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Sino-Indian War

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Template:NPOV Template:Unreferenced Template:ChineseText Template:IndicText Template:Infobox Military Conflict The Sino-Indian Border War (Hindi: भारत-चीन युद्ध Bhārat-Chīn Yuddha; Simplified Chinese: 中印边境战争; Traditional Chinese: 中印邊境戰爭; pinyin: Zhōng-Yìn Biānjìng Zhànzhēng), began on 10 October 1962. It was triggered by a dispute over the Himalayan border in Arunachal Pradesh (which is called South Tibet in China) between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of India. Another battlefield was Aksai Chin, which was claimed to be strategic for the PRC, as it enabled a western connection (China National Highway G219) between the Chinese territories of Tibet and Xinjiang. The war ended when the Chinese unilaterally declared a ceasefire on 20 November 1962, to go into effect at 00:00 21 November 1962, after defeating India in both disputed areas.

The Sino-Indian War is one of the largest military conflicts fought at such a high altitude and an example of mountain warfare, with combat taking place at over 4267 metres, or 14,000 feet.[1] Another high-altitude conflict was the Kargil War of 1999.

Causes of the warEdit

British India and Tibet had never clearly marked their mutual border. The British Survey of India mapped the boundaries of Aksai Chin and the British government put up boundary markers, but administrative borders lay further south.

The British claimed that the McMahon Line, which was drawn up during the Simla Conference of 1914 and agreed to by the Tibetans, was valid. However, China rejects the Simla Convention on the grounds that Tibet as a local government does not have treaty-making powers and according to the Anglo-Chinese convention of 1906 and the Anglo-Russian treaty of 1907, Britain agreed that it would not enter into any negotiations with Tibet except through the intermediary of the Chinese government. Even the independence of India in 1947 and the establishment of the PRC in October 1, 1949, did not fully resolve the border issues, as India continued to assert the British claim. In 1947, Tibet Government formally requested India to return their territory from Ladakh to Assam, and including Sikkim. The Indians in return simply asked Tibet to continue the relationship on the basis of the previous British Government.[2]

India and the PRC maintained good relations throughout the 1950s, focusing on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence proposed by the prime ministers of the two countries in 1954. Indian government under Prime Minister Nehru promoted the slogan Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (India and China are brothers), while at the same time, adopting a policy of military deployment in the border area shortly after the PRC invaded and occupied Tibet in 1950. In 1956, CIA used Indian territory to recruit Tibetan guerrillas to fight Chinese troops, with a base in Kalimpong, India.[3]

On July 1, 1954 Nehru wrote a memo to the Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Affairs: "All our old maps dealing with the frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our northern and north-eastern frontier without any reference to any 'line'. These new maps should also not state there is any undemarcated territory...this frontier should be considered a firm and definite one which is not open to discussion with anybody."[4]

The actual India claimed line departs from the original McMahon Line as the line was unilateral altered by India, which expand the territories size claimed by India. Nehru said on September 12, 1959: "In some parts, in the Subansiri or somewhere there, it was not considered a good line and it was varied by us."[5]

China disputed India's claim that the border line on Indian map was a demarcation line. Until 1962, India and China both maintained forces in the disputed area. Periodically each side accused the other of moving troops over the border as each side tried to extend its line of actual control. A few skirmishes occurred during this time.

While both sides' interests in the disputed territories were driven by nationalistic sentiments, the Chinese also had a pragmatic consideration for defending these desolate and virtually unpopulated areas, namely to protect the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, which runs near the border and was the primary route for supplying the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) presence in Tibet prior to the opening of Qinghai-Tibet Railroad in 2006. Unfortunately, N B Mullik, the head of Indian military police and the architect of Nehru's "forward policy", had repeatedly reassured everyone in the Indian government that China would never react with force under any circumstances. Mullik's theory of unconditional Chinese pacificism may have come from the CIA station head in New Delhi, Harry Rossitsky, with whom he had years of close association[6].

Both Chinese and Indian sources continued the dispute until the cause escalated into war. India disputed troop movements and border claims by China. Negotiations between the two countries deteriorated over the following months. This transformed a boundary problem into a dispute, which then progressed into a border war. China maintained that parts of the boundaries remained undetermined and needed to be negotiated. Meanwhile it had also started building a road by 1958 in the disputed territories linking up Tibetan areas, which was condemned by India. India also held that previous events had already determined the boundaries and therefore decided to establish checkposts along them.

