Editor's Note: The Indo China War of 1962 is once again in the news with articles from knowledgeable and well read army veterans appearing in the online editions of various magazines and newspapers. Lt Gen HS Panag's piece published by The Print on 12 Nov 22 drew the attention of several veterans who responded to it to convey their intimate knowledge of the subject and related less / unknown issues. These responses are published to give the readers all the different perceptions on the subject and linked issues. It is left to the readers to peruse these responses and draw their own conclusions. The Henderson Brooks Report supposedly contains everything about the 1962 Himaalyan Blunder but unlikely to be revealed to the public in larger national interest. Hence, the keen reader and analyst will have to rely on what several authors ,writers, reporters and respondents have said or written about this subject for past 60years.
Readers are most welcome to share their views, perceptions and deep insight of the subject and related issues to take the debate forward.
Trigger: Many factors led to Army giving up in 1962. But psychological collapse played a big role, published at The Print, on November 17, 2022.
Responses to the Article
Col. Rajinder Kushwaha (Retd)
Unfortunately, we forget that debacle of 1962 lay in politico- military inaction since July 1962, when China had surrounded a Indian Gorkha Company, deployed in Galwan Valley. Between July and October 1962, Military Generals as well as political leadership had ignored the warning signals of the war coming since 1954. It culminated into Chinese military action in Galwan on 06 July 1962.
The Galwan River Valley was the flash point of 1962 war. In its 1959 claim line China had claimed the entire valley up to Shyok River confluence of the Galwan River. The Valley became a flashpoint after China constructed a road between Xinjiang and Tibet, without India's consent. The highway is now known as G219. After building the road, the Chinese lay a claim to the area, first in 1959.
The Galwan valley, then, was defended by a company of Gorkha regiment of Indian Army in 1962 after China had constructed G219 through Aksai Chin.
And then suddenly this Gorkha locality, was surrounded by PLA on 06 July 1962. The brave Gorkha troops remained cut off for three months. On 04 October 1962, a Company of 5 JAT was sent to reinforce this Gorkha Company by Indian Army. PLA fired on this company and killed 36 men of the JAT company. This was the start point of 1962 war .
How ridiculous that Generals do not talk about this incident because it puts the blame totally on army for its enchanted sleep. Generals then were busy manipulating against each other. Read Jai Ram Ramesh’s Book on VK Krishna Menon - pages 510– 515 , expose , KS Thimaiyya, JN Chaudhry , PN Thapar and BM Kaul . No body paid attention to Galwan incident and plight of poor Gorkha Coy and 36 Jawans of 5 JAT who were butchered. Even in early October we failed to see the war clouds . Any discussion of 1962 war debacle must begin with Galwan incident and Construction of road, G 219 ( Tibet Highway) through Aksai Chin and Sakshgam valley (ceded by Pakistan to China in 1960). Without it debate and discussion is incomplete.
Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma (Retd)
Any discussion on 1962 must also include that from 1947 to 1954 there was no eastern Ladakh border. Three reprints of maps by Survey of India showed ‘undemarcated border’. In 1954, PM before Chou’s visit wrote a note to Secy Gen of MEA to get the border marked as per Ardagh Johnson line ,arbitrarily. A Border line is between two parties. The PM decided on his own. The Brit’s had not handed over any EL Border! Before Jairam Ramesh please read MEA historian AS Bhasin’s books. They are the best repository of duly referenced history.
Also Galwan River Valley and Galwan post in Depsang Plateau are two different entities. The Gorkha-Jat incident happened at Galwan post.
Brig. Sarvesh Dangwal (Retd)
Apropos Lt Gen Panag's article in the Print and comments offered by Col. RS Kushwaha and Lt Gen. Rakesh Sharma on the same. It is 60 years since the '62 Sino Indian War happened. The reasons for the military debacle were couched in factors as have been articulated and expounded by research scholars/ military historians/military personnel/ political commentrators/defence journalists and aggregated comprehensively. The reasons for the diplomatic/ political and military failures are recorded in authentic archival documents and there is no dispute on these. Lt Gen. Panag's article is an apt summation of these happenings and brings into main focus the adverse psychological impact of these failures at all levels of Government including the military and which engendered a humiliating defeat for the military.
