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By Validating 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict Myths, Experts Attack Nehru

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Hundreds of books were written on the events between the years of 1949 and 1962, from Neville Maxwell’s India’s China War to recent ones by Nirupama Rao and Maroof Raza. The articles and blogs on the topic run into several thousand.

Each of these books and articles claims to shed new light and excavate truth. But they keep digging the same rabbit hole and perpetuate the same myths and misinformation. By mere repetition, these myths gained currency and have been accepted as truth, common knowledge and wisdom.

The “Evil South Indians”

nehru and vk menon
Nehru and V K Menon. (Representational image)

Much of the narrative hinges on then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru committing blunders by heeding a South Indian sidekick while ignoring a wise and patriotic North Indian. Unfortunately, it is not just the North Indian or Nehru-baiting authors who employ this tactic. Even South Indians and those who are favourably disposed to Nehru, such as Jairam Ramesh and Nirupama Rao, fall into this trap.

The South Indians who are often indicted of misleading Nehru into this supposed tragedy of the 1962 conflict are V K Krishna Menon, Sarvepalli Gopal and K M Panikkar. While these three individuals had diametrically opposite opinions and had nothing in common except for being South Indians, some authors even grouped them as a collective evil influence on Nehru.

Nirupama Rao, for example, claims that Nehru heeded Panikkar in 1954 while ignoring Girija Shankar Bajpai and failed to extract territory from China in exchange for giving up our privileges in Tibet. The silliness of a mud-hut consulate in Lhasa being leverage becomes a legitimate accusation not just because Nehru found a South Indian credible but because he supposedly ignored a North Indian.

That very next year, in 1955, the Portuguese legation in New Delhi was shut down while the Indian Mission in Goa had to be closed. Neither closure resulted in any exchange of territory nor any other concession.

Rao claiming that Nehru could have refused to shut down the consulate in Lhasa is laughable. The fact that a lifetime diplomat like Rao believes such silliness explains how mindless Indians can be to satisfy their appetite for filth against Nehru.

Linear Thinking

Rifle-toting Indian soldiers on patrol during the brief, bloody 1962 Sino-Indian border war.
Indian soldiers on patrol during the 1962 Sino-Indian border war. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

All the books and articles follow the pattern of selectively presenting a sequence of events over a long period of 13 years between 1949 and 1962. As I described earlier, these authors present two mutually contradicting narratives. Each narrative attempts to portray its own version of a consistent pattern of omissions or commissions on the part of Nehru. Inconvenient truths are either distorted or omitted.

The readers are overpowered by this supposed abundance of evidence of blunders consistently committed over a long period of 13 years. Their emotions run high with sprinkles of Nehru ignoring patriotic North Indians who desperately try to steer Nehru away from disaster while Nehru chooses to stay on the wrong path, heeding treasonous South Indians.

The climax is built up as an unprecedented and unparalleled disaster that prevents the reader from noticing the triviality, incoherence and irrationality of the arguments presented.

Of the two mutually contradicting narratives peddled, one narration is that Nehru sat around trusting that China would never attack, while the other is that Nehru recklessly pushed Indian territorial claims and angered China. A third variety is a hybrid that employs both narratives in varying degrees, blaming Nehru for being passive while simultaneously accusing him of being aggressive.

Rao, who falls in the third category, for example, seemingly supports the Forward Policy but accuses Nehru of delaying until 1961. She argues that if Nehru invaded Aksai Chin in 1960 or earlier when Sino-Indian relations were good, China would look the other way. The truth is, Forward Policy began in 1959 and not 1961. In October 1959, at Kongka Pass, China had killed 10 Indian Soldiers and captured 12.

India China flags
Flags of India and China. (Source: pixabay)

The perception that Nehru sat around and did nothing until 1959 or 1961 arises from these “experts” being oblivious to other more important events during those years. This is what I refer to as “linear thinking”. These experts are further brainwashed that Nehru was incompetent, confused and naïve who was misguided by unpatriotic and cunning South Indian coterie.

India’s ‘Groundhog Day’

Until 1957, tensions along the ceasefire line in Kashmir were high while Naga Rebellion raged on. Until the end of 1961, India’s priority was annexing Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Uninhabited land in the remote Himalayas, which had no strategic importance, where not even grass could grow, as it should have been, was a lower priority.

While the western world was opposed to Indian “aggression” on Goa, China expressed solidarity with India. Over the decades, our “historians” have trivialised the annexation of Goa and hyped the border conflict with China. This ignorance and misinformation continue to this day.

Indian historians, military men and other “experts” are trapped (like Phil Connors in the movie Groundhog Day) between the years of 1949 and 1962, choosing to relive those 13 years repeatedly and refusing to think beyond.

Everyone talks about learning lessons from the 1962 conflict, but nobody discusses why those lessons have not been learnt in the six decades since. Nobody asks why any other prime minister could not resolve the border issue after Nehru: not just along the Tibet border but along PoK/Baltistan.

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