In the previous series of articles, we saw the background and reasons of the total and extensive defeat in East Ladakh, inflicted on India by Chinese in 1962. Actually, this war was fought on two fronts, which were physically separated by thousands of miles. Besides Ladakh, another important front, where this war was also fought, was opened in Arunachal Pradesh, located in North East corner of India. In east Ladakh, China and India had a dispute regarding territory of Aksaichin and the war there, was mainly fought over that issue. As against that, except for a very minor dispute regarding few border posts, there was no such standing dispute existing in Arunachal Pradesh (It was known as Northeast frontier agency or NEFA then.) at that time. Any student of history would realize even after a brief study, that China had raised this dispute in Arunachal Pradesh, so that when eventual negotiations would open about Aksaichin in east Ladakh, it would appear to observers, that China was ready for give and take. The steps taken by China in this regard, were planned and executed very carefully. Let us first consider certain political developments that took place before the war.
We saw earlier that the border between Tibet and India was demarcated in a tripartite meeting between representatives of British India, Tibet and China in 1914 held in Shimla. The border in NEFA or Arunachal Pradesh was finalized later, when a British officer, Captain Bailey had carried out an extensive survey of the region. A map showing this border line on a map was later attached to the draft of the treaty. This line became known after the name of the British representative who had participated in the meeting, as McMahon line. A special feature of this line was that for 95% of the region, this line followed a clear line of geographical features such as tops of mountain ranges. This line begins in the east from the 15283 feet high Hkakabo Razi mountain peak known as on the Tri-junction point of the borders of India, Tibet and Myanmar, about 18 Km north of the Diphu pass. From here it crosses the Lohit river basin and follows the mountain peaks along Gangri- Karpo pass- Yongqyap pass- Tunga pass to Bum pass north of the town of Tawang in the west. From here it goes along Zanglung ridge and ThagLa Ridge to meet another Tri Junction point on borders of Tibet, India and Bhutan. Even when we take a look on this border on a map, it becomes immediately clear that this is a natural geographical frontier between two countries.
Majority areas in this region are unreachable and impassable with high peaks of towering heights to 5000 Meters, deep valleys, thick forests and heavy uncontrolled torrential rivers. The monsoon rains in this region are bountiful, providing continuous water supply to rivers. In addition this heavy rain converts the plains into swamps. During monsoons, even commuting becomes difficult in this region. No person perhaps could even imagine, that a country would ever create border disputes with neighbours in such kind of terrain.
After establishing their power over complete China in 1949, Mao and other Chinese leaders started creating border and other disputes with almost all of Chinese major neighbours. Korean War, Sino-USSR war, border war with India and then war with Vietnam are few examples of this strategy. In autocratically ruled countries, not much importance is given to lives of ordinary citizens or soldiers and they are expandable, when state policy demands so. Chinese leadership under Mao, perhaps never bothered about the manpower losses of the PLA, as long as it served their purpose.
The relations between India and China, appeared to be cordial and friendly till year 1954. Indian Government under Jawaharlal Nehru considered China as a great friend and helped it getting admission into United nations. Nehru and China's premier signed on five principles of peaceful existence known as Panchsheel in this period. Many people think that Nehru did this to brighten his international image. In 1950, PLA invaded Tibet and annexed it. Dalai Lama of Tibet had then made a request for Military assistance to India. Even US and England were more than willing to provide Military help to India, if India was willing to assist Dalai Lama. If India would have accepted this request and gone into Tibet, the scenario over entire Chinese borders would have been totally different today. Unfortunately not only India refused to help Dalai Lama, it also agreed in 1954 that Tibet was a part of China without any quid pro quo. Many historians consider this as one of the disastrous mistakes of the Indian Government for which history would never forgive Nehru. The repercussions of this grave error started showing within next 4 years. In 1954 itself Chinese declared areas near Barahoti as belonging to them. In 1956, China invaded border regions near Tunjun La and Shipki La. In 1958, China started construction of road through Aksaichin region belonging to India and showed in a map published that year, a huge part of Indian territory as belonging to China. The crowning act came in November 1958, when Chinese Government informed India that it does not agree with any border agreements drawn previously and entire Sino-Indian border should be demarcated again.
On 31 March 1959, Tibet's Dalai Lama asked for Political Asylum in India and Indian Government granted it. Within 6 months, Chinese Government unexpectedly declared that they no longer accept the McMahon line between Tibet and NEFA or Arunachal Pradesh as the official border and announced that entire NEFA region belongs to China. This peaceful border suddenly became a disputed one and the border guards of ITBP now faced a major challenge about defending this border.
For many years before this, Chinese army or PLA had been fighting wars somewhere or other. From 1950 to 1951, they had fought in Korea. After this, came the invasion of Tibet. This had made them battle hardened and ready. Chinese armed forces were substantially modernized in this decade with newer and better arms, vehicles and fighter aircraft with the help of Soviet Union. After digging out border disputes with India, Chinese leadership started preparing for inevitable war. New motorable roads or at least such ones by which mules can be taken loaded with ordnance or supplies for soldiers were built by China over entire Tibet-India border. New Depots were created to stock supplies for army. Soldiers were provided with automatic rifles and warm clothing and other equipments for the harsh winter months. As Chinese incurred in further minor skirmishes on the border, the strength of Chinese soldiers was increased. By 1962, there were 18 Battalions (18000 to 20000 fighting men) on NEFA or Arunachal Pradesh border.
India obviously was in the knowledge of these Chinese intentions and actions. Since 1952 the chief of Intelligence,for Indian Government Mr. Malik, was cautioning and warning Government of India on almost continuous basis. Unfortunately Nehru never believed that China would actually invade India on large scale and he was always confident that his peace strategy would be effective. ( It has now come to light from the correspondence that India's then Home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, had been warning Nehru about real Chinese intentions since 1950. Prime minister Nehru apparently preferred to neglect home minister's cautions.) Nehru had appointed in those tumultuous years, an ex bureaucrat, famous for his flaring rage as well as strange and cranky behaviour, Mr. Krishna Menon, as his defense minister. He earnestly believed in local production of arms and ordnance. Credit must be given to him for starting ,many ordnance factories all over India. However, he was a very obstinate person to get along and never really bothered to listen to point of view of others. Because of this reason, Indian army chief, General Thimayya had quit from his post.
It is a bitter truth that Nehru believed that he would be able to solve all international disputes on the strength of his international image as a world leader. Because of this peace doctrine, Indian armed were forces were a neglected lot in the 1950's decade with political leadership turning cold shoulders towards them. There are many example of this, like Army personnel defending the border, not being provided with essential warm clothing for harsh winters or continuing widespread use of 0.303 bore single bolt action Enfield rifles of WW II vintage, when everyone else had shifted to automatic recoil less rifles. Besides this, army was not even provided with suitable vehicles for rapid movement in hilly border areas.
In 1962, after General Thimayya's resignation, General Thapar was made chief of army staff. Eastern command(Which also had jurisdiction over NEFA or Arunachal Pradesh) was led by Lt. Gen L.P. Sen and assisted by Maj.Gen. B.M. Kaul, Maj. Gen. Umrao Singh, Maj. Gen Niranjan Prasad and Brigadier Dalvi, who reported to him. Maj.Gen. B.M. Kaul was comparatively an inexperienced officer, having been promoted out of turn, because of some unknown reasons.
