Here We Go Again

Is China really going to attack India before 2012? Yes, says Bharat Verma, editor of the Indian Defence Review, according to

Why? Out of nervousness and to divert attention from its own problems.

Verma said the recession has “shut the Chinese exports shop”, creating an “unprecedented internal social unrest” which in turn, was severely threatening the grip of the Communists over the society. Among other reasons for this assessment were rising unemployment, flight of capital worth billions of dollars, depletion of its foreign exchange reserves and growing internal dissent, Verma said in an editorial in the forthcoming issue of the premier defence journal. In addition to this, “The growing irrelevance of Pakistan, their right hand that operates against India on their behest, is increasing the Chinese nervousness,” he said,

That is scary enough. But wait, there is more. Verma says:

“Is Indian military equipped to face the two-front wars by Beijing and Islamabad? Is the Indian civil administration geared to meet the internal security challenges that the external actors will sponsor simultaneously through their doctrine of unrestricted warfare? The answers are an unequivocal ‘no’. Pacifist India is not ready by a long shot either on the internal or the external front . . .”

Verma believes that for China “the most attractive option is to attack a soft target like India and forcibly occupy its territory in the Northeast.”

It’s deja vu. Or as Yogi Berra put it more forcefully, “This is like deja vu all over again.”

Back in 1962, India was under Congress rule. Nehru was doing the mismanagement then. India has been mismanaged by Congress practically all its existence. The recently re-elected UPA government is led by the Congress. If Mr Verma is correct then the next conflict with China will once again be under Congress watch.

TIME of Nov 1962 had a long piece titled “Never Again the Same” about the India-China war. It is a must-read piece if you are interested in knowing what was going on around the time of the war with China. (There are typos in that text — presumably because it is a transcription from a non-digital source.)

In 1962, Nehru had delivered to the Indian people a disastrous defeat that was humiliating and devastating.

In New Delhi illusions are dying fast. Gone is the belief that Chinese expansionism need not be taken seriously, that, in Nehru’s words, China could not really want to wage a major war for “barren rock.” Going too, is the conviction that the Soviet Union has either the authority or the will to restrain the Chinese Communists. Nehru’s policy of nonalignment, which was intended to free India from any concern with the cold war between the West and Communism, was ending in disaster. Nearly shattered was the morally arrogant pose from which he had endlessly lectured the West on the need for peaceful coexistence with Communism. Above all. the Indian people, fiercely proud of their nationhood, have been deeply humiliated and shaken by the hated Chinese.

Nehru’s policy of nonalignment was ending in disaster, as the TIME article put it. It was not the first policy disaster and neither it was going to be the last.

The 73-year-old Nehru gave the impression of being swept along by this tumult, not of leading it. His agony was apparent as he rose in Parliament, three days before the Chinese cease-fire announcement, to report that the Indian army had been decisively defeated at Se Pass and Walong. The news raised a storm among the M.P.s. A Deputy from the threatened Assam state was on his feet, shaking with indignation and demanding, “What is the government going to do? Why can’t you tell us? Are we going to get both men and materials from friendly countries to fight a total war, or is the government contemplating a cease-fire and negotiations with the Chinese?” Other gesturing Deputies joined in, shouting their questions in English and Hindi. “Are we nothing?” cried one Praja Socialist member. “Is the Prime Minister everything?”

While the Speaker asked repeatedly for order, Nehru sat chin in hand, obviously scornful of this display of Indian excitability, his abstracted gaze fixed on nothing. Finally Nehru rose again and tried to quiet the uproar by saying, “We shall take every conceivable and possible measure to meet the crisis. We are trying to get all possible help from friendly countries.”

His critics accused him of still clinging to the language of nonalignment. Later, in a radio speech in which he announced the fall of Bomdi La, Nehru sounded tougher. He no longer defended his old policies, denounced China as “an imperialist of the worst kind,” and at last thanked the U.S. and Britain by name for arms aid, pledging to ask for more.

Nehru was coming close to admitting that he had at last discovered who were India’s friends. The neutral nations, which so often looked to India for leadership in the past, were mostly embarrassingly silent or unsympathetic—a government-controlled newspaper in Ghana dismissed the war as “an ordinary border dispute.” As for Russia, its ambiguously neutral position, argued Nehru, was the best India could hope for under the circumstances. Actually, Nehru had obviously hoped for more, and was shocked when, instead of helping India, Moscow denounced India’s border claims and urged Nehru to accept the Red Chinese terms.

As India’s poorly equipped army reeled under the Chinese blows, the West moved swiftly and without recrimination to India’s defense.

Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity, the caution goes. Nehru probably did not bring India the disastrous war with China out of malice.

