We didn't really learn from the debacle of 1962 - The New Indian Express

We didn't really learn from the debacle of 1962

Published: 06th November 2012 12:28 PM

Last Updated: 06th November 2012 12:28 PM

There is an old adage that those who do not learn from the mistakes and lessons of history are fated to repeat history. It is, therefore, only appropriate that over the past month there has been deep national introspection and discussion over what led to the national humiliation of India in the brief border conflict with China half a century ago. Just prior to the conflict India’s highly respected and indeed revered Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told the nation that he had directed the army to “throw the Chinese out”.

India was outgunned and outmanoeuvred by the Chinese, militarily and diplomatically. The better equipped and prepared Chinese also outnumbered Indian forces. Nehru proclaimed in 1959 that the Chinese were “unlikely” to invade India, because they knew that this would lead to a “world war”. He believed that a China faced with a growing rift with the Soviet Union and at odds with the US would just not go to war with India. The reality was different. The astute Chinese had secretly been told by the Americans in Warsaw in June 1962 that they would not intervene in the event of escalation of tensions with India. The Soviet Union was immobilised by the Cuban missile crisis. The much-touted “nonaligned friends” of India remained passive spectators, professing total neutrality in India’s hour of need.

Fifty years later, China has emerged as the second largest economy in the world, far outpacing India in its economic power. Militarily, it has 400,000 troops in regions just across India’s borders. It has improved road and rail communications into Tibet and close to India’s borders. It has moved far ahead of us in key areas like space and cyber security. Diplomatically, China has adopted a strategy of “containment” of India by moving in aggressively with economic and military assistance to India’s neighbours, across South Asia and the Indian Ocean. China is continuing nuclear weapons, missile and defence collaboration with Pakistan.

It is expanding its role in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It has consistently sought to undermine India’s Look East policies by efforts like seeking to block India’s entry into the East Asia Summit. It has attempted to prevent the NSG from giving India a waiver on nuclear energy cooperation.

India can make use of China’s differences with virtually all its neighbours, from Japan and South Korea to Vietnam and the Philippines and its growing differences with the US to balance Chinese pressures in its immediate neighbourhood. It can also build up offensive military capabilities to deter any Chinese adventurism. But China is now posing a serious challenge by building political and business lobbies in India. This was evident from the manner in which certain “fraternal” political parties lobbied strongly to allow more and more Chinese workers entry into India, instead of insisting that like other foreign partners the Chinese should use Indian labour and technical personnel for their projects in India.

The two major strategic sectors where the Chinese are using Corporate India to promote their interests are electronics and power. Given China’s cyber capabilities, excessive Chinese penetration of these sectors can have serious consequences for energy and communications security.

Chinese equipment accounted for 39.4 per cent of additional power capacity during the 11th Plan. Apart from being of relatively poor quality, Chinese power equipment supplies come with no transfer of technology, or investment in equipment and spares manufacturing capabilities in India. In telecommunications, Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE dominate the supply of electronics equipment to India.

We need to review and modify our import duties in strategic sectors and rapidly expand manufacturing of power equipment. Like Taiwan and South Korea, India will have to formulate policies for rapidly developing capabilities in semi-conductor design, IT systems and hardware and telecom products and equipment.

Continuing dependence of imports from China in these sectors can have dangerous long-term economic and strategic consequences.

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