Possible history behind photograph related to 1962 Sino-Indian War

Possible history behind photograph related to 1962 Sino-Indian War

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I came across the following image in an archive of photographs related to the 1962 Sino-Indian War:

I have posted a question for identification of the aircraft.

The text in the archive seems to suggest the photo depicts evacuation of Tibetan refugees by the USAF. However, the location of the photograph and the destination, is not stated.

Google search for "US evacuation tibet" and other combinations, do not yield any related results.

Google Image search for the image has also not yielded any positive results.


  • There seems to be a military person (wearing a beret and appearing to be dressed in uniform, slightly away from the lineup of the kids, and also holding a child) who appears to be of Indian origin and thus most probably Indian Army.
  • The source of the archive seems to suggest very strongly that the photograph was taken in India.

What is the history behind this photograph?

I'd say, from the partial emblem on the front, that the aircraft was part of the USAF 322d Airlift Division (Combat Cargo) in 1962-3.

According to this article the "[322 Air Division] sent a squadron of C-130 Hercules to India just after the end of the 1962 hostilities with China".

To give credit where it's due, @TomMcW & @Gerry on the Aviation board got the right aircraft. It was assigned to the 40th Airlift Squadron which was part of the 332d AD. The 40th AS, sent 12 C130s to New Delhi, India to aid the Indian armed forces, where they served for a year.

1962 India China War

&ldquoIf you know the enemy yourself, you need not fear the result of hindered battles,

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer defeat,

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle&rdquo.

The rivalry for the leadership of the Afro-Asian countries between India and China and disputed international border were the main pretext for China to launch 1962 War. But the other issues also played their roles. The perceived Indian role in Tibet to undermine Chinese control was not appreciated by the Chinese and granting asylum to the Dalai Lama after the uprising in Tibet annoyed them immensely. There had been a series of violent border incidents. As part of the forward policy, India had placed many outposts along the border, including several on the MacMohan Line that Chinese did not recognize as the international border. They claimed many disputed areas along the border existed and occasionally carried intrusions across the entire border for reconnaissance. In August 1959 Indian border post at Longju in NEFA was seized while in Ladakh Chinese established a camp near Spanggur and arrested Indian police patrol with in Indian territory. On 21 October 1959 in a skirmish near the Konga pass nearly 80 km inside the Indian territory, 9 policemen were killed and 7 captured by the Chinese. Since the Chinese were always interested in Chushul and Walong, not only their skirmishes increased in these areas but they also constructed good network of roads in the border region right up to Spanggur Gap in the Western sector and Indian Border Post in Walong in the eastern sector. Sadly, unlike the Sun Tzu&rsquos quotation on top of this article, while the Chinese had enough strategic and tactical intelligence about us, we had none and fought in dark like blind men with tied hands.

The Chinese strategic aim in 1962 conflict was to ensure heights both in the Aksai Chin and the Lohit Valley across the watershed overlooking their positions were captured and India was militarily defeated so that they could overlook Indian territory across the border and assume the undisputed leadership of the Afro-Asian countries.

We cannot reverse history, but no self respecting Indian soldier or citizen would like to ever remember the ignominy of the rout of the Indian Army in 1962 Sino- Indian War. There was nothing to cheer or feel proud of total unprofessional defeat, except the sympathies for the families of fallen soldiers whose lives could perhaps be saved with adequate and appropriate modern equipment, training coupled with apt diplomacy, political will and military leadership then found missing. In that utter chaos, the two Battalions of the Kumaon Regiment namely the 6 Kumaon and the 13 Kumaon fought savagely against the Chinese hordes with indomitable spirit of their regimental officers and men. The courage of the Kumaonis, now a part of the folklore in their villages against the overwhelming disaster has been the only grace for the disgraced Indian Army. Though the country lost the war that was thrust upon the army, these two Battalions deployed at the two extremes ends of 3500 km long disputed border, won their honours respectively at Rezang La and Walong against heavy odds and huge sacrifices in an otherwise catastrophic national shame.

13 KUMAON&rsquos &lsquoBattle of Rezang La&rsquo

Brief Description on Ahirs

Ahir and Yadav are synonymous and the same side of the coin residing throughout the country especially in Haryana and call themselves Somavanshi Kshatriyas. The Yadav contribution to the composite kaleidoscopic culture of India is immense especially most of all in &lsquoThe Krishna Cult&rsquo. They form one composite group and are an important community of Haryana. Most of them live in the region around Rewari and Narnaul which is known as Ahirwal or the abode of the Ahirs. Rao Tula Ram was one of the most important Ahir leaders of the 1857 War of Independence. In the Indo-China War of 1962, almost all the Ahirs hailing from the Ahirwal region of Southern Haryana serving in 13 KUMAON set an unparallel example in the military history of India by defending their motherland at frozen windy heights of Rezang La with a missionary zeal. Many Ahirs excelled in Kargil war and insurgencies in Punjab, J&K and the Northeast. Havildar Umrao Singh of Palra village in Jhajjar (Rohtak) was the only Ahir and a gunner, who was awarded Victoria Cross in Arakans during Burma Campaign in the Second World War. Yadavs are good sportsmen and their new found passion is boxing. Besides 13 KUMAON, many brave Ahir soldiers from Haryana and other parts of the country have made their mark in the various wars fought by the Indian Army and won gallantry medals. Among them are Brig RS Yadav, MVC, Commodore BB Yadav, MVC, and Leading Seaman CS Yadav, MVC. Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav born in Aurangabad village in Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh) of 18 Grenadiers was the first Ahir and the youngest recipient of the PVC in the Kargil War. Incidentally, his father served in the Kumaon Regiment and took part in 1965 and 1971 India - Pak Wars. 13 Kumaon again created history by routing Pakistani 1 PUNJAB plus a Company of 10 PUNJAB in a multi-directional day light attack with almost no artillery support in Longewala desert in the Rajasthan sector. On 26 Sep 1994, Sub Sujjan Singh won Country&rsquos highest peace time military gallantry award of Ashok Chakra while fighting Pakistani sponsored militants in Kupwara district posthumously. 13 KUMAON is the rarest of rare Battalion that has won the Param Vir Cakra and the Ashok Chakra in its short checkered history.

Prelude to Operation

13 Kumaon was raised on 5 August 1948 at Kanpur by Lt Col HC Taylor with class composition of 50 percent each of Ahirs and Kumaonis. During the 1956 Reunion, Lt Col NS Krishna, the then Commanding Officer accepted the proposal of the Colonel of the Regiment, General KS Thimayya that the Regiment must have a 100% Ahir Battalion.It was decided to make 13 th as the first pure Ahir Battalion by transferring its Kumaonis to 2 Kumaon and 6 Kumaon who reciprocally sent their Ahirs to 13 Kumaon. This process was completed by March 1960.

Since its raising the Battalion had seen no active operations except to serve in Jammu &Kashmir. Col Krishna volunteered to serve in Naga Hills, as Naga Land was then known. The Naga hostilities were at their prime at that time. The Battalion was put through tough regime of counter insurgency operations and did extremely well by capturing maximum weapons, many self styled senior officers and destroying the headquarters of notorious Kito Sema, the so called self styled Commander in Chief of the hostile underground Naga Army. The tenure in Naga Hills and able leadership led to the "seasoning" of all ranks and prepared them for the impending Battle of Rezang La. Incidentally, during this time only 6 Kumaon also was operating in the Naga Hills and second in command of 13 Kumaon, Major CN Madiah eventually was posted to be its commanding officer during 1962 War and the Battalion excelled in the Battle of Walong.

The &lsquochoras&rsquo as Ahirs are affectionately called, excel in sports and both individual and collective training. I joined Indian Military Academy (IMA) in June 1962 and I did not know much about 13 Kumaon. I was commissioned a year later and by then from a battalion, 13 Kumaon had become &lsquoThe well known Battalion&rsquo of the Indian Army for its heroics that became folklores of Haryana, northern Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh. The one night battle on 18 Nov 1962 made 13 Kumaon one of the most hardened, die hard, battle worthy, respected ,honoured and decorated battalions of the Indian Army. This battle has been compared by many military historians with the famed battles of Thermopylae fought between Greek and Persian empires in 480 BC and the incredible Saragarhi fought on 12 September 1897 in the North-West Frontier Province Battle by the 21 men of the 36th Sikh Regiment (currently the 4th Battalion, the Sikh Regiment) who gave up their lives in devotion to their duty fighting over 10,000 tribals. Both these battles are listed ion the eight stories of collective bravery published by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Like wise the ill clad and ill equipped but hardy Ahirs of the Charlie Company of the 13 Kumaon led by undaunted leadership of Major Shaitan Singh ferociously fought in blood freezing minus 30 degree temperature till there was nothing left in manpower and equipment.

Strategic Importance Of Chushul

Running north to south, 40 km long and 5.6 km at its widest, Chushul is a narrow, sparsely populated, barren sandy valley across the water shed at altitude of 14,230 feet with towering mountains, high passes, where only the best of friends or worst of enemies may desire to meet. It is virtually close to the Chinese border. It is bounded in north by deep 160 km long clear salt water Pangong Tso (lake) running parallel to Indus River, the east and west by higher ranges rising over 19,000 feet and all weather airfield in the south. Pangaso changes colour with the phases of sun and moon. The Spanggur Gap is the opening in the eastern side that leads to the Spanggur Tso (lake). Like the Pangong Tso, it extends well into Chinese territory. Before the war commenced, the Chinese had built a road from Rudok in Tibet right up to the Spanggur Gap capable of carrying tanks. Chushul could be approached from Leh by going over the Chang La pass skirting the Pangkong Lake, while another route crossed the Chang La pass and took a deep turn to the east. For all Indian out posts in this sector from Daulat Beg Oldi to Damchok, Chushul was the nodal rallying point. Loss of Chushul as such would not have jeopardized defence of Ladakh region, but in those days its importance caught up with Indian psyche and pride. The terrain and climatic conditions favoured the Chinese and they made most of these in 1962 operations.

In the early sixties the Hindi- Chini Bhai Bhai and Panch Sheel era was crumbling and war clouds started gathering due to deteriorating relations between India and China, 13 Kumaon was moved from its peace location Ambala to Baramula in June 1962 and got involved it self in high altitude collective training that made it battle worthy for the unexpected impending operations. The Battalion by 2 October 1962 had moved to Leh on the orbat of 114 Infantry Brigade. The formation had then just two infantry battalions and was scheduled to move to Chushul in March 1963.There were no intelligence inputs of any Chinese build up opposite this sector. But the events moved quickly and the Chinese threat was perceived in Chushul valley that had an all weather landing ground. 3 Infantry Division was hurriedly raised under Maj Gen Budh Singh, MC. On 13 Oct B and C Companies of 13 Kumaon were quickly moved to Chushul and rushed to Mugger Hill and Rezang La feature located 30 km south &ndasheast of Chushul. The Battalion reached Chushul on 24 Oct and D Company occupied the Spanngur Gap. The Battalion Headquarters was located in High Ground with A company as Brigade reserve. On 26 Oct the Tactical Headquarters of 114 Infantry Brigade under Brig (later General and COAS) TN Raina arrived in Chushul. Tactical features known as Gurung Hill, Gun Hill and the Spanggur Gap were held by 1/8 GR with Battalion Headquarters and adhoc Company at the airfield. The flank of 13 Kumaon towards strategic un-mettled Chushul- Leh road at Tsakla was manned by Company less a platoon with section 3 inch Mortar of 5 Jat while rest of the Battalion was deployed at Lukung. 1Jat (LI) was deployed in Thakung Heights, north of Chushul. The RCL guns of the infantry battalions less 1 Jat (LI) were brigaded and located in the Spanggur Gap. Two troops ex B Squadron 20 Lancers (6 AMX-13 tanks), a battery of 13 Field Regiment, a troop of 32 Heavy Mortar Regiment, 1 Jat (LI)less a Company and a Company of 1 Mahar (MMG) joined as meager reinforcements. The AMX tanks in the mountainous terrain were not very effective and the artillery resources not only meager but mostly crested but they played a major role in destroying and destabilizing the enemy in Spanggur Gap.

Deployment in Chushul

Routes of Ingress (Approaches) to Chushul

To capture Chushul, the following appreciated approaches were available to the Chinese:-

(a) Khurnak Fort- Dungra Ford- Yula- Thakung-Lukung- Darbuk - Leh. It was difficult circuitous route on a mountainous track where battalion worth with support of animal transport (AT) could only move.

(b) Rudok- Shinghang- Chushul. Maintained by class 9 road that could sustain divisional strength thrust.
(c) Rudok-Rezang La-Chushul. It was comparatively shorter approach that had road developed up to Spanggur Gap that could sustain force more than (a) but less than (b) given above.

Tasks Allotted to 114 Infantry Brigade

(a) To defend Chushul for as long as possible and to withdraw only when continuation of the battle would annihilate or turn the round into rout.

(b) To inflict maximum causalities on the enemy.

(c) To save as much stores and equipment as possible.

Needless to say, the tasking of 114 Infantry Brigade was rather ambitious with the paucity of troops, fire power and wide gaps in the defended localities.

Deployment of 13 Kumaon

(a) B and D Companies less a platoon plus Section 3 inch Mortar under overall command of Major RV Jatar-Mugger Hill.

(b) C Company plus Section 3 inch Mortar under Major Shaitan Singh- Rezang La about 30 km south of Chushul.

(c) A Company plus four recoil less (RCL) guns as Brigade reserve under Major GN Sinha, poised for counter attack with Battalion Headquarters at High Ground under Commanding Officer Lt Col HS Dhingra.

A Word about Rezang La and War Preparations

Rezang La is a pass on the south-eastern approach to Chushul valley. The feature is roughly 3 km long and nearly 2 km wide at an average altitude of 16000 feet above the sea level. Digging defences in the rocky boulders, due to paucity of oxygen was extremely tiring both mentally and physically due to lack of mechanical digging equipment, oxygen and bitter cold. Walking a few paces made men breathless as they were not yet acclimatized to the high altitude. The first few nights were the most uncomfortable ones as local ponies and yaks had not fetched woolen clothing, sleeping bags and rations. It took hours to boil kettle of water and fruits and fresh rations were frozen hard like cricket balls. Rezang La had another serious flaw. The

high crests of mountain-tops interfered with the flight of artillery shells and adversely affected artillery fire, thus, denying Rezang La the much needed fire support. War preparations were being made on hectic scales by both sides. But the under strength Indian defenders had no artillery support, were equipped with poor antiquated .303 single shot bolt action rifles of the World War II vintage, paucity of woolen clothing, automated digging tools and old 62 radio sets that did not communicate due to frozen batteries, where as the Chinese had 7.62 self loading rifles (SLRs) and acclimatized troops. They had enough, ammunition, rations, heavy engineering equipment, vehicles, artillery and tanks could come right up to the Spanggur Gap as they had built a road up to their terminal post. During nights their boats were observed plying with men and war like stores in Spanggur Lake. Our observation posts regularly observed hectic Chinese build-up and their commanders spreading their maps and carrying out reconnaissance. Chinese troops also being locals from Singkiang region were hardened to the existing climatic and terrain conditions whereas many of the Ahirs hailing from the plains of the north India were deployed in high altitude environment for the very first time in their service.

Major Shaitan Singh deployed C Company over 2 km frontage on the massive 5 km long Rezang La feature as under:-

&bull 7 Platoon under Jemadar Surja 3 Km north of the pass on forward slopes.

&bull 8 Platoon under Jemadar Hari Ram in pass area.

&bull 9 Platoon under Jemadar Ram Chander 1 km south of 7 Platoon position.

&bull Company Headquarters behind 9 Platoon along with section of 3 inch Mortar under Naik Ram Kumar Yadav 150 meters west of Company Headquarters.

There was little time to stock, mines and prepare defences adequately. As per national policy, no patrolling along the international border was permitted and as per battle routine regularly during day light OPs (Observation Posts) and in the night LPs (Listening Posts) were sent to provide early warning, Due to wide frontages, there was no mutual support with in the sub-units, not many mines could be laid and as highlighted earlier, the artillery fire across Rezang La was totally crested. Thus, Rezang La had no artillery support and paucity of anti personal mines to halt the advancing enemy. In spite of all these inadequacies, the Battalion Operation Order issued on 24 October tasked all sub-units to fight to &lsquothe last man and the last round&rsquo. To cover the numerous gullies which were expected approaches for the enemy to attack, three additional light machine guns (LMGs) were provided to C Company. The defences were wired and stocked with six first line scales of ammunition along with 1000 bombs for the 3 inch Mortar Section.

The Battle of Rezang La

On night 17-18 November around 2200 hrs, a heavy snow storm was leashed in the battle zone for nearly two hours. After the snow storm, visibility improved to 600 meters. At 0200 hrs, LP ahead of 8 Platoon observed a large body of Chinese soldiers swarming through the gullies at a distance of about 700-800 meters moving from the pass. Lance Naik Brij Lal the LP commander ran back to Platoon Headquarters to in inform this unusual development. He, with his Section Commander Hukam Chand and one LMG were rushed as reinforcement to the post. By then the Chinese had advanced with in firing range of small arms from the post. The LP fired a pre-determined red Verey Light signal along with long bursts of LMG fire, warning the C Company to &lsquostand to&rsquo in their dug out positions. Similarly, 7 Platoon&rsquos LP on the forward slopes also saw Chinese forming up and the entire C Company was alerted. Maj Shaitan Singh immediately contacted his sub-unit commanders on the radio communication who confirmed that all ranks were ready in their battle positions. Since the paucity of troops had caused wide gaps in 7 and 9 Platoon localities, he also ordered 9 Platoon to send a patrol to ascertain the situation. The patrol confirmed massive Chinese build up had taken place through the gullies. Though, the Chinese had brought their assaulting troops to their forward assembly areas under the cover of inclement weather, their intensions to shock the defenders with silent surprise attack had failed miserably in all aspects.

All ranks of the Charlie Company with their fingers on triggers, waited patiently for the impending major frontal attack on their positions around first light with improving visibility. Around 0500 hrs, the first wave of the Chinese were spotted through their personal weapon sights by every Ahir manning the defences and hail of LMGs, MMGs and mortars fire greeted the enemy. Scores of the enemy died, many were wounded but rest duly reinforced continued to advance. Soon all the gullies leading to Rezang La were full of Chinese corpses. Constant wave after wave of the Chinese launched four more attacks that were beaten back that dwindled defenders strength and ammunition as many Ahirs fell fighting. As the fifth attack was launched, Naik Chandgi Ram, a wrestler of repute led his comrades with bayonet charge killing 6-7 Chinese single handedly till he fell to martyrdom. There were some skirmishes with the Chinese patrols that too were beaten back but one such patrol had severed the telephone line leading to the Battalion Headquarters. By about 0545 hrs, the Chinese frontal attack was beaten back and failed.

By now, the Chinese realized Rezang La was not a cake walk and changed their operational plan. Rezang La was resorted to heavy artillery shelling and to destroy field fortifications they used concentrated fire of 75 mm recoilless (RCL) guns brought on wheel barrows from the flanks. The deep craters near the Company Command Post (CP) indicated use of 132 mm rockets. The Chinese shelling was a spectacular display of fire power against defenders who had no artillery support and no bunker on the Rezang La feature, re-visited after 3 months in February 1963, was seen could bear the preponderance of enemy&rsquos devastating artillery fire.

The Chinese started regrouping for a long detour over 7 Platoon positions that had no survivors. A little distance away Naik Sahi Ram the only survivor detached from his platoon waited for the enemy to assemble and let them have it with accurate LMG fire. The Chinese dispersed and Sahi Ram waited for the next wave that came with RCL guns and blasted his lone firing position. Major Shaitan Singh re grouped his dwindling assets to charge the advancing Chinese. Since all the platoon positions had been over run with no survivors, the enemy was re-grouping to assault the C Company Headquarters after heavy pounding. While moving from one gun position to other, motivating his depleted command, Major Shaitan Singh was hit by the enemy LMG fire on his arm but undaunted he kept motivating, regrouping and reorganizing his handful men and weapons. His Company Havildar Major (CHM) Harphool Singh kept persuading him to move to safer place with few survivors who could walk .Ahir guns kept firing till silenced but camouflaged sniping enemy MMG covering the flank fired long bursts killing many. Maj Shaitan Singh was hit again severely in the abdomen. Grievously injured and bleeding profusely he was pulled by Phool Singh and Jai Narain to safer place behind a boulder and bandaged his wounds. Since there was no line or radio communication, he ordered Phool Singh and Jainarain to leave him and rush to the Battalion Headquarters and froze to martyrdom in the night. In the Spanggur Gap, 1/8 GR fought bravely with artillery support by Lt Goswami and troops of tanks commanded by 2 Lt Baswani firing and destroying the enemy. While the Chinese kept swarming to capture Gurung Hill, held by the company of 1/8 GR under command Capt PL Kher, Goswami to give closest support, ordered to fire on his own observation post (OP) position that killed 3 other ranks and severely wounding Goswami whose frost bitten legs had to be amputated later. He was decorated with well deserved Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for his heroics.

Harphool Singh led 3 survivors to fight and stop enemy&rsquos onslaught till martyred. Ram Kumar&rsquos 3 inch Mortar Section having coughed all its ammunition was ordered to be disabled and fire plans and maps destroyed less they fell in the Chinese hands. As Ram Kumar was disabling his mortars, he was hit by rifle fire from the Chinese 20 yards away. Though wounded, he took position in his command post and as the Chinese peeped in, he pumped bullets with his bolt action .303 rifle and killed many of them. The remaining Chinese hurled hand grenades to silence him and left. After many hours profusely bleeding, he regained consciousness and painfully trekked back to Battalion Headquarters to narrate the chilling, gallant untold story of the Rezang La Battle for the posterity. Five soldiers were taken prisoners of war by the enemy and Sepoy Balbir Singh died in captivity. Silence of war engulfed Rezang La as the last round had been fired and the last soldier bled to martyrdom. Neither any help or reinforcements were asked for nor could any be provided to C Company..

The Chinese massive two-pronged advance and offensive embarked to secure Chushul succeeded with heavy causalities on both sides. The remoteness of Mugger Hill, Gurung Hill, both the Brigade and Battalion Headquarters and A Company as brigade reserve, negated the possibility of any reinforcement or counter attack at Rezang La.

An artistic view of Major Shaitan Singh controlling &lsquothe Battle of Rezang La&rsquo from his Command Post

The Chinese did not attack Mugger Hill on 18 November but shelled it heavily. B Company had good observation of the Spanggur Gap and directed artillery fire on the enemy gun positions. D Company had sent patrol to Rezang La under Naik Roop Ram and was engaged by the enemy MMG that killed two and wounding another two soldiers. Enemy fired over 600 shells on Battalion Headquarters but there was mercifully not a single causality.

The Ceasefire and Aftermath

Surprisingly though the Chinese claimed area up to Chushul as theirs, on 21 November 1962, without any further offensives, they declared unilateral cease fire.

As per the War Diary of the Battalion, 13 Kumaon regrouped after the ceasefire less the C Company that had ceased to exist.

C Company after the war was re-raised from the ashes of Rezang La by milking men from the other companies and fresh recruit drafts that came as reinforcements after the war and rechristened as the Rezang La Company to honour its war heroes and deservingly in the precedence, it became the senior most company of the Battalion.

In January 1963, a local Ladakhi shepherd wandered over the Rezang La feature. He was amazed by the awesome war specticle of soldiers frozen to death but still clinging to their damaged weapons in enemy&rsquos shelling. Their weapons were mostly with empty magazines and bulged barrels due to excessive firing. A month later in February 1963, the first Indian party under the aegis of International Red Cross visited Rezang La could find 96 bodies with multiple splinters and gun shot wounds frozen to death with weapons in their hands in the shattered trenches. Major Shaitan Singh&rsquos body was recovered from the same spot where he was last left by the two jawans. While the other ranks were cremated with full military honours in Chushul, the body of Major Shaitan Singh draped in national flag was flown to Jodhpur and cremated in his village with state honours.


China and India shared a long border, sectioned into three stretches by Nepal, Sikkim (then an Indian protectorate), and Bhutan, which follows the Himalayas between Burma and what was then West Pakistan. A number of disputed regions lie along this border. At its western end is the Aksai Chin region, an area the size of Switzerland, that sits between the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang and Tibet (which China declared as an autonomous region in 1965). The eastern border, between Burma and Bhutan, comprises the present Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (formerly the North-East Frontier Agency). Both of these regions were overrun by China in the 1962 conflict.

Most combat took place at high elevations. The Aksai Chin region is a desert of salt flats around 5,000 metres (16,000 feet) above sea level, and Arunachal Pradesh is mountainous with a number of peaks exceeding 7,000 metres (23,000 feet). The Chinese Army had possession of one of the highest ridges in the regions. The high altitude and freezing conditions also caused logistical and welfare difficulties in past similar conflicts (such as the Italian Campaign of World War I) harsh conditions have caused more casualties than have enemy actions. The Sino-Indian War was no different, with many troops on both sides succumbing to the freezing cold temperatures. [22]

The main cause of the war was a dispute over the sovereignty of the widely separated Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh border regions. Aksai Chin, claimed by India to belong to Ladakh and by China to be part of Xinjiang, contains an important road link that connects the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. China's construction of this road was one of the triggers of the conflict.

Aksai Chin

The western portion of the Sino-Indian boundary originated in 1834, with the conquest of Ladakh by the armies of Raja Gulab Singh (Dogra) under the suzerainty of the Sikh Empire. Following an unsuccessful campaign into Tibet, Gulab Singh and the Tibetans signed a treaty in 1842 agreeing to stick to the "old, established frontiers", which were left unspecified. [23] [24] The British defeat of the Sikhs in 1846 resulted in the transfer of the Jammu and Kashmir region including Ladakh to the British, who then installed Gulab Singh as the Maharaja under their suzerainty. British commissioners contacted Chinese officials to negotiate the border, who did not show any interest. [25] The British boundary commissioners fixed the southern end of the boundary at Pangong Lake, but regarded the area north of it till the Karakoram Pass as terra incognita. [26]

The Maharaja of Kashmir and his officials were keenly aware of the trade routes from Ladakh. Starting from Leh, there were two main routes into Central Asia: one passed through the Karakoram Pass to Shahidulla at the foot of the Kunlun Mountains and went on to Yarkand through the Kilian and Sanju passes the other went east via the Chang Chenmo Valley, passed the Lingzi Tang Plains in the Aksai Chin region, and followed the course of the Karakash River to join the first route at Shahidulla. [27] The Maharaja regarded Shahidulla as his northern outpost, in effect treating the Kunlun mountains as the boundary of his domains. His British suzerains were sceptical of such an extended boundary because Shahidulla was 79 miles away from the Karakoram pass and the intervening area was uninhabited. Nevertheless, the Maharaja was allowed to treat Shahidulla as his outpost for more than 20 years. [28] [a] [b]

Chinese Turkestan regarded the "northern branch" of the Kunlun range with the Kilian and Sanju passes as its southern boundary. Thus the Maharaja's claim was uncontested. [29] [c] After the 1862 Dungan Revolt, which saw the expulsion of the Chinese from Turkestan, the Maharaja of Kashmir constructed a small fort at Shahidulla in 1864. The fort was most likely supplied from Khotan, whose ruler was now independent and on friendly terms with Kashmir. When the Khotanese ruler was deposed by the Kashgaria strongman Yakub Beg, the Maharaja was forced to abandon his post in 1867. It was then occupied by Yakub Beg's forces until the end of the Dungan Revolt. [30] In the intervening period, W. H. Johnson of Survey of India was commissioned to survey the Aksai Chin region. While in the course of his work, he was "invited" by the Khotanese ruler to visit his capital. After returning, Johnson noted that Khotan's border was at Brinjga, in the Kunlun mountains, and the entire the Karakash Valley was within the territory of Kashmir. The boundary of Kashmir that he drew, stretching from Sanju Pass to the eastern edge of Chang Chenmo Valley along the Kunlun mountains, is referred to as the "Johnson Line" (or "Ardagh-Johnson Line"). [31] [d]

After the Chinese reconquered Turkestan in 1878, renaming it Xinjiang, they again reverted to their traditional boundary. By now, the Russian Empire was entrenched in Central Asia, and the British were anxious to avoid a common border with the Russians. After creating the Wakhan corridor as the buffer in the northwest of Kashmir, they wanted the Chinese to fill out the "no man's land" between the Karakoram and Kunlun ranges. Under British (and possibly Russian) encouragement, the Chinese occupied the area up to the Yarkand River valley (called Raskam), including Shahidulla, by 1890. [34] They also erected a boundary pillar at the Karakoram pass by about 1892. [35] These efforts appear half-hearted. A map provided by Hung Ta-chen, a senior Chinese official at St. Petersburgh, in 1893 showed the boundary of Xinjiang up to Raskam. In the east, it was similar to the Johnson line, placing Aksai Chin in Kashmir territory. [36]

By 1892, the British settled on the policy that their preferred boundary for Kashmir was the "Indus watershed", i.e., the water-parting from which waters flow into the Indus river system on one side and into the Tarim basin on the other. In the north, this water-parting was along the Karakoram range. In the east, it was more complicated because the Chip Chap River, Galwan River and the Chang Chenmo River flow into the Indus whereas the Karakash River flows into the Tarim basin. [37] A boundary alignment along this water-parting was defined by the Viceroy Lord Elgin and communicated to London. The British government in due course proposed it to China via its envoy Sir Claude MacDonald in 1899. This boundary, which came to be called the Macartney–MacDonald Line, ceded to China the Aksai Chin plains in the northeast, and the Trans-Karakoram Tract in the north. In return, the British wanted China to cede its 'shadowy suzerainty' on Hunza. [38] [e]

