Articles and blog-postings on the 1962 Sino-Indian War
Why the Henderson-Brooks report has never been released!
Sir Henry McMahon never envisaged that the hurriedly conducted survey and his drawing of a thick red line on a map could trigger a war. The ‘massive attack’ supposedly planned by India cannot be taken seriously in view of the total lack of preparedness of the troops in terms of armament, ammunition, clothing and food supply. More than half of the casualties are said to have succumbed to the cold and the shortage of food. Some senior officers in the Army Headquarters in Delhi may have dreamt to ‘throw out the Chinese’ or take ‘the Thagla Ridge’, but in reality, it was a pipe dream only.
Soon 50 years will have passed since China entered the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and Ladakh. This event has so deeply traumatised India that the Sino-Indian conflict has remained a scar in the nation’s psyche, partly because we do not know what exactly happened.
The War of 1962: Herderson Brooks-Bhagat Report
A book can help us to understand the background of the Herderson Brooks Report. Between 1962 and 1965, RD Pradhan was the Private Secretary of YB Chavan9 who took over as Defence Minister from the disgraced Krishna Menon after the debacle of October 1962.
Pradhan’s memoirs, give great insights on the reasoning of the then Defence Minister who ordered the report: “For Chavan the main challenge in the first years was to establish relationship of trust between himself and the Prime Minister. He succeeded in doing so by his deft-handling of the Henderson Brooks’ Report of Inquiry into the NEFA11 reverses.”
Why Mao attacked India in 1962
There is an angle of the 1962 Sino-Indian that conflict has been insufficiently studied. What were Beijing’s motivations to go to war? Who decided to inflict the worst possible humiliation on India?
Historical sources are still sparse, but going through some available documents, one can get a fairly good idea of the Chinese motivations or more exactly the ‘political’ compulsions which pushed the Great Helmsman into this venture.
It is fashionable to speak of crimes against humanity. One of the greatest, known as the ‘Great Leap Forward’, began in China in February 1958 and resulted in the largest man-made starvation period in human history. By initiating his Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s objective was to surpass Great Britain in industrial production within 15 years. For the purpose, every Chinese had to start producing steel at home, with a backyard furnace. In agriculture, Mao thought that very large communes would achieve manifold increase in the cereal production, turning China into a heaven of abundance. Introduced and managed with frantic fanaticism, it was not long before the program collapsed.
The Fall of Xi Jinping’s Father
The 10th Plenum of the Party’s 8th Central Committee of the CCP was held in September 1962, in Beijing.
This excerpt of The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr Li Zhisui is interesting on several accounts…
1962: The Chinese angle
Several years ago, I had written an article for Rediff.com pointed to the same angle. I wrote: “Even if the Indian Government jealously keeps secret its own findings of the 1962 war with China, several authors, mostly retired generals and journalists, have covered the military sides of the conflict. Amongst them, Brigadier John Dalvi’s Himalayan Blunder shines as a great classic, written by a soldier who paid for the foolishness and arrogance of the few in power at that time. However, as we mentioned in a previous article, several aspects in the conflict have never been researched properly, mainly due to the absence of archival documents and written memories.One of these angles is the internal struggles within China between 1959 and 1962 and the role of Mao Zedong during these crucial years. A study of the Russian and East European archives, already partially opened, throws new light on the real motivation for the Chinese attack.”
India-China War and the Tibet Factor
The 1962 War has deeply traumatized India, while the Chinese leader have never been much bothered about the slap that they gave to Nehru.
However, the Tibetan uprising of 1959 and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India seems to have left profound scars in the Chinese psyche.
In an excellent paper on China’s Decision for War with India in 1962, John Garver, an American scholar mentions the ‘Tibet’ factor as the one of main reasons for Mao to go with India.
He quotes Chinese sources to prove that the Communist leadership believed that India wanted to make Tibet an independent nation or at least of ‘buffer zone’.
1962: Could history repeat itself?
On October 20, very few in India remembered that 49 years ago, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army massively attacked India. The brunt of the aggression occurred in Tawang district. Since then, the names, Thagla ridge and the Namkha Chu have become synonymous with defeat, humiliation and shame.
