Written by Prakriti Panwar, a grade 11 student.
The 1962 Indo-China war, or better known as the Sino- Indian war, was a sudden and unsuspected attack. The Chinese attacked India through the McMahon line in the North-East Frontier Agency (presently known as Arunachal Pradesh) when India least expected it. From the 1945s, India and China had cordial relations, and in 1954, both nations even signed a ‘Panchsheel Treaty’ or the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’. It was during this period that former Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru promoted the famous saying of ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’
So, why was there an attack if everything was fine?
In July 1954, our then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent the Chinese Prime Minister a memo in order to clarify Chinese and Indian territories on all frontiers. The Chinese map included 1,20,000 square kilometres of Indian territories as theirs. When Prime Minister Zhou Enlai was inquired about it, he said that those were errors. But, Enlai soon started to claim that the disputed Aksai Chin territory was actually theirs.
In March 1959, a revolt against the Chinese rule took place in Lhasa, Tibet. The movement was rapidly spreading across the country and the People’s Republic of China resorted to brutal methods of suppression. While many people fled the nation and came to Arunachal, the 14th Dalai Lama requested political Asylum from India. Asylum is provided only to ‘political refugees’ such as the Dalai Lama himself. India also welcomed local refugees from Tibet and set up rehabilitation centres for them.
This seemed to offend Mao Zedong, a top leader of the People’s Republic of China. The act of India providing asylum to the Tibetan Dalai Lama was considered a ‘threat to its rule of Tibet’. Mao even blamed the Indians for the rebellions in Lhasa.
How did the attack turn into a war and why did we lose?
As soon as the tensions between India and China began to escalate, India released its ‘Forward Policy’. Its objective was to ‘create outposts behind advancing Chinese troops’ so that in case an invasion attempt was made, Indian soldiers could cut their supplies and make them retreat.
Though preventive measures such as the above were made, India never thought that China would go for a full-fledged war. Hence, when China simultaneously attacked various posts in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, Indian soldiers were in a fix. They did not have enough supplies for an actual war and were not even enough in number.
Eventually, Zhou Enlai negotiated and proposed a ceasefire. The proposition was that both India and China will move 20 kilometres away from their respective LACs (Lines of Actual Control). However, Nehru rejected the proposal, saying that the ‘Chinese claim over Aksai Chin is illegal’.
Amidst all this, foreign powers such as the Soviet Union, who were pro- Indian started siding with the Chinese. There were debates and discussions in the parliament and the war even stopped for a while. However, it soon resumed on Nehru’s birthday (14th November). After a week, China succeeded in occupying Aksai Chin and ended the war.
The Sino Indian war of 1962 had taken India by shock. It was after this war that Lata Mangeshkar released her famous song ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo’. It was one of the major events that shaped the nation’s defence policies and included nuclear power in one of them. Today, a minority of Tibetan refugees, who were caught between this war, are still present in Arunachal Pradesh, while the majority is spread all over the country.