In 1911 the Xinhai Revolution resulted in power shifts in China, and by the end of World War I, the British officially used the Johnson Line. They took no steps to establish outposts or assert control on the ground. [19] According to Neville Maxwell, the British had used as many as 11 different boundary lines in the region, as their claims shifted with the political situation. [40] From 1917 to 1933, the "Postal Atlas of China", published by the Government of China in Peking had shown the boundary in Aksai Chin as per the Johnson line, which runs along the Kunlun mountains. [41] [42] The "Peking University Atlas", published in 1925, also put the Aksai Chin in India. [43] Upon independence in 1947, the government of India used the Johnson Line as the basis for its official boundary in the west, which included the Aksai Chin. [19] On 1 July 1954, India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru definitively stated the Indian position, [32] claiming that Aksai Chin had been part of the Indian Ladakh region for centuries, and that the border (as defined by the Johnson Line) was non-negotiable. [44] According to George N. Patterson, when the Indian government finally produced a report detailing the alleged proof of India's claims to the disputed area, "the quality of the Indian evidence was very poor, including some very dubious sources indeed". [45] : 275

In 1956–57, China constructed a road through Aksai Chin, connecting Xinjiang and Tibet, which ran south of the Johnson Line in many places. [19] [44] Aksai Chin was easily accessible to the Chinese, but access from India, which meant negotiating the Karakoram mountains, was much more difficult. [44] The road came on Chinese maps published in 1958. [7]

The McMahon Line

In 1826, British India gained a common border with China after the British wrested control of Manipur and Assam from the Burmese, following the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824–1826. In 1847, Major J. Jenkins, agent for the North East Frontier, reported that the Tawang was part of Tibet. In 1872, four monastic officials from Tibet arrived in Tawang and supervised a boundary settlement with Major R. Graham, NEFA official, which included the Tawang Tract as part of Tibet. Thus, in the last half of the 19th century, it was clear that the British treated the Tawang Tract as part of Tibet. This boundary was confirmed in a 1 June 1912 note from the British General Staff in India, stating that the "present boundary (demarcated) is south of Tawang, running westwards along the foothills from near Udalguri, Darrang to the southern Bhutanese border and Tezpur claimed by China." [19] A 1908 map of The Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam prepared for the Foreign Department of the Government of India, showed the international boundary from Bhutan continuing to the Baroi River, following the Himalayas foothill alignment. [19] In 1913, representatives of the UK, China and Tibet attended a conference in Simla regarding the borders between Tibet, China and British India. Whilst all three representatives initialed the agreement, Beijing later objected to the proposed boundary between the regions of Outer Tibet and Inner Tibet, and did not ratify it. The details of the Indo-Tibetan boundary was not revealed to China at the time. [19] The foreign secretary of the British Indian government, Henry McMahon, who had drawn up the proposal, decided to bypass the Chinese (although instructed not to by his superiors) and settle the border bilaterally by negotiating directly with Tibet. [44] According to later Indian claims, this border was intended to run through the highest ridges of the Himalayas, as the areas south of the Himalayas were traditionally Indian. [46] The McMahon Line lay south of the boundary India claims. [44] India's government held the view that the Himalayas were the ancient boundaries of the Indian subcontinent, and thus should be the modern boundaries of India, [46] while it is the position of the Chinese government that the disputed area in the Himalayas have been geographically and culturally part of Tibet since ancient times. [47]

Months after the Simla agreement, China set up boundary markers south of the McMahon Line. T. O'Callaghan, an official in the Eastern Sector of the North East Frontier, relocated all these markers to a location slightly south of the McMahon Line, and then visited Rima to confirm with Tibetan officials that there was no Chinese influence in the area. [19] The British-run Government of India initially rejected the Simla Agreement as incompatible with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which stipulated that neither party was to negotiate with Tibet "except through the intermediary of the Chinese government". [48] The British and Russians cancelled the 1907 agreement by joint consent in 1921. [49] It was not until the late 1930s that the British started to use the McMahon Line on official maps of the region.

China took the position that the Tibetan government should not have been allowed to make such a treaty, rejecting Tibet's claims of independent rule. [44] For its part, Tibet did not object to any section of the McMahon Line excepting the demarcation of the trading town of Tawang, which the Line placed under British-Indian jurisdiction. [44] Up until World War II, Tibetan officials were allowed to administer Tawang with complete authority. Due to the increased threat of Japanese and Chinese expansion during this period, British Indian troops secured the town as part of the defence of India's eastern border. [19]

In the 1950s, India began patrolling the region. It found that, at multiple locations, the highest ridges actually fell north of the McMahon Line. [44] Given India's historic position that the original intent of the line was to separate the two nations by the highest mountains in the world, in these locations India extended its forward posts northward to the ridges, regarding this move as compliant with the original border proposal, although the Simla Convention did not explicitly state this intention. [44]

Tibet and the border dispute

The 1940s saw huge change with the Partition of India in 1947 (resulting in the establishment of the two new states of India and Pakistan), and the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) after the Chinese Civil War in 1949. One of the most basic policies for the new Indian government was that of maintaining cordial relations with China, reviving its ancient friendly ties. India was among the first nations to grant diplomatic recognition to the newly created PRC. [50]

At the time, Chinese officials issued no condemnation of Nehru's claims or made any opposition to Nehru's open declarations of control over Aksai Chin. In 1956, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai stated that he had no claims over Indian-controlled territory. [50] He later argued that Aksai Chin was already under Chinese jurisdiction and that the McCartney-MacDonald Line was the line China could accept. [42] [44] Zhou later argued that as the boundary was undemarcated and had never been defined by treaty between any Chinese or Indian government, the Indian government could not unilaterally define Aksai Chin's borders. [40]

In 1950, the Chinese People's Liberation Army took control of Tibet, which all Chinese governments regarded as still part of China. Later the Chinese extended their influence by building a road in 1956–67 [19] and placing border posts in Aksai Chin. [51] [ unreliable source? ] India found out after the road was completed, protested against these moves and decided to look for a diplomatic solution to ensure a stable Sino-Indian border. [50] To resolve any doubts about the Indian position, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared in parliament that India regarded the McMahon Line as its official border. [50] The Chinese expressed no concern at this statement, [50] and in 1961 and 1962, the government of China asserted that there were no frontier issues to be taken up with India. [50]

In 1954, Prime Minister Nehru wrote a memo calling for India's borders to be clearly defined and demarcated [32] in line with previous Indian philosophy, Indian maps showed a border that, in some places, lay north of the McMahon Line. [52] Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, in November 1956, again repeated Chinese assurances that the People's Republic had no claims on Indian territory, although official Chinese maps showed 120,000 square kilometres (46,000 sq mi) of territory claimed by India as Chinese. [50] CIA documents created at the time revealed that Nehru had ignored Burmese premier Ba Swe when he warned Nehru to be cautious when dealing with Zhou. [53] They also allege that Zhou purposefully told Nehru that there were no border issues with India. [53]

In 1954, China and India negotiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, by which the two nations agreed to abide in settling their disputes. India presented a frontier map which was accepted by China, and the slogan Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers) was popular then. Nehru in 1958 had privately told G. Parthasarathi, the Indian envoy to China not to trust the Chinese at all and send all communications directly to him, bypassing the Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon since his communist background clouded his thinking about China. [54] According to Georgia Tech scholar John W Garver , Nehru's policy on Tibet was to create a strong Sino-Indian partnership which would be catalysed through agreement and compromise on Tibet. Garver believes that Nehru's previous actions had given him confidence that China would be ready to form an "Asian Axis" with India. [7]

This apparent progress in relations suffered a major setback when, in 1959, Nehru accommodated the Tibetan religious leader at the time, the 14th Dalai Lama, who fled Lhasa after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The Chairman of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong, was enraged and asked the Xinhua News Agency to produce reports on Indian expansionists operating in Tibet. [ citation needed ]

Border incidents continued through this period. In August 1959, the People's Liberation Army took an Indian prisoner at Longju, which had an ambiguous position in the McMahon Line, [19] [52] [55] and two months later in Aksai Chin, a clash at Kongka Pass led to the death of nine Indian frontier policemen. [51] [ unreliable source? ]

On 2 October, Soviet first secretary Nikita Khrushchev defended Nehru in a meeting with Chairman Mao. This action reinforced China's impression that the Soviet Union, the United States and India all had expansionist designs on China. The People's Liberation Army went so far as to prepare a self-defence counterattack plan. [7] Negotiations were restarted between the nations, but no progress was made. [32] [56]

As a consequence of their non-recognition of the McMahon Line, China's maps showed both the North East Frontier Area (NEFA) and Aksai Chin to be Chinese territory. [46] In 1960, Zhou Enlai unofficially suggested that India drop its claims to Aksai Chin in return for a Chinese withdrawal of claims over NEFA. Adhering to his stated position, Nehru believed that China did not have a legitimate claim over either of these territories, and thus was not ready to concede them. This adamant stance was perceived in China as Indian opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet. [7] Nehru declined to conduct any negotiations on the boundary until Chinese troops withdrew from Aksai Chin, a position supported by the international community. [44] India produced numerous reports on the negotiations, and translated Chinese reports into English to help inform the international debate. [ citation needed ] China believed that India was simply securing its claim lines in order to continue its "grand plans in Tibet". [7] India's stance that China withdraw from Aksai Chin caused continual deterioration of the diplomatic situation to the point that internal forces were pressuring Nehru to take a military stance against China.

1960 meetings to resolve the boundary question

In 1960, based on an agreement between Nehru and Zhou Enlai, officials from India and China held discussions in order to settle the boundary dispute. [57] [58] China and India disagreed on the major watershed that defined the boundary in the western sector. [59] The Chinese statements with respect to their border claims often misrepresented the cited sources. [60] The failure of these negotiations was compounded by successful Chinese border agreements with Nepal (Sino-Nepalese Treaty of Peace and Friendship) and Burma in the same year. [61]

The Forward Policy

China had in place a forward policy prior to 1904 after which its nature changed to a more western approach. [62] Following the invasion of Tibet by China, China attempted to push its borders further into the Himalayan states and into regions which India perceived as her territory. [ citation needed ] At the beginning of 1961, Nehru appointed General B.M. Kaul army chief. [63] Kaul reorganized the general staff and removed the officers who had resisted the idea of patrolling in disputed areas, although Nehru still refused to increase military spending or otherwise prepare for war. [63] [ failed verification ] In the summer of 1961, China began patrolling along the McMahon Line. They entered parts of Indian administered regions and much angered the Indians in doing so. [19] The Chinese, however, did not believe they were intruding upon Indian territory. [19] In response the Indians launched a policy of creating outposts behind the Chinese troops so as to cut off their supplies and force their return to China. [19] According to the Home Minister in Delhi on 4 February 1962:

"If the Chinese will not vacate the areas occupied by her, India will have to repeat what she did in Goa. She will certainly drive out the Chinese forces." [19]

On 5 December 1961 orders went to the Eastern and Western commands: [64] [65]

[. ] We are to patrol as far forward as possible from our present positions towards the International Border as recognized by us. This will be done with a view to establishing additional posts located to prevent the Chinese from advancing further and also to dominate any Chinese posts already established in our territory. [. ]

This has been referred to as the "Forward Policy". [66] [19] [67] [68] [55] [50] [ excessive citations ] There were eventually 60 such outposts, including 43 along the Chinese-claimed frontier in Aksai Chin. [19]

Kaul was confident through previous diplomacy that the Chinese would not react with force. [66] According to the Indian Official History, Indian posts and Chinese posts were separated by a narrow stretch of land. [7] China had been steadily spreading into those lands and India reacted with the Forward Policy to demonstrate that those lands were not unoccupied. [7] Neville Maxwell traces this confidence to Mullik, who was in regular contact with the CIA station chief in New Delhi. [63]

The initial reaction of the Chinese forces was to withdraw when Indian outposts advanced towards them. [7] However, this appeared to encourage the Indian forces to accelerate their Forward Policy even further. [7] In response, the Central Military Commission adopted a policy of "armed coexistence". [7] In response to Indian outposts encircling Chinese positions, Chinese forces would build more outposts to counter-encircle these Indian positions. [7] This pattern of encirclement and counter-encirclement resulted in an interlocking, chessboard-like deployment of Chinese and Indian forces. [7] Despite the leapfrogging encirclements by both sides, no hostile fire occurred from either side as troops from both sides were under orders to fire only in defense. On the situation, Mao Zedong commented,

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 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. [7]

Early incidents

Various border conflicts and "military incidents" between India and China flared up throughout the summer and autumn of 1962. In May, the Indian Air Force was told not to plan for close air support, although it was assessed as being a feasible way to counter the unfavourable ratio of Chinese to Indian troops. [69] In June, a skirmish caused the deaths of dozens of Chinese troops. The Indian Intelligence Bureau received information about a Chinese buildup along the border which could be a precursor to war. [69]

During June–July 1962, Indian military planners began advocating "probing actions" against the Chinese, and accordingly, moved mountain troops forward to cut off Chinese supply lines. According to Patterson, the Indian motives were threefold:

  1. Test Chinese resolve and intentions regarding India.
  2. Test whether India would enjoy Soviet backing in the event of a Sino-Indian war.
  3. Create sympathy for India within the U.S., with whom relations had deteriorated after the Indian annexation of Goa. [45] : 279

On 10 July 1962, 350 Chinese troops surrounded an Indian post in Chushul (north of the McMahon Line) but withdrew after a heated argument via loudspeaker. [22] On 22 July, the Forward Policy was extended to allow Indian troops to push back Chinese troops already established in disputed territory. [50] Whereas Indian troops were previously ordered to fire only in self-defence, all post commanders were now given discretion to open fire upon Chinese forces if threatened. [50] In August, the Chinese military improved its combat readiness along the McMahon Line and began stockpiling ammunition, weapons and fuel. [19]

Given his foreknowledge of the coming Cuban Missile Crisis, Mao Zedong was able to persuade Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to reverse the Russian policy of backing India, at least temporarily. [70] In mid-October, the Communist organ Pravda encouraged peace between India and China. [70] When the Cuban Missile Crisis ended and Mao's rhetoric changed, Russia reversed course. [70]

In June 1962, Indian forces established an outpost called the Dhola Post in the Namka Chu valley to the south of the Thag La Ridge. [19] The Dhola Post lay north of the map-marked McMahon Line but south of the ridges along which India interpreted the McMahon Line to run. [44] [52] [71] In August, China issued diplomatic protests and began occupying positions at the top of Thag La. [7] [19] On 8 September, a 60-strong PLA unit descended to the south side of the ridge and occupied positions that dominated one of the Indian posts at Namka Chu. Fire was not exchanged, but Nehru told the media that the Indian Army had instructions to "free our territory" and the troops had been given discretion to use force. [7] On 11 September, it was decided that "all forward posts and patrols were given permission to fire on any armed Chinese who entered Indian territory". [50]

