Nehru’s Juvenile Delusions and his 1962 China Blunder

Nehru’s monumental chinese blunder, an article written in 1962, at the time of the war itself, in the ‘Time” magazine

INDIA: Never Again the Same       

Red China behaved in so inscrutably Oriental a manner last week that even Asians were baffled. After a series of smashing victories in the border war with India. Chinese troops swept down from the towering Himalayas and were poised at the edge of the fertile plains of Assam, whose jute and tea plantations account for one-fourth of India’s export trade. Then, with Assam lying defenseless before her conquering army. Red China suddenly called a halt to the fighting.

Radio Peking announced that, “on its own initiative.” Red China was ordering a cease-fire on all fronts. Further, by Dec. 1, Chinese troops would retire to positions 12½ miles behind the lines they occupied on Nov. 7. 1959. If this promise is actually carried out. it would mean, for some Chinese units, a pullback of more than 60 miles. These decisions. Peking continued, ”represent a most sincere effort” to achieve ”a speedy termination of the Sino-Indian conflict, a reopening of peaceful negotiations, and a peaceful settlement of the boundary question.” War or peace, the message concluded, ”depends on whether or not the Indian government responds positively.”

In New Delhi the government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was taken completely by surprise. An Indian spokesman first denounced the Chinese offer as a “diabolical maneuver.” which was later amended to the comment that India would “wait and see” exactly what the Chinese were proposing. A communique confirmed that, after the cease-fire deadline, there “had been no report of firing by the Chinese aggressors.” Indian troops also stopped shooting, but Nehru warned India: “We must not imagine that the struggle will soon be over.”

On closer examination, the Chinese cease-fire proved to be a lot less mysterious. It did offer India’s battered armies a badly needed respite. But it left the Chinese armies in position to resume their offensive if Nehru refuses the Peking terms. And it puts on India the onus of continuing the war. Said the Hindustan Times: “The latest Chinese proposals are not a peace offer but an ultimatum.”

Whatever the results of this peace bid tendered on a bayonet, India will never be the same again, nor will Nehru.

Barren Rock

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.

India, which is equally capable of philosophic calm and hysterical violence, showed, in the words of President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. a “great soul-awakening such as it has never had in all its history.” The awakening took some curious forms. The Buddhist nuns and monks of Ladakh devoted themselves to writing an “immortal epic” of India’s fight against Chinese aggression. A temple in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh converted its 85-lb. gold treasury into 15-year defense bonds, while New Delhi bank clerks shined shoes outside a restaurant after hours and gave their earnings to the government, men jammed the enlistment centers and showered Nehru with pledges to fight signed in blood.

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.”

Attic Burglar

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. Shortly after the Chinese attack, frantic Indian officers simply drove round to the U.S. embassy with their pleas for arms and supplies. Eventually their requests were coordinated. During the tense week of the Cuban crisis, U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Galbraith was virtually on his own, and he promised Nehru full U.S. backing.

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.

Misbehaving People

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.”

Indians like to say that it resembles the isolationism formerly practiced by the U.S.. but it has moral overtones which, Nehru claims, grow out of “Indian culture and our philosophic outlook.” 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.

The Communist Chinese invasion of Korea was “aggression.” but the West was also “not blameless”; the crushing of the Hungarian rebellion was unfortunate, but all the facts were not clear; when the Soviet Union broke the nuclear test moratorium last year, Nehru deplored “all nuclear tests.”

Like a Buddha

Yet in its way, nonalignment paid enormous dividends. India received massive aid from both Russia and the West. Getting on India’s good side became almost the most important thing in the United Nations. At intervals, the rest of the world’s statesmen came to India to pay obeisance to Nehru as though to a Buddha. And Nehru obviously believed that whatever he did. in case of real need the U.S. would have to help India anyway. Meanwhile, as he saw it. the object of his foreign policy was to prevent the two great Asian powers —Russia and China—from combining against India. In his effort to woo both, acerbic Krishna Menon, says one Western diplomat, “was worth the weight of four or five ordinary men. He was so obnoxious to the West that, almost alone, he could demonstrate the sincerity of India’s neutrality to the Russians.”

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.