We have already seen above, the geographical situation in NEFA, where a new border dispute was now created by China. This entire region was divided into five parallel districts known as Kameng, Subansiri, Siang, Tyuting and Lohit divisions. For each of these divisions, the geography was similar and included high Himalaya ranges to north, rivers originating there and flowing south and dense jungles and forests in the foothills and valleys towards the south. Tawang was the biggest town in Kameng division. In the eastern division of Lohit, there were tow townships at Kibithu and Walong. Unfortunately no proper roads existed between rail heads in Assam in the south to these towns. Motorable roads existed to certain distance. There were only mule tracks beyond that and in the far north, there were only foot tracks or ways for the men. This was a generalized scene over entire NEFA.
India's northeastern border with Tibet, being a natural geographical border formed along series of snow clad Himalayan peaks, can be crossed only through few natural mountain passes on the mountain ridges or by walking along the foot ways formed on the narrow banks in the basins of three or four torrential rivers, that cross this natural border. Because of this natural protection and also considering the fact, that there was absolutely no border dispute of any kind till 1959, between India and Tibet, British India Government had never taken any military steps to safe guard this border. Few border posts near the mountain passes and the river beds were established by British India Government to secure these places. This policy was continued by Independent India under premiership of Nehru. Since there were no roads in this region, most of these frontier posts in the NEFA region were maintained by airdrops of all essential provisions to Assam Rifles policemen, guarding these border posts till 1959.
In August 1959, in a surprise move, Chinese attacked Indian position at Longju in Subanseri sector. About 200 to 300 Chinese soldiers attacked few Assam Rifles Policemen guarding this post. There was a small number of policemen guarding this post and they defended this post for 2 days gallantly. After that, they had to withdraw in the interior. This had happened even prior to Kongka Pass incident, described by me earlier, that took place in east Ladakh, during October 1959. In November 1959, Chinese unilaterally declared that they no longer accept McMahon line as the agreed boundary between India and Tibet. It can be said that attack on Longju post was in a way a precursor for the things to come.
As a response to new Chinese postures, Indian Government had decided in 1959 itself, to increase number of army posts on the NEFA border,. It was also decided by the Government in Delhi to construct more foot ways, bridges and mule tracks along the border so that supplies can be reached to new military posts on the border in a faster time frame. However it took very long for the Government machinery to actually implement the policy decisions and construction began only in summer of 1962 though 34 new border posts were already set up nearer to McMahon line.
Even though new posts were established, no bridges, roads or mule tracks were ready till summer of 1962, which would have ensured that the supplies reach the posts in a quicker time span. Because of this reason, supplies were made to these forward posts by para dropping with help from Indian air force. A Chinese report mentions that most of the supplies never reached the men because of the extremely hilly region. Since the posts were not connected to each other by tracks or roads, they remained essentially isolated and were unable to provide cover to each other as is normally planned when setting up such posts. All these deficiencies were pointed out by the local commanders to Army HQ and then to concerned Government ministers. Unfortunately, these complaints fell on deaf ears as both prime minister Nehru and defense minister Krishna Menon were of the firm opinion that China would only continue with minor incursions and never would launch a full scale conflict. The advanced border posts now set up would be able to effectively handle and control any such Chinese incursions in future.
Battle of Namka Chu
I have mentioned earlier that the McMahon line follows the Himalayan peaks all along the border. However, near the Tri-junction point of the borders of Bhutan, India and Tibet, there was a minor border dispute between India and China. A small river, which swells only during monsoons, flows from this Tri-junction point to east, between two mountain ridges known as Tsangdhar Ridge in the south of river and Thagla Ridge in the north of the river, till it confluences with Nyamjang Chu river. (Another small river). According to India's position, McMahon line passes along Thagla ridge from the Tri-junction point, to Nyamjang Chu river and then continues along Wadung ridge to Bum La, whereas Chinese maintained that the border passed along Tsangdhar Ridge to Nyamjang Chu river. The Namka Chu river valley is extremely narrow and large scale troupe movements are almost impossible here.