Anyway, Indian army officers begged the US embassy people for help and the US ambassador to India, JK Galbraith, promised help.

When Washington finally turned its attention to India, it honored the ambassador’s pledge, loaded 60 U.S. planes with $5,000,000 worth of automatic weapons, heavy mortars and land mines. Twelve huge C-130 Hercules transports, complete with U.S. crews and maintenance teams, took off for New Delhi to fly Indian troops and equipment to the battle zone. Britain weighed in with Bren and Sten guns, and airlifted 150 tons of arms to India. Canada prepared to ship six transport planes. Australia opened Indian credits for $1,800,000 worth of munitions.

Assistant Secretary of State Phillips Talbot graphically defined the U.S. mission. “We are not seeking a new ally,” he said. “We are helping a friend whose attic has been entered by a burglar.” In Washington’s opinion, it mattered little that the burglar gratuitously offered to move back from the stairs leading to the lower floors and promised not to shoot any more of the house’s inhabitants. “What we want,” said Talbot, “is to help get the burglar out.”

To that end, a U.S. mission headed by Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Averell Harriman and U.S. Army General Paul D. Adams flew to New Delhi to confer with Indian officials on defense requirements. Soon after, Britain’s Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys arrived with a similar British mission. Their most stunning discovery: after five years under Nehru’s hand-picked Defense Minister, Krishna Menon, the Indian army was lamentably short of ammunition even for its antiquated Lee Enfield rifles.

Why was the Indian Army ill-prepared? Because Nehru thought that there was no need for an army — just a competent police force was sufficient for India because India’s policy was one of non-violence. Can one be so disconnected with ground reality without actually being in a different planet?

Here’s a shocker — from a different source (not the TIME article.)

The Kashmir war saved the Indian Army from being scrapped. Sounds strange, but a biography of Major General A A “Jick” Rudra of the Indian Army by Major General D K “Monty” Palit claims so.

According to the book – General Rudra: His service in three Armies and two World Wars – Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru blew his top when Lt General Sir Robert Lockhart, the first commander-in-chief of India took a strategic plan for a Government directive on defence policy.

“Shortly after Independence, General Lockhart as the Army chief took a strategic plan to the prime minister, asking for a Government directive on the defence policy. He came back to Jick’s office shell-shocked,” a newspaper quotes the book as saying.

“When asked what happened, he replied, ‘The PM took one look at my paper and blew his top. Rubbish! Total rubbish! We don’t need a defence plan. Our policy is ahimsa (non-violence). We foresee no military threats. Scrap the army! The police are good enough to meet our security needs’,” the newspaper further quotes the book.

According to the book, Jick believed the Kashmir war saved the Indian Army.

“General Sir Douglas Gracie had been appointed commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army and he and General Lockhart daily exchanged information about refugees traversing Punjab in both directions,” the newspaper report says.

“One day in late October 1947, Gracie mentioned that he had had reports of tribesmen massing in the area of Attock-Rawalpindi. Both men knew that cross-border raids from Pakistan had been mounted against Poonch. Kashmir was not a part of the dominion of India and Lockhart felt that the tribesmen posed no threat to India. He did not pass on the information to the ministry or general staff,” the report further said.

“When confronted by Nehru three months later, he admitted this and added that he may have been remiss. Nehru turned to him and asked the general if his sympathies were with Pakistan?”

“Aghast, Lockhart replied, ‘Mr prime minister if you have to ask me that question, I have no business being the commander-in-chief of your forces. I know that there is a boat leaving Bombay in a few days, carrying British officers and their families to England. I shall be on it’,” it added.

According to the biography, General Lockhart called up his Military Secretary Jick Rudra the next day, January 26 1948, and suggested he start looking around for a successor since he had resigned from his post.

I suppose one of these days they are going to endow a chair in some fancy foreign university which will be called “Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Strategic Defense Studies” at a cost of a few hundred million dollars paid for by the poor Indian taxpayers. (I am assuming that there aren’t already a few such chairs.)

Moving on with the TIME essay on the Indo-China war:

So far, the fighting has shown that the Indians need nearly everything, except courage. Chinese burp guns fire 20 times faster than Indian rifles. The Indian 25-pounder is a good artillery piece, but is almost immobile in the mountains and cannot match the Chinese pack artillery, recoilless guns and bazookas. Each Chinese battalion has a special company of porters whose job it is to make sure the fighting men have ample ammunition and food. The Indians must rely on units from their unwieldy Army Service Corps, who were never trained to operate at heights of 14,000 feet and over mule paths. In addition to bulldozers and four-wheel-drive trucks, the Indians need mechanical saws that can match the speed of those the Chinese use to cut roads through forests.