Initialed Map

Under the British raj, London played what Lord Curzon called “the great game.” Its object was to protect India’s northern borders from Russia by fostering semi-independent buffer states like Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. In those palmy colonial days, Tibet was militarily insignificant, and China, which claims overlordship of Tibet, was usually too weak to exercise it.

When the Chinese Republic of Sun Yat-sen was born in 1912, Britain decided to look to its borders. At a three-nation meeting in Simla in 1914, Britain’s representative. Sir Arthur McMahon, determined the eastern portion of the border by drawing a line on a map along the Himalayan peaks from Bhutan to Burma. The Tibetan and Chinese delegates initialed this map, but the newborn Chinese Republic refused to ratify it, and so has every Chinese government since.

The McMahon Line was never surveyed or delimited on the ground, and British troops seldom penetrated the NEFA hill country, where such tribes as the Apatanis. the Tagins and the Hill Miris amused themselves by slave-raiding and headhunting. As recently as 1953. the Daflas wiped out a detachment of the Assam Rifles just for the fun of it.

At the western end of the border, in Ladakh. the British made even less of an effort at marking the frontier, and the border with Tibet has generally been classified as “undefined.” Red China was most interested in Ladakh’s northeastern corner, where lies the Aksai Chin plateau, empty of nearly everything but rocks, sky and silence. For centuries, a caravan route wound through the Aksai Chin (one reason the Chinese say the plateau is theirs is that Aksai Chin means “China’s Desert of White Stone”), leading from Tibet around the hump of the lofty Kunlun range to the Chinese province of Sinkiang. In 1956 and 1957 the Chinese built a paved road over the caravan trail, and so lightly did Indian border police patrol the area that New Delhi did not learn about the road until two years after it was built.

Time Immemorial

Firing off a belated protest to Peking, India rushed troops into the endangered area, where they at once collided with Chinese outposts. Attempts at negotiation broke down because India demanded that the Chinese first withdraw to Tibet, while the Chinese insisted that Aksai Chin, and much more besides in NEFA and Ladakh. was historically Chinese territory. Neither side has basically changed its position since.

On Oct. 25, strong Chinese patrols began penetrating the NEFA border, occupying Longju and Towang and threatening Walong. For once, Nehru was badly shaken. He said: “From time immemorial the Himalayas have provided us with a magnificent frontier. We cannot allow that barrier to be penetrated because it is also the principal barrier to India.” But the barrier was being daily penetrated. Ten months ago, Nehru appointed Lieut. General Brij Kaul, 50, to command the NEFA area. Then, without consulting any of his military men, Nehru publicly ordered Kaul to drive out the Chinese invaders of NEFA.

The opposing armies were of unequal size, skill and equipment. The Chinese force of some 110,000 men was commanded by General Chang Kuo-hua, 54, a short, burly veteran of the Communist Party and Communist wars, who well understands Mao Tse-tung’s dictum, “All political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” His army is made up of three-year conscripts from central China, but its officers and noncoms are largely proven cadres who served with distinction in the Korean war. The infantry is armed with a Chinese-made burp gun with not very great accuracy but good fire power, hand grenades, submachine guns and rifles. The light and heavy mortars, which have a surprising range, are also Chinese made, but the heavy artillery, tanks and planes are mostly of Soviet manufacture.

The Indian forces number some 500,000, but fewer than 100,000 men were committed to the Red border area—the bulk of the army, and many of its best units, being kept on guard duty in Kashmir watching the Pakistanis. A strictly volunteer army, with the men serving five-year terms, it drew its troops largely from the warrior races of the north—Jats, Sikhs, Gurkhas, Dogras, Garhwalis. Over the past century, the Indian army has fought from France to China, and has usually fought excellently, whether pitted against Pathan guerrillas, Nazi panzer grenadiers or Japanese suicide squads. In the 1947-48 war in Kashmir, the Indians were fighting a British-trained Pakistani army very like themselves. Since independence, the Indian army has not encountered a really first-rate foe. The guerrilla war with the rebellious Naga tribesmen of Eastern Assam and the walkover in Goa were little more than training exercises.