Events in the warEdit

Various border conflicts and "military incidents" between India and China flared up throughout the summer and fall of 1962. According to Chinese sources, in June 1962, a small skirmish broke out between the two sides, and dozens of PLA were killed and wounded. Units of the Indian and Chinese militaries maintained close contact throughout September 1962; however, hostile fire occurred only infrequently.

Given how unprepared the Indian military was at the start of the war, it is quite probable that Nehru never anticipated the full-scale combat that followed. But it was also argued that he had pursued since November 2, 1961, an intentional and official "forward policy" of placing small military outposts at increasingly forward positions, backing up his public pronouncements on the territorial dispute with China.[6] In the east the Indian troops set up their posts not only up to the McMahon line but even few miles beyond it, in spite of repeated warnings from China.

On September 8, 1962, a 600-strong PLA unit launched a surprise attack on one of the Indian forward posts at Dhola on the Thagla Ridge, three kilometers into the Chinese side of the McMahon Line. Nehru had gone to London to attend a Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference and when told of the act, said to the media that the Indian Army had instructions to free the territory from PLA occupation. This decision was made despite the location of the conflict. Furthermore, Nehru's directives to Defense Minister V.K. Krishna Menon were unclear, and the response, code named Operation LEGHORN, got underway only slowly. By the time an Indian battalion reached the Thagla Ridge in the Chedong region on September 16, Chinese units controlled both banks of the Namka Chu River. The day after, India's Chief of the Army Staff Kaul ordered his men to re-take the Thagla Ridge. On September 20, at one of the bridges on the river a firefight developed, killing nine Chinese and Indian soldiers.

On 10 October, an Indian military patrol moved toward the bridges of Yumtso La, to be met by an emplaced Chinese position of some 1000 soldiers. The patrol was forced to retreat after taking heavy fire, officially suffering 50% casualties. This event is often given by the Indian side as the official start of the Sino-Indian Border War [1], although the fighting had been restricted to a small area in Chinese-claimed and forcibly occupied territory and the PLA had ceased their advance.

File:62 war.jpg

The Indian side did not share the refrain, however. On October 12, Nehru proclaimed India's intention to drive the Chinese out of areas of conflict including Dhola. On October 14, Indian defence minister Menon called for his men to fight China to the last man and the last gun. Indian reinforcement began deployment into disputed territories in earnest.

On October 20, 1962, the Chinese People's Liberation Army launched two attacks, 1000 kilometers apart, in the Chip Chap valley in Ladakh and the Namka Chu river. Some skirmishes also took place in Sikkim, which India claimed as a protectorate, at the Nathula Pass. After four days of fierce fighting, the Chinese succeeded in securing a substantial portion of the disputed territory and made an offer to negotiate. Nehru rejected this offer.

Also on October 24, 120 officers and jawans of the Ahir Charlie Company of the 13 Kumaon Regiment, almost all of them hailing from the Ahirwal region (southern Haryana), were airlifted from Hyderabad to the Chushul sector. They were deployed on the Rezang La Ridge to defend the highest air strip in the world located at 16,000 feet - just across the Chinese claim line. They were to offer a notable case of fierce Indian resistance in the final phase of the war. (See details:Yadav)

Indian forces were hampered by logistic inadequacy and significant inferiority in numbers and combat readiness. The Indian deployment covered a large area and Indian units required an airlift for more supplies. The Indian jawans also lacked both sufficient supplies and training for mountain combat, including such basics as winter clothing. Nonetheless, they generally fought bravely and professionally in the early phase of the war until their commanders were replaced on government orders.

Neither side declared war, used their air force, or fully broke off diplomatic relations; however, the conflict is commonly referred to as a war. It is important to remember that this war coincided with the Cuban Missile Crisis and was viewed by the western nations at the time as another act of aggression by the Communist bloc. [7] The Chinese side, although in a militarily advantageous position, thus had strong strategic reasons to contain and conclude the conflict as quickly as possible.

Once the fighting resumed in mid November, the PLA forces in the eastern theatre quickly annihilated the Indian 4th division, which had been seriously demoralized and disorganized, and penetrated close to the outskirts of Tezpur, Assam, a major frontier town nearly fifty kilometers from the Assam-North-East Frontier Agency border. By November 20 there was no organised Indian resistance anywhere in the disputed territories.

