Skip to main content

Despite 1962 debacle, Nehru stated India’s position upfront. Will Modi come clean?

By Anand K Sahay*
One can perceive some important similarities between the border situation with China under Prime Minister Narendra Modi now, and the one that obtained in the tenure of the country’s first leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, leading eventually to the month-long clash in 1962 in which the Indian forces were routed, though they showed determination in icy conditions, and rare courage.
But there is also a major fundamental difference that highlights leadership qualities in one case and not the other, that privileges the idea of not shirking the responsibility of advancing the country’s claims even in the face of a military reverse, as Nehru showed. For China, this never ceased to be a matter of anxiety, in spite of its formidable military capability.
Here is the principal similarity between then and now. In 1962, in the western (Ladakh) sector and the eastern (North-East Frontier Agency) sector, the Chinese presented a vast array of forces and an assemblage of armament long before battle was joined, taking us by surprise. In 2020, a military confrontation may not materialise, but the Chinese have evidently prepared for one over a long period of time, catching the Indian side wholly unawares.
Unlike 60 years ago we now have satellite imagery, enough fighting forces on the ground, and infrastructure and logistics right up to the Line of Actual Control, in addition to functioning airfields and suitable aircraft all across the Chinese front. But none of this has removed the factor of surprise.
In sum, in spite of the continual and rapid build-up in our state of preparedness, especially in the last 15 years, we were not prepared. We were found wanting when the crunch came. We were presented with a fait accompli, with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossing our front yard and knocking on our door in the Galwan River Valley, the north bank of the Pangong Lake, and apparently yet again in the Depsang Plains, from where we had obliged them to vacate in 2013.
These locations of Chinese penetration prejudice our security inordinately and in a deeply disturbing way in that, if the PLA were to have its way, our base at Daultat Beg Oldie, which is practically the north-eastern- most tip of the former Jammu & Kashmir state (now in the Union Territory of Ladakh) still under our jurisdiction, can be cut off and be severely compromised.
This base affords us the geographical lookout to the Karakoram Pass to the east, and to the west to Gilgit (through which China’s vital road to the Gwadar Port crosses), and is in close proximity of the Siachen Glacier. A key consideration that lends great strategic value to this area is that this is the one region where the military forces of China can physically unite with Pakistan’s against India.
Nehru came under sharp criticism by leading politicians, including those in the Congress, yet held week-long session of Parliament amidst military reverses in Himalayas
Although the facts are not entirely clear on account of the government keeping a tight lid on them, it is hard to believe that reporting on China’s military build-up in Ladakh (and elsewhere) by our intelligence and military system will have failed in its entirety -- to such a degree that the higher military command and the political masters in Delhi won’t get a whiff of it (as had evidently happened in the case of Kargil when the Pakistanis penetrated fairly deep without New Delhi knowing).
To effectively prepare for the worst case scenario, and in order to maximise our state of security readiness, it is critical to go on asking the right questions and task independent experts without losing time to present a report to Parliament within a tight time-frame, in weeks, not months, since time is of the essence as there is a long summer ahead, which may be ideal to initiate hostilities from the Chinese end, or conceivably our own.
In case of a confrontation with a foreign power, the country will stand four square behind our armed forces and the government, but to give confidence to the country the government must give the people transparency- and that does not mean opening out operational secrets.
Modi can take a leaf out of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s book in this regard, and in respect of stating this country’s position upfront, as Nehru did in his continual communication with his Chinese counterpart Chou En-Lai before, during and after China’s invasion across our frontier in 1962. Now it is quite apparent that Prime Minister Modi failed to broach the border question with Chinese President Xi Jinping in any substantive fashion in his numerous meetings with Xi.
The two so-called “informal summits” (Wuhan and Mahabalipuram), after the 2017 Doklam crisis, had been proposed by the Indian side but evidently turned out to be wasted opportunities. As a country, we need to know what their purpose was, besides being photo-ops to build the image of the two leaders.
In spectacular contrast -- and this is the real difference between 1962 and now -- Nehru maintained strategic communication, detailing points of India’s core security interests, not only with the adversary but also with the people of India. He came under sharp criticism by leading political figures, including in his own Congress party, and yet held a week-long session of Parliament while the disastrous military conflict in the Himalayas was on. More than 150 MPs participated in the debate.
Nehru presented White Papers to Parliament in this period on India’s and China’s actions, and on November 14 a resolution was passed, reaffirming India’s claim to Aksai Chin. Nehru accepted the Colombo Proposals of early 1963- for the two armies to withdraw 20 km and to fill the gap with civilians (police)- only after India’s position on territory was lodged with China yet again.
In his June 19 meeting with opposition parties, Modi stated -- whether he knowingly dissembled or not is not clear -- that Chinese forces had not entered the Indian side. He was not upfront with the country. Beijing took advantage of his statement and immediately made an official claim to the Galwan River Valley.
It must be clearly understood by the country -- not just the government -- that the 1962 debacle was on account of severe troops shortage, with the Indians being outmanned one to five, a serious equipments shortage, and absence of supply lines in the high mountainous terrain. These do not hold good now.
---
*Senior journalist based in Delhi. A version of this article first appeared in “The Asian Age”

Comments

TRENDING

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Alleged killing of another Bangladesh youth inside Indian territory: NHRC inquiry sought

By Kirity Roy* There was yet another incident of the killing of a Bangladeshi youth by the Border Security Force personnel attached with ‘Barthar’ BOP of ‘G’ Company of 75 BSF Battalion. In last five years several incidents of killings happened under this police station’s jurisdiction and the cases will get the award as “Not Guilty” as usual.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Modi model, Hindutva icon 'justified' alliance with Muslim League before Independence

By Shamsul Islam*  Our PM describes himself as ‘Hindu’ nationalist and member of RSS. He proudly shares the fact that he was groomed to be a political leader by one of the two fathers of the Hindutva politics, MS Golwalkar (the other being VD Savarkar) and given the task of establishing Hindutva polity in India after eradicating secularism.

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.