Infinite Testiness

For the past five years, the Indian army has also been plagued by Defense Minister Krishna Menon, who was both economy-minded and socialistically determined to supply the troops from state-run arsenals, most of which exist only as blueprints. Sharing Nehru’s distrust of what he calls the “arms racket,” Menon was reluctant to buy weapons abroad, and refused to let private Indian firms bid on defense contracts. Menon’s boasts of Indian creativity in arms development have been revealed as shoddy deceptions. A prototype of an Indian jet fighter plane proved unable to break the sound barrier. Even the MIG-21 planes that the Soviet Union has promised to deliver in December are of questionable value, since jet fighters are useless without an intricate ground-support system, which India is in no position to set up.

A man of infinite testiness, Menon was soon squabbling with independent-minded generals. Lieut. General Shankar Thorat and Commander in Chief General K. S. Thimayya appealed to Nehru against Menon’s promotion policies. When Nehru, who has long scorned the British-trained officers as men who “did not understand India,” refused to listen to complaints about Menon, both generals retired from the army in disgust. Menon named as new commander in chief P. N. Thapar, a “paperwork general.”

Skyward Zigzag

Before Kaul had a chance to try and “clear out” the Chinese in NEFA, the Chinese struck first on Oct. 20. Some 20,000 burp-gun-toting infantry stormed over Thag La ridge and swept away a 5,000-man Indian brigade strung out along the Kechilang River. The surprise was complete, and dazed survivors of the Chinese attack struggled over the pathless mountains, where hundreds died of exposure. In Ladakh the Chinese scored an even bigger victory, occupying the entire 14,000 square miles that Peking claims is Chinese territory.

While the Indians worked to build up a new defense line at Walong and in the lofty Se Pass, reinforcements were hurried to Assam. The effort to bring up men and supplies from the plains was backbreaking. TIME Correspondent Edward Behr made the trip over a Jeep path that was like a roller coaster 70 miles long and nearly three miles high. He reports: “The Jeep path begins at Tezpur, amid groves of banana and banyan trees, then climbs steeply upward through forests of oak and pine to a 10,000-ft. summit. Here the path plunges dizzily downward to the supply base of Bomdi La on a 5,000-ft. plateau, and then zigzags skyward again to the mist-hung Se Pass at 13,556 ft. Above the hairpin turns of the road rise sheer rock walls; below lie bottomless chasms. Rain and snow come without warning, turning the path to slippery mud. Even under the best conditions, a Jeep takes 18 hours to cover the 70 miles.

“At this height, icy winds sweep down from the snow crests of the Himalayas, and if a man makes the slightest exertion, his lungs feel as if they are bursting. Newcomers suffer from the nausea and lightheadedness of mountain sickness. Every item of supply, except water, must be brought up the roller coaster from the plains. There are few bits of earth flat enough for an airstrip, and helicopters have trouble navigating in the thin air.”

Shell Plaster

After three weeks, Kaul felt emboldened to make a probing attack on the Chinese lines. Following an artillery barrage, 1,000 Indian jawans (G.I.s) drove the Chinese from the lower slopes of a hill near Walong. It was a costly victory, for the Chinese launched a massive counterattack through and around Walong, driving the Indians 80 miles down the Luhit valley. At Se Pass, the Chinese victory was even more spectacular. Having spotted the Indian gun emplacements, the Chinese plastered them with mortar and artillery shells, and then sent forward a Korea-style “human sea” assault. Two Chinese flanking columns of several thousand men each moved undetected and with bewildering speed through deep gorges and over 14,000-ft. mountains around the pass to capture the Indian supply base at Bomdi La, trapping an Indian division and throwing India’s defense plans into chaos.

Panic spread from the mountains into the plains. Officials in Tezpur burned their files, and bank managers even set fire to stacks of banknotes. Five hundred prisoners were set free from Tezpur jail. Refugees jammed aboard ferry boats to get across the Brahmaputra River. Even policemen joined the flight.

Indian army headquarters was hastily moved from Tezpur to Gauhati, 100 miles to the southwest. Officers and men who had escaped from the fighting referred dazedly to the Chinese as swarming everywhere “like red ants.” An Indian colonel admitted, “We just haven’t been taught this kind of warfare.”

