A month or so ago Indian troops trespassed and forcibly halted China extending a border road through Donglang plateau (called Doklam by India) at a junction between China, Sikkim (annexed by India) and Bhutan. Sourabh Gupta says it “is wholly a matter between Beijing and Thimpu (Bhutan’s capital). Until such time, Bhutan – let alone India, which has no locus standi to intervene – must respect China’s effective jurisdiction over the Doklam area.”
India fears this road will facilitate the Chinese in cutting off the strategically vulnerable 20 kilometer wide “Siliguri Corridor” (known as the “Chicken’s Neck”) linking the seven North-Eastern States (Assam, Meghalaya, Bodoland, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur, and Mizoram) to the Indian mainland, a self-fulfilling prophecy exacerbated further byLong Xingchun, Director at the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University writing in the Global Times: “Even if India were requested to defend Bhutan’s territory, this could only be limited to its established territory, not the disputed area, otherwise under India’s logic if the Pakistani government requests, a third country’s army can enter the area (Kashmir) disputed by India and Pakistan”.
The “McMahon Line” is a unilateral imaginary line between the British colonial authorities and the Tibetans without Chinese participation or consulting the Chinese government. In “This is India’s China War – Round Two,” Maxwell writes, “Rather than let the line of actual control (LAC) mature with the passing years, India has been needling Beijing by taking such doll figures as the Dalai Lama and loud-mouthed American diplomats into the disputed border region India proclaims its state of Arunachal Pradesh, megaphoning the false claim that the McMahon alignment represents a legal boundary rather than a historical but contested claim. The McMahon Line is in fact a British diplomatic forgery. This India stance indicates that PM Narendra Modi has decided that India’s interest will be better served in an aggressive American alliance rather than in a neighborly relationship with China”. Unquote.
The Chinese Army routed India in 1962 occupying North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and Ladakh in a short swift campaign. With little or no opposition Calcutta was theirs for the taking. Rather than advancing south of Foothills 55 kilometers from Tezpur on the Brahmaputra River, the Chinese unilaterally withdrew. Several hundred Indian soldiers without their weapons sought refuge in Sylhet in East Pakistan, fully 350 kilometers south of the Brahmaputra. As a sixteen year old student of Murari Chand College Sylhet, I personally witnessed the camps set up for them by the East Pakistan Rifles (EPR).
Flush with annexation of Goa (Operation Vijay) from the Portuguese in Dec 1961, an arrogant Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru made a grave miscalculation instituting his “Forward Policy” in 1961. With great media fanfare he ordered the Indian Army to establish (nearly 60) border outposts and patrols north of Chinese positions from Ladakh to NEFA to cut off the Chinese supply lines. Without adequate combat capability, support or backup small groups of Indian soldiers were sent to occupy disputed areas in Ladakh and NEFA, claiming these as Indian territory. Relying on flawed and inaccurate intelligence, Nehru’s “Forward Policy” provoking China into reacting by using overwhelming military force was not anticipated by him or other Indian leaders. The other key players in this fiasco were Krishna Menon (the Defense Minister) and their favorite Lt. Gen. B M Kaul, a most undeserving political appointee as Chief of General Staff (CGS). Commissioned into the infantry, he was soon transferred to the Army Supply Corps. His claim to fame was pleasing his political bosses by making his Infantry Division troops do manual labour making barracks.
Australian Neville Maxwell’s “India’s China War” challenged the Indian narrative of Chinese “aggression” by revealing how India had provoked Beijing into the war. Maxwell’s primary source was a copy of the top secret “Henderson Brooks Report” investigated by Lt. Gen. Henderson Brooks and Brig Premindra Singh Bhagat in 1963, a scathing indictment of the intelligence failures and political miscalculations of India’s Congress-led government that led to India’s military debacle. The Henderson Brooks Report remains classified in India because of “national security” reasons, the truth being very inconvenient Maxwell’s book was banned in “democratic” India.
Anticipating quick victory and glory (shades of Kargil), Kaul manipulated command of 4 Corps at his own request on the eve of war. The Henderson Brooks Report slammed BM Kaul for failing as Chief of General Staff to advise the government of “our weakness and inability to implement the ‘Forward Policy”. The Report highlights Kaul’s lack of military qualifications and combat experience besides his cultivating a clique within the officer cadre including Deputy CGS (Maj. Gen. J S Dhillon) and the DMO (Brig Monty Palit). In searching for glory those without combat experience who rise in rank are those who most thirst for war, they have no qualms sending men they command to die. Most generals who made money in Pakistan were loudmouths who had never seen combat.
India played the innocent “rape” victim to the hilt. Sensing an opportunity 55 years ago to wean supposedly non-aligned India away from the Soviet Camp, US Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith convinced President John Kennedy to mount a massive US arms and equipment airlift to Calcutta to equip 3-4 mountain divisions expeditiously. However even the US balked giving to the Indian “wish list” requesting “three submarines” to fight the Chinese (in the Himalayas?).
Bangladeshis should read Long Xingchun’s article with interest, “This incursion reflects that India fears China can quickly separate mainland India from Northeast India through military means, dividing India into two pieces. The northeast might take the opportunity to become independent” Unquote. Sometime in 1946 our visionary Quaid-i-Azam quietly explored the possibility of an independent muslim majority country in the east comprising united Bengal and Assam (the Northeast) with Calcutta at its main port. How the British helped Congress prevent this is another story. The Association of the Eastern States of South East Asia (AESSA) concept (my article “Bangladesh and Lebensraum – The AESSA Concept” of Mar 26, 1990) may yet happen.
Reminiscent of the 1962 Menon-Kaul bellicose attitude exposed by the Henderson Brooks Report, India’s Army Chief General Bipin Rawat recently boasted that India can fight and win on “two and a half” fronts simultaneously. Consider Wu Qian, Spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, demanding that India vacate unconditionally, “abandoning any impractical illusions and should not cling to any fantasy to intrude into Chinese territory which will be intolerable”. Will Modi and the “two and a half front” Gen. Rawat put up or shut up?
The writer is a defense and security analyst.