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Founding Editor view on India-China Balance Today

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Anniversaries are always something to savour, reminisce, enjoy and to learn from. And more so when it relates to military anniversaries. For these are occasions for the young to gain inspiration and the nation to acknowledge the sacrifices of its braves. Veterans get to be recognised on these days, these ceremonies. Even if they’re forgotten for the rest of the year. Memorials are decorated and the citizenry of India feel as one with those who aren’t with them anymore. These are essential blocks of the nation building process, one of pride and association. Alas, none of this can be said for the memories of the 1962 War.

It was a war that needn’t have been fought. It was a war into which late Jawahar Lal Nehru dragged India, unprepared and confused. The result of which has been that India is still living in a denial about the war. Of course India lost the war, of that there is no doubt. But it was a war, even if India had to fight it, in which victory was possible if the Prime Minister of India and his military leadership been prepared for a fight. That wasn’t the case and till today the country has a skewed sense of the war, mixing up history with emotion.

The genesis of the war is the McMahon Line and China’s misgivings with it as far as India was concerned. It was in the process of, or had already agreed with, other countries afflicted by the same Line. In India’s case there was a hesitation and that was on account of the peculiar politics of PM Nehru. On the one hand he would bend over backwards to please Beijing, when India declined permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council because China was not a member (!), or shutting down India’s consulate in Lhasa; while on the other he would give refuge to the Dalai Lama and appear as the champion of Tibetan rights. This mixed up sense of self and of India’s place under the sun, pushed China into a position that needn’t have been the result in any case.

It is a fact that the Chinese did more to avoid conflict than the supposedly peace loving and non-aligned Nehru. But such was the self-image of Nehru that he wouldn’t believe India was walking into an abyss. Surrounded by those who didn’t know better, Nehru pulled and pushed India into a crisis that needn’t have been the end result. Incompetent military leadership and insufficient military advice compounded the errors. The saga of Lt. Gen Kaul has been much written that there is no reason to repeat it here. Suffice to say that whoever advised and somebody did, that the Air Force should not be used, was fit for a court martial and worse. At the end of the day all that separated India from at least a stalemate, if not a victory knicked out of the jaws of defeat, was the fact that Nehru did not think air-power should be used ‘since it would escalate the conflict’. A bizarre logic as ever existed.

The end result being that India is still to fight the ghosts of the defeat of 1962 and realise that China is no greater than our own country. The determining difference then and now, is only the quality of leadership, civil or military.


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