India’s catastrophic unreadiness for war stems directly from the policy of nonalignment which was devised by Nehru and implemented by his close confidant Krishna Menon. Says one Indian editor: “Nonalignment is no ideology. It is an idiosyncrasy.”

“Idiosyncrasy” is the funniest misspelling of “idiocy” made by a newspaper editor. But whatever. Non-alignment!

. . .Nehru claims non-alignment grows out of “Indian culture and our philosophic outlook.”

Yeah, that’s right. Anything bad has to be attributed to Indian culture. Lousy socialist 2 percent rate of growth of GDP? Let’s label it “Hindu rate of growth.” The most accurate description of India’s dismal economic performance has to be “Nehru Rate of Growth”.

Continuing on from the article quoted above:

Actually, it owes as much to Nehru’s rather oldfashioned, stereotyped, left-wing attitudes acquired during the ’20s and ’30s (“He still remembers all those New Statesmen leaders.” says one bitter critic) as it does to Gandhian notions of nonviolence. Nehru has never been able to rid himself of the disastrous cliche that holds Communism to be somehow progressive and less of a threat to emergent nations than “imperialism.”

Nehru himself has said: “Nonalignment essentially means live and let live—but of course this doesn’t include people who misbehave.” During its 15 years of independence. India has dealt severely with the misbehavior of several smaller neighbors, but has been almost slavishly tolerant of Communist misbehavior.

Socialism is of course the enduring heavy burden that India bears and has condemned hundreds of millions of Indians into lives of unimaginable deprivation. But it is only the tip of the iceberg that has — in a manner of speaking — sunk India.

At the 1955 Bandung conference, Nehru and China’s Premier Chou En-lai embraced Panch Shila, a five-point formula for peaceful coexistence. The same Indian crowds that now shout “Wipe out Chink stink!” then roared “Hindi Chini bhai bhai” (Indians and Chinese are brothers). India refused to sign the peace treaty with Japan because Red China was not a party to it. At home, Menon harped on the theme that Pakistan was India’s only enemy. Three years ago, when Pakistan proposed a joint defense pact with India, Nehru ingenuously asked, “Joint defense against whom?” Western warnings about China’s ultimate intentions were brushed aside as obvious attempts to stir up trouble between peace-loving friends.

Even the Chinese conquest of Tibet in 1951 had rung no alarm bells in New Delhi—and therein lie the real beginnings of the present war.

India was offered a seat in the security council of the UN. Nehru refused it saying that it should go to China. And it did. India has been trying to get admitted as a member of the SC at the UN. China blocks India’s membership.

Go read it all in the 1962 TIME article.

7 thoughts on “Here We Go Again

  1. It is really shocking to know that India got UNSC seat to China.

    Hope Bharat Verma’s article acts as wake-up call to the powers that be.

    What is shocking is there was absolutely no news item in the english channels on this. They are so busy with Delhi Metro accident and all sundry news items worth nothing.


  2. Hope Bharat Verma’s article acts as wake-up call to the powers that be.

    u must be kidding!

    the nehruvian tribe has only multiplied and become much more stronger in all these years…. i have li’l, if at all, hopes from nex-gen.

    north-east will be within indian boundaries, 10 years tops.


  3. It is always easy to criticize from the comforts of hindsight.

    For example take a previous posting from this blog and see that despite his detailed economic analysis this blogger got it completely wrong:

    Oil prices have continuously dropped mocking the sophisticated economic analysis of the blogger which predicted further rising trend.

    Ah! The comforts of hindsight!!


  4. garib,

    Comparing predictions on a matter of oil prices in a world economy (with multiple players & their interests as well as divergent plans of action) to a matter of strategic defense involving essentially two players (both of whose intent & capabilities can be easily ascertained right at the outset) speaks volumes of your special intellectual depth that you bring to this blog.

    I am eternally thankful to you for persistent efforts at raising the quality of debate here.

    Without you, we wouldn’t have discovered the comforts of talking through one’s a$$…!!


  5. ” “Idiosyncrasy” is the funniest misspelling of “idiocy” made by a newspaper editor. But whatever. Non-alignment!”

    That is a REally good one:))

    Thanks for posting Time essay. It shows India is still as much full of hubris as then. Sri.Aurobindo rightly called Gandhi the ” most violent pacifist “.

    We are as much capable of violence as anyone else.Those who rule over us are violent.They are so violently insensitive to our needs.There is violent lack of synergy in governance.We continue to be “useful idiots” celebrating Nehru’s birthday as children’s day.Why only defence preparedness , even in food self sufficiency we are lamentably lagging behind.

    China does not reward corruption, adulteration etc.It DOES crack down.We are so supinely apathetic and fatalistic but full of non internalised quotations from Scriptures.


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