The Wiseman will say: ‘past is past’; but the question remains, could the debacle be repeated?
In recent months, the Indian press has been full of the amazing infrastructure development north of the LAC: new airports, four-way highroads, five-star hotels, and a railway line coming closer and closer.
Wanting to find out for myself, I travelled to Tawang. Though most of the border areas are still ‘restricted’ to ordinary citizens, after spending a few days in Tawang and listening to the local people (the taxi drivers are usually the most loquacious), one gets a fair idea of the situation.
The answer to my question is definitively, ‘No, 1962 will not be repeated”.
When Khrushchev took India’s side
A few years ago the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars published this discussion between Khrushchev and Mao in October 1959, six months after the uprising in Lhasa which forced the Dalai Lama to take refuge in India.
In August 1959, an armed clash occured at a border post called Longju on the McMahon Line. An Indian border guard was killed leading to an outburst of public suspicion against China.
In this conversion, Khrushchev mentions this incident.
A few days after the clash, Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier had given his version of the clash, in a letter to Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister…
Forty-nine years ago…
Forty-nine years ago, the Chinese attacked India on the slopes of the Thagla ridge in NEFA.
It has remained a scar in the Indian psyche while the Chinese have come and gone and forgotten about it.
But they themselves have a deep scar, that is the Tibetan uprising of March 1959 and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India (through Khenzimane at the bottom of the same Thagla ridge).
In 1950-51, the Communist leadership thought that they ‘liberated’ Tibet, but nine years later, ‘liberated’ Tibetans revolted against their ‘liberators’…
The Hidden and Blessed Land of Mon
‘Lama Geno’, in Monpa language could be translated as ‘The Lama knows’, or more freely, ‘here we are’. It is what Tsangyang Gyaltso, the young Sixth Dalai Lama, wrote in 1688 with his finger on a stone in Urgyeling, a village south of Tawang, the headquarters of the western-most district of Arunachal Pradesh.
A high delegation had just arrived from Lhasa looking for the reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama who had passed away a couple of years earlier in Tibet. The boy was waiting to be ‘taken back’ to his Potala Palace in Lhasa.
It is just one of the numerous stories or legends in Monyul, (the ‘low land’) as Tawang is known. The Monpas are obviously fond and proud of these legends.
50 years of Amnesia
It is called amnesia!
Last year when a souvenir, ‘Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation’ was released on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the Party, incredulous readers could not
believe their eyes.
Though the Indian National Congress was still able to remember the role of former Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi in the India-Pakistan conflicts of 1965 and 1971, the authors/eminent historians had amazingly forgotten that there was a traumatic war with China in October/November 1962.
Edited by Pranab Mukherjee, the souvenir recalls that in 1971 Indira Gandhi “was hailed as Durga, an incarnation of Shakti”; the armed conflict which saw the birth of Bangladesh was ‘her personal success’! Fine, but the Party showed a very selective memory.
Where is the Himmatsinghji Committee’s Report?
There is another report, 12 years older than the HBR which is also missing in action. It is the Himmatsinghji report, prepared after China’s invasion of Tibet in October 1950. It seems to have been misplaced in some North Block almirah.
In November 2011, under the Right to Information Act, a petitioner applied to have a look at the Himmasinghji Report (as well as 5 other historic reports prepared by the MoD).
In its order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) noted that on October 12, 2011, the Director (Vigilance) in the Ministry of Defence had informed the CIC that only one report could be found: “none of the remaining five, (i) PMS Blackett Report 1948; (ii) Himmatsinghji Committee Report, 1951; (iii) HM Patel Committee report on functioning of the Ministry of Defence(MOD), 1952; (V) Sharda Mukherjee Committee report on restructuring of MoD, 1967 and (v) Committee on Defence expenditure report, 1990 are available in the MoD.”
The officer had been authorized to make this statement by the Defence Secretary: “It is, thus, clear that the reports …of the RTI application are not available with the MoD and the question of supplying them to the appellant does not arise.”
Can you believe it?