Col. Rajinder Kushwaha (Retd)
It is time to know Indian confusion about own claim lines in Ladakh and western Sector. We base our claims on 1865 JONATHAN LINE which Britain had abandoned in 1899 and adopted McCartney line which excluded Aksai Chin.
Indian claim is along the Jonathan Line of 1865. WH Jonathan was a civil servant in the survey of India. He had drawn a line along the KUNLUN mountains to describe the border of J& K state with Tibet. Immediately, Maharaja of J&K established a Fort at Sahiddulla ( Xaidulla now) and occupied it. This includes the Aksai Chin area of some 36000 Sq KMs.
However Tibet had recaptured it in 1870. Then a Kashgar Governor in 1899 suggested a line along Laktasang Ridge to British representatives,. It is called McCarteny Line — which runs west of present Western Highway from North of Lanka La through Sumdo to Karakoram pass
However Britain in 1914 withdrew the Boundary further East along the Karakoram range and gave this area to Tibet. This action left Aksai Chin entirely to Tibet. Strange again that JL Nehru accepted Chinese suzerainty over Tibet but in 1954 ordered to include Aksai Chin in Indian maps. Such a confusion occurs when one is clueless about ground situation. When in 1962 China annexed it, he dismissed as the land where not a blade of grass had grown. This is when Mahavir Tyagi had taunted him about his baldness of the head and cutting it.
Chinese claim Line of 1960 includes the areas it had captured in September 1962 — These areas run along a line from Khuranak fort in the south to Karakoram pass in the North through Dambu Guru - Kongka La - Shamal Lungpa- Dehra Compass- keeping Galwan River / Depsang Plains to the west and Chip chap river to the east to karakoram Pass.
The area opposite the above Chinese claim line is Chumar—Chushul -Pangong Tso—Shyok River — Galwan River confluence with Shyok River -Daulat Beg OLDI ( DBO ).
Brig. BL Poonia (Retd)
No claim on any territory gets justified, just by drawing boundary lines unilaterally. The Johnson-Ardgah Line of 1865, which includes Aksai Chin in India was only one of the proposed boundary lines drawn by the British, to which the Chinese had never even replied. Had it been a British territory, the British would have fought it out to occupy it; at least would have made an attempt to do so. Now India claiming Aksai Chin, based on that Line is not justified in any manner.
Similarly, the British never even attempted to occupy NEFA either, because the 1913 'Tripartite Simla Conference' between China, Tibet and Britain had failed, since China did not accept the British proposal of McMahon Line. Those days China exercised suzenerity over Tibet, the way India did over J&K after independence till abrogation of Article 370, where J&K could not make any bilateral Treaty with Pakistan or China, since Defence, Foreign Policy and Communications were controlled by India. If it was not so, why was China invited ? Hence, the 'Secret Bilateral Treaty' on McMahon Line between Britain and Tibet, later signed in Delhi in 1914 was completely illegal. That is why it was kept secret, and that's precisely the reason as to why British never even made an attempt to occupy NEFA. NEFA was occupied by India only in 1951, based on this secret Treaty, and China didn't object to it because she wanted a peaceful settlement of the borders. Those days the efforts were on to have good bilateral relations with India. Both the countries had signed the 'Panchsheel Treaty' on 29 Apr 1954, and 'Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai' exhibited the real spirit of friendship. China did not cheat India in any manner. The problem was created by India when she discovered the construction of Aksai Chin Highway by China in 1959 through press reports. The construction had in fact commenced in 1956, but India didn't know about it. Now India claimed Aksai Chin and objected to the construction of the Highway. The entire nation was made to believe that the Highway had been constructed in Indian territory, and the public pressure was built up against the government through the Press and the Parliament, to evict the Chinese from Aksai Chin. The fault laid squarely with Nehru.
During the April-1960 visit of the Chinese delegation to Delhi, Chou En-lie said, "You keep NEFA and we keep Aksai Chin, and you also keep anything that is in dispute, and occupied by neither." The Communists suggested Nehru to accept this proposal but the Jan Sangh was swayed by political rehtoric, saying, "We will not give an inch of our territory."
