The Indo China war 1962 ,was fought between India and China in the year 1962. The two countries had met with significant political and social changes in the past one decade. This included the Indian independence from the colonial rule and the rise of the Communist Party of China in China. The Chinese annexation of Tibet and the consequent Indian help to the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, had strained the Indo China relations.
After the annexation of Tibet, there was a boundary dispute between India and China over the borders decided by the then British government and the Tibetan government. This included vast parts of the territories of NEFA and Eastern Ladakh region. The new Chinese government did not agree to the already existing border treaty between the British India and the Tibetan government which lead to several face offs between the armies of the two nations.
Unable to reach a political and bureaucratic solution to the problem, the Indian government started the forward policy by building posts along the previously agreed McMahon line. To this, the Chinese launched an attack on the Indian posts in both the eastern and the Himalayan sectors which lead to the capture of many Indian posts including Tawang in NEFA and in Ladakh.
The Chinese army ended the war with a unilateral ceasefire on 20th November’1962. But what were the reasons for such a poor show by the Indian army? Why did India face such an embarrassing and humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese? These were the questions being raised by every Indian at the time of defeat. There are some plausible explanations for this humiliating defeat.
India had gