Menon threat, and says that I am the first American other than A. M. Rosenthal to contact the Democratic Research Service.

Desai was sufficiently convincing that I decided to pursue some of the questions he had raised with several prominent but pro-American Indians. My conclusions are as follows:

Menon should be regarded as a potential quisling if given power.[2] There is little chance of this, however, unless there is a significant leftward movement in the next few years. Nevertheless there are at least two possible ways in which it might occur:

(1) Through a military coup. There is a fellow-traveler approximately number five or six in the Army command (one B. Kaul), who could be elevated to Chief of Staff with Nehru's backing. But there is considerable opposition to Menon in the Army so that even then, large factions would probably disobey orders at the critical moment.

(2) Constitutionally. This is somewhat more likely, but Menon's following in the Congress parliamentary delegation amounts to less than ten, and even they would desert him if he appeared to be losing. It could only occur if Menon had Nehru's firm backing and if the opposition had been previously softened by the removal of the stronger anti-Menon elements (centered around Finance Minister Desai) in the Cabinet and the installation of Kaul. Even then, Chinese pressure might also be needed.

Thus it all depends on Nehru. Some intelligent, sensible men who know him personally feel that he favors a Communist regime as a successor, and dislikes only Communism's reliance on force and violence. Faced with an alternative between the increasingly polarized right (which he supposedly regards as reactionary) and left wings of the Party, he will choose the latter, these men argue. Others, basically pro-Nehru, stress that he has said that he will not name a successor, and that he will keep to his word.

It is my judgment that Menon does not present an immediate danger; that some sensible men think so is to me an illustration of the basic distrust with which every Indian seems to regard every other Indian. It is obvious, however, that Menon's power is increasing and that the situation bears watching. Further, if one accepts the Desai thesis, the MIG deal can be regarded as a first step in the softening-up process.

I have found no confirmation of Desai's statement that there has been any kind of open rebellion in the Indian Army: morale is apparently low, however, as a result of the political maneuvering. I understand that India has had some troops trained for mountain warfare since British times; there is supposed to be a mountain warfare school in Gulmarg, Kashmir.

It would seem to me that effective Indian defense against the Chinese requires three military capabilities:

(1) Sufficient lightly equipped and highly mobile mountain troops to check Chinese expansion in the Himalayas by taking advantage of the terrain and the natural advantages this has for the defense if properly exploited. Present orders apparently do not permit active resistance, but even if they did, India may not be able to furnish supplies for a sufficient number of troops because of the limited food resources of the Himalayas, the inadequate roads, and the limitations of her military air transport service. The troops now stationed in Ladakh, for example, appear to be supplied largely from the air. The vulnerability of such air-dependent troops to the potential Chinese air-superiority would seem to be considerable. Interestingly enough, the Chinese are reported to be building a military airfield in Western Tibet and to be laying an oil pipeline to it from Sinkiang which runs partially through formerly Indian held parts of Ladakh!

(2) Sufficient heavily armored, motorized troops on the Indian plains to check any Chinese units which manage to break through the Himalayas. The Indian effort along these lines is of course limited by her shortage of foreign exchange since most of the equipment needed must be imported. The needs might not be too great, however, if (1) is adequate because of the extreme difficulty the Chinese would have in bringing in and supplying such equipment themselves, despite their apparent assiduous attention to the construction of roads and airfields.

(3) Enough trained guerrilla units to harass China's vulnerable lines of communication through Sinkiang and Tibet, and to tie down large numbers of Chinese troops in these areas and in Chinese occupied portions of India. Tibetan refugees and others who have suffered at the hands of the Chinese should be quite willing. The principal problem seems to be lack of interest on the part of the present Indian Government. Anti-guerrilla forces may also be needed in Indian-held border areas in the future.

A former Chief of the Indian Army Staff has recently written that in his opinion India is deficient in all three of these capabilities in relation to the Chinese threat. There are also reports that shortages of even the most basic weapons, equipment, and supplies were revealed during the recent Goon episode.

If this is a correct assessment of the military needs of Pakistan for fighting the Russians and Chinese as well, I wonder to what extent U.S. aid to Pakistan has reflected these needs, and to what extent it has reflected Pakistan's interests in preventing internal revolutions and in fighting India? How quickly and how well could the U.S. supply India's deficiencies in case the Chinese launch a major offensive and the U.S. decided to bail her out?

