Nehru and Chinese Perfidy
China had attacked India on Oct 21, 1962, but its foundation was laid in 1950, with China's aggressive occupation of Tibet.
British had all along maintained Tibet as a buffer State between India & China, for the former's security. British had recognised China's "suzerainty'’ over Tibet, but never their ‘sovereignty’. They used to maintain a British army detachment in Lahsa, the capital of Tibet.
In September 1949, in a Chinese radio-broadcast it was said that British and American imperialists and their 'running dog' Nehru were conspiring with Lahsa to occupy Tibet. This vituperation did not affect the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaher Lal Nehru. He did not mind being called a running dog of Anglo-British imperialism. He wanted to organise an Asian solidarity with the help of China against America and Britain, under his leadership. Probably for this reason, the External Affairs Ministry, of which he was the minister-in-charge, conveyed through a letter to Chinese government that India recognised Chinese 'sovereignty' over Tibet. Whether the use of the word 'sovereignty' instead of 'suzerainty' was inadvertent or under some deliberate plan of Nehru is not known. In both the cases, it was adverse to the country's interest. This armed the Chinese with legal rights to enter and occupy Tibet. When India formally objected to Chinese incursion in Tibet, they justified their actions on the basis of India's aforesaid letter recognising Chinese 'sovereignty' over Tibet. They however assured that autonomy of Tibet would be respected and there would be no interference in their existing religious, political and social establishments. Everyone knows that such assurances mean little. Nehru's policy of Chinese appeasement ultimately led to the downfall of Tibet. Even with the fall of Tibet, Nehru did not learn any lesson. He continued to dream of being sole leader of Asia with the help of China.
It was the responsibility of Jawaher Lal Nehru as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to for foresee the evil intentions of China and take necessary steps to safeguard India's security and integrity. He utterly failed in this regard. Even after this national calamity, he continued to sing the tune of India-China brotherhood. With renewed vigour he pursued his advocacy of China's entry to the UNO.
With the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the buffer between India and China was removed, paving way for Chinese attack on India. It endangered India's security.
It seems Nehru lacked the foresight of a statesman; he could not see the inherent danger in his China policy for the country’s security. To draw Nehru's attention to this danger, just five weeks before his death. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel wrote a letter to him on November 7, 1950 of which some important excerpts are given below:
'The Chinese government have tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intentions. My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to instil into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means. The tragedy is that the Tibetans put faith in us; they chose to be guided by us; and we have been unable to get them out of the meshes of Chinese diplomacy or Chinese malevolence... Even though we regard ourselves as friends of China, Chinese do not regard us as their friend. With the communist mentality of 'whoever is not with them being against them', this is a significant factor of which we have to take note. (Durga Das: Curzon to Nehru and after, Collins, London 1969, page -459-460).
Sardar Patel in his aforesaid letter also explained in detail, as to what should be done to meet with the Chinese challenge. Some of his suggestions, in brief are mentioned:-
a) A military and intelligence appreciation of Chinese threat to India, both on the frontiers and to internal security.
b) Evaluation and predisposition of our forces to guard routes and areas likely to be subject of dispute.
c) A long-term consideration of defence needs ensuring regular supplies of arms, ammunition and armour to border areas.
d) Not to advocate any longer China's entry to the UNO.
e) Political and administrative steps to strengthen our northern and north eastern frontiers. Improvement of our communications, road, rail, air and wireless in these areas and with the frontier outposts
f) To strengthen our forces, which are in Tibet to guard, trade-routes.
g) The policy in regard to Mcmohan Line.
Nehru decided not to act on the advice of Sardar Patel. Instead he continued to cultivate and appease China. He left no stone unturned to get China the membership of the United Nations. No one with any grain of intelligence ever works to benefit his adversary or rival. But still Nehru did so. How should he be described? Whenever an intelligence report was received that China was preparing to attack India, it was summarily dismissed by both Nehru and his defence minister Krishna Menon on the ground that they have talked with the Chinese leaders, who have assured them that they would never attack India. Similar assurance was given by Chinese earlier also, before their occupation of Tibet. Nehru did not take any lesson from it. It would definitely be termed as a misfortune of the country that at this crucial phase of the history India had a prime minister, who was not prepared to learn from past experience.