The operation to occupy Thag La was flawed in that Nehru's directives were unclear and it got underway very slowly because of this. [19] [44] In addition to this, each man had to carry 35 kilograms (77 lb) over the long trek and this severely slowed down the reaction. [72] By the time the Indian battalion reached the point of conflict, Chinese units controlled both banks of the Namka Chu River. [19] On 20 September, Chinese troops threw grenades at Indian troops and a firefight developed, triggering a long series of skirmishes for the rest of September. [19] [72]

Some Indian troops, including Brigadier Dalvi who commanded the forces at Thag La, were also concerned that the territory they were fighting for was not strictly territory that "we should have been convinced was ours". [55] According to Neville Maxwell, even members of the Indian defence ministry were categorically concerned with the validity of the fighting in Thag La. [44]

On 4 October, Kaul assigned some troops to secure regions south of the Thag La Ridge. [19] Kaul decided to first secure Yumtso La, a strategically important position, before re-entering the lost Dhola post. [50] Kaul had then realised that the attack would be desperate and the Indian government tried to stop an escalation into all-out war. Indian troops marching to Thag La had suffered in the previously unexperienced conditions two Gurkha soldiers died of pulmonary edema. [72]

On 10 October, an Indian Rajput patrol of 50 troops to Yumtso La were met by an emplaced Chinese position of some 1,000 soldiers. [19] Indian troops were in no position for battle, as Yumtso La was 16,000 feet (4,900 m) above sea level and Kaul did not plan on having artillery support for the troops. [72] The Chinese troops opened fire on the Indians under their belief that they were north of the McMahon Line. The Indians were surrounded by Chinese positions which used mortar fire. They managed to hold off the first Chinese assault, inflicting heavy casualties. [19]

At this point, the Indian troops were in a position to push the Chinese back with mortar and machine gun fire. Brigadier Dalvi opted not to fire, as it would mean decimating the Rajput who were still in the area of the Chinese regrouping. They helplessly watched the Chinese ready themselves for a second assault. [72] In the second Chinese assault, the Indians began their retreat, realising the situation was hopeless. The Indian patrol suffered 25 casualties, and the Chinese 33. The Chinese troops held their fire as the Indians retreated, and then buried the Indian dead with military honours, as witnessed by the retreating soldiers. This was the first occurrence of heavy fighting in the war. [19]

This attack had grave implications for India and Nehru tried to solve the issue, but by 18 October, it was clear that the Chinese were preparing for an attack, with a massive troop buildup. [19] A long line of mules and porters had also been observed supporting the buildup and reinforcement of positions south of the Thag La Ridge. [72]

Chinese motives

Two of the major factors leading up to China's eventual conflicts with Indian troops were India's stance on the disputed borders and perceived Indian subversion in Tibet. There was "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". The other was "a perceived need to punish and end perceived Indian aggression against Chinese territory along the border". John W. Garver argues that the first perception was incorrect based on the state of the Indian military and polity in the 1960s. It was, nevertheless a major reason for China's going to war. He argues that while the Chinese perception of Indian border actions were "substantially accurate", Chinese perceptions of the supposed Indian policy towards Tibet were "substantially inaccurate". [7]

The CIA's declassified POLO documents reveal contemporary American analysis of Chinese motives during the war. According to this document, "Chinese apparently were motivated to attack by one primary consideration — their determination to retain the ground on which PLA forces stood in 1962 and to punish the Indians for trying to take that ground". In general terms, they tried to show the Indians once and for all that China would not acquiesce in a military "reoccupation" policy. Secondary reasons for the attack were to damage Nehru's prestige by exposing Indian weakness and [53] to expose as traitorous Khrushchev's policy of supporting Nehru against a Communist country. [53]

Another factor which might have affected China's decision for war with India was a perceived need to stop a Soviet-U.S.-India encirclement and isolation of China. [7] India's relations with the Soviet Union and United States were both strong at this time, but the Soviets (and Americans) were preoccupied by the Cuban Missile Crisis and would not interfere with the Sino-Indian War. [19] P. B. Sinha suggests that China waited until October to attack because the timing of the war was exactly in parallel with American actions so as to avoid any chance of American or Soviet involvement. Although American buildup of forces around Cuba occurred on the same day as the first major clash at Dhola, and China's buildup between 10 and 20 October appeared to coincide exactly with the United States establishment of a blockade against Cuba which began 20 October, the Chinese probably prepared for this before they could anticipate what would happen in Cuba. [50] Another explanation is that the confrontation in the Taiwan Strait had eased by then.

Garver argues that the Chinese correctly assessed Indian border policies, particularly the Forward Policy, as attempts for incremental seizure of Chinese-controlled territory. On Tibet, Garver argues that one of the major factors leading to China's decision for war with India was a common tendency of humans "to attribute others' behavior to interior motivations, while attributing their own behavior to situational factors". Studies from China published in the 1990s confirmed that the root cause for China going to war with India was the perceived Indian aggression in Tibet, with the forward policy simply catalysing the Chinese reaction. [7]

Neville Maxwell and Allen Whiting argue that the Chinese leadership believed they were defending territory that was legitimately Chinese, and which was already under de facto Chinese occupation prior to Indian advances, and regarded the Forward Policy as an Indian attempt at creeping annexation. [7] Mao Zedong himself compared the Forward Policy to a strategic advance in Chinese chess:

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 [chess metaphor meaning 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. [7]

India claims that the motive for the Forward Policy was to cut off the supply routes for Chinese troops posted in NEFA and Aksai Chin. [19] According to the official Indian history, the forward policy was continued because of its initial success, as it claimed that Chinese troops withdrew when they encountered areas already occupied by Indian troops. It also claimed that the Forward Policy was having success in cutting out supply lines of Chinese troops who had advanced South of the McMahon Line, though there was no evidence of such advance before the 1962 war. The Forward Policy rested on the assumption that Chinese forces "were not likely to use force against any of our posts, even if they were in a position to do so". No serious re-appraisal of this policy took place even when Chinese forces ceased withdrawing. [50] Nehru's confidence was probably justified given the difficulty for China to supply the area over the high altitude terrain over 5000 km (3000 miles) from the more populated areas of China.

Chinese policy toward India, therefore, operated on two seemingly contradictory assumptions in the first half of 1961. On the one hand, the Chinese leaders continued to entertain a hope, although a shrinking one, that some opening for talks would appear. On the other hand, they read Indian statements and actions as clear signs that Nehru wanted to talk only about a Chinese withdrawal. Regarding the hope, they were willing to negotiate and tried to prod Nehru into a similar attitude. Regarding Indian intentions, they began to act politically and to build a rationale based on the assumption that Nehru already had become a lackey of imperialism for this reason he opposed border talks. [53]

Krishna Menon is reported to have said that when he arrived in Geneva on 6 June 1961 for an international conference in Laos, Chinese officials in Chen Yi's delegation indicated that Chen might be interested in discussing the border dispute with him. At several private meetings with Menon, Chen avoided any discussion of the dispute and Menon surmised that the Chinese wanted him to broach the matter first. He did not, as he was under instructions from Nehru to avoid taking the initiative, leaving the Chinese with the impression that Nehru was unwilling to show any flexibility. [53]

In September, the Chinese took a step toward criticising Nehru openly in their commentary. After citing Indonesian and Burmese press criticism of Nehru by name, the Chinese critiqued his moderate remarks on colonialism (People's Daily Editorial, 9 September): "Somebody at the Non-Aligned Nations Conference advanced the argument that the era of classical colonialism is gone and dead. contrary to facts." This was a distortion of Nehru's remarks but appeared close enough to be credible. On the same day, Chen Yi referred to Nehru by implication at the Bulgarian embassy reception: "Those who attempted to deny history, ignore reality, and distort the truth and who attempted to divert the Conference from its important object have failed to gain support and were isolated." On 10 September, they dropped all circumlocutions and criticised him by name in a China Youth article and NCNA report—the first time in almost two years that they had commented extensively on the Prime Minister. [53]

By early 1962, the Chinese leadership began to believe that India's intentions were to launch a massive attack against Chinese troops, and that the Indian leadership wanted a war. [7] [19] In 1961, the Indian army had been sent into Goa, a small region without any other international borders apart from the Indian one, after Portugal refused to surrender the exclave colony to the Indian Union. Although this action met little to no international protest or opposition, China saw it as an example of India's expansionist nature, especially in light of heated rhetoric from Indian politicians. India's Home Minister declared, "If the Chinese will not vacate the areas occupied by it, India will have to repeat what it did in Goa. India will certainly drive out the Chinese forces", [19] while another member of the Indian Congress Party pronounced, "India will take steps to end [Chinese] aggression on Indian soil just as it ended Portuguese aggression in Goa". [45] By mid-1962, it was apparent to the Chinese leadership that negotiations had failed to make any progress, and the Forward Policy was increasingly perceived as a grave threat as Delhi increasingly sent probes deeper into border areas and cut off Chinese supply lines. [45] Foreign Minister Marshal Chen Yi commented at one high-level meeting, "Nehru's forward policy is a knife. He wants to put it in our heart. We cannot close our eyes and await death." [7] The Chinese leadership believed that their restraint on the issue was being perceived by India as weakness, leading to continued provocations, and that a major counterblow was needed to stop perceived Indian aggression. [7]

Xu Yan, prominent Chinese military historian and professor at the PLA's National Defense University, gives an account of the Chinese leadership's decision to go to war. By late September 1962, the Chinese leadership had begun to reconsider their policy of "armed coexistence", which had failed to address their concerns with the forward policy and Tibet, and consider a large, decisive strike. [7] On 22 September 1962, the People's Daily published an article which claimed that "the Chinese people were burning with 'great indignation' over the Indian actions on the border and that New Delhi could not 'now say that warning was not served in advance'." [73] [74]

Military planning

The Indian side was confident war would not be triggered and made little preparations. India had only two divisions of troops in the region of the conflict. [75] In August 1962, Brigadier D. K. Palit claimed that a war with China in the near future could be ruled out. [75] Even in September 1962, when Indian troops were ordered to "expel the Chinese" from Thag La, Maj. General J. S. Dhillon expressed the opinion that "experience in Ladakh had shown that a few rounds fired at the Chinese would cause them to run away." [7] [50] Because of this, the Indian army was completely unprepared when the attack at Yumtso La occurred. [19] [75]

Declassified CIA documents which were compiled at the time reveal that India's estimates of Chinese capabilities made them neglect their military in favour of economic growth. [76] It is claimed that if a more military-minded man had been in place instead of Nehru, India would have been more likely to have been ready for the threat of a counter-attack from China. [76]

On 6 October 1962, the Chinese leadership convened. Lin Biao reported that PLA intelligence units had determined that Indian units might assault Chinese positions at Thag La on 10 October (Operation Leghorn). The Chinese leadership and the Central Military Council decided upon war to launch a large-scale attack to punish perceived military aggression from India. [7] In Beijing, a larger meeting of Chinese military was convened in order to plan for the coming conflict. [7]

Mao and the Chinese leadership issued a directive laying out the objectives for the war. A main assault would be launched in the eastern sector, which would be coordinated with a smaller assault in the western sector. All Indian troops within China's claimed territories in the eastern sector would be expelled, and the war would be ended with a unilateral Chinese ceasefire and withdrawal, followed by a return to the negotiating table. [7] India led the Non-Aligned Movement, Nehru enjoyed international prestige, and China, with a larger military, would be portrayed as an aggressor. He said that a well-fought war "will guarantee at least thirty years of peace" with India, and determined the benefits to offset the costs. [7]

China also reportedly bought a significant amount of Indian rupee currency from Hong Kong, supposedly to distribute amongst its soldiers in preparation for the war. [77]

On 8 October, additional veteran and elite divisions were ordered to prepare to move into Tibet from the Chengdu and Lanzhou military regions. [7]

On 12 October, Nehru declared that he had ordered the Indian army to "clear Indian territory in the NEFA of Chinese invaders" and personally met with Kaul, issuing instructions to him.

On 14 October, an editorial on People's Daily issued China's final warning to India: "So it seems that Mr. Nehru has made up his mind to attack the Chinese frontier guards on an even bigger scale. . It is high time to shout to Mr. Nehru that the heroic Chinese troops, with the glorious tradition of resisting foreign aggression, can never be cleared by anyone from their own territory . If there are still some maniacs who are reckless enough to ignore our well-intentioned advice and insist on having another try, well, let them do so. History will pronounce its inexorable verdict . At this critical moment . we still want to appeal once more to Mr. Nehru: better rein in at the edge of the precipice and do not use the lives of Indian troops as stakes in your gamble." [74]

Marshal Liu Bocheng headed a group to determine the strategy for the war. He concluded that the opposing Indian troops were among India's best, and to achieve victory would require deploying crack troops and relying on force concentration to achieve decisive victory. On 16 October, this war plan was approved, and on the 18th, the final approval was given by the Politburo for a "self-defensive counter-attack", scheduled for 20 October. [7]

On 20 October 1962, the Chinese People's Liberation Army launched two attacks, 1000 kilometres (600 miles) apart. In the western theatre, the PLA sought to expel Indian forces from the Chip Chap valley in Aksai Chin while in the eastern theatre, the PLA sought to capture both banks of the Namka Chu river. Some skirmishes also took place at the Nathula Pass, which is in the Indian state of Sikkim (an Indian protectorate at that time). Gurkha rifles travelling north were targeted by Chinese artillery fire. After four days of fierce fighting, the three regiments of Chinese troops succeeded in securing a substantial portion of the disputed territory. [19]

Eastern theatre

Chinese troops launched an attack on the southern banks of the Namka Chu River on 20 October. [72] The Indian forces were undermanned, with only an understrength battalion to support them, while the Chinese troops had three regiments positioned on the north side of the river. [72] The Indians expected Chinese forces to cross via one of five bridges over the river and defended those crossings. [19] The PLA bypassed the defenders by fording the river, which was shallow at that time of year, instead. They formed up into battalions on the Indian-held south side of the river under cover of darkness, with each battalion assigned against a separate group of Rajputs. [72]

At 5:14 am, Chinese mortar fire began attacking the Indian positions. Simultaneously, the Chinese cut the Indian telephone lines, preventing the defenders from making contact with their headquarters. At about 6:30 am, the Chinese infantry launched a surprise attack from the rear and forced the Indians to leave their trenches. [72]

The Chinese overwhelmed the Indian troops in a series of flanking manoeuvres south of the McMahon Line and prompted their withdrawal from Namka Chu. [72] Fearful of continued losses, Indian troops retreated into Bhutan. Chinese forces respected the border and did not pursue. [19] Chinese forces now held all of the territory that was under dispute at the time of the Thag La confrontation, but they continued to advance into the rest of NEFA. [72]

