1962: A Chinese View to a Kill - The New Indian Express

1962: A Chinese View to a Kill

Published: 12th April 2014 12:44 PM

Last Updated: 12th April 2014 12:42 PM

As Nehru altered the de facto line of control in the forward areas with China, Beijing was scrupulously clear that it would not fire the first bullet at what it regarded was India’s blatant aggression. By the end of June 1962, says John Garver (China’s Decision for War with India), who has perused Chinese declassified records and other publications, “Indian foreign office reported that Indian forces had brought under control more than 2,000 sq. miles of Chinese claimed territory.” The Chinese had been responding to Nehru’s forward policy with what Mao called “armed coexistence”. The Chinese perception is critical, especially given New Delhi’s lack of transparency in this regard.

According to Maj. Gen. (Retd) PJS Sandhu, who has written a number of papers for the United Services Institute (USI), the Chinese Central Military Commission (CMC) had issued strict terms of engagement with India. Telling is his paper 1962: War in the Western Sector (Ladakh) A view from the Other Side of the Hill published a few months ago in the USI journal. He has reconstructed the events after going through Chinese accounts, talking to people who took part in the operations, the Indian Prisoners of War. Under CMC guidelines, Chinese troops were directed, “Firstly follow the principle of not firing the first bullet; adopt the measure of ‘you encircle me, I encircle you; you cut me off, I cut you off’. Secondly, if the Indian forces attack us, warn them, if warning is ineffective time and again carry out self-defence. While laying siege of Indian forces try not to kill them; leave a gap for Indian forces to retreat. If the Indian forces try to fee, let them flee, do not stop them. If Indian troops do not withdraw, then stalemate them.” The Chinese had a game plan but wanted to avoid premature commencement of hostilities. They were busy consolidating, opening roads, deploying more forces, armaments.

By the end of July, says Henderson Brooks, there were some 36 new posts which “obviously further dispersed our meagre resources and depleted our strength in vital bases. Thus, whereas we needed added strength at our bases to back up the new posts, we now had weakness”. Maj. Gen. Sandhu notes, “By the end of September 1962 Chinese had set up 57 posts in key areas and Indians had set up 77 out of which 43 were considered as intrusions by the Chinese”. Brooks in his report says the Indian deployment was essentially that of showing the flag rather than for fighting. The troops were being pushed forward even without the back-up deployment of (at least) a division which was felt as the minimum to meet the Chinese threat in Ladakh a requisition that had been submitted as late as September 1961 but which was not forthcoming. At a meeting in PMO on November 2, 1961, the IB director declared that Chinese were not likely to use force against our posts even if they were in a position to do so. (The Military Intelligence was convinced of the opposite.)

With the two sides eyeballing each other, a number of firing incidents took place, four of them in July; on July 22, according to Brooks, “discretion was given to all post commanders to fire on the Chinese, if their posts were threatened. Tension had reached a pitch were a small incident would spark off widespread hostilities”. Was India prepared for what was to follow?

Sudarshan is most recently author of Adrift


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