Due either to logistical problems (according to official Indian accounts) or for political reasons, the PLA did not advance farther, and on November 21 it declared a unilateral cease-fire. The United States Air Force flew in supplies to India in November 1962, but neither side wished to continue hostilities. The PLA withdrew to positions it had occupied before the war and on which China had staked its diplomatic claim. China also returned all weapons and vehicles seized from Indian troops during the war, and released all prisoners unconditionally.

Toward the end of the war India increased her support for Tibetan guerrillas, Nehru administration ordered the raising of an elite guerrilla force composed of Tibetan refugees.[8]

After the warEdit

After India's defeat, Indian Defense Minister Menon resigned. Prime Minister Nehru also faced harsh accusations from government officials. Neither the People's Republic of China nor India officially admitted to starting the war as accusations continued between the two governments.[1] The Chinese military action has been viewed by some as part of the PRC's policy making of using aggressive wars to settle its border disputes.[9]. According to one study published by the United States Marine Corps, many western nations at the time believed China to be the aggressor in the China-India border war, and saw the war as part of a monolithic communist objective for world conquest.[10] However, some recent articles revealed a different view: it was obvious that India was pursuing a forward policy in all three sections of the 'line of control' border with China. ... China was clearly on the defensive. [11]

The Kennedy administration was disturbed by what they considered to be blatant Chinese communist aggression against India. In a May 1963 NSC meeting, contingincy planning on the part of the United States in the event of another Chinese attack on India was discussed. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor advised the president to use nuclear weapons should the Americans intervene in such a situation. Kennedy insisted that Washington defend India as it would any ally, saying, "We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India"[12] The Johnson Administration considered and then rejected giving nuclear weapons technology to the Indians.

The Indian government commissioned an investigation, resulting in the Henderson-Brooks-Bhagat Report on the causes of the war and the reasons for defeat. However, the Indian government has refused to declassify the relevant documents. India's defeat in 1962 led to an overhaul of the Indian Army in terms of doctrine, training, organization and equipment. Indians reacted with an unprecedented surge of patriotism. The main lesson India learned was that India must strengthen its defences and stand on its own feet to be of consequence in the world. India could no longer blindly follow Nehru's polemics of "Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai". India's policy of weaponisation via indigenous sources and self-sufficiency was thus cemented. The war is believed to have led Pakistan to initiate the Second Kashmir War with India in 1965, sensing a weakened Indian Army.[13] Two years later in 1967, there was a short border skirmish (dubbed "Chola Incident" by India) between PLA troops and Indian troops.[3]

On Chinese side, the war was followed by a campaign praising the army called "learn from the People's Liberation Army." The campaign helped promote War Minister Lin Biao, Mao's favoured successor at the time. However, the Chinese government never commissioned an official report on the war.

In 1972, Mr. Neville Maxwell a British journalist and trained historian, the only person who has managed to see the Henderson Brooks report, would later write a book which was highly critical of Indian Government; titled "India's China War". The book would later be banned in India.

After reading the Maxwell book President Richard Nixon later admitted to Chinese Premier Chou En Lai, in Beijing, 1972, "I committed a faux pas—Dr. Kissinger said it was—but I knew what I was doing. When Mrs. Gandhi was in my office before going back, just before the outbreak of the war, I referred to that book and said it was a very interesting account of the beginning of the war between India and China. She didn’t react very favorably when I said that." [14]

As for the causes of the war, Chinese Premier Chao told President Nixon, "Of course we won’t send our troops outside our borders to fight against other people. We didn't even try to expel Indian troops from the area south of the McMahon line, which China doesn't recognize, by force. But if your (Indian) troops come up north of the McMahon line, and come even further into Chinese territory, how is it possible for us to refrain from retaliating? We sent three open telegrams to Nehru asking him to make a public reply, but he refused. He was so discourteous; he wouldn't even do us the courtesy of replying, so we had no choice but to drive him out." [15]

As for the ending of the war, Premier Chao told President Nixon, "At that time our troops pressed to the foothills quite close to Tezpur in Assam, and when they reached that place, Chairman Mao ordered that all troops should turn back. We turned back all the equipment to the Indians—this is in Maxwell’s book—and we withdrew all troops back north of the so-called McMahon line because one must show one can be trusted and must not wait for others to act. One must do one’s own account and show good faith." [16]

