REPEATING THE 1962 HIMALAYAN BLUNDER IN 2013
Dr. Ishanand Vempeny
The recent Chinese invasions (not just excursions or incursions) reminded me of a cartoon I had seen in 1962, just before the India-China war. The Personae in the cartoon were Jawaharlal Nehru and Chairman Mao. Mao, sitting in the Indian Territory, goes on planting tiny Chinese flags, as a farmer planting seedlings. Nehru, standing behind the Chairman, proposes gently, “Comrade Mao, let us have a friendly chat and settle our land problems amicably”. Chairman Mao, without bothering about this request for talks, goes on planting the Chinese flags. Jawaharlal, as our first Gentleman Prime Minister with humanistic rationalism and anti-western nationalism, could not understand such hostile gestures from a “friendly Asian nation” of “Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai” reputation. But Mao taught that “Power comes through the barrel of a gun”. One might say that this language is the common factor between the Maoist China of 1962 and the capitalist China of today. Its usual articulation is “Might is Right” which is known among the civilized nations as the “Law of the Jungle”.
Newspapers have been reporting about the setting up of camps in the Indian Territory by the Chinese from the middle of April (2013). Our PM said that it was a “local affair”. When the number of Chinese tents in different localities in the Indian Territory may reach three or four, I wonder what the PM might say. Had they set up a tent in Delhi he could very well have said that it is a significant local problem. Suppose that a dentist told a patient with an intensely aching tooth: “Don’t worry, it is a local pain. The rest of your teeth are quite good”. No less foolish was the metaphor used by the foreign minister saying that it is ‘acne’ in the glorious and happy face of Indo-Chinese friendship. Rajput Purohit wrote on May 2 (2013): “The ‘acne’ could well turn into a deep scar on India’s face with the Chinese reinforcing their position across the Line of Actual Control and raising the real prospect of India losing access to 750 sq km. in the strategically crucial northern Ladakh” (Times of India, “750 sq km at stake, India gets tough with China”, May 2, 2013, p.1).
Expressing her shock at such reactions by the representatives of the Indian government Tavleen Singh in her usual Sunday column in the Indian Express wrote: “Sonia Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh rarely deign to explain their policies to the Indian public and always vanish in times of crisis. They leave it to their ministers to speak for them and when these gentlemen speak, they confirm the growing impression that the destiny of India is in the hands of jokers” (Italics ours) (“Jokers in Charge”, April 28, 2013). The Honourable Foreign Minister’s statement soon after his return from China, that he would like to have his residence in China, makes one agree with Nihal Singh’s calling the central ministers “jokers”. The Chinese hospitality to our Foreign Minister was like stretching the hand out for a shake-hand to a person soon after stabbing him at the back. Fortunately the defense minister was not as gullible as the foreign minister with regard to the Chinese hospitality. When will the Krishnamenonized Indian Politicians learn something about the subtlety of Chinese diplomacy?
It took the government quite a few days to admit that the Chinese are in the Indian Territory. “The government on Friday (April 26, 2013) for the first time officially admitted that People’s Liberation Army troops had intruded as far as 19km inside Indian Territory to pitch their tents there. The admission came even as the Centre kept a third flag meeting between local commanders in eastern Ladakh ‘on hold’ to give China ‘time and space’ to withdraw its soldiers on its own” (The Times of India, “Chinese troops 19km into India”, April 27, 2013, p.10).
A Glance back to 1962
By the defeat of 1962 what happened to India? We lost thousands of square kilometers of land to the Chinese, and in a sense, also the life of our first PM (Indian Express, Inder Malhotra, “Busy till the end”, April 30, 2012, p.11). But the greater loss is our loss of face internationally. However the greatest loss of all is the legacy of defeatism handed down to the ‘Indian Psyche’ as a whole and to every Indian citizen in particular. This is very obvious even when Indians face the Chinese in sports events. Because of this defeat the Indian government representatives are willing to crawl when the Chinese ask them to bow. Do the UPA governments know the cost of another defeat at the hands of Chinese?
In this context of Chinese intrusions in April (2013) into the Indian Territory, what will our present army General Bikram Singh say? This is what he said last year (2012) about the readiness of the Indian Army: “I am assuring the nation as the Army chief that 1962 will not be repeated. No way. We have plans in place on all borders to safeguard our country’s territorial integrity” (Times of India, “No 1962 repeat: Army chief”, Rajat Pandit, September 20, 2012, p.10).
Is India prepared to defend herself?
When somebody talks about the unpreparedness of the Indian Armed Forces to face the Chinese, Admiral Suresh Mehta the then Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and Navy Chief said: “In military terms, both conventional and non-conventional, we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China, force for force. These are indeed sobering thoughts and therefore need our strategy to deal with these realities” (Cfr. Indian Express, Ahmedabad, Aug. 11, 2009, pp.1 & 2). The public confession three or four years ago (Oct. 2009) of Chief Air Marshal that the Indian Air Force is just one third of the Chinese one (Times of India, Oct. 9, 2009, p.12).
In the second editorial of the TOI (“India and China: softly, softly” April 27, 2013, p.12), Kanti Bajpai wrote:
“The fact is that China’s economy is four times India’s size. This is a measure of the difference between the two countries. It suggests that China has a much greater capacity to prosecute any conflict anywhere with India. Militarily it has more nuclear weapons by a factor of three, at the very least. In terms of conventional weapons, there is glaring mismatch as well. China has about two times as many active military personnel as India. Its army has the advantage of the heights and infrastructure along our northern border. …A fight with China would be disastrous”.
The Vietnamese Example
The Chinese proclivity of “Teaching Lessons” has a long history. Decades back when Vajpayee, the then foreign minister of India visited China, the Chinese army had moved towards Vietnam “to teach Vietnam a lesson”. What was the reaction of the leaders of that small country? The Vietnamese Defense Minister, General V. N. Giap really taught the Chinese a lesson. Indeed, it was he who taught also the American Super-Power some lessons, when their identity and freedom were threatened. Mr. Defense Minister, it is not enough to consult only your ministry’s Krishnamenonized bureaucrats. Consult military experts (Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is no military expert) especially your Generals and also some history books which describe how small nations like Greece defeated the attacking Persian Emperor.