Needed Intellect

Though India—like the U.S. after Pearl Harbor—could not yet afford scapegoats and recrimination, Defense Minister Krishna Menon was almost universally blamed for the inadequacy of Indian arms, the lack of equipment and even winter clothing. His fall from grace not only finished his own career but brought a turning point in Nehru’s. The Prime Minister had tried to pacify critics by taking over the Defense Ministry and downgrading Menon to Minister of Defense Production, but Nehru’s own supporters demanded Menon’s complete dismissal.

On Nov. 7, Nehru attended an all-day meeting of the Executive Committee of the parliamentary Congress Party and made a final plea for Menon, whose intellect, he said, was needed in the crisis.

As a participant recalls it, ten clenched fists banged down on the table, a chorus of voices shouted, “No!”

Nehru was dumfounded. It was he who was used to banging tables and making peremptory refusals. Taking a different tack, he accurately said that he was as much at fault as Menon and vaguely threatened to resign. Always before, such a threat had been sufficient to make the opposition crumble with piteous cries of ‘Panditji, don’t leave us alone!” This time, one of the leaders said: “If you continue to follow Menon’s policies, we are prepared to contemplate that possibility.” Nehru was beaten and Menon thrown out of the Cabinet. Joining him in his exit was Menon’s appointee, Commander in Chief General P. N. Thapar, who resigned because of “poor health.” (This P.N. Thapar is the father of arch-secularist Karan Thapar.)

The Defense Department at once, but belatedly, got a new look and a firmer tone. Impatient of turgid oratory and military fumbling, all India turned with relief to the new Defense Minister, Y. B. Chavan. A big man in every sense of the word—including his burly 200 lbs.—Chavan served for six years as Chief Minister of Bombay, the richest and most industrialized Indian state. The army’s new commander in chief, Lieut. General J. N. Chaudhuri, the “Victor of Goa,” who also saw action in World War II campaigns in the Middle East and Burma, is a close friend of Chavan’s.

Though a socialist and a onetime disciple of Nehru, Chavan is cast in a different mold. Once a terrorist against the British and a proud member of the Kshatriya warrior caste, Chavan says: “There can be no negotiations with an aggressor.” Unlike Nehru, who still maintains that China’s attack is not necessarily connected with Communism, Chavan declared: “The first casualties of the unashamed aggression of the Chinese on India are Marxism and Leninism.”

Old Twinkle

There has been some grumbling that Nehru is no wartime leader. At 73, he often seems physically and mentally spent. His hair is snow-white and thinning, his skin greyish and his gaze abstracted. Since the invasion, he has not spared himself, and his sister, Mme. Pandit, thinks Nehru is “fighting fit-he’s got that old twinkle in his eye.” But he tires noticeably as the day goes on. One old friend says, “It makes a big difference whether you see him in the morning or the evening.”

No one seriously suggests that Nehru will be replaced as India’s leader while he lives. To his country, he is not a statesman but an idol. Each morning, large crowds assemble on the lawn outside his New Delhi home. Some present petitions or beg favors, but thousands, in recent weeks, have handed over money or gold dust for the national defense. Most come just to achieve darshan, communion, with the country’s leader. The throng is comforted and reassured, not by the words, but by the presence of Nehru.

His widowed daughter, Indira Gandhi, 45, who is functioning as his assistant and has sometimes been mentioned as his favorite choice to succeed him, is still essentially right when she says: “Unity can only be formed in India behind the Congress Party, and in the Congress Party only behind my father.”

Nevertheless, Nehru’s power will be circumscribed from now on. His long years of unquestioned, absolute personal rule are at an end. For the first time, leaders of the ruling Congress Party are demanding that attention be paid to the majority sentiment in the party as well as to Nehru’s own ideas. The 437 million people of India may cease being Nehru’s children and may at last become his constituents.

This does not mean that Nehru no longer leads, but only that from now on he will have to lead by using the more orthodox methods of a Western politician. Conservative members of the Congress Party, notably Finance Minister Morarji Desai, have been strengthened, and expect that Nehru’s dogmatic reliance on socialism and the “public sector” of industry will be reduced; if India is to arm in a hurry, they argue, it will need the drive and energy of the “private sector.”