On 22 October, at 12:15 am, PLA mortars fired on Walong, on the McMahon line. [78] Flares launched by Indian troops the next day revealed numerous Chinese milling around the valley. [78] The Indians tried to use their mortars against the Chinese but the PLA responded by lighting a bush fire, causing confusion among the Indians. Some 400 Chinese troops attacked the Indian position. The initial Chinese assault was halted by accurate Indian mortar fire. The Chinese were then reinforced and launched a second assault. The Indians managed to hold them back for four hours, but the Chinese used weight of numbers to break through. Most Indian forces were withdrawn to established positions in Walong, while a company supported by mortars and medium machine guns remained to cover the retreat. [78]

Elsewhere, Chinese troops launched a three-pronged attack on Tawang, which the Indians evacuated without any resistance. [19]

Over the following days, there were clashes between Indian and Chinese patrols at Walong as the Chinese rushed in reinforcements. On 25 October, the Chinese made a probe, which was met with resistance from the 4th Sikhs. The following day, a patrol from the 4th Sikhs was encircled, and after being unable to break the encirclement, an Indian unit was able to flank the Chinese, allowing the Sikhs to break free. [78]

Western theatre

On the Aksai Chin front, China already controlled most of the disputed territory. Chinese forces quickly swept the region of any remaining Indian troops. [79] Late on 19 October, Chinese troops launched a number of attacks throughout the western theatre. [22] By 22 October, all posts north of Chushul had been cleared. [22]

On 20 October, the Chinese easily took the Chip Chap Valley, Galwan Valley, and Pangong Lake. [10] Many outposts and garrisons along the Western front were unable to defend against the surrounding Chinese troops. Most Indian troops positioned in these posts offered resistance but were either killed or taken prisoner. Indian support for these outposts was not forthcoming, as evidenced by the Galwan post, which had been surrounded by enemy forces in August, but no attempt made to relieve the besieged garrison. Following the 20 October attack, nothing was heard from Galwan. [19]

On 24 October, Indian forces fought hard to hold the Rezang La Ridge, in order to prevent a nearby airstrip from falling. [80] [ unreliable source? ]

After realising the magnitude of the attack, the Indian Western Command withdrew many of the isolated outposts to the south-east. Daulet Beg Oldi was also evacuated, but it was south of the Chinese claim line and was not approached by Chinese forces. Indian troops were withdrawn in order to consolidate and regroup in the event that China probed south of their claim line. [19]

By 24 October, the PLA had entered territory previously administered by India to give the PRC a diplomatically strong position over India. The majority of Chinese forces had advanced sixteen kilometres (10 miles) south of the control line prior to the conflict. Four days of fighting were followed by a three-week lull. Zhou ordered the troops to stop advancing as he attempted to negotiate with Nehru. The Indian forces had retreated into more heavily fortified positions around Se La and Bomdi La which would be difficult to assault. [19] Zhou sent Nehru a letter, proposing

  1. A negotiated settlement of the boundary
  2. That both sides disengage and withdraw twenty kilometres (12 miles) from present lines of actual control
  3. A Chinese withdrawal north in NEFA
  4. That China and India not cross lines of present control in Aksai Chin. [19][81]

Nehru's 27 October reply expressed interest in the restoration of peace and friendly relations and suggested a return to the "boundary prior to 8 September 1962". He was categorically concerned about a mutual twenty kilometre (12-mile) withdrawal after "40 or 60 kilometres (25 or 40 miles) of blatant military aggression". He wanted the creation of a larger immediate buffer zone and thus resist the possibility of a repeat offensive. Zhou's 4 November reply repeated his 1959 offer to return to the McMahon Line in NEFA and the Chinese traditionally claimed MacDonald Line in Aksai Chin. Facing Chinese forces maintaining themselves on Indian soil and trying to avoid political pressure, the Indian parliament announced a national emergency and passed a resolution which stated their intent to "drive out the aggressors from the sacred soil of India". The United States and the United Kingdom supported India's response. The Soviet Union was preoccupied with the Cuban Missile Crisis and did not offer the support it had provided in previous years. With the backing of other great powers, a 14 November letter by Nehru to Zhou once again rejected his proposal. [19]

Neither side declared war, used their air force, or fully broke off diplomatic relations, but the conflict is commonly referred to as a war. This war coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis and was viewed by the western nations at the time as another act of aggression by the Communist bloc. [19] [82] According to Calvin, the Chinese side evidently wanted a diplomatic resolution and discontinuation of the conflict. [19]

After Zhou received Nehru's letter (rejecting Zhou's proposal), the fighting resumed on the eastern theatre on 14 November (Nehru's birthday), with an Indian attack on Walong, claimed by China, launched from the defensive position of Se La and inflicting heavy casualties on the Chinese. The Chinese resumed military activity on Aksai Chin and NEFA hours after the Walong battle. [19]

Eastern theatre

In the eastern theatre, the PLA attacked Indian forces near Se La and Bomdi La on 17 November. These positions were defended by the Indian 4th Infantry Division. Instead of attacking by road as expected, PLA forces approached via a mountain trail, and their attack cut off a main road and isolated 10,000 Indian troops.

Se La occupied high ground, and rather than assault this commanding position, the Chinese captured Thembang, which was a supply route to Se La. [19]

Western theatre

On the western theatre, PLA forces launched a heavy infantry attack on 18 November near Chushul. Their attack started at 4:35 am, despite a mist surrounding most of the areas in the region. At 5:45 the Chinese troops advanced to attack two platoons of Indian troops at Gurung Hill.

The Indians did not know what was happening, as communications were dead. As a patrol was sent, China attacked with greater numbers. Indian artillery could not hold off the superior Chinese forces. By 9:00 am, Chinese forces attacked Gurung Hill directly and Indian commanders withdrew from the area and also from the connecting Spangur Gap. [22]

The Chinese had been simultaneously attacking Rezang La which was held by 123 Indian troops. At 5:05 am, Chinese troops launched their attack audaciously. Chinese medium machine gun fire pierced through the Indian tactical defences. [22]

At 6:55 am the sun rose and the Chinese attack on the 8th platoon began in waves. Fighting continued for the next hour, until the Chinese signaled that they had destroyed the 7th platoon. Indians tried to use light machine guns on the medium machine guns from the Chinese but after 10 minutes the battle was over. [22] Logistical inadequacy once again hurt the Indian troops. [83] The Chinese gave the Indian troops a respectful military funeral. [83] The battles also saw the death of Major Shaitan Singh of the Kumaon Regiment, who had been instrumental in the first battle of Rezang La. [83] The Indian troops were forced to withdraw to high mountain positions. Indian sources believed that their troops were just coming to grips with the mountain combat and finally called for more troops. The Chinese declared a ceasefire, ending the bloodshed. [22]

Indian forces suffered heavy casualties, with dead Indian troops' bodies being found in the ice, frozen with weapons in hand. The Chinese forces also suffered heavy casualties, especially at Rezang La. This signalled the end of the war in Aksai Chin as China had reached their claim line – many Indian troops were ordered to withdraw from the area. China claimed that the Indian troops wanted to fight on until the bitter end. The war ended with their withdrawal, so as to limit the number of casualties. [19]

The PLA penetrated close to the outskirts of Tezpur, Assam, a major frontier town nearly fifty kilometres (30 miles) from the Assam-North-East Frontier Agency border. [44] The local government ordered the evacuation of the civilians in Tezpur to the south of the Brahmaputra River, all prisons were thrown open, and government officials who stayed behind destroyed Tezpur's currency reserves in anticipation of a Chinese advance. [50]

China had reached its claim lines so the PLA did not advance farther, and on 19 November, it declared a unilateral cease-fire. Zhou Enlai declared a unilateral ceasefire to start on midnight, 21 November. Zhou's ceasefire declaration stated,

Beginning from 21 November 1962, the Chinese frontier guards will cease fire along the entire Sino-Indian border. Beginning from 1 December 1962, the Chinese frontier guards will withdraw to positions 20 kilometres (12 miles) behind the line of actual control which existed between China and India on 7 November 1959. In the eastern sector, although the Chinese frontier guards have so far been fighting on Chinese territory north of the traditional customary line, they are prepared to withdraw from their present positions to the north of the illegal McMahon Line, and to withdraw twenty kilometres (12 miles) back from that line. In the middle and western sectors, the Chinese frontier guards will withdraw twenty kilometres (12 miles) from the line of actual control.

Zhou had first given the ceasefire announcement to Indian chargé d'affaires on 19 November (before India's request for United States air support), but New Delhi did not receive it until 24 hours later. The aircraft carrier was ordered back after the ceasefire, and thus, American intervention on India's side in the war was avoided. Retreating Indian troops, who hadn't come into contact with anyone knowing of the ceasefire, and Chinese troops in NEFA and Aksai Chin, were involved in some minor battles, [19] but for the most part, the ceasefire signalled an end to the fighting. The United States Air Force flew in supplies to India in November 1962, but neither side wished to continue hostilities.

Toward the end of the war India increased its support for Tibetan refugees and revolutionaries, some of them having settled in India, as they were fighting the same common enemy in the region. The Nehru administration ordered the raising of an elite Indian-trained "Tibetan Armed Force" composed of Tibetan refugees. [84]

According to James Calvin from the United States Marine Corps, western nations at the time viewed China as an aggressor during the China–India border war, and the war was part of a monolithic communist objective for a world dictatorship of the proletariat. This was further triggered by Mao Zedong's views that: "The way to world conquest lies through Havana, Accra, and Calcutta". [19] The United States was unequivocal in its recognition of the Indian boundary claims in the eastern sector, while not supporting the claims of either side in the western sector. [85] [86] Britain, on the other hand, agreed with the Indian position completely, with the foreign secretary stating, 'we have taken the view of the government of India on the present frontiers and the disputed territories belong to India.' [86]

The Chinese military action has been viewed by the United States as part of the PRC's policy of making use of aggressive wars to settle its border disputes and to distract both its own population and international opinion from its internal issues. [87] The Kennedy administration was disturbed by what they considered "blatant Chinese communist aggression against India". In a May 1963 National Security Council meeting, contingency planning on the part of the United States in the event of another Chinese attack on India was discussed and nuclear options were considered. [88] After listening to advisers, Kennedy stated "We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India." [88] [89] By 1964 China had developed its own nuclear weapon which would have likely caused any American nuclear policy in defense of India to be reviewed. [88]

The non-aligned nations remained mostly uninvolved, and only Egypt (then called the United Arab Republic) openly supported India. [90] Of the non-aligned nations, six, Egypt, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Indonesia, met in Colombo on 10 December 1962. [91] The proposals stipulated a Chinese withdrawal of 20 km (12 miles) from the customary lines without any reciprocal withdrawal on India's behalf. [91] The failure of these six nations to unequivocally condemn China deeply disappointed India. [90]

Pakistan also shared a disputed boundary with China, and had proposed to India that the two countries adopt a common defence against "northern" enemies (i.e. China), which was rejected by India, citing nonalignment. [50] In 1962, President of Pakistan Ayub Khan made clear to India that Indian troops could safely be transferred from the Pakistan frontier to the Himalayas. [92] But, after the war, Pakistan improved its relations with China. [93] It began border negotiations on 13 October 1962, concluding them in December of that year. [44] The following year, the China-Pakistan Border Treaty was signed, as well as trade, commercial, and barter treaties. [93] Pakistan conceded its northern claim line in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir to China in favour of a more southerly boundary along the Karakoram Range. [44] [91] [93] The border treaty largely set the border along the MacCartney-Macdonald Line. [32] India's military failure against China would embolden Pakistan to initiate the Second Kashmir War with India in 1965. [19]

During the conflict, Nehru wrote two letters on 19th November 1962 to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, asking for 12 squadrons of fighter jets and a modern radar system. These jets were seen as necessary to beef up Indian air strength so that air-to-air combat could be initiated safely from the Indian perspective (bombing troops was seen as unwise for fear of Chinese retaliatory action). Nehru also asked that these aircraft be manned by American pilots until Indian airmen were trained to replace them. These requests were rejected by the Kennedy Administration (which was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis during most of the Sino-Indian War). The U.S. nonetheless provided non-combat assistance to Indian forces and planned to send the carrier USS Kitty Hawk to the Bay of Bengal to support India in case of an air war. [94]

As the Sino-Soviet split heated up, Moscow made a major effort to support India, especially with the sale of advanced MiG warplanes. The U.S. and Britain refused to sell these advanced weapons so India turned to the USSR. India and the USSR reached an agreement in August 1962 (before the Cuban Missile Crisis) for the immediate purchase of twelve MiG-21s as well as for Soviet technical assistance in the manufacture of these aircraft in India. According to P.R. Chari, "The intended Indian production of these relatively sophisticated aircraft could only have incensed Peking so soon after the withdrawal of Soviet technicians from China." In 1964 further Indian requests for American jets were rejected. However Moscow offered loans, low prices and technical help in upgrading India's armaments industry. India by 1964 was a major purchaser of Soviet arms. [95] According to Indian diplomat G. Parthasarathy, "only after we got nothing from the US did arms supplies from the Soviet Union to India commence." [96] India's favored relationship with Moscow continued into the 1980s, but ended after the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1991. [97] [98]


According to the China's official military history, the war achieved China's policy objectives of securing borders in its western sector, as China retained de facto control of the Aksai Chin. After the war, India abandoned the Forward Policy, and the de facto borders stabilised along the Line of Actual Control.

