By Indrani Bagchi | TNN
NEW DELHI, India, 12 December 2017
It wasn’t Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Forward Policy’ of 1961 that caused the war with China in 1962. Instead, fresh documents, evidence and insight make it clear that China was planning to attack India since 1959.
For over half a century, India has tortured itself over the disastrous loss to China in 1962, and many internalised British author Neville Maxwell’s criticism in his book India’s China War that argued that India, instead of being the victim of Chinese aggression, was in fact responsible for the war.
Swedish journalist and strategic consultant, Bertil Lintner, in a reversal of Maxwell’s theory shows in a new book, China’s India War, that the boot had always been on the other foot, casting more light on Henry Kissinger’s mention in On China of Mao’s determination to give India a bloody nose.
In an exclusive chat with TOI, Lintner said, “Nehru’s Forward Policy was conceived and put forward in November 1961. You cannot possibly imagine that in less than a year China would be able to mobilise tens of thousands of troops, heavy equipment, and move them over the most difficult terrain in the world.” His comments echo late B Raman’s account of RAW when he pointed out the intelligence failure in piecing together months of Chinese movements, including mule trails, ahead of the war.
Why did China want to go after India? Lintner points to two reasons. “Mao Zedong had launched the Great Leap Forward, and it was a tremendous failure. A huge famine started, maybe 30-40 million people died, there was cannibalism. Mao’s own position was probably at its weakest since the start of the Communist rule in China. No country in the world would go to war over a border issue at a time like that. But China did. Mao wanted to reconsolidate his grip on power. The best way to do that is to find an outside enemy. India was the perfect outside enemy.” The other reason which fed into the first was the Tibet question and the flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959. “Suddenly after 1959 the border issue becomes no 1 on the Chinese agenda. The decision was taken in 1959 to “teach India a lesson” in Deng Xiaoping’s words.”
Interestingly, Lintner’s thesis was supported by a Chinese researcher, Jianglin Li in a paper last week. Writing in a website War on Tibet, she says, “the PLA’s ‘suppression of Tibetan rebellion’ was an important causal link in the outbreak of war in 1962.”
It is no surprise, she says, that the PLA won the border war, because its commanders were in charge of “a battle-hardened army that had been trained in live combat in Tibet for three years”.