In Oct. 1961, the military headquarter sent a letter to the Defence Ministry pointing out that Indian army had mulch less guns, tanks and other weapons as compared to Chinese army and suggested that the army should be suitably re-equipped with modern weapons. The Indian army in north-east was so ill- equipped that the military headquarter in sheer panic and desperation sent seven letters, one after the other, to the Ministry of Defence in this regard. The seventh letter was sent in June 1962, only four months before the Chinese invasion. Krishna Menon observed that he couldn't be pushed to take a decision. If a minister likes, he can sit on a file for six months or as long as he wants.
When the Chief of Army Gen P.N. Thaper directly approached Morarji Desai, the Finance Minister agreed to shell out rupees four crores and nine hundred seventy lakhs for re-equipping the army, subject to the cabinet approval. Nehru just did not consider it. It was never put up before the cabinet for approval. When, at long last Gen Thaper approached Nehru personally in this regard, he was told that China would never invade India.
Nehru was blissfully ignorant of reality even two months before the invasion. The irony was that he did not want to know the reality. His eyes were closed.
An intelligence report was received that Chinese have collected six divisions of their army units in Laddakh and North East (NEFA), where strength of Indian army was hardly of two divisions. A month before Chinese invasion, the army officers informed the Defence Council that if there was a war with China, Indians would be wiped out.
At this juncture, Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul, a relative of Nerhu was made the Corps Commander of North-East (then: known as NEFA). He had direct access to Nehru. He told Nehru and Menon in a meeting on 11th October, 1962, that Indian army did not have either the weapons or strength to remove the adverse Chinese occupation from Indian Territory at 'Dhole'. It was therefore decided that the plan to dislodge the Chinese from there should be put on hold for the time being; lest they get an excuse to invade India.
But Nehru, just after two days of the above decision on Oct 13, 1962, while on way to Shri Lanka gave a statement in Madras that he has ordered the Army to throw-out the Chinese from Indian soil. It was contrary to the aforesaid decision. Why did he do so? Was it because of his old age? Had he become senile? Pupul Jaykar, a friend of Nehru is in her biography of “Indira Ganghi” (page : 163) sympathetically attributes This Himalayan blunder to Nehru’s aging. Whatever be the reason, it gave an excuse to China to invade India.
It was the first defeat of India in post-independence India. Every Indian bowed his head in shame and humiliation. Why was Indian army defeated that had earned worldwide laurels in the two world wars? Were the soldiers to be blamed? No. It was Nehru and Menon who were to be blamed for the debacle.
When people were out to demand Nehru's resignation, he saved his skin by sacrificing Menon and General Thaper as scapegoats.
The question stilt remains unanswered: why did Nehru not pay attention to India's security? Why did Nehru throw Sardar Patel's suggestions in this regard in dustbin? To find answer to this we will have to look into those times.
After Independence, India went about proclaiming the virtue of Gandhism and non-violence to the world at large. Most of the countries had only recently emerged from the holocaust of the second world war, so they listened to India’s moral preaching and message of non- violence. This convinced India’s leaders especially Jawaher Lal Nerhu that if he preached non-violence, he would be respected by world leaders. Therefore he deliberately and consciously tried to trod the Gandhian path. Mahatma Gandhi had declared that there would be no enemy of independent India. This got engraved in the minds of his followers. Whenever the intelligence filtered in that Chinese could invade, India it was disbelieved and dismissed.
Mahatma Gandhi in April 1946 had written that the military "must plough the land, dig wells, clear latrines and do other constructive work.... When satyagraha becomes the creed of India......machine guns would be overlaid with earth, grass will grow upon them and our children will play upon them."(M.M. Kothari: Critique of Gandhi; Critique Publications, Jodhpur, Page-25)
In other words, in Gandhi's independent India, army was expected to do everything except fighting an enemy. Accordingly, Nehru was indifferent to reinforcing the army in strength and weapons. In those days armament factories were producing pressure-cookers and other consumer goods. Nehru regarded himself as the special disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and therefore tried his best to follow the teachings of his 'Guru'.
Even Gen. B.M. Kaul, a relative of Nehru held the Gandhian mindset responsible for Indian humiliation at the hands of Chinese. He wrote: "Our leaders believed that... if we could expect a power like the British without use of arms and non-violently, there was little point in wasting large, even though essential, expenditure on our armed forces. This idea psychologically played on our minds... Consequently the armed forces did not receive the attention they deserved.... and hence unprepared for war." (M.M. Kothari: Page-161)
Sardar Patel had recognised the true face of Chinese, twelve years before their invasion, which Nehru could never recognise till the very end. Nehru lacked the political foresight of Sardar Patel. Only if Nehru had acted on the advice of Sardar Patel, India would have not been subjected to the humiliating defeat by the Chinese.