According to James Calvin of Marine Corps Command and Staff College, even though China won a military victory it lost in terms of its international image. [19] China's first nuclear weapon test in October 1964 and its support of Pakistan in the 1965 India Pakistan War tended to confirm the American view of communist world objectives, including Chinese influence over Pakistan. [19]

Lora Saalman opined in a study of Chinese military publications, that while the war led to much blame, debates and ultimately acted as causation of military modernisation of India but the war is now treated as basic reportage of facts with relatively diminished interest by Chinese analysts. [99]


The aftermath of the war saw sweeping changes in the Indian military to prepare it for similar conflicts in the future, and placed pressure on Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was seen as responsible for failing to anticipate the Chinese attack on India. Indians reacted with a surge in patriotism and memorials were erected for many of the Indian troops who died in the war. Arguably, the main lesson India learned from the war was the need to strengthen its own defences and a shift from Nehru's foreign policy with China based on his stated concept of "brotherhood". Because of India's inability to anticipate Chinese aggression, Prime Minister Nehru faced harsh criticism from government officials, for having promoted pacifist relations with China. [44] Indian President Radhakrishnan said that Nehru's government was naive and negligent about preparations, and Nehru admitted his failings. [70] According to Inder Malhotra, a former editor of The Times of India and a commentator for The Indian Express, Indian politicians invested more effort in removing Defence Minister Krishna Menon than in actually waging war. [70] Krishna Menon's favoritism weakened the Indian Army, and national morale dimmed. [70] The public saw the war as a political and military debacle. [70] Under American advice (by American envoy John Kenneth Galbraith who made and ran American policy on the war as all other top policy makers in the US were absorbed in coincident Cuban Missile Crisis [100] ) Indians refrained, not according to the best choices available, from using the Indian air force to beat back the Chinese advances. The CIA later revealed that at that time the Chinese had neither the fuel nor runways long enough for using their air force effectively in Tibet. [70] Indians in general became highly sceptical of China and its military. Many Indians view the war as a betrayal of India's attempts at establishing a long-standing peace with China and started to question the once popular "Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai" (meaning "Indians and Chinese are brothers"). The war also put an end to Nehru's earlier hopes that India and China would form a strong Asian Axis to counteract the increasing influence of the Cold War bloc superpowers. [7]

The unpreparedness of the army was blamed on Defence Minister Menon, who resigned his government post to allow for someone who might modernise India's military further. India's policy of weaponisation via indigenous sources and self-sufficiency was thus cemented. Sensing a weakened army, Pakistan, a close ally of China, began a policy of provocation against India by infiltrating Jammu and Kashmir and ultimately triggering the Second Kashmir War with India in 1965 and Indo-Pakistani war of 1971. The Attack of 1965 was successfully stopped and ceasefire was negotiated under international pressure. [101] In the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 India won a clear victory, resulting in liberation of Bangladesh (formerly East-Pakistan). [102] [103]

As a result of the war, the Indian government commissioned an investigation, resulting in the classified Henderson Brooks–Bhagat Report on the causes of the war and the reasons for failure. India's performance in high-altitude combat in 1962 led to an overhaul of the Indian Army in terms of doctrine, training, organisation and equipment. Neville Maxwell claimed that the Indian role in international affairs after the border war was also greatly reduced after the war and India's standing in the non-aligned movement suffered. [44] The Indian government has attempted to keep the Hendersen-Brooks-Bhagat Report secret for decades, although portions of it have recently been leaked by Neville Maxwell. [104]

According to James Calvin, an analyst from the U.S. Navy, India gained many benefits from the 1962 conflict. This war united the country as never before. India got 32,000 square miles (8.3 million hectares, 83,000 km 2 ) of disputed territory even if it felt that NEFA was hers all along. The new Indian republic had avoided international alignments by asking for help during the war, India demonstrated its willingness to accept military aid from several sectors. And, finally, India recognised the serious weaknesses in its army. It would more than double its military manpower in the next two years and it would work hard to resolve the military's training and logistic problems to later become the second-largest army in the world. India's efforts to improve its military posture significantly enhanced its army's capabilities and preparedness. [19]

Internment and deportation of Chinese Indians

Soon after the end of the war, the Indian government passed the Defence of India Act in December 1962, [105] permitting the "apprehension and detention in custody of any person [suspected] of being of hostile origin." The broad language of the act allowed for the arrest of any person simply for having a Chinese surname, Chinese ancestry or a Chinese spouse. [106] The Indian government incarcerated thousands of Chinese-Indians in an internment camp in Deoli, Rajasthan, where they were held for years without trial. The last internees were not released until 1967. Thousands more Chinese-Indians were forcibly deported or coerced to leave India. Nearly all internees had their properties sold off or looted. [105] Even after their release, the Chinese Indians faced many restrictions in their freedom. They could not travel freely until the mid-1990s. [105]

Compensation for land acquired by Army

After 1962 the Indian Army acquired land in Arunahcal Pradesh for infrastructure construction. 2017 onwards, the owners of the land started being compensated by the government. [107]

Subsequent conflicts

India has also had some military conflicts with China after the 1962 war. In late 1967, there were two conflicts in which both countries clashed in Sikkim. These conflicts were dubbed the "Nathu La" and "Cho La" clashes respectively, in which advancing Chinese forces were forced to withdraw from Sikkim, then a protectorate of India and later a state of India after its annexation in 1975. [108] In the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish, both sides showed military restraint and it was a bloodless conflict. In 2017 the two countries once again were involved in a military standoff, in which several troops were injured. In 2020, soldiers were killed in skirmishes for the first time since the war ended.

In 1993 and 1996, the two sides signed the Sino-Indian Bilateral Peace and Tranquility Accords, agreements to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC). Ten meetings of a Sino-Indian Joint Working Group (SIJWG) and five of an expert group have taken place to determine where the LoAC lies, but little progress has occurred.

On 20 November 2006, Indian politicians from Arunachal Pradesh expressed their concern over Chinese military modernization and appealed to parliament to take a harder stance on the PRC following a military buildup on the border similar to that in 1962. [109] Additionally, China's military aid to Pakistan as well is a matter of concern to the Indian public, [75] as the two sides have engaged in various wars.

On 6 July 2006, the historic Silk Road passing through this territory via the Nathu La pass was reopened. Both sides have agreed to resolve the issues by peaceful means.

In October 2011, it was stated that India and China will formulate a border mechanism to handle different perceptions as to the LAC and resume the bilateral army exercises between the Indian and Chinese army from early 2012. [110] [111]


This along with the *, indicates posthumously presented awards.

Name Award Unit Date of action Conflict Place of action Citations
Dhan Singh Thapa PVC 8 Gorkha Rifles 20 October 1962 Sino-Indian War Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India [112] [113] [114]
Joginder Singh Sahnan PVC Sikh Regiment 23 October 1962 * Sino-Indian War Tongpen La, NEFA, India [112] [113] [115]
Shaitan Singh PVC Kumaon Regiment 18 November 1962 * Sino-Indian War Rezang La, Ladakh, India [112] [113] [116]
Jaswant Singh Rawat MVC 4th Garhwal Rifles 17 November 1962 * Sino-Indian War Nuranang Falls, NEFA, India [117]


Pearl S. Buck's Mandala has a poignant account of the war and the predicament of the Indian government and the army in the face of the better-equipped and organised Chinese forces. The central character in the novel, a Maharana of Mewar, has his son fighting the Chinese in the war and dies in the battle of Chushul. [118] Australian author Jon Cleary wrote a novel set during the conflict, The Pulse of Danger (1966).

In 1963, against the backdrop of the Sino-Indian War, Lata Mangeshkar sang the patriotic song "Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon " (literally, "Oh, the People of My Country") in the presence of Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India. The song, composed by C. Ramchandra and written by Pradeep, is said to have brought the Prime Minister to tears. [119] [120]

The Hindi feature film, Haqeeqat (1964), and Tamil film, Ratha Thilagam (1963), were based on events of the Sino-Indian War. The 2017 Hindi film Tubelight is set during the Sino-Indian War.

Indian Defence Review

Formerly head and Joint Dir. War History division, Min of Defence and co-author of official history of 1962 Sino-Indian Border Conflict.He researched as Kennedy Fellow at Presidential Archives in Boston in 2003 and had conversations with Prof JK Galbraith on this issue.

The current bloody standoff between India and China in Ladakh has seen a deluge of TV programmes (verbal duels is a better term) and resurfacing of several long held myths about China. Politicization of this issue of national security has further muddied the waters. If public opinion (that includes military professionals) is to be guided in a safe direction, it is time to burst long held myths and discard our Sino-phobia.

Indians have a great penchant for myth-making. Historical events of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat have been so exaggerated and distorted that the kernel of truth is lost. The Modern era is no exception to this Indian practice.

Indians have a great penchant for myth-making. Historical events of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat have been so exaggerated and distorted that the kernel of truth is lost. The Modern era is no exception to this Indian practice. The 1962 military disaster in the Eastern theatre (not in the Ladakh sector) has spawned similar myths about Chinese capability. A re-read of the earliest ATMs (Army Training Memoranda) sounds tragically hilarious today. The Chinese were made to be 10 feet tall and capable of advancing distances like 60 kms in a day inthe mountains.

The fear psychosis about the Chinese percolated to the training institutions. For close to three decades after the events of 1962 we remained under this voodoo-like spell.

This was not merely an ‘academic’ issue. These myths affected our policy, strategy and tactics against China. I am disclosing no official secret by saying that we deliberately did not develop the road networks in border areas for fear that the ‘Chinese will make use them to invade us’. The classic case was the Bum La- Towang track.Originally made by the Chinese in 1962, it remained a bone/axle breaker right till 1988, with no effort being made to improve it. This was the case in other sectors as well.

The turning point was the Sumradong Chu incident of 1986-87. In a confrontation with the Chinese on the border in the Towangsector, India used its superior air portability and surprised the Chinese with a quick build up and occupation of the dominating ridge line. In the relations between India and China, this could well be called the turning point. Credit for moving from defensive defence to offensive defence must be given to then Army Chief Genera K Sundarjiand his operation ‘Chequerboard’. The improvement of border road infrastructure began only after this. Even then the mindset of the armed forces was slow to change.

The turning point was the Sumradong Chu incident of 1986-87. In a confrontation with the Chinese on the border in the Towang sector, India used its superior air portability and surprised the Chinese with a quick build up and occupation of the dominating ridge line.

From 1987 to 1990, I was with the War history division in the ministry of defence working on the history of the 1962 conflict.In a division of labour, Dr. SN Prasad, the chief editor asked me to research and writePart II of the official history. That part covered the fighting in Ladakh, air operations and the aftermath. I also contributed to major portions of the review and reflection chapter (these facts find mention in the preface to the official history). As a part of this job, I had full access to the MilitaryOperations Directorate records and the top secret Henderson Brooks- Bhagat report. As a matter of fact for the 3-year period the report was in my personal possession and I was the custodian. Due to this background I had a better understanding of the 1962 event than most officers of the Indian Army.

One of my major observations about the air operations was that these were confined to logistics support only and no offensive or close airsupport was provided to the army fighting on theground. It was almost as if the Air Force fighters and bombers did not exist. Along with the Air Force member, Air Commodore OP Sharma, our team went into the depths of the issue. One of the most curious things noticed was that the Chinese NEVER interfered with our transport aircraft-even at Chushul airfield. It was the airlift of AMX-13 light tanks and 25 pounder field guns to that battlefield that really turned the tide in that sector. There are virtually no reports of sightings of any Chinese fighter aircraft. Even the presence of helicopters or transport aircraft was a rarity.

There are two main explanations to this phenomenon. One was that the Chinese did not have resources or the airfields to use airpower. Second and equally compelling was that since theChinese knew the reality of their weakness in airpower they went out of their way not to provoke the Indian Air Force. Many reports have since surfaced on Indian Canberra bombers having a free run for photo reconnaissance missions over Tibet, with no Chinese reactions.

These omissions and commissions of the Chinese ought to have raised massive Red Flags in Indian establishment and we should have considered using air power to provide close support to ground troops as well as carry out interdiction.

But such was the disarry in Delhi in critical decision-making that a Lt. Gen.B.M.Kaul was commanding IV Corps (that had only one division) from a hospital bed in Delhi. In 1988 as our team interviewed the then ACAS Operations,Air Marshal Diwan , and raised these questions, he was frank enough to say that the Air Force was kept totally out of the decision-making loop and only read about the fighting in the next day’s newspapers.

But such was the disarry in Delhi in critical decision-making that a Lt. Gen.B.M.Kaul was commanding IV Corps (that had only one division) from a hospital bed in Delhi. In 1988 as our team interviewed the then ACAS Operations,Air Marshal Diwan, and raised these questions, he was frank enough to say that the Air Force was kept totally out of the decision-making loop and only read about the fighting in the next day’s newspapers. But he was supportive of the decision to not use offensive air support. In his words “that would have meant ‘escalation’ and India would have lost world ‘sympathy’!” This statement in some sense reflects the views of the then Air Chief whereby earning world sympathy was more important than winning the battle or at the cost of military disaster!

To be fair, Defence Minister Krishna Menon was fully in favour of the use of offensive air power but was by then a discredited person. Panic had set in and a West Bengal Congress party president reached the American Embassy to request US air support to save Calcutta from this non-existent threat of Chinesebombers. It is to be noted that the only Chinese aircraft that could have reached Calcutta was the IL-24 bomber that too at extreme range and would have been easy prey to the Hunter fighters of the IAF.

Chapter VIII of the official history, written in 1988, has dealt with this issue extensively. On a personal note, I attended the Senior Command Course in College of Combat(at Mhow) in 1988. During the course we war gamed operations in Arunachal Pradesh, the same theatre as the 1962 conflict. But drawing wrong lessons from 1962, use of air power was excluded from the war game. Such was the hold of historical memories and repeat of the blunders that the use of air power was ruled out even 26 years after the event.

There is speculation that a lobby in Delhi at that time (1962) was keen that India give up non-alignment and join the Western camp. It is this lobby that possibly sabotaged the December 1960 Chou En Li proposal of exchange of Aksai Chin for Chumbi valley and recognition of the MacMohan line. This lobby wanted India to lose militarily to Chinese and was therefore opposed to the use of air power. Most recent analyses have confirmed that the use of air power (with the timely sacking of Kaul) would have not only stopped the Chinese but actually won a victory for India- such was the effect of air superiority that we had in the battle theatre for the asking.

In 2003, I met Prof. Galbraith (who was virtually the main adviser to Nehru in those tumultuous days) but found no definitive answer. Nehru possibly suspected the ‘plot’ by the Rightist lobby within the Congress. In 1963, he removed most of these ‘suspects’ from his cabinet under the ‘Kamraj Plan’. In this era of fake news, I accept that much of this is speculation.

Nehru possibly suspected the ‘plot’ by the Rightist lobby within the Congress. In 1963, he removed most of these ‘suspects’ from his cabinet under the ‘ Kamraj Plan’. In this era of fake news, I accept that much of this is speculation.

Luckily for India, we seem to have learned the lesson of treating battles as joint Air-Land theatre. Success in Kargilwould have been unthinkable without the use of air power for close support and interdiction. Going a step further, in 2019, with strikes on the Balakot terror camp, we have shed our fear of ‘escalation’ and begun to use offensive air power even against terror threat.

In the current (May-July 2020) showdown with China too, our display of offensive air power and use of superior logistic capability has deterred the Chinese. Who says we don’t learn from history?

50 Years of Cuban Missile Crisis


Year 1962 in general and October 1962 in particular is permanently etched and engraved in my memory for two historical events . First is Chinese invasion of India and the second one is Cuban Missile Crisis .

I was 10 years old boy living in Deoria , Uttar Pradesh . My adolescent mind was getting awakened to the happenings of the world . I was curious . I was eager to gather knowledge . I was fascinated by the twists and turns of history . And these two epoch – making chapters of history opened in front of my eyes . I will write a separate blog about Chinese Invasion of India . Let me concentrate here on Cuban Missile Crisis .

U.S. reconnaissance photograph of soviet missile sites on Cuba, taken from a Lockheed U-2 spy plane following the Cuban missile crisis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CIA reference photograph of Soviet medium-range ballistic missile (SS-4 in U.S. documents, R-12 in Soviet documents) in Red Square, Moscow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two main protagonists of the drama are now gone . J. F. Kennedy , the then President of U.S.A. got assassinated and Nikita Khrushchev , the then Premier of U.S.S.R. was deposed and subsequently died a natural death . But Comrade Fidel Castro , the then President of Cuba is still alive . His brother Raul Castro , who held parley with Nikita Khrushchev , is now President of Cuba . Let me unveil the incidents of the crisis , which might have escalated into World War III .

