Much has been written about the 1962 war in the high Himalayas, but in the absence of any official version, as the Henderson Brooks Report is yet to be made public, the question that haunts military historians is: “How did army that performed so well in the two World Wars, collapse against the Chinese invasion, despite the dogged defence put up by many of India’s frontline units?” In a purely military sense, in retrospect, the reasons for India’s military rout are as follows. First, the quality of military advice tendered by the India’s military brass lacked strategic judgement. From General Thimayya’s days a policy of “defence in depth” was strongly advocated, and echoed by his successor.
Thus the army was ill-prepared to counter border incursions, specially faced by those small posts set up as part of Nehru’s ‘forward policy’. Worse still, until 1961, the services only talked and prepared for a limited war. So when the Chinese invasion happened, they were shocked and paralysed and let the civilians under Krishna Menon, micro-manage the conflict. Also had the IAF insisted, maybe they could have been used offensively during the conflict. Secondly, few Indian generals exercised initiative or stood up to political interference during the war. The Army Chief, General Thapar, his PSO’s and even the eastern army commander were apparently so indecisive that, Gen. Daulet Singh, GoC-in-C Western Command, then responsible for the defence of J&K, took the initiative to move units to defend Ladakh as Army HQ failed to respond to his signals.
And those who stood up to bizarre operational plans like, Lt. Gen Umrao Singh, GoC 33 Corps, responsible for the defence of Sikkim to NEFA, were marginalised. Instead, 4 Crops was raised to accommodate Panditji’s man, Lt. Gen. BM Kaul, who had little experience of command in battle. The collapse of our defences in Tawang, Bomdila and Sela must be attributed to his incompetence. Finally, while the Indian jawaan fought back with remarkable courage, their gallantry was often in vain, as their commanders gave up. Many units were pushed forward in cotton uniforms and canvas shoes in wet and freezing weather, with little fire support beyond their personal weapons – since the IAF wasn’t used in an offensive role for fear of upsetting the Chinese – in a desperate bid to halt the Chinese. Even then, the battle of Namka chu (by 2nd Rajput) and at Rezang La (by 13 Kumaon) are examples courage that have few parallels. But despite that, the Chinese rolled past them as Division and Brigade Commanders simply lost their nerve, accepting surrender or ordering withdrawal.
But you can’t keep a good army down forever. In 1967, when China fired at troops of 2nd Grenadiers at Nathu La, Maj. Gen. Sagat Singh, GoC 17 Div, in defiance of his Corps headquarters, ordered a counter offensive with massive firepower. For Sagat’s fortitude India retained Nathu La. But it was in 1986, India’s army chief, General Sundarji, along with Lt. Gen Narahari, GoC 33 Corps, not only took the Chinese by surprise but also Rajiv Gandhi and his government, by heli-lifting troops across the Namka Chu river, near the point where the Chinese invasion of 1962 began and check mated the Chinese. Rajiv was advised — in keeping with the Nehruvian position — that Delhi must not confront China, so he asked Sundarji to pull back. But Sundarji refused and reportedly even offered to resign. Eventually the Chinese backed off.
To know more about the author visit: www. maroofraza.com