Out of the new posts set up in NEFA in 1959, one army post known as Dhola post, was set up on the southern bank of this Namka Chu river. Another post on the bank of Nyamjang Chu river further to north was also then set up at Khinzemane. Chinese soldiers had attacked this post in 1959 and had pushed Indians back from this post. Indians had reoccupied this post after Chinese had gone back and were holding it till 1962 Autumn.
In Agust-September 1962, Chinese army brought in their men in large numbers to the Thagla ridge area. Army sources reported to Delhi that about 400 Chinese were now positioned on Thagla ridge. Presence of Chinese in such large numbers was a direct threat to posts at Dhola and Khinzemane. After this news reached Delhi, Defense minister Krishna Menon suggested to Chief of Army staff, General Thapar that the Chinese on Thagla ridge should be immediately evicted from there. Knowing the ground realities well, General Thapar tried to argue with the defense minister about futility of any such major action in that narrow area. He was however told that considering the political pressure on Prime minister Nehru, this order has to be obeyed by the army.
Till September end, there were only incidences of minor skirmishes in Namka Chu valley with overall military situation fairly stable. However large number of Indian troupes descended in this area on orders from Delhi in next few days. This large scale arrival of Indian troupes in this narrow valley was hallmarked with total disarray, disorder, confusion and mismanagement not usually associated with a military movement on this scale. The soldiers did not have enough warm clothing, ordnance was in short supply. Troupes provided with mortar launchers had no mortars to launch. There was paucity of guns and being such a narrow valley and that to on the international border, para dropping was not feasible. After realizing the desperate situation of these new arrivals, the officer in charge of the operation, Maj.Gen Umrao Singh, bitterly complained to his seniors in Delhi. This resulted into a decision, which had direct bearings on the final outcome of the conflict. Maj.Gen Umarao Singh was abruptly transferred and in his place a comparatively inexperienced officer, Maj. Gen. B.M. Kaul was brought in as officer in command. In an most surprising decision Ma.Gen. Kaul was ordered to liaison directly with Prime minister Nehru and not through normal official channel of Army HQ or chief of army staff. It can be said that Chief of Army staff, General Thapar disassociated himself with the Namka Chu operation completely. In next fortnight, approximately 2500 Indian soldiers arrived in Namka Chu valley. The strategic battle plan prepared by Maj. Gen. B.M. Kaul has been discussed in many forums over the years, including some on the internet and there is unanimity of opinion that in the history, very rarely one may find, anything as disastrous as this.An excellent account of the battle can be read on this link.
The Chinese saw arrival of such large numbers of Indian soldiers in Namka Chu valley as a big danger sign and Chinese soldiers also started arriving in very large numbers. By 20th October 1962, as many as 30000 Chinese soldiers arrived on Thagla ridge area. Only after their arrival, Maj. Gen. B.M.Kaul came to realization that he had brought such large numbers of his own soldiers in a death trap. However it was too late now. On 21st October 1962 Chinese crossed Namka Chu river and captured all Indian positions on the south bank of the river. On 23rd October 1962, Government in Beijing allowed PLA to cross McMahon line as and when required. Indian army soon realized that it was impossible to launch any counter offensives because enemy had all the advantages and they started retreating. Within next 5 days of massacre and debacle, India army was pushed back 10 miles to south of McMahon line to Lumpo.
Indian army units lost large numbers of soldiers in this close battle. Second Rajput lost 282 men out of 513 deployed. Gurakhas lost 80 men and 90 were captured. 493 soldiers of Seventh Brigade were killed in this battle. It is to the credit of the Indian soldiers that they fought with much bravery and gallantry under adverse conditions in which they were pushed. Chinese too, lost a huge number of men in this battle. Indian men, who had fought at Namka Chu received as many as 15 top gallantry awards later. From the number of these awards, it is possible to imagine the high moral and bravery of Indian soldiers with which they had fought this battle. A memorial for Namka Chu battle was later erected near Lumpo. However because of extreme weather conditions, it got damaged and finally a 40 feet tall proper and befitting war memorial was erected in the town of Tawang in 1999.