I have recently come across a most unusual little paperback published here in Delhi called The Chinese Aggression by a Dr. Satyanarayan Sinha. It makes the following major points:

(1) The first is of the first importance if true; I shall quote from the book:

"In the spring of 1960 Indian and Nepalese nationals returning home from Chinese-occupied areas reported heavy concentrations [sic] of troops right across some of the most strategic parts of the Indian border....Roughly assessed, there were more than a hundred thousand Chinese troops, suitably armed for Alpine warfare, in southern Tibet alone, having Yatung (in the Chumbi Valley east of Sikkim) as their most important divisional headquarters. Close observations disclosed that the Chinese were getting ready for a large-scale offensive towards Indian territory....At this stage, in March 1960, a large number of revolts against the Chinese occupying forces flared up in several parts of Sinkiang. The long vulnerable line of communications of the Chinese forces stretching from northwest China to the northern borders of India snapped in a number of places. These breaches created by the Sinkiangese guerrilla nationalist forces, instigated and supported by Russian men and weapons, upset the whole plan of the Chinese attack on India." (pp. 42 and 43)
Sinha quotes a Russian Kazakh as follows:

"'In the spring of 1960, all was set for a large-scale Chinese offensive on Indian borders. We have reliable information that such a Chinese attack would have fallen on India unexpected [sic] and as a complete surprise to you. Our Central Asian Soviet Intelligence was the only outside agency which understood the international gravity and the consequent results of the war moves of the Chinese.... Three years ago practically all our military supplies to China were carried by our Trans-Siberian Railways. After the establishment of the eastern Cominform in Peking in 1957, the Chinese began to take delivery of their military supplies at the Turk-Sib railway bordering Sinkiang. It made their intentions quite clear....(p. 48.'"
"'The equipment for ten divisions, to be delivered to China on Soviet-Sinkiang border, would have strengthened the Chinese position there, thus proving detrimental to Soviet interests. For this reason, our leaders in the Kremlin abruptly decided in March 1960 to stop all deliveries of military equipment to the Chinese in Sinkiang immediately. This came as a bombshell for Russo-Soviet relations. No amount of summit talks between the two countries can restore the old ties....(p. 49).'"
"'India too will have to remain awake to such threats to her borders from the Chinese side. It was just by coincidence that the Soviet Union in its own interests realised the urgency and took measures to stop the Chinese advance, planned to cut deep into the Indian borders....(p. 50).'"
"'Provoking successful revolts in Sinkiang may not prove enough to stop their onward march. Ultimately we shall have to think of stumping their spearhead....(pp. 50-51).'"
"'It would have been much simpler had India helped us in our efforts to smash the war-craze of the Chinese. But we shall not wait for that help. Our Soviet experts have explored the trans-Himalayan regions as advisers to the Chinese. The chances are that we shall be able to coordinate the Tibetan revolt with that of Sinkiang. Without achieving this aim we do not consider our Soviet eastern border to be safe from the Chinese threats (p. 51).'"

(2) The primary reasons why the Chinese did not launch a major offensive against India in 1961 were the famine at home and the immense physical difficulties of maintaining their supply lines through the desserts of the Tarim Basin of Sinkiang and the cold of the Himalayas, according to Sinha. This is probably largely speculation on his part.
(3) Sinha believes that India is most vulnerable to a Chinese advance from the Chumbi Valley over Natula Pass into Sikkim, as you suspected. He says that the Indians have partially handed over the absolute control which the British maintained over this and several other strategic passes to the Chinese. He also regards Shipki Pass on the border of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and the route provided by the Arun River near Mt. Everest as strategically important.

(4) China is vulnerable to an attack on her Sinkiang bases, especially at Kashgar. Unfortunately for India this is best approached through Pakistan-held Kashmir.

(5) The Ladakh border, according to Sinha, was virtually unguarded until 1960 because the Indians were concentrating their attention on the more likely trouble spots further south -- hence the Chinese were able to build a road and in 1959 take considerable territory without interference.

Freedom First (Rs. per year in India; The Democratic Research Service, 127 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bombay 1) is a monthly bulletin of some interest. For keeping up on Asian politics and economics I recommend the Far Eastern Economic Review ($25 per year by air; 209 Windsor House, Hong Kong), published weekly. For Indian affairs, The Economic Weekly ($6 per year by sea; 65 Apollo Street, Fort, Bombay) is a must. I have recently been reading a book by Emil Lengyel called The Changing Middle East, (John Day, New York, 1960) which gives an excellent but brief summary of the political situation in each Middle Eastern country during the 1950's, although I cannot say as much of his more general conclusions. As I recall, the RAND Library did not have The Economic Weekly when I was last there.

I will try to check out Sinha's thesis and to gather further information during the next few weeks. I am sending two copies of "India, Tibet, and China" under separate cover.

It looks as if I am becoming more interested in military affairs in this part of the world.

[1] G. K. Desai, "Dilemma of Mr. Nehru," Freedom First, October, 1959, No. 89.
[2] "Case of Comrade Krishna Menon," by "Democrat," Freedom First, October, 1959.


