· Fifty years hence, are the two neighbours a little more friendly?For two countries who account for nearly 37 percent of the human race, 50 years from 1962, Sino-Indian ties are marked by friction over territory, Tibet and the role of US in their improving personal ties.
Beijing's recent statement that India and China were “partners instead of rivals” with common interests in development , stirs a note that relations between the not-so-friendly neighbours seem to be maturing. 2012 not only marks the 50th anniversary of the Sino-Indian war, it is also the "Year of China-India Friendship and Cooperation" announced by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but is a clear signal that the neighbours would like to hide the scars of the past.
1962 is one of the defining events in independent India’s history. Although a brief and localised affair restricted to the border areas, defeat in the war raised Indian awareness about the imperatives of safeguarding national security based on a correct understanding of international politics.
According to the China's official military history, the war achieved China's policy objectives of securing borders in its western sector, as China retained de facto control of the Aksai Chin. After the war, India abandoned the Forward Policy, and the de facto borders stabilised along the Line of Actual Control.
Mao and the Chinese leadership issued a directive laying out the objectives for the war. A main assault would be launched in the eastern sector, which would be coordinated with a smaller assault in the western sector. All Indian troops within China's claimed territories in the eastern sector would be expelled, and the war would end with a unilateral Chinese ceasefire and withdrawal to prewar positions, followed by a return to the negotiating table.
The India-China war was fought in harsh weather conditions entailing large-scale combat at altitudes of over 4,250 metres (14,000 feet). The war was also noted for the non-deployment of the navy or air force by either the Chinese or Indian side.
During the conflict, Nehru wrote two letters to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, requesting 12 squadrons of fighter jets and a modern radar system and requested that these aircraft be manned by American pilots until Indian airmen were trained to replace them. These requests were rejected by the Kennedy Administration (which was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis during most of the Sino-Indian War).
The non-aligned nations remained mostly uninvolved, and only the United Arab Republic openly supported India. Of the non-aligned nations, six, Egypt, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Indonesia, met in Colombo on 10 December 1962.The proposals stipulated a Chinese withdrawal of 20 km from the customary lines without any reciprocal withdrawal on India's behalf. The failure of these six nations to unequivocally condemn China deeply disappointed India.
The aftermath of the war saw sweeping changes in the Indian military to prepare it for similar conflicts in the future, and placed pressure on Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was seen as responsible for failing to anticipate the Chinese attack on India. Indians reacted with a surge in patriotism and memorials were erected for many of the Indian troops who died in the war.
Arguably, the main lesson India learned from the war was the need to strengthen its own defences and a shift from Nehru's foreign policy with China based on his stated concept of "brotherhood". Because of India's inability to anticipate Chinese aggression, Prime Minister Nehru faced harsh criticism from government officials, for having promoted pacifist relations with China
Post 1962 war India also reported a series of skirmishes which were never confirmed by China. One report provided by India shows that in late 1967, there were two skirmishes between Indian and Chinese forces in Sikkim. The first one was dubbed the "Nathu La incident", and the other the "Chola incident".
The declassification of one of India's most classified documents, the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report is an event India has been waiting for, but in vain. The report submitted by Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks and then Brigadier Prem Bhagat to the government in 1963 outlines the reasons for the defeat of the Indian army in the 1962 border war with China. Sources claim that the report is a total of 28 volumes in which four volumes contain the actual report hand-typed and the maps and military communications-practically every single order of importance issued during the war-- form another 24 annexures.
An open secret only two copies of the report exist : one copy in the office of the defence secretary and the other with Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO).
Fifty years hence Indian borders are no longer vulnerable to foreign offensives of the sort China had launched. Chief of the Army Staff, General Bikram Singh emphasised that the army had "plans in place" to ensure the country's territorial integrity was never again violated the way it was during the Sino-Indian war. "Such an event will not be repeated as the country's forces have got plans in place to protect the territorial integrity of the nation. I am assuring the nation as Chief of the Army Staff that 1962 will not be repeated. The country's borders are well protected and the army will not allow the enemy to cross it," he said.
For India, the haunting lesson of 1962 is that to secure peace, it must be ever ready to defend peace. If China were to unleash another surprise war, victory or defeat will be determined by one key factor which is India’s ability to withstand the initial shock and awe and fight back determinedly.