A writer, Neville Maxwell writes in his book 'India’s China War' that if General Thapar would have resigned when ordered to evict Chinese from Thagla ridge, probably 1962 war might not have happened at all. I do not agree with this, because the basic aim of Chinese in 1962 war was to secure the Aksaichin road in Ladakh and they would have gone to any length and would have started this war later, if not at that point of time.
The defeat of Indian army in the battle of Namka Chu is considered as an extremely important event for any historical Military strategy study. The total failure of the Generals to take decisions after considering ground realities, mismanagement, WW II vintage arms, lack of warm clothing, unacclimatized troupes and extremely immature political leadership, are some of the reasons that brought in such a big defeat with loss of hundreds of brave soldiers and officers. Regretfully, I have to say that the gates of NEFA were opened to China because of this unnecessary war on a totally wrong kind of battlefield.
The battle strategy plan envisaged by Maj. Gen. B.M.Kaul for Namka Chu, had no provision of a defensive front at the rear of the McMahon line, in case the front line soldiers were defeated due to some reason and had to fall back. Perhaps in the undue haste with which soldiers were sent to Namka Chu, this fact was never thought or planned and no reserve force was kept at the rear. With all positions of the army near Thagla ridge now overtaken by Chinese, and Indian army retreating and running away from the battle zone, there were no forces left for protection of Tawang town any more.
The Namka Chu river flows towards east from the Tri-junction point on Bhutan-India-Tibet borders, along the India-Tibet border, till it reaches the eastern end of the Thagla ridge, to confluence with Nyamjang river. From this point, this river now flowing southwards, crosses India-Tibet border and flows into India all along the Bhutan border to reach villages of Lumpo and Shakti and eventually meets east-west flowing Gomkang Chu river first and later the Tawang Chu river. Shakti village mentioned here is located roughly to west of district town of Tawang. The main road from Shakti village to Tawang, passes through Lum La pass. As we saw earlier, Chinese army or PLA soldiers crossed McMahon line international border on 23rd October 1962 and with rapid advances reached Lumpo first and then Shakti village.
Tawang town is considered as one of the most important towns of NEFA or Arunachal Pradesh. In October 1962, a number of army units such as 4th Artillery, 4th Infantry and 22nd Mountain had their divisional headquarters located at Tawang. The nearest pass on India-Tibet border at Bum La was located about 26 Km from Tawang. The second important border pass at Tutling La was at some distance to the east of Bum La. The entire plan for defense of Tawang was made on an assumption that Chinese advance would take place through one of these passes and accordingly Indian troops were well dug in solid defensive positions all along the roads leading to these passes. However, when news of rapid Chinese advance through Nyamjang river basin reached the garrison at Tawang, the Generals in command faced a real dilemma as they had no ready plans to defend Tawang town.
There was only one route available from Tawang town to nearest rail head at Tezpur in Indian state of Asaam. From Tezpur, this road could take only light army trucks (1 Ton capacity) up to town of Jang, via Bomdi La, Dirang-Se La route and after crossing the bridge on Tawang Chu river. After Jang, all materials had to be transported by horses or mules. Defenders of Tawang knew that there was an alternate track available from Chinese border east of Tawang, which directly connected to Jang town. If Chinese troops would advance along this route, they would reach Tawang Chu river at Jang with least difficulty and destroy the only bridge on this river. In this eventuality the entire garrison at Tawang and all units stationed north of Tawang would be cut off from only supply route available from Asaam.
The garrison in Tawang was commanded by Maj. General Niranjan Prasad. Considering the situation in Tawang and in consultation with his superior, Lieutenant General L.P. Singh, he took a decision, which is considered as the most controversial decision of this 31 days war. According to this decision taken on 23rd October, all troops stationed in Tawang and in the north were asked to withdraw, south of the bridge on Tawang Chu at Jang. Many officers posted in Tawang did not agree with this decision as garrison in Tawang was well provided and stocked and they could have defended Tawang for a long time. Besides, even in case of the bridge on Tawang Chu destroyed by Chinese, it could be rebuilt by Indians as right up to that bridge the road from Assam was motorable.