Senior Member
Dec 17, 2009
Country flag
India had no chance to win a war against China in 1962 at all.

With the soviet helt, CHina set up a consolidated industry base with full indutry chains during 1953-1958. In 1959, CHina already had most of its weapons indeginized completely ,from cannon,gun,tank,trucks to jet plane..

If india-sino war took place in mid 1950 before CHinese industry base was completed,India should have more chance to win.
India could have held off the invasion if they had taken the Chinese threat seriously. There was no air-power used in the war neither were tanks a big part of it. It was infantry slugging it out with guns and artillery. India was not prepared, wholly outnumbered and didn't bother sending reinforcements. China in 1962 was in no position to wage a war across the sub-continent. Its military production was cottage industry, a serious joke of mass production. It had no border infrastructure yet built and it had just come out of the 3 years disasters of Mao's Great Leap Backwards. China waited until the USSR was embroiled with conflict with the West to strike. If the Soviet had taken action against China, CCP would have collapsed in a matter of months. Mao attacked to reinstall confidence to the people after he made them suffer so much. A perfect little limited war was exactly what he needed.


Senior Member
Dec 21, 2009
India could have held off the invasion if they had taken the Chinese threat seriously. There was no air-power used in the war neither were tanks a big part of it. It was infantry slugging it out with guns and artillery. India was not prepared, wholly outnumbered and didn't bother sending reinforcements. China in 1962 was in no position to wage a war across the sub-continent. Its military production was cottage industry, a serious joke of mass production. It had no border infrastructure yet built and it had just come out of the 3 years disasters of Mao's Great Leap Backwards. China waited until the USSR was embroiled with conflict with the West to strike. If the Soviet had taken action against China, CCP would have collapsed in a matter of months. Mao attacked to reinstall confidence to the people after he made them suffer so much. A perfect little limited war was exactly what he needed.
Armand the chinese are using this premise to define the War Zone Campaign which is based on built up stocks in a theatre isolate and annihilate the enemy in the area of its choosing . will it be useful again in the indian scenario .How do you rate the PLA when compared to the InA(discipline and army efficiency)
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Senior Member
Dec 17, 2009
Country flag
Armand the chinese are using this premise to define the War Zone Campaign which is based on built up stocks in a theatre will it be useful again in a scenario again.How do you rate the PLA when compared to the InA
A 2nd Border War, China has a vast infrastructure in place now. Far greater than India. They have been preparing for a conflict for the last twenty years while GoI argues over environmental impacts of roads. PLA can move vast amounts of men and materiel as well as a quick set up of a large portion of PLAAF. Indian forces in the area would be quickly overwhelmed just as it was in 1962 if steps are not taken to counter that build up. Road, rail, and airbases need to be built at an astounding rate.


Senior Member
Jan 17, 2010
China in 1962 was in no position to wage a war across the sub-continent. Its military production was cottage industry, a serious joke of mass production. It had no border infrastructure yet built and it had just come out of the 3 years disasters of Mao's Great Leap Backwards. China waited until the USSR was embroiled with conflict with the West to strike. If the Soviet had taken action against China, CCP would have collapsed in a matter of months. Mao attacked to reinstall confidence to the people after he made them suffer so much. A perfect little limited war was exactly what he needed.

============ unquote ============================

1) by 1962 China hadn't broken away from Soviet Bloc yet. In fact Khrushchev's pro-Ind stance on Sino-Ind conflict was one of factors for which Mao was determined to quit the Bloc completely afterwards.

2) Is it true China was bullying (or betraying) India and won the war by attacking India by surprise ? Or the true story shall be told that Ind (Nehru) was pushing forward so hard on China to squeeze as much territory as possible that China had to fight back despite Ind had both Soviet and West 's support at that time. But u are absolutely right - a little LIMITED war to stop Ind from 'going forward'.

3) just compare military 'guts' and 'experience' - Chinese veterans had weathered anti-Japanese war, domestic war, and Korean War, while Indian force was simply inherited from British colonial rule...

4) your conspiracy theory that Chairmao Mao as a tyrant needed a war to divert internal attention is nothing but cliche. by the way as u admit China has evolved from 'no infrastures' or 'cottage industry' in 1962 to ' a vast infratructure in place... far greater than India' this is evidence of Mao and his comrades (CCP)'s feats in transforming the country.
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Senior Member
Dec 17, 2009
Country flag
1) by 1962 China hadn't broken away from Soviet Bloc yet. In fact Khrushchev's pro-Ind stance on Sino-Ind conflict was one of factors for which Mao was determined to quit the Bloc completely afterwards.
The Sino-Soviet split had begun well before the 1962 border war. It started in 1959 and Khrushchev did not support the Sino invasion. If the war had escalated you would have been overrun by the Red Army.