In 1978, the then Prime Minister of India, Morarji Desai, confessed in the lower house of the Indian Parliament, that India and the US had collaborated at the highest political level in covert operations aimed at challenging the authority and territorial integrity of China. [17] While the democratic process in India has allowed more scrutiny on the events leading to the war, on the other hand, published scholarship in China is still expected to explain and justify, not to criticize, the decisions of the Chinese Communist Party, at least on such sensitive matters as war.[18]

In 1984, squads of Indian soldiers began actively patrolling the dispute area and set up an observation post for the summer in Sumdorong Cha Valley, which located north of the original McMahon Line, but fall within India new expanded McMahon Line, violating the agreement of maintaining the status quo in the area. Indian team would leave the area before the winter. In the winter of 1986, the Chinese deployed their troops there before the Indian team could arrive in the summer. [19] The Indian media gave the matter national prominence, and an angry exchange of official protests between the Chinese and Indian governments followed. The Indian Parliament passed a bill setting up the state of Arunachal Pradesh, of which China claims 11 of 15 districts.

In 1993 and 1996, the two sides signed the Sino-Indian Bilateral Peace and Tranquility Accords, an agreement to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC). Ten meetings of a Sino-Indian Joint Working Group (SIJWG) and five of an expert group have taken place to determine where the LoAC lies, but little progress has occurred. Recently, during the visit of Chinese Prime Minister to India, China recognised the territory of Sikkim, as belonging to India, while India during the visit of its PM, Atal Behari Vajpayee to China, recognized the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as an autonomous part of China.

Neither the Indian nor the PRC governments appear very interested in disturbing the status quo, and the disputed boundary, called by Indians the Line of Actual Control or the McMahon Line, does not currently appear to be a possible major flash point. Military commissions from China and India meet regularly in the capitals of both countries to discuss the status of the border. However, they have made little progress in resolving this contentious border issue.

On July 6, 2006, the historic silk road passing through this territory was reopened, signaling further hopes of reconciliation between the two powers.

Further readingEdit

  • The China-India Border War, 1988 by James Barnard Calvin[1]
  • Neville Maxwell's China's India War[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Template:Cite web
  2. 2.0 2.1 Maxwell, Neville, India's China War, New York, Pantheon, 1970.
  3. Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, "The CIA's Secret War in Tibet", University Press of Kansas, 2002, pp. 96-97
  4. A.G. Noorani, "Fact of History", India's National Magazine, September 30, 2003.
  5. A.G. Noorani, "Perseverance in peace process", India's National Magazine, August 29, 2003.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Template:Cite web
  7. Template:Cite web
  8. Chushi Gangdruk"Chushi Gangdruk: History", ChushiGangdruk.Org
  9. Abstract of "Fighting to Make a Point: Policy-Making by Aggressive War on the Chinese Borders" by Jr Pettis Roy C. - National War College
  10. Author:CALVIN, James Barnard, Lieutenant Commander, U. S. Navy, Title:THE CHINA - INDIA BORDER WAR (1962) Publisher: Marine Corps Command and Staff College Date: April 1984
  12. [1] - Taipei Times, [2] Indian American Center for Political Awareness
  13. Remembering a War by Swaran Singh - Rediff, October 28, 2002
  14. "China", ”Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XVII, Pg:721”, October 1971–February 1972 (Declassified)
  15. "China", "Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XVII, Pg:722", October 1971–February 1972 (Declassified)
  16. "China", "Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XVII, Pg:723", October 1971–February 1972 (Declassified)
  17. Trailokya Raj Aryal "To break China: Indo-American alliance and Nepal in the Cold War ", "People's Review Weekly", January 22, 2004
  18. China's Decision for War with India in 1962 by John W. Garver
  19. A.G. Noorani, "Perseverance in peace process", India's National Magazine, August 29, 2003.


  • Gunnar Myrdal. Asian Drama; An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations. New York: Random House, 1968

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

fr:Guerre sino-indienne he:מלחמת הודו-סין ja:中印国境紛争 sr:Кинеско-индијски рат zh:中印边境战争

ru:Китайско-индийская пограничная война

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