Indian forces retreated south of Tawang Chu by 6 PM on 24th October and the bridge on Tawang Chu was demolished. This decision to retreat, created tremendous demoralizing effect on Indian troops and enabled the Chinese to capture Tawang town and entire region north of it without firing a single bullet. With this sudden change in the situation in their favour, rapidly advancing PLA troupes stopped in their tracks for next 3 weeks to consolidate their positions.
The situation in the Indian positions south of Tawang Chu river was that of utmost chaos and confusion with no one knowing exactly the chain of command and the real situation. New units were continuously arriving from Assam. In many cases, their equipments and arms were being sent somewhere else. The decisions regarding where these troops should position themselves were continuously changed as proper chain of command did not exist. There was a great shortage of trucks every where. The troops were transported to new locations but their gear was left behind. A detailed description of this state of chaos is given in the official report published by the Government of India and makes a very sad reading.
After retreating from Tawang, it was decided first to defend the Se La pass. This decision was suddenly reversed and it was now decided to build main Indian defensive positions on the bank of Dirang Chu river near the town of Dirang. Defensive positions however were also built along Se La – Jang route. After waiting for 3 weeks, Chinese resumed their attack in three columns. Besides a column moving along Se La route, two columns attacked Indian positions from two flanks. It is impossible to narrate what happened on 17th and 18th of November as the situation in the Indian camps was of ultimate chaos. Army commanders were giving orders, which were often contradicting. A review carried out after the war came out with a startling revelation that on these two days no one actually knew, what was really happening. After noting the overall retreat of the Indian army from all positions, the officer in command of NEFA operations, Maj. General B.M.Kaul gave orders for retreat and re grouping of Indian forces to south of Bomdi La.
Only silver lining on the dark clouds in this situation was the fight that defending Indian troops gave to advancing Chinese. Indian troops fought bravely and gallantly without bothering least about their lives. Unfortunately, because of the lack of co-ordination, method or order in the command chain, this great fighting effort by Indian troops, did not produce any harmonious and lethal impact on the enemy. In this state of confusion, a battle was fought near “Lagyala Gompa' Buddhist monastery near town of Dirang. This battle, just like the battle of Rezang La in Ladakh, can be called mother of all battles in Arunachal Pradesh.
Here, Lt. Col. Bramhanand Avashthi and his men defended their positions till the last man and the last bullet. When the Chinese eventually overran the Indian position, Lt.Col. Avasthi and his 126 men and officers wear lying dead at their battle stations along with 200 dead bodies of Chinese invaders. After the battle, victorious Chinese had buried all dead bodies of Indian soldiers along with their dead but at a separate place. After the war was over, the dead bodies of Indian soldiers were exhumed and later cremated. The local people consider this battle ground now as a revered place and pay their respects by carrying out 'Pooja' here regularly. A detailed description of the Dirang battle can be read on this link.
Lt. Col. Bramhanand Avasthi, The tiger of Dirang
Indian troops now in retreat to south of Bomdi La were a totally demoralized and depressed lot. Instead of advancing by Dirang-Bomdi La route, Chinese outflanked Indian defenses along this route by rapidly advancing along an unused track. Indian forces were totally surprised and Chinese forces were able to capture Bomdi La with least effort. Two tanks were sent by army HQ to defend Bomdi La. However they proved to be quite ineffective against Chinese anti tank weapons.
On 21st November 1962, Indian troops started arriving on their foot at the foot hills of this hilly region in an extremely demoralized, worn out and haggard condition. The official Government report says that even to watch these troops, known for their gallantry and bravery was an extremely painful sight. On 21st November itself, Beijing radio announced unilateral cease fire on all fronts and Chinese advance came to an end.