2) Is it true China was bullying (or betraying) India and won the war by attacking India by surprise ? Or the true story shall be told that Ind (Nehru) was pushing forward so hard on China to squeeze as much territory as possible that China had to fight back despite Ind had both Soviet and West 's support at that time. But u are absolutely right - a little LIMITED war to stop Ind from 'going forward'.
Nehru was pushing hard with two divisions while you had a couple Field Armies? Who was pushing who?

3) just compare military 'guts' and 'experience' - Chinese veterans had weathered anti-Japanese war, domestic war, and Korean War, while Indian force was simply inherited from British colonial rule...
Chinese didn't acquit themselves well in those prior wars. It was sheer numbers of cannon fodder charging the lines. Inheriting a military from British rule... you mean the same Brittons that had embarrassed you for the previous century and supplied you to expel Japan?

4) your conspiracy theory that Chairmao Mao as a tyrant needed a war to divert internal attention is nothing but cliche. by the way as u admit China has evolved from 'no infrastures' or 'cottage industry' in 1962 to ' a vast infratructure in place... far greater than India' this is evidence of Mao and his comrades (CCP)'s feats in transforming the country.
It is a well known fact Chairman Mao was a tyrant who was responsible for the death of 30 million people and the inflicted suffering of the entire population. He needed a moral boost and got it with the war. BTW, I admit infrastructure as in roads, rail, bridges, airstrips. The cottage industry was in reference to the MIC which still has remnants today. Mao didn't transform anything, he set you back 30 years.... it was Deng.


Senior Member
Jan 17, 2010
I don't see your logic

1) by 1962 the rift hadn't escalated to a total breakaway. Red Army would have fought for Ind? Or your wishful thinking?

2) two divisions ? that might support your point that Ind was well prepared then. but Nehru may still have overestimated Ind while underestimated China's determination to fight back.

Besides on one hand u mentioned 'the cottage industry' of China (feeble). On the other hand u acknowledged the power of 'a couple Field Armies' (aggressor?)?? ah ha, thanks for a good contrast.

3) what do u mean? - my point is - a war-steeled force ( China) vs. Ind force of a colonial tradition
again u tried to belittle those soliders as 'sheer numbers ... charging the lines' in Himalyan mountains

3) Mao laid down the ground work. Then Deng on that basis advanced. Rome wasn't built overnight. Your tyrant theory is a consequence of superfacial study or propaganda

All in all your French flag didn't help u stand on top of the past war neutrally and objectively
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Senior Member
Dec 17, 2009
Country flag
I don't see your logic

1) by 1962 the rift hadn't escalated to a total breakaway
Which would mean USSR would have had no problem invading China.

2) two divisions ? that might support your point that Ind was well prepared then. but Nehru may still have overestimated Ind while underestimated China's determination to fight back.
India was outnumbered 10:1. China's determination to take it was far greater.

Besides on one hand u mentioned 'the cottage industry' of China (feeble). On the other hand u acknowledged the power of 'a couple Field Armies' (aggressor?)?? ah ha, thanks for a good contrast.
In regards to the MIC, a Chinese field army in 1962 was a bunch of starving peasants.

3) what do u mean? - my point is - a war-steeled force ( China) vs. Ind force of a colonial tradition
again u tried to belittle those soliders as 'sheer numbers ... charging the lines' in Himalyan mountains
I mean PLA tactics well into the 1980s was nothing but mass suicide charges. Chinese casualty figures in WWII, Korea, Vietnam were horrendous. They overwhelmed a much smaller Indian force with sheer numbers as they always try.

3) Mao laid down the ground work. Then Deng on that basis advanced. Rome wasn't built overnight. Your tyrant theory is a consequence of superfacial study or propaganda
Mao laid down the disaster, Deng fixed his mistake.

All in all your French flag didn't help u stand on top of the past war neutrally and objectively
You think your lack of a flag hides who you are? We know you are a Maoist.


Senior Member
Jan 17, 2010
Maoist is a good label for me since I hold Mao in great reverence and recognize his contributions.

All I ask of is NEUTRALITY

Lack of neutrality has driven u to a WISHFUL thinking such as
- Soviet Red Army would have fought for Ind
- a China of cottage industry could have initiated aggression while Nehru was innocently deceived
- and Chinese soliders were a bunch of starving peasants but won the battle by 'mass suicide charges' (have u seriously studied the death/casualty number of that Sino-Ind conflict?)
- Mao laid down disaster?? then China rebounded all of a sudden?

Do I have to paste all your self contradictions here. As a '3rd party' (neither Ind nor Chinois) would u at least show some impartiality??!!

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