Moreover, the Indian army may not only at last get the equipment it needs but may also gradually emerge as something of a political force. While this view is still vastly unpopular, many army officers think it is time for India to come to terms with Pakistan over the nagging Kashmir issue, so that the two great countries of the subcontinent can present a united front to China.

Bartered Gains

There is still considerable dispute over how little or how much the Chinese were after in their attack on India. One theory held by some leading Indian military men is that the Reds want eventually to drive as far as Calcutta, thereby outflanking all of Southeast Asia. In such a drive, the Chinese would be able to take advantage of anti-Indian feeling along the way, notably among the rebellious Nagas in East Assam, and in the border state of Sikkim. Reaching Calcutta, perhaps the world’s most miserable city, where 125,000 homeless persons sleep on the streets each night, they would find readymade the strongest Communist organization in India. According to this theory, the Reds could set up a satellite regime in the Bay of Bengal and, without going any farther with their armies, wait for the rest of India to splinter and fall. This strategy has not necessarily been abandoned for good, but it certainly has been set aside. For one thing, the Chinese attack shattered Communism as a political force even in Calcutta.

The prevailing theory now is that the Chinese had less ambitious aims to begin with: to take the high ground and the key military passes away from the Indians, and to finally establish, once and for all, Chinese control of the Aksai Chin plateau in Ladakh, so as to safeguard the vital military roads to Sinkiang province. The Chinese may have been unprepared to exploit the almost total collapse of India’s armed forces and may even have been surprised by their swift success. On this reading, the terms of the Chinese cease-fire offer become intelligible. The Nov. 7 line would in effect barter away the sizable Chinese gains in NEFA for Indian acceptance of China’s property rights in Aksai Chin.

Viewed from Peking, the difficulties of supply through the Himalayas in dead of winter might make the Communists hesitate to try to occupy Assam, especially since India’s determined show of national unity, and the West’s evident willingness to support India to the hilt. There is a significant indication of one Chinese anxiety in the cease-fire offer. After warning that renewed war will “bring endless disaster to India,” Peking says: “Particularly serious is the prospect that if U.S. imperialism is allowed to become involved, the present conflict will grow into a war in which Asians are made to fight Asians, entirely contrary to the fundamental interests of the Indian people.” Implicit in those words are Red Chinese memories of the prolonged Korean war. which ended in a gory stalemate.

India’s angry millions, armed, trained and aided by the U.S., must be a prospect that not even Mao Tse-tung relishes facing. Instead, by in effect quitting while they are ahead, the Chinese can play the peacemakers in the short-sighted eyes of the neutral nations, while having dramatically demonstrated their military superiority over India and without having to abandon the long-range threat. Says Madame Pandit: “This attack was far more than just an attack on one border. India is completely and wholly dedicated to democracy and not to some kind of ‘Asian democracy.’ China’s motive was to humiliate India and to prove democracy is unworkable in Asia.”

Without Meaning

Even if Nehru were prepared to give away Ladakh in return for a Chinese pullback elsewhere, he is committed to clearing all Indian territory of the invaders. And Nehru must know that the situation has reached a point where he can never again trust a Red Chinese promise and that the relationship between India and China has changed irrevocably. His policy of nonalignment has not been jettisoned. It has just ceased to have any meaning.

But Americans in New Delhi last week were irritated by evidence that the Indian government still prefers equivocation to the plain truth. Official requests went out to the Indian press not to print photos showing the arrival of U.S. arms, and the twelve U.S. Air Force transport planes sent by Washington to ferry Indian troops were made to sound like leased aircraft flown by mercenaries. The crowds know better. A current slogan is a revision of the earlier cry for brotherhood with China: “Americans bhai bhai; Chini hai hail” (Americans are our brothers; death to the Chinese!).

An Indian Cabinet minister, who disagrees with Nehru politically but respects him, says passionately: “He will come to many changes now. You cannot imagine how difficult it was for him to get rid of Menon. Do not think it was easy for him to ask for American arms. Right now, it is important not to push him into a corner in public.” Another Cabinet minister, who does not like Nehru, also counsels patience: “His will to resist will wear down. It is already worn down a long way. Hitherto, there was no opposition at all in India. Now, Nehru is relying on his opposition. He may hate it. He has been thrown into the company of people like me, people he does not like. We make strange bedfellows, but together we are going to win the war.”