This story of Indian retreat and defeat in the Kameng sector of NEFA was repeated in Subansiri, Siang and Lohit sectors also. In Kameng sector, it can be said that there was a border dispute about Thagla ridge between India and China. In other sectors there was never any dispute about the border. Yet the attacks came, just proving the fact that Chinese had planned all this operation very carefully and well in advance. It was no spur of moment decision on part of Chinese leadership. What they probably never expected was the speed of collapse of Indian defenses and the debacle that happened.
After recalling the account of pathetic Indian defeat and retreat in Kameng sector of Arunachal Pradesh, a question lingers in my mind. Who really defeated the mighty Indian army known for its bravery and gallantry here? I do not have answers and leave the question for the readers.
The war, which began on 12th of October 1962, in the Kameng sector of NEFA or Arunachal Pradesh, ended on 19th November with Chinese forces capturing Bomdi La. In this very period, fighting had also erupted in other sectors of Arunachal Pradesh. Lohit sector is the easternmost sector of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering with Myanmar. This sector, with Lohit river flowing from north to south, is formed of the river basin and adjoining hilly regions. From Geographical considerations, it can be said that to enter Arunachal Pradesh from Tibet side is much easier in this sector. (From Lohit River basin). Because of this reason, there were number of army outposts on both banks of Lohit river, which could give cover to each other and were well stocked. Walong village is located to east of Lohit river nearer to the Tri- junction point on the borders of India, Myanmar and Tibet. Walong village and Kibithu villages had important army posts. However, as elsewhere else, there was no motorable road between Assam and Kibithu village. All ordnance and other provisions were supplied to Lohit division outposts by para dropping from air.
The account of the battles fought in Lohit river basin, clearly shows a major difference between strategy adopted by unit commanders here as compared to Tawang sector. The war was fought here as per a plan. The sector was well defended by the army posts, which could give covering fire to each other with the result that War in Walong sector turned out to be a bad dream for Chinese, whose losses were at least five times more than Indian losses. During the period 18th October to 25th October, Chinese forces, one division strong (about 15000 men), attacked the positions held by 6th Kumaon Rifles units of Indian army here. The positions here were so well defended that Chinese were not able to capture even an inch of land and had to suffer actually number of counter attacks by Indian forces.
The entire eastern front was quiet during the period from 25th October to 13th November as Chinese were consolidating their gains. In the Indian camp in the Lohit sector also, chaos and confusion did prevail, like Kameng sector, but to much lesser extent. Troops numbering about 300, newly arrived, but before they could be assigned to any post, were shifted back somewhere else. The chaos remained limited mainly because of the smaller number of troops. All initial attacks after 13th November were effectively repulsed. Finally when Chinese started attacks on Indian posts with involvement of 4000 troops, Indian defenders were forced to retreat on orders. In the over all confusion, some of the posts never received retreat orders. Troops posted there fought till the end or were captured. Sepoy Keval Singh received posthumously the highest gallantry award “ Maha Veer Chakra” along with other 10 men and officers who received “Veer Chakra” gallantry awards. On 16th November, Maj.Gen. B.M.Kaul ordered the army positioned in Lohit sector, to fall back and Chinese captured entire Lohit river basin after that. Surprisingly, just two days before the retreat order, Indian forces had launched their first major counter attack on Chinese forces. There should bot be any doubt that Indian troops gave a befitting reply to Chinese near Walong in Lohit river basin.
As mentioned by me earlier, in Subansiri sector, Chinese had gone on an offensive at Longju, since August 1962 itself. The Indian troops positioned in this sector kept on receiving contradicting orders and were ordered to fall back even without a fight. At many posts in this sector, Indian troops were ordered to retreat even before a bullet was fired and when Chinese were just re grouping and later again ordered to position themselves in the same bunkers, when new orders were received. In such chaotic situation, Chinese troops captured most of the frontier positions of Indian troops even without firing a single bullet or fighting.