John F. Kennedy meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

EXCOMM meeting at the White House Cabinet Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis on October 29, 1962. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Soviet Union sending nuclear warheads to Cuba followed the 1958 deployment by the United States of Thor IRBMs in the UK (Project Emily) and Jupiter IRBMs to Italy and Turkey in 1961 – more than 100 US-built missiles having the capability to strike Moscow with nuclear warheads. After provocative political moves and the failed US attempts to overthrow the Cuban regime (Bay of Pigs, Operation Mongoose), in May 1962 Nikita Khrushchev proposed the idea of placing Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba to deter any future invasion attempt. During a meeting between Khrushchev and Raúl Castro that July, a secret agreement was reached and construction of several missile sites began in the late summer. These preparations were noticed, and on 14 October an US U-2 aircraft took several pictures clearly showing sites for medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) under construction. These images were processed and presented on October 15, which marks the beginning of the 13-day crisis from the US perspective.

The United States considered attacking Cuba via air and sea, but decided on a military blockade instead, calling it a “quarantine” for legal and other reasons. The US announced that it would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba, demanded that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases already under construction or completed, and return all offensive weapons to the USSR. The Kennedy administration held only a slim hope that the Kremlin would agree to their demands, and expected a military confrontation.

On the Soviet side, Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote in a letter from October 24, 1962 to President John F. Kennedy that his blockade of “navigation in international waters and air space” constituted “an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war”.However, in secret back-channel communications the President and Premier initiated a proposal to resolve the crisis. While this was taking place, several Soviet ships attempted to run the blockade, increasing tensions to the point that orders to US Navy ships to fire warning shots and then open fire were sent out. On 27 October a U-2 was shot down by a Soviet missile crew, an action that could have resulted in immediate retaliation from the Kennedy crisis cabinet, according to Secretary of Defense McNamara‘s later testimony. However, in the event itself, Kennedy stayed his hand and the negotiations continued.

The engine of Lockheed U-2 which has been brought down above Cuba in Museum of the Revolution in Havana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nikita Kruschev letter to President Kennedy stating that the Cuban Missile Crisis quarantine “constitute[s] an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The confrontation ended on October 28, 1962,when Kennedy and United Nations Secretary-General U Thant reached an agreement with Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for an US public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba. Secretly, the US agreed that it would dismantle all US-built Jupiter IRBMs deployed in Turkey and Italy.

Adlai Stevenson II shows aerial photos of Russian missiles in Cuba to the United Nations Security Council in the presence of USSR ambassador Valerian Zorin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am quoting the events of the crisis from Wikipedia . Because , though I vividly remember the crisis but day-to-day events in chronological order have been almost obfuscated from my memory .

While I was sitting in the office of my acting institute Vidur’s Kreating Charakters , I suddenly remembered those fateful days and decided to write a blog on the topic in the night .

I still wonder , what would have been fate of the world in general and India in particular , had the crisis been not diffused in 1962 ?


I shared my view in my blog post titled “TIBET’S INDEPENDENCE IS INDIA’S SECURITY.” Kindly view the same at this page:

REMEMBERING THE 1962 INDIA – CHINA WAR :”AHIMSA PARAMO DHARMA DHARMA HIMSA TATHAIVA CHA” – Non-Violence is the highest principle, and so is Violence( use of Force or HIMSA ) in defense of the Righteous. I am not opposed to use of the force or violence to defend this Flag of Tibet and restore the true Tibetan Identity and its Independence. The Great Lesson learned from the 1962 War : EVICT THE MILITARY OCCUPIER FROM THE LAND OF TIBET.


This story titled, “Remembering A War: The 1962 India – China War” is another face of Communist China’s propaganda warfare. China has been selling this story to gullible Indians and claims that China is a victim of India’s attack on China. This entire piece does not mention the word TIBET and Communist China’s illegal occupation of Tibet and the uprising in Tibet and H.H. Dalai Lama’s getting asylum in India. Communist China had used a massive force of Peoples’ Liberation Army to attack India all across the Himalayan frontier. The political mistake made by Prime Minister Nehru was that of not seeking help from the United States to prevent this attack. United States was willing to check Communist China’s expansionist policy and we should have kicked China out of Tibet during 1949-50.

Kindly share this view with your other friends who have military service experience. It will be abundantly clear that the attached story is a pack of lies.

Indian Defence Review

This is the third and concluding part of the Sino-Indian war, and although, it covers the wider canvas of the war, it focuses on Ladakh. The previous parts of the extracts from the book: The Crimson Chinar – The Kashmir Conflict: A Politico-Military Perspective that form this series, posted on this site before this: The Overview of the War and Occuparion of Tibet and the American Secret War are recommended to be read prior to reading this part.

…these are as relevant in the current strategic Sino-India strategic discourse, as they were in the bleak autumn of 1962.

Before coming to the lessons of the war, since, there remains a major controversy on why did India not employ Air Power in 1962, the extract of the relevant part is being covered prior to highlighting the macro lessons from the war – these are as relevant in the current strategic Sino-India strategic discourse, as they were in the bleak autumn of 1962.

The Employment of the Air Force

The Indian Air Force in 1962

After the experience of the first Kashmir War and threats emanating from China, the Government of India (GOI) approved the IAF force structure for a 45 Squadron Force by the end of 1961 composed as 35 Squadrons of Combat Aircraft and 10 of Transport Aircraft. However, by the end of 1962, the actual strength remained at 36 Squadrons, which included 10 of the Auxiliary Air Force. The delay for raising the additional 9 Squadrons was due to bureaucratic delays in making the choice. The Air Force wanted the F-104 Star fighter from the US, but this was not forthcoming due to objections from Pakistan and the only alternative was the MIG -21 from the Soviet Union. This had been contracted for, but were still not available when the war broke out. With a total of 559 fighter/bomber aircraft, the IAF of 1962 was a formidable force, especially in terms of quality as compared to the PLA Air Force (PLAAF).[1] There was also the factor of appreciating what the PLAAF could possibly throw against India and this depended on the capabilities of her aircraft and the Air Bases she had from where operations could be mounted as also the threat she anticipated from her own eastern coast. Qualitatively, the IAF had an edge as the MIG 15 and 17’s of the PLAAF were obsolete aircraft and only the MIG 19’s were comparable to the Hunters. A quantitative tabulation of fighter assets is given in Table 3-1 below.

Table 3 – 1 : Comparison of the Fighter & Bomber Assets[2]

Deployment of Fighter/Bomber Assets

…it seems no intelligence assessment of what the PLAAF could/would deploy against India was undertaken in any professional manner.

Eastern Sector. Though the bulk of the Indian assets continued to be deployed against Pakistan, by 1960, the IAF had also deployed two Squadrons of Toofanis and Vampires each at Tezpur, Chabua, Jorhat and the Bagdogra Air Bases and in addition, two Squadrons of Hunters were also deployed nearby at Kalaikunda. The infrastructure was considered adequate to meet any threat in the east, and if the requirement came, additional assets could be made available from the aircraft deployed against Pakistan. On the other side, it was assessed that China would use her three airfields at Jeykundu (12,467 feet), Chamdo (10,597 feet) and Nachu (14,763 feet) in the east, though the utility of Nachu was limited due to its height. Lanchou, Zinning and Kunming were too far away from the front, hence they could not contribute directly but their use as feeder bases and for bomber and air transport roles remained significant. It can be seen from the heights of these airfields that the carrying capacity of aircraft would get affected. On the other side, the IAF had the distinct advantage of having bases at lower altitudes.

Western Sector. The Western sector had an edge over the eastern, since relocation of aircraft by the IAF for meeting the threats was easier. The airfields that China could use were Khotan and Kashgar and both were located at heights between 4000 to 5000 feet hence the payload factor was favourable compared to her airfields in the east. The Western Command assessment of 9 April, 1960 was that the Chinese could interfere with our own Air support operations as also carry out offensive air raids against our forward posts.[3] On the other hand, airbases like Leh, Thoise and Kargil, which were closer to Eastern Ladakh, could not support fighter operations. As a result, support had to come from the plains, restricting loiter time over the area and the striking range.

India grossly overestimated the capabilities of the PLAAF.

Threat Assessment

As tensions escalated, the Indians carried out an analysis on the capability of the PLAAF against India but unfortunately, this was based on imprecise intelligence and based on western inputs. In the words of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, “As regards the balance of air power, it seems no intelligence assessment of what the PLAAF could/would deploy against India was undertaken in any professional manner.”[4]He goes on to say that the assessment made was based on the aggregate ‘bean count’ without assessing the doctrine, strategy or calculation of the deployable air effort and useful payloads. It may be pertinent to point out that in 1962, the bulk of the PLAAF was deployed to meet the threat across the Taiwan Straits and therefore little effort and that too of dubious quality could have been brought to bear on India. However, to be fair, in 1962, the IAF, like the Army, had no institution where the employment of air power could be systematically analysed. The Intelligence Directorate of the Air HQ had no capabilities to assess the IB data, let alone make independent assessments. As a result, the assessment was alarmist and became one of the factors for the Indian decision to keep her fighter/bomber fleet grounded. This was to prove another monumental blunder for which India suffered.

Air Maintenance

India had failed to build up adequate ground infrastructure to counter the Chinese threat hence, the Army was forced to depend upon Air maintenance. However, the air effort possible could only meet only half of the requirement of the Army. The Indian transport aircraft holdings[5]are given in the table, and due to the paucity, requirements of the eastern theatre were outsourced to the ‘Kalinga Airlines.’

Table 3-2 : Transport Aircraft of the IAF in 1962

…the final decision not to use the Air Force offensively was taken after the Chinese had started their offensive and it was a decision ‘taken under the counsel of fears.

Helicopters. The first of the Helicopter Units had been set up in 1960 and by the time of war, India had three units. The Unit for Ladakh was equipped with the versatile MI-4 transport helicopter which proved invaluable for the movement of men and supplies. In fact, the first operational move of a company in helicopters in the Indian context was carried out by this unit. The other two units were deployed in the east and the third was being raised in Tezpur as late as September 1962 and had a mix of Bell G-3 and Alouette helicopters. These helicopters proved their weight in gold not only in the war but even after it.

Ground Support.The biggest problem the Air Force faced was the absence of ground support at the various ALGs used in the Ladakh sector and absence of radars and radio links were major limiting factors. That the Air Force managed so well in Chushul, Fuchke and later in DBO was indeed commendable. The Air Force was also short of Supply Dropping Equipment which restricted forward delivery.

Application of Offensive Air Power

The controversial Indian decision not to employ the Fighter/Bomber assets of the IAF has been analysed at some length by Air Commodore Jasjit Singh.[6]The underlying reasons as given by him that contributed to the decision of not using offensive air power are summarised:

It united the country in her darkest moments and gave birth to an India who at least temporarily, developed the will and the resilience for introspection.

  1. Lack of Intelligence of the Enemy Air Capability. India grossly overestimated the capabilities of the PLAAF. In that, quality of the air power and a realistic assessment of what China could deploy were not adequately considered.
  2. Desire to Prevent Escalation. The fear of avoiding a PLAAF backlash seems to have played heavily on the Indian leadership. The apprehension seems to have been fear of bombing of Indian cities and shooting down of transport aircraft. There was mixed counsel on the utility and effectiveness of close air support in jungle and mountainous terrain. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh has quoted Major General Palit, the DMO that as late as 2 May, 1962, the advice was that the Army should only ask for close air support when faced with the ‘distinct’possibility of a post being overrun. Militarily, this makes little sense as one can never wait for the situation to get out of hand and for exposed posts like those in Aksai Chin and Sumdo (Sugur Sector, adjacent to Ladakh), this was a recipe for disaster. Even the Director of Air Operations, Air Marshal H C Dewan, seems to have advised the Chief of Air Staff on the same lines.
  3. Lack of Jointness between the Army and the Air Force. The British had left behind a rich legacy of jointness between the Army and the Air Force and this had proved to be a major battle winning factor in the first Kashmir war. After the departure of Lord Auchinlek, the appointment of Supreme Military Cdr had lapsed by default. Thus the onus for joint planning for the higher direction of war fell on the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) and by default, the Committee, became the de-facto advisors to the DCC. Unfortunately, after the first Kashmir war, the system of the DCC itself was never revived, hence, even the COSC had not even met since 1959 and her two sub committees, including the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) had become non-effective.

The apprehension that the use of offensive air power would escalate the war seems to have been the major consideration. It appears that there always remained the hope that despite the skirmishes, the conflict would still not escalate to a full blown war. As per Palit, the final decision not to use the Air Force offensively was taken after the Chinese had started their offensive and it was a decision ‘taken under the counsel of fears. [7] Since no one was willing to predict an all-out offensive, use of offensive air support was not considered seriously. The underlying consideration being that India should not precipitate the situation under all circumstances. Once the offensive started, it seems that no one had time to review/reconsider this option. [8] Even the pacing out of the offensive as two distinct phases must have added to the dilemma for the proponents wanting to avoid further escalation.

War and peace: The India, China story

R eflections on the 1962 border conflict

The 1962 India-China border conflict is a classic case of misunderstandings, lack of effective communication and mutual mistrust.

In the initial stages, when the Chinese Aksai Chin highway was discovered, Nehru tried to play down the issue by stating in Parliament that Aksai Chin was a useless area where 'not a blade of grass grows'.

But soon the issue was seized by the opposition parties and Nehru was forced to take a stand. While the border tension was increasing, the situation in Tibet worsened and the Dalai Lama fled to India.

Given the ancient cultural linkages between Tibet and India and also Indian tradition of never refusing an asylum, Dalai Lama and his followers were given a refuge in India.

In 1960, King Mahendra of Nepal took over direct control of the government and when pressured by India to restore democracy, began to play the China card.

China escalated the border dispute by claiming the entire NEFA area and repudiated the MacMohan line.

Image: Nehru with the Dalai Lama

32 thoughts on &ldquo 1962: The Nehruvian Blunder &rdquo

Great article I feel that every year Geen kaul should be called and asked to speak at a public function and answer questions . People should remember him as the architect of 1962 loss and martyrdom of 8000 soldiers

I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.I know you spent a lot of time picking out the perfect gift for me and I feel blessed to have such a thoughtful friend in my life.

It is a good informative article specialty for UPSC Aspirant preparing Examination. Direction Institute for IAS Examination.