To Americans it may sound like a peculiar way to win a war. But though India moves at a different pace and speaks with a different voice few could doubt last week the Indian determination to see that the Himalayan defeats were avenged, however long it may take.



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16 responses to “Nehru’s Juvenile Delusions and his 1962 China Blunder

  1. Anonymous

    a great article by time ,now this shown how we indians are lazy with respect to our security.

  2. RK Vatsa

    Nothing new. The same old criticism. Do something better. Nehru is one of the greatest statesmen of the world, anyway

    • Indian Realist

      Same old crticism? Does criticism have a shelf life that it becomes invalid after a certain time? Nehru was a British stooge and a brown sepoy who lost India the China war, was anti-Hindu, gave away Kashmir, imposed socialism on India and thrust himself into PM’s chair by manipulating Gandhi when Patel deserved it. From what angle does he look “great” to you? Just humping viceroy’s wife doesn’t make one great.

    • I endorse the sentiments expressed by R K Vatsa. Nehru was educated in Britain, and it was against his personality to be anyone’s stooge. Read this article It clearly shows that Nehru wasn’t the one to be led by the west. In fact India during his time had never towed the US line and that is why unlike today, Nehru’s time saw NAM as influential. The above article itself mentions “At intervals, the rest of the world’s statesmen came to India to pay obeisance to Nehru as though to a Buddha”. And Nehru didn’t give away Kashmir but yes he chose strengthening of India’s democracy, governance and looking after its vast majority of people OVER Kashmir. Whereas Pakistan since Independence focused on Kashmir and Non-India factor and pandered with Pakistani people’s emotions. Results, they kept doing everything unjustifiable in the name of Kashmir and Non-India motives. Results are for us to see. Pakistan is a failed state and India is a vibrant democracy and an aspiring super power. It’s a wrong notion among many of us that Nehru wanted to cling to power. There were numerous occasions when he wanted to resign. The above article itself implies so. If one has read about Nehru, he would know that he was a visionary, philosopher and a man with sentiments. He was hurt by the fact that his comrades in arms during freedom struggle, were now more interested in grabbing meaty roles for themselves without giving due consideration to what is good for the nation. Read this article Gandhiji the wisest of all, knew that building India was an onerous task . The leader needed to carry out such a task should be the one who enjoyed wide spread people admiration and was young and energetic to carry it on. On Nehru’ popularity I will quote an Incident from OP Mathai’s book “My days with Nehru”…. there was speech in Southern India to be addressed national leaders… first came Patel Sahib, and there was a huge crowd turned up to listen to Patel Sahib, then came Netaji, the crowd was even bigger and then Gandhiji and the crowd continued to grow. And finally came in Pandit Nehru… the crowd that turned up to listen to Nehru was greater than the sum total of crowds that had turned up for the previous three national leaders. Independent India needed a leader who was heard and had the support of people. Accepted that Patel sahib had full support of the congress party but one cannot say for sure that he had a greater support of the people of India and that too from all cross sections of the society. Please bear in Mind that you and I can fight out till eternity who was great between Nehru and Patel, but this duumvirate had exceptionally high respect for each other. They had their differences but that didn’t translate even for a moment into casting aspersions on each others motives and intentions the way you are reviling against Nehru in your comment. Look at Pakistan, Jinnah got to live for just a year after independence. He didn’t have a chance to lay the foundation for the Pakistan as he had envisaged (a secular, democratic Pakistan). and after his demise any leader who came to power didn’t enjoy widespread people support and the army took full benefit of it. This didn’t happen in India largely because Nehru was the PM. Though himself being of an autocratic nature (he wrote “we want no Cesar” ) he instilled in his people the fundamentals of democracy. Patel Sahib played an unmatched role in integrating Princely states with India, but it was Nehru who sustained that integration by ensuring that all those princely states were given the same rights as other states of the country. Nehru had all the temptation to be the dictator what was the need for him to cling to democracy? One must ask this question.

