Can the history of our humiliation at the hands of China in 1962 repeat itself?
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the humiliation next month, we have to analyse this question in depth in our governmental national security community as well as outside. It is important for the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) to organise a series of brainstorming on this subject with the participation of experts on China from the government and outside.
The starting-point of such a brainstorming has to be a presumption that the present efforts to solve our border dispute with China through talks may not succeed and that we may be confronted with a fresh military confrontation in the future.
Should such a confrontation arise, are we better prepared to face it today than we were in 1962? If not, what are the deficiencies still existing and how to remove them?
It is important for us to objectively identify the factors that led to the 1962 humiliation and examine to what extent they have been removed. It is also important to foresee what kind of new factors not seen in 1962 could arise and what implications they could have for our capabilities.
It is my view that our ability to prevent another humiliation in future would depend upon our trans-Himalayan military strategy and capability as it did in 1962. The roles of the Army and the Air Force in such a strategy will be pre-eminent. The role of the Navy will be marginal. It will be our trans-Himalayan strategic mindset and tactical thinking that will determine the future course of any new military confrontation with China as it did in 1962.
I would identify the following as the basic causes of our humiliation of 1962:
My assessment of the present position regarding these factors is as follows:
Two new factors that have made their appearance since 1962 have not received adequate attention in our national security community:
In 1962, the entire North Myanmar was a political, administrative and military vacuum. The Myanmar government presence has since improved in the Rakhine (old Arakan) and Chin areas bordering Bangladesh, but remains the same in the Kachin state bordering Yunnan. The Kachin state and Yunnan are very important in any trans-Himalayan military strategy. We continue to neglect these two important regions from the point of view of our intelligence coverage as we were doing before 1962. The Kachin state is important for defending our Northeast in any new confrontation with China. The Rakhine state is important for our Indian Ocean objectives and our energy security.
I do not consider it necessary to touch upon the nuclear aspect in this analysis. It has to be discussed in camera.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.
The Chinese are not perhaps in Tibet, because it will be easy to come to the foothills from the mountains, when the Indian Army is already at an altitude much lower than Tibet. The Chinese were perhaps feeling that Tibet and India must perhaps not be seen in the same perspective. The people at the border have the same ethnicity, as it seems very obvious. This would have been true, even before the Indian war with China, in the past.
There are 2 factors which led to the debacle of 1962
1. Nehru, whose ideological blinkers prevented him for seeing China's aggressive intent
2. The armed forces were neither equipped nor trained for Himalayan warfare.
Today. the armed forces are far better prepared. Yet, our spineless and ignorant political class do not give the requisite support. When they wanted to raise additional divisions, the finance ministry shot down the proposal citing financial constraints. The foreign ministry is objecting to proposals to build critical infrastructure like roads and airfields without which it will be tough to move troops and equipment rapidly, because they do not want to incur Chinese displeasure. When reports have filtered in of the construction of dams on the Brahmaputra, the Chinese deny it and our Foreign Minister blindly accepts it in spite of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary from satellite imagery.
As for the question whether 1962 can happen again, the answer is a resounding yes. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
This is one of the best analysis of Mr. Raman on China.
The element of surprise will always be there in a war but we are really very ill-equipped in the case of China. Chinese language skills among Indian community is very poor or hardly available because police department start investigating the persons who try to learn Chinese language !!! this may be unbelievable for some people but it is true.
Our political machinery is so scared of their own shadow that it suspects everyone as Maoist particularly if he or she tries to learn Chinese language. This is the most miserable situation for a democratic country. Even getting Chinese magazines by post is highly suspicious activity in the eyes of Govt. !!!
Chinese air force has had been very weak and it is weak in skills and advanced air craft even now. It was weak even in 1962 and Mr.Krishna Menon or the General’s idea of not using Indian Air Force was the biggest mistake.
We had sure learned from it and from day one , IAF was brought in to action in the Kargil war which also looked like a simple border squirmish at least in the beginning.
Chinese are firming up their strength of Air Force. For all these years , India followed a stupid policy of not laying roads in border areas with China , particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. The idea was to use only helicopter forces ( by us) and stop Chinese advances or slow them down and finish them in case they could penetrate inside Indian territory. The logical force for such a stupid policy is from the example of world war II where Nazi forces could be stopped 20 km from Moscow because of no roads and harsh weather. This is the height of stupidity because in modern times an helicopter can airlift even a military tank !! and the enemy can make rapid movements without any roads.
Chinese like Indian Forces started acquiring a large number of helicopters to transport troops from one side of theater ( of war ) to another which would be most important in case of intelligence failure to access enemy's movement. A war all along the border anywhere in the world is highly impossible and to imagine such a situation could be a joke. Chinese acquisition and training of large number of helicopters is very much understandable.
1) light weight artillery which can be air lifted by helicopters. The artillery guns should be capable of firing targets at 25km at least. Bofors guns fire 25km and can also fire up to 40 km from heights but they cannot be transported by Helicopters and hence the urgent need for lightweight guns.
2) two more mountain divisions( approx. 50,000 troops) were needed and also planned but it is still at the level of discussions. !!!
3) In 1962 all military posts were manned ( at short notice) because Chinese were occupying large areas almost every day and if we did not claim and set up a border post their incursions on daily basis never abated. It was political decision of Nehru's Govt.
But practically at military level it was thought or imagined (wrongly) that Pakistan would join with China ( their friendship is not a new one at all, read history ) and hence , the troops manning Pakistan borders were not transferred to China border even when there was a dire need !!! .
And on the China border side , troops as low as 12 members ( not one or two but many of them ) were stationed at the border posts !!! . Chinese attack forces in large numbers first warned Indian soldiers to leave border posts ( obviously because we were very few to defend) and then they charged ( attacked). Most of our military posts were allowed to withdraw and regroup ( in the middle of war !!! ) and some military posts or their commanders decided to stay and they fought until last drop of blood and last bullet.
Surprising as it may seem, Pakistan refused to join hands or cooperate with Chinese during 1962 war !! . Obviously we misunderstood Pakistanis.
After war started we imported Korean blankets and sweaters for the army !!!. Most of the troops on the border did not even have SLR rifles. In the middle of war Americans dropped a huge cache of small arms like SLR guns and machine guns out of pity and kind heartedness !! . One must believe this because it was true. American population considered this akin to pearl harbour tragedy and American Govt. pandered to this sentiment.
So, lack of troop strength can happen even now !! that is our fate. At least two more mountain divisions must be immediately raised because Pakistan this time might join hands with China. Probably for lack of any other alternative !! . According to news, recently Indian army recruited 35000 soldiers and trained them specially for mountain warfare. The requirement of 2 more divisions is in addition to this.
Yes 1962 will be repeated .And we will be end up in same miserable condition. Because like 1962 Congress has for decades even failed to give the the latest rather even basic replacements for the obsolete Defense equipments.
Govt is short of funds as usual .
The idea of defence, perhaps is rooted in the belief, that attack is not the best form of defence. The idea, that attack is the best form of defence is contradictory, and it seems to want to convince itself. If a defending army, feels it is attacking, then anything could be the result. The great arsenals in the world, were developed, because the armies would be safe from attack. Hitler was a gambler. He made a great army in a short period, and attacked nations with greater resources who could field greater armies, if they so desired. His idea was to overwhelm nations, when their armies were not expecting war, or were not desirous of fighting a war.
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