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Dear Sir
I read your article with great interest. I have minutely read the Arunachal front of 1962 in the book history of the 4th div of India. I too have visited most places of conflict in Arunchal as my father was posted there in late 80s. Though I could not make it to the army. I still at the age of 40 have a what if analysis tendency. Here is what I am asking you.
Lets assume the political leadership was not such timid, uneducated and head in the clouds as has been the case most of the time post independence.
I am creating a hypothetical situation as below and asking for your comments –
1- what is the ideology and directive of the Indian armed forces instead of being defensive was that of constant war. e.g taking back Kashmir and Gilgit in 47-49.
2 – what if the Indian army was equipped with american weapons instead of brit ones esp in Infantry and artillery ( M1 Grand, Browning (MMG & HMG), BAR Rifles, in place of .303 Bren Vickers etc) American winter equipment instead of old british ones. And that too assumption of being equipped to conduct offensive war.
3 – Army expertise in conducting asymmetrical or behind enemy line operations as a constant method of disrupting enemy. ( taken from Inchon landings of Americans in Korea could have been replicated in Sela, Tawang at Bn level and further east at Bde level or other fronts in Uttrakhand or Himachal ( obvious implication of competent mid and higher military leadership)
4- Using long range 155 mm American artillery in large or sufficient numbers along with additional 105 or 75 type mediums and 75mm RCL to supplant infantry fire power & expend more lead than men.
5- lastly definately using the airforce to para drop munitions and reinforcement even of biligured posts ( Dien Bien Phu type), strafe and cause attrition on enemy lines.

with all the above, what could have been the outcome of war
with India chosing not to have ceasefires but push Back, Bleed and destroy PLA beyond Lahsa and large parts of Tibet

“India had adequate army brigades in reserve to launch a counter attack in coordination with the Air Force. ” The Chinese had withdrawn to the pre-hostility lines. Launching of counter attack, in Nov end, without any build up was not possible. Air attacks would have met hardly any resistance, but what would have been the logic of using it when the Chinese had withdrawn after giving us a bloody nose. Air Force should have been used during the hostilities. Comments are requested.

One of the most well informed article on the 1962 Sino-Indian war concise, to the point and 100% objective sans any rhetorics.

I am a great admirer of you sir and a well wisher of India though Nepalese citizen our heart remains with India. If you please can elaborate why despite all the negligence from political and bureaucratic circle, Indian Army never objects to the political system that has literally handicapped them? No general except for VK Singh dared to challenge government. Don’t you think that this is a failure of the military leadership too?

Morarji Desai was the real culprit. He has exhausted India’s foreign currency reserve by insisting the India must import steel plants from Britain and Germany when it is getting one almost free from the USSR.
Morarji Desai as a Gandhian refused to provide enough moneies to the Ministry of Defence.
In March 1962 USSR was about to give India MIG fighter aircraft contract was signed but Morarji Desai objected.
Then he put all blame on Krishna Menon and got rid of him.

well i must say it’s a great article . nehru was a failed prime minister & this so called gandhi family is a shame for india .

Political leadership of Hindustan must remain vigilant of the War-mongering – Neo-Cons Soldiers, there will never be another free country for HINDU’S on the Globe.

Absolutely true and revealing .

The trouble is that proper defence requires competence and integrity. It also leaves less of the “Defence Budget” and other budgets for the Neta-Babus to put away in safe havens.

I didn’t feel bad, when I heard that India didn’t do well, ‘in perception’, during the China war. The fact is, Nehru wouldn’t have allowed the Indian Army inside Tibet. I really appreciate that idea. Nehru coined the term ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ when China was not in Tibet, and he didn’t know, that they would be facing the respective armies across the border. I don’t feel, loosing wars and battles for the Indian Army, says anything. For a real stark instance, the Indian Navy vessels are impressive, because one imagines sailors in them, particularly Indian. They seem to be of the exact same type, and this is very correct, because the ships know what each others capability are, but is is extremely boring, also. Perhaps, having Destroyers of a certain dated marque, isn’t the measure of any navy, and India has the fifth most powerful navy in the world, considering France or Britain, perhaps aren’t in the first five most powerful navies.

Nehru was utter failure as Indian priminister, if you look at the entire tenure he want to cut size the leaders he was felt threatend, because of him we are such a dire situation and even now and it continues with his dynasty

This is among the finest articles as any.

Very well presented. The only reservation I have is about the bringing in the Air Force since it is well known that in mountain terrain, air attack is not effective. The bombs and rockets invariably fall on slopes and thus fail to cause the destruction of the enemy. To hit the enemy with precision, the aircraft must be flying low in such environments and are then vulnerable to anti-aircraft guns which the Chinese had plenty in stock from the Korean war. That was the case with military technology in those years, but most of that is no more valid in modern air attack due to advance of technology. And one point missing here is that, when the war ended Nehru wrote to all nations of the world how the Chinese had back stabbed India. This made India a laughing stock in the international world. Nehru had also admitted much later on that he was under illusion. The tragic part is that any other self-respecting nation, like the European countries, would have kicked out Nehru from the Prime Minister’s position as soon as the drubbing of the Indian Army by the Chinese became clear, but nothing happened to Nehru. He continued as the Prime Minister, which confirms what a demoralized nation the Indians are.

you seem to me to be anti Nehru in all your analysis. That is the very basic blunder all the “Analysts” make. They begin with a preconceived notion and then merely fit the out of context facts to make a theory and present it as a treatise.

I agree Nehru did not do everything correctly during his military related decisions. But you forget the very basic fact in your very articulate Nehru-bashing… nobody at the time- least of all Army (brass)heads knew WHERE EXACTLY the border was. so Nehru solely cannot be blamed.

Because , in destroying Nahru’s iconic status , you are also destroying the very idea of a “national leadership”. And you are also destroying an International face that India has. The region-centric , language-centric and Ethno-centric Mafias of Maharashtra, Tamil nadu, UP et al. must be drooling on these foolish steps taken by the intelligence agencies.

Nehru is to Indian politics , what Tendulkar is to Indian Cricket. Tendulkar never was a match winner like Viv Richards, nor was he a match saviour like Gavaskar. But does that mean that you destroy him- tear him down for his “softness” or failures?

Remember … people like Tendulkar , Gandhi, Nehru , Washington , Lincoln, Churchill are merely Propoganda tools.

Washington was a slave owner and had a pathetic Military record. But the Americans still remember him as an embodiment of American values.

Churchill was a drunk and a war monger. If it weren’t for his war mongering and constant provocation, the War would never have taken place as the Germans never wanted war with Britain. In the end the British Empire was lost because of Churchill’s war mongering.
But the British don’t Bash Churchill .

You have only two pan-Indian and international faces of some reputation – Gandhi and Nehru. these are your soft power Aces. And you nuts are burning them cheaply
by writing some “Analysis” on matters that don’t matter anymore.

Nobody belittles Nehru contribution towards building of India, but we all blame him for his mistakes that have caused more lasting and adverse effects till today and continues to affect the lives of future generations of Indians to come.

Thus as more and more Indians become educated about his follies, the more and more he and his dynasty are deried and looked upon with disgust and hatred for all their greed for power and destruction of India at the altar of one family, called the Gandhi family .

very right… it must be acted upon… whata wrong with India… why you like defeat.. throughout history and in the future!! shame India.

Indeed, very fine analysis… it must be acted upon forthrightly.

A right caption after 50 years it was not a Himalayan blunder but a Nehrruvian blunder please keep on harping on this subject and the Kashmir so that the point is driven home and ingrained in the psyche of every common man. last but not the least why have you introduced this security CAPTCHA please let it be free comments onarticles are very important it broadens the thought procedure.

I have lot of respect for u and enjoy the articles you write from time to time. But u should not “villify” Pandit Nehru. Nehru was influenced by Western culture and expected that everyone will behave like Western people. He thought ppl are changing and moving towards civilised world. He was naive because he won independence struggle against a race (White) which was not barbaric. Had West wanted, they could have wiped out Asians from their lands and occupied it. (Just like Gen Tikka said for Bengalis – We need land not people). His Worldly understanding after being mentored by Gandhi was that Chinese are also changing the way Indians are. But alas, his innocence shocked him later. You can see in Asia, how muslim rulers have treated their own subjects including Chinese Mao who purged almost 50 millions of their own without blinking an eye.

My request to u is that u should potray Nehru as naive not someone who intrigued to see his own army defeated. After all you do not criticise your academically good child just because he was weak in few topics. You should look at Nehru’s overall work and his honest intentions.

Even Superhumans like Buddha have been criticised

All educated people know about the blunder but what about the majority who have been brain washed and the dynastic Goof coming in shortly God save us Indians

with only about two months for your prophecy to take place or become true but I think it has made an impact on the mind of Indians despite your goading no immediate steps have been taken to deal with the Chinese. i am now convinced that the Chinese will attack in near future.it is also heartening to note that you are becoming more vociferous that India should immediate steps to strengthen it self (Arre is anyone listening to Shri Bharat Verma) please keep it up for the sake of the Nation

This day of humiliation is for interrospection. I vividly remember as a child student how even the monthly salaries of the government employees were deferred till March 1963. We were in rented house and the owner filed eviction case on the ground of rent default. The grocery dealer was also refusing credit. The only assurance was my father and many others were government servants. Even schools threatened to remove us from rolls. We middle class families were made to feel like slum dwellers. Within five years, in the next general elections, the Congress Party lost two-thirds majority, and in 1969 due to death of President Zakir Hussain, in the Presidential elections, Prime Minister Indira supported Communist propped V.V.Giri, causing split in Congress and took Communist support. The communist resisted and ensured that no modernization of troops or weapons to be resorted then or ever. After the dissolution in December 1970, the Lok Sabha elections were held in 1971 reportedly with chemical treated ballots like elections in Communist Russia, where the CCCP used to win 97% votes and seats. The phoney internal emergency of 1975 had comunist support. From 1991 onwards the Congress Party’s survival was ensured by Comunists with outside support in the name of secularism. JNU was established in 1970 to ensure permanent churning out of communist ideologues. The communists opposed Pokharan-II of 1998. Their loyalties are always across the border. Their sypathies are always with traitors and saboteurs. The responsble sections of Media should expose these quislings and fifth columnists mercilessly, apart from making harsh and cruel assesments about all the guilty men of 1962.

Are we any better now? Many of us talk very blithely about an offensive capability against China. Even in military circles! If you deeply study the terrain on our borders what can our Mountain Strike Corps achieve? Axis and road denial is so easy with the current capabilities whom are we fooling except ourselves? Well it is better than nothing. I wish and hope that at least the military circles educate the Nation the amount of massive preparations required to at least pose a credible threat to China so that our political leaders don’t talk to China with their tail between legs and with trembling hands! We have to do lot of capacity building including a National Reserve and massive air-borne forces. It is sad even now our experts and politicians keep on fooling the people. Everything we have like our TA units or NCC are all half hearted affairs in which no one is sincerely interested. None of you talk about Chinese capabilities in the area when you talk of any thing. Whether it is airplanes or navy or even artillery guns. Why? Why don’t you say that while we have not been able to get even one Regiment of modern SP artillery China have gifted/exported five regiments of same to Bangladesh. The weakness is not only in politicians or Babus but also in you all . All of you informed experts would have failed the Nation if you do not educate the ordinary citizens like us.

exellent as always:) the first line itself is gr8 enough to deliver the necessary punch…that gives a whole new vision to look at china problem & that is exactly how we should think….

Lt. Gen. Thorat, then CNC Eastern command1958-60), in his auobiography ‘Majhi Shipaigiri'( in Marathi) has stated that he had prepared a detailed report of the Chinese activities in the area and predicted that the Chinese aggression would come around 1962.
Not only that he prepared and submitted this report to the then Def. min. Mr. Krishna Menon but also had devised a strategy on how to counter the same when it happens and further he demonstrated it through a live exercise ‘Operation Lal Qilah’.
As usual he was never entertained by the Def. Min.
He further tells that After the debacle Pt. Nehru asked who was the commander preceding the war and what had he done.
When in their meeting the Gen. told about the report and exercise Nehru was simply aghast and dumbstruck, since his beloved and genius Def. Min. had never showed the same.
These ‘Thorat Papers’ most probably are still classified, wrapped under the purported veil of secrecy even after fifty years. And are the lessions well learned? Well…….

Despite him being a Cavalry Officer at times i appreciate his views and this article is one such time

Nehru’s life long goal was to project himself as a world class statesman. In persuit of this ambition he compromised the interests of India. He did not persue India’s interests with the ruthlessness that was required of him. Tibet would have been a free country if Nehru had played his cards well. India could have a border with Afganistan if he had let the army take over Gilgat and Skurdu in 1948.That would have put a major dent in this unholy alliance between China and Pakistan. India can not undo what has been done. However do not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is where India needs people like Mr. Verma. Very well written article Sir.

India China War - 1962 AD

India China War of Ad 1962
By Colonel Yavesh Kushwaha (retd) Read the Original

The reason as to why the report (General Henderson Brooke's on the 1962 conflict) is not being made public is on account of the fear of the DEMOLITION OF ICONONIC and MESSIAH type image of NEHRU and his clan . I have read "INDIA's CHINA WAR" by Maxwell and also "HIMALYAN BLUNDER" by Brig Dalvi & "AN UNTOLD STORY" by disgraced General BM Kaul (a supply branch officer , ASC, who was of the same clan as Nehru). All these books obliquely point a finger at NEHRU & Krishna Menon. The question is WHO STARTED THE WAR? India Or China? No doubts China had disputed the acquisition of NEFA since the SHIMLA agreement. However, in the wake of "HINDI-CHINI BHAI BHAI" diplomacy of Nehru in mid & late 50s and his bonhomie with CHOU-EN-Lai from BANDUNG conference in 1954 had given an exalted image of self to NEHRU–who considered himself more as a WORLD leader and less as an Indian Leader. He ignored nibbling acts by the CHINESE when reported by Indian army. He dismissed these reports. It carried on till he hit a road block on CHINESE admancy to refuse to vacate encroachments beyond Mc Mohan line. he foolishly thundered to his PLIABLE GENERALS–PN THAPAR - BM KAUL & co: "EVICT THE CHINESE". When Thorat & LP sen refused such silly orders–BM KAUL–an ASC Officer–who had never commanded soldiers in combat–was sent TO EVICT THE CHINESE. This is what DALVI writes in his book. And these guys commenced their EVICTION ACT–and LO! CHINA STRUCK in a big way. So, who initiated the war WITHOUT PREPARATION? It was NEHRU and his defence Minister - Krishna Menon. when debacle hit us poor KRISHNA MENON became the scapegoat but NEHRU remained the ICON – he shouldn't have been. And the truth is being hidden by keeping secret Henderson Brooke's report. What HENDERSON BROOKE REPORT is all about is THE ILL PREPAREDNESS OF INDIAN ARMY vis-a-vis CHINESE ARMY and the role of INDIAN POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IN PUSHING THE ARMY INTO THIS DEBACLE THROUGH THEIR HAND-PICKED INCOMPETENT GENERALS.


  1. Hartun

    Where I can find it?

  2. Fitzjames

    In my opinion, you are making a mistake. Email me at PM, we will discuss.

  3. Kajisar

    Incomparable theme, I like :)

  4. Dael

    It's a shame!

  5. Mugul

    When the mermaid spreads Baba's legs to the platoon, it is easier for the regimental mare. A warning shot in the head. Heromantia is the name of a condom in ancient Greece. If you want to make friends, make them far away. Ivan Susanin. And they lived long and often. The gap justifies the means. Love at first sight

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