In Siang sector, Indian troops defended their positions and considerable fighting took place. Here also Indian were forced to fall back when large number of Chinese troops attacked and finally Indians withdrew from Menchuka and Tuting towns.
When Chinese announced unilateral cease fire on 21st November, Chinese forces had made huge inroads in all sectors of Arunachal Pradesh. Considering from any possible angle or way, the positions of both armies on 21st November were such that it was impossible to deny the fact that Chinese army had inflicted a huge and devastating defeat on the Indian army. In first week of December, Chinese announced that their army would fall back 20 Km behind line of actual control and the war was practically over.
It can not be denied that this 31 day war between China and India, has made a deep impacting scar on Indian minds and psyche. Some political commentators have tried to hide the real impact by saying that for Indian population this was a sad and depressing surprise. Nothing can be far from the truth. This war proved to Indian people that Government propaganda in Nehru era, regarding 2000 year friendship between China and India was completely false and did not have even an iota of truth in it. The war made Indians aware, about war mongering of the Mao regime in China and the realization that in future, India would have to watch every Chinese move with suspicion and caution and then react to it on merits of the case.
For prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, this war was a greatest betrayal by a friend, whom he had held in great esteem. He never really recovered from the shock and within 2 years died.
This war was not all bad things for India. Many good things also came out of it for the country. As I have mentioned in my series of articles on war in Ladakh, this war made India forget the dreamy notions like Non Alignment and “Panchshil” and was forced to realize the Real Politic that controls international relations in the real world. The Government of India realized the great blunder that it had perpetuated for last 14 years in neglecting the Indian armed forces. In the later years, armed forces were again provided with requisite strength, funds and the forces regained their importance.
Lastly, before I close this long series of articles, let us try to reason, why did China enter this war? Many military experts and strategists have tried to give answers or explanations of this puzzle. The reasons given, extend from teaching a lesson to India to internal strife in that country. When China started this war, they had already captured and were controlling the region of Aksaichin, which they wanted for building Xinjiang-Tibet road. It therefore becomes difficult to understand the logic and rationale of Chinese in starting this war. When they had the land in their hands already, why did they start such a war and allowed thousands of their own countrymen to die for no apparent reason or advantage as in any case, Chinese forces went back to their original positions after the war.
I recently read about a new way of reasoning for this war and Chinese rationale for it. Mr. Bruce. A . Elleman is an associate professor at Center for Naval Warfare studies in Naval War college of Texas Christian University in USA. In his book, Modern Chinese Warfare 1795-1989, Mr. Elleman , puts forth his thinking about a possible Chinese rationale for this war.
According to Mr. Elleman, after the Korean war of 1951, wherein, China and Soviet Union were actively collaborating with each other, their ideological differences started widening regarding who should assume the role of leadership of socialist nations of this world. Elleman says that Chinese started and fought 1962 war with India, 1969 war with Soviet union and 1979 war with Vietnam to show to the socialist world, that China is the real big daddy of the socialist world and Soviet Union is not trust worthy friend at all. Since Soviet Union was a close friend of India and Vietnam, Chinese wanted to prove to them and other socialist nations that friendship with Soviet Union would serve no purpose in hour of need. Even though China won the war with India, it was badly beaten in Vietnam war, which has a striking similarity with 1962 war with India.
Whatever may be the real Chinese Rationale, 1962 war made India understand fully what a former British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston meant in his famous quote. “A nation has no permanent enemies and no permanent friends, only permanent interests.” In 1962, India was a young and idealistic nation with false ideas about the international affairs. 1962 war made India mature and come off age. There is no doubt about that.
At the end I would like to pose the same question to readers, which I did ask earlier. Who actually defeated Indian army in 1962? Was it the Chinese? or someone else? I have no answer. It is up to the readers to find it.