China wanted to ratify the border Treaty with India so that peace prevails on her frontiers. She had just done so with Burma before coming to India, where she gave more territory to Burma than what she had received. She did so with Pakistan too. In fact, she had done so with most of her neighbours, only to buy peace, and it is on record even in ARTRAC literature. But Nehru was adamant and Morarji Desai even misbehaved with the Chinese delegation. He wanted to cut Nehru to size, and he succeeded in his game plan.
Nehru made fun of the Apr-1960 Chinese delegation, in the Parliament. He believed that the nine-tenth of the territorial claim was justified by physical occupation. Hence , he commenced his 'Forward Policy' during the winter of 1961-62, through which the Indian Army started occupying Aksai Chin in bits and pieces, and established 40 Indian posts in Aksai Chin, against the active objections of Lt Gen. Daulat Singh, the Army Commander Western Command, and established 24 posts along the McMahon Line against the spirit of April 1960 Delhi Talks.India also established an Assam Rifles post called 'Dhola Post' across McMahon Line in the Kameng Frontier Division of NEFA in the Chinese territory, even against the objections of Lt Gen Umrao Singh, GOC 33 Corps. When Chinese came to up to Thagla Ridge (their own territory) to protest against the establishment of Dhola Post in their territory, Nehru through Menon, ordered the Indian Army to throw out the Chinese from Thagla Ridge, because once again Nehru had drawn unilateral boundary line showing Thagla Ridge in India. As per the McMahon Line, Thagla Ridge was atleast five kms across the McMahon Line.
And thus it became the trigger for the 1962 war with China. India's occupation of NEFA was courtesy China's good will, since China wanted a peaceful resolution of her border problems. Now since India claims Aksai Chin, China claims NEFA. If India gives up her claim over Aksai Chin, China will give up her claim on NEFA. It's reciprocal.
India's claim over Aksai Chin is not justified in any manner. The whole nation has been misled to believe that China is the aggressor. The truth needs to be told. But who will tell the truth ? In fact, the truth lies buried in 'Henderson Brooks Report', which no govt in power, including the BJP government dares to declassify. Declassification of the Report will expose India's unjustified misadventure both in Aksai Chin as well as NEFA, using Forward Policy as an instrument to give expression to its misadventure, presuming China to be militarily weak. The IB Chief, Mr Bhola Nath Mulik was instrumental in making Nehru believe so. India was squarely at fault.
Three persons responsible for this unpardonable 'Himalayan Blunder' were Nehru, Krishna Menon and Bhola Nath Mulik. The other three, succumbing to Nehru and Menon's unjustified political pressure were Gen Thapar, the Army Chief, Lt Gen Sen, Army Commander Eastern Command, and Lt Gen Kaul, the Corps Commander of a non-existent, newly created Corps (4 Corps), out of 33 Corps. He was Nehru's man, a politically sponsored Corps Commander, tasked to throw out the Chinese from the Thagla Ridge, which Lt Gen Umrao Singh had refused to do so, since militarily it was an impossible task. Hence he was sacked. But Lt Gen Kaul, aspiring to succeed Gen Thapar as Army Chief, volunteered for the suicidal expedition. The Army Chief should have refused to succumb to the political pressure and taken a moral stand in the interest of the Indian Army. He could have even resigned and sent a strong message to the entire nation. Thus he could have avoided the Himalayan Blunder, and saved the image of the Indian Army and the honour of the nation. But 'Moral Courage' was something, totally missing.
Hence let's not blame China for the 1962 debacle. China was fed up of all these military gimmicks and Nehru's political shenanigans, hence launched a massive counter-offensive both in Ladakh and NEFA Sectors, occupied all her claim areas, declared a unilateral ceasefire, and voluntirily withdrew to pre-war positions, and invited India for settlement of border disputes. It was a punitive military expedition by China to drive home a strong message that boundary disputes cannot be settled through use of force. We all need to remember this precious lesson.
(Views expressed are the respondent's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)