      Yes, like any man he had his short comings. But how wise it is to be subjective in our criticism for him and totally lose the sight of objectivity for all the good work he did for this country?
      Pamela Mountbatten in her book has mentioned there was nothing more than platonic between Nehru and her mother. There are numerous such accounts. Then who are we to use derogatory language against a man who is right claimant to the title of “Father of Modern India”

      • Indian Realist

        “Then who are we to use derogatory language against a man who is right claimant to the title of “Father of Modern India”

        Dude, Nehru was the Father of Indian Poverty. Your thought process is that of a feudal serf.

      • cnm

        Read Sitaram Goel’s seminal book “Genesis and growth of Nehruism”. This book proves beyond any shadow of doubt that Nehru was an incurable communist and a running dog of the communist USSR. The reason why he could not toe the American line because he was not in a position to displease his communist masters in the USSR, the sole enemy of the USA.The USA at the time of India’s independence extended its friendly hand to Nehru who out of his hatred for the ‘Capitalist’ USA rejected it with disdain. Eminent Journalist Durga Das writes in his book “India From Curzon To Nehru And After” how Nehru owing to”his ideas and outlook (communist Of course) did not click with the White House and Wall Street”. Had Nehru taken timely action and made friends with America the Kashmir problem might not have been there. If anyone to be held responsible for India’s economic backwardness, rampant corruption, paralyzed foreign policy and poor defence preparedness then it is Nehru and Nehru alone.He was anti-Hindu traitor

  3. Vineet Bhardwaj

    If giving part of Kashmir on a platter to Pakistan and saying Aksin Chin is not valuable since “not a blade of grass grows” is strengthening democracy then nothing more to add about quality of your objectivity

  4. JGN

    Indian Realist, we cannot judge historical events from today’s perspective. We inherited a country vastly impoverished by the European colonizers for more than 150 years and by the Islamic invaders for nearly 600 years prior to that.

    We had no industry worth to talk about at that time nor had we any world class Educational Institutions. One Britisher had even boasted that he would eat every pound of steel rail produced by the Tatas (of course there is no record showing the qty of steel rail eaten by that gentleman in the archives of Indian Railways)!!!!! So govt intervention was essential at that time.

  5. JGN

    Vineet Bhardwaj, Maharaja Hari Singh wanted his small principality to be an independent country. He signed the Deed of Accession only when he was not unable to protect his rear end from the Pakistani soldiers masquarading as Tribals. Helping the Kashmiris in 1947 itself was the biggest mistake. Had the Indian Armed forces not intervened, there would not have been any Kashmir for these guys to fight for. They also would have been crushed under the boots by the Sindhi and Punjabi soldiers like they had done in East Pakistan in 1971. Even now there is no Azadi in “Azad” Kashmir.

    • Vineet Bhardwaj


      My comment was meant for the Congressi stooge writing on this blog with id (An Objective Nehru’s Admirer).

      Anyone with an iota of commonsense knows what Nehur did to give Kashmir to them on Platter and subsequently what Indira did even after winning 1971 war.

      We are batting for the same side.


    • Indian Realist

      “Maharaja Hari Singh wanted his small principality to be an independent country. He signed the Deed of Accession only when he was not unable to protect his rear end”

      JGN, Hari Singh did delay a bit, but the main delay was on part of Nehru as he refused to accept Hari Singh’s instrument of Accession, saying the king has to relinquish power first in favor of Sheikh Abdullah. Because of this delay on Nehru’s part, Indian army couldn’t be dispatched on time and wasted weeks waiting for Nehru’s approval. Otherwise the Pakistani raiders could have been tackled on the border of Kashmir itself by our army and not allowed to proceed so much inside.

      Patel observed Nehru’s behaviour and learnt a lesson — During Operation Polo, he quietly dispatched the Indian army to Hyderabad when Nehru was abroad. The entire operation was over in two days. The same could have happened to Kashmir if woolly headed Nehru was not there to interfere.

      • JGN

        Indian Realist, You are right. Had Patel been allowed to deal with Kashmir, there would not have been any Kashmir problem now. As Vineet has written above, we wasted the opportunity to settle the matter once and for all in 1971 when we had 93000 POWs and 5 lakh sq kms of Pakistani land in our custody.

  6. JGN

    Pl read as: “He signed the Deed of Accession only when he was not able to protect his rear end from the Pakistani soldiers “…………..

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