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What Role Did America Play During The Sino-India War?

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The recent comments by U.S. President Donald Trump about mediation amid the India-China stand-off made noises in New Delhi.

The Indian side has denied the allegation by stating that no recent contact took place between Prime Minister Modi and Trump, after the discussion on Hydroxychloroquine in April.

Regardless of this, it would not have been the first time that the U.S. has played an active role between the two Asian giants.

2020 marked the 56th death anniversary of India’s First Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and during his tenure China declared a unilateral cease-fire after the infamous Sino-India war of 1962.

The war is seen as a history lesson for the subcontinent giant and changed the dynamics of the whole world in the era of the Cold War.

The 1962 war challenged the general understanding of international politics. It changed India’s foreign policy of Non-Alignment and brought along many reformist policies into India’s defence sector as well.

The mid-20th century was the era of a bipolar world, where initially, India, along with many other independent states like Yugoslavia and Egypt, chose the side of Non-Alignment and took a neutral stance in the newly-divided dynamics of world politics.

The dream of being a soft power came to an end when the tension broke along Ladakh and McMahon line with Communist China.

Panicked by rapid Chinese incursions, the Indian authorities reached out for help from the Americans, who had for long criticized India’s Non-Alignment policy and the position of not involving a third party in the Kashmir mediation.

The US President John F. Kennedy (R) received India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (L) at the airport in Rhode Island, Washington, November 1961.||via The Economist

President John F. Kennedy, who was considered ‘pro-India’ by matny of his close aides, chose his Ambassador, Professor John Kenneth Galbraith, to manage the Indian situation in 1962, as the President was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis at home.

The American flew by C-130 Hercules to provide essentials to the Indian troops fighting the war. There was even a plan to send a USS Kitty Hawk aircraft to rescue India.

The Soviets, however, who at first urged both the parties to resolve the issue peacefully, later tilted towards the Chinese side when Pravada called the British drawn McMahon line “notorious” and “invalid”.

After the defeat in 1962, India’s dependency towards more advanced American weapons increased. On July 9, 1963, an agreement was signed between the U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Indian President S. Radhakrishnan.

The agreement allowed the CIA to use India’s abandoned WWII airbase of Charbatia in Orissa as a refuelling base for the U-2 spy planes to inform New Delhi about the movement of Chinese troops.

Charbatia was not used frequently as Nehru died three days after the first flight from the airbase.

When Sino-Indian tensions increased along the border in 1964, aircraft from Charbatia conducted three highly successful missions.

But by 1965, however, Takhli (Thailand) had become the main base for Asian operations, and Charbatia served merely as a forward staging base and was closed out in July 1967 (said the report released by the National Security Archive).

In another disclosed recording by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, President Kennedy could be heard discussing the feasibility of using nuclear weapons in the event China attacked India for a second time.

Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s defence secretary, is heard to saying:

Before any substantial commitment to defend India against China is given, we should recognize that in order to carry out that commitment against any substantial Chinese attack, we would have to use nuclear weapons. Any large Chinese Communist attack on any part of that area would require the use of nuclear weapons by the US, and this is to be preferred over the introduction of large numbers of US soldiers.

Minutes later, after hearing from McNamara and two other advisers, Kennedy said,

We should defend India, and therefore we will defend India.

It is not clear from the tapes whether Kennedy was speaking of using nuclear weapons or of defending India in more conventional terms.

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  1. Jay Velury

    Non Alignment had nothing to do with 1962 war and vice versa. There was nothing in non alignment which prohibited India-US ties in defense sector. India in fact bought UK aircrafts and employed French designers in HAL to manufacture HF-24 supersonic fighters. The only reason MIGs were chosen was USSR allowed to “Make (them) in India” while USA declined such proposal. Soviet tilt towards China was brief and had to do with that Cuban Missile Crisis. As soon as that crisis was diffused, Soviets were back supporting India. It was India’s non-alignment which forced China vacate Arunachal (NEFA) and retreat in the end.

    Both Eisenhover and Kruschev admired Non-alignment. At the time of crisis, each hoped Nehru could speak sense to the other. JFK’s beef with Nehru was neither non-alignment nor mediation in Kashmir but annexation of NATO Member Portugal’s territory of Goa in December 1961!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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