CHANDIGARH: The Indian Army was not equipped to handle the 1962 war with China with New Delhi closing its eyes to the looming threat from Beijing, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Saturday, and called on the present establishment to ensure that the forces are fully prepared now in view of fresh signs of aggression on the eastern border.
Blaming the then government for India's humiliating defeat in 1962, Amarinder Singh, himself an former army officer, said the entire atmosphere in New Delhi was then of negation, with nobody ready to believe that the Chinese invasion was imminent despite the signs being loud and clear.
Participating at a panel discussion on the "Sino-Indian Conflict 1962" on the concluding day of the two-day Military Literature Festival, the Chief Minister said in response to a question from senior journalist and moderator Vir Sanghvi that the war ended the way everyone had expected it to end.
Pinning the blame for the defeat on the "Forward policy" of the Indian government and its complete intelligence failure, he said with platoons being shifted by the then Defence Minister, sitting in New Delhi, the Indians did not go into the battle with adequate preparation.
Amarinder Singh agreed with a view expressed at the discussion that even one general could make a difference in a battle. With a pliant army chief, the political masters in Delhi put men of their choice in key positions, with even the Corps Commander handpicked by the government based not on competence but as a personal favour, he added.
It was a chaotic scenario, which ended as anyone would have expected it to end, he said, pointing out that all the brigade commanders were changed on the eve of battle.
The Indian soldiers were ill-equipped to fight, with no arms and ammunition, and in fact without rations and warm clothes to fight, he said, recalling that the soldiers were, at one time, surviving on water and salt.
The Chief Minister said though trends had changed and so had the style of army's functioning, the current situation at the border with China continued to be as volatile now as it was in 1962.
It was up to the government at the Centre to ensure that "our soldiers are properly equipped to counter the fresh threat", he said.
The 1962 war was a wake-up call for India, which should learn its lessons from the mistakes committed then, he added.