China breaks solemn agreement with India by entering disputed territory on the India-China border. There are repeated Chinese incursions into India-claimed territory in violation of commitment. Information about Chinese actions is leaked out. Media reports it. The Defense Minister misleads parliament and discounts any threat. The government continues to downplay the concerns of the army. It fails to expeditiously take necessary steps to ensure national security. The Prime Minister stands by his Defense Minister and ignores criticism by opposition leaders and sections of the media. The government stalls or ignores the criticism voiced by MPs in the House….
Is this reference to the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) Report headed by former Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran which disclosed that 640 square kilometers of Indian land have been occupied by China and Indian troops are not allowed to patrol on their side of the border? Is this reference to the repeated recent military incursions across the border by China which the government refuses to seriously address? Does this refer to Mr. AK Antony’s denial in parliament that the NSAB Report states that China had occupied Indian Territory? Does this refer to Mr. Antony’s failure to lay the Report on the table of the House allowing members to judge what it exactly states? Does this refer to opposition leaders Mr. Yashwant Sinha, Mr. Mulayam Singh and others demanding a credible explanation from the government…?
No, the above passage does not refer to any of this. It refers to the government ignoring criticism of opposition leaders such as NG Ranga, JB Kripalani and MR Masani. It refers to Defense Minister Krishna Menon jeopardizing national security by ignoring advice of the army. It refers to Prime Minister Nehru firmly standing by his Defense Minister. It refers to Prime Minister Nehru misleading the House to hide the truth from the public.
It refers to how things happened fifty years ago.
It is a reminder of how distorted and false has been subsequent history about what happened prior to the 1962 debacle against China. For half a century the public has been fed lies related to the 1962 conflict that have acquired the halo of truth. One need not go into the long, convoluted history of those times. It should suffice to nail the two most glaring lies about that period.
The first lie is that the conflict occurred because India provoked China by launching the Forward Post policy on the Sino-Indian border that led to the Chinese action. This lie has been embellished by the writing of Mr. Neville Maxwell who went to considerable lengths to prove that the Sino-Indian border was indeed disputed. The justice or otherwise of the respective claims of China and India were not the cause of the conflict. The conflict arose from China furtively reneging from its understanding with India about how to resolve differences. China reneged on its commitment on Tibet by annexing it.
Today’s quislings of Beijing who abound among Indian commentators conveniently overlook this.
China reneged on its commitment to maintain status quo on the border and resolve each dispute one at a time as agreed to during the Panchsheel Conference of 1954. China reneged on its commitment by building a road clandestinely in 1958 on disputed territory. The Chinese refusal of arbitration by the International Court of Justice indicated Beijing’s pre-determined motive to annex territory. When repeated Chinese incursions mounted without any understanding of Beijing’s psyche or of military implications ordered the Forward Post policy. It was his response to Chinese aggression. He naively thought that his peace loving friends in China would never go to war. He launched the Forward Post policy as a game of chess, moving forward soldiers without the slightest logistic support like planting pins with flags on a map.
The Chinese assault that followed clearly indicated that Beijing had made preparations for an attack much before the Forward Post policy was initiated. The criminal dereliction of the government in weakening the army led to India’s traumatic defeat. That was history as tragedy.
The second big lie that has become part of folklore is that the opposition and sections of the media by pursuing a chauvinistic approach forced Nehru into action that provoked the peace loving Chinese to start the war. The truth is that the relevant sections of the media gave accurate advice and dire warning which if followed would have averted the tragedy. S Mulgaokar, Frank Moraes and Prem Bhatia were the editors who led the charge against the policies of Krishna Menon. My brother, the late Rakshat Puri, who was corresponding for London’s New Statesman & Nation, was the first to report China building its road on disputed territory in 1958. There was constant demand by the media that government should acquire urgently arms from abroad and not rely on its time consuming and suicidal policy of self-reliance in defense. Self-reliance translated in practice meant government ordinances producing coffee percolators!
To claim that the media breathing down Nehru’s neck provoked China to war is the height of falsehood. Nehru behaved like a witless twit incapable of conducting foreign policy based upon ground reality. One would like to ask some apologists of China and Nehru who blame warmongering journalists to tell the world what they wrote, said and thought when events before 1962 were unfolding.
This writer can claim that on May 21, 1960, after Zhou Enlai had made his last trip to India offering Arunachal in lieu of portions of Ladakh, which offer was rejected out of hand by Nehru, he wrote that Nehru should resign because his continuance in office jeopardized national security. One wrote:
“Zhou Enlai has come and gone and we are no nearer an honorable settlement… In Mr. Nehru’s words, we must learn to put up with a live border problem on our north-eastern frontier for the next thirty to forty years… A policy of inflexible firmness and vigilant preparedness vis-a-vis China has been more or less set for the future…This is therefore as good a time as any for Mr. Nehru to resign from the Prime Ministership… Mr. Nehru should resign primarily because his China policy of high stakes has not succeeded…. chunks of our territory were occupied by the Chinese and neither parliament nor people informed at Mr. Nehru’s sole instance… was an unpardonable lack of the sense of responsibility.”
Because this writer was very young and brash this could be written. Seeking Nehru’s resignation was unthinkable sacrilege.
Was this chauvinistic warmongering or timely and legitimate criticism?
Mr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Antony should recall Nehru and Krishna Menon. They should know that history sometimes repeats itself, first time as tragedy and second time as farce.
Now we are not dealing with 1962 but with 2013. India already has become such a huge joke that tragedy is precluded. The government cannot formulate a military or diplomatic response. It can only enact pathetic farce.