In 1962 a border war erupted between India and China. The war had a two-fold effect. Firstly, India realized that the dominant power in the Asian sphere was China, and secondly, Indi’s idealist Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had his reputation as a world leader ground to ashes.
Origin Of The Conflict
The border war, however, may have never taken place in case the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Nehru shown any semblance of statesmanship and awareness of the game of power politics. His failure to grasp the essentials of military power and also a bigger failure to correctly interpret history, which is a saga of world conquerors, was to prove fatal. His reliance on diplomacy and the smug belief that the world would recognize him as a great leader without a strong army was a fatal mistake. The result has damned him forever as man who surrendered India’s right to be an equal of China on the world stage.
The facts when they unfold make distressing reading. When the British were the paramount power in India they had kept Tibet as a buffer with China. In fact, to subdue Tibet, they had launched the Younghusband expedition in 1903, which resulted in the defeat of Tibet and the start of British presence there. In 1913 they also concluded a tripartite conference at Shimla between the representatives of Tibet and China on a firm line of demarcation of the Northern border. The crucial part of this entire exercise was the military power of the British. Nehru learned nothing from this.
Nehru And China
After the departure of the British, Nehru should have logically built on what they had started. But his idealism took the better of horse sense and he allowed matters to drift. He committed a fatal blunder in thinking that China was a friend, without realizing that two great powers cannot subsist side by side and one has to bite the dust.
He also in his immature way became so engrossed in the idea as a ‘world leader’ that he forgot the essentials of world leadership is military power and aggressive policy. The result was that the Army went to seed and India made no effort to establish any form of control on the forward areas, particularly Aksai Chin. Such naivety is hard to digest at this time.
Neglect Of The Northern Borders
This inaction led to the entire Aksai Chin, as well as Tibet, being occupied by China, while Nehru kept twiddling his thumbs in the halo of a ‘world leader’. When Nehru woke up, it was too late and the Chinese had a de-facto occupation of nearly 30,000 sq miles of Indian Territory.
The Fatal Blunder
He then committed another fatal blunder. Without beefing up the military might he ordered the establishment of military posts in the forward areas. He also made a silly remark ‘I have ordered the army to throw the Chinese out’. He perhaps didn’t realize the purport of his words. Probably he just meant it for home consumption. But the Chinese were incensed and attacked all along the border and Nehru was caught napping.
As per Nevile Maxwell, the famous journalist in an interview with the DNA newspaper in 2006 stated: “China, therefore, made use of a well-established principle in international law, and acted in pre-emptive self-defense.”
It was a colossal defeat for India. Perhaps, had the Army fought or the air force been used the story could have been different, but a shell-shocked Nehru threw in the towel. His world image was shattered and he will go down in history as the man who let India down. A man who surrendered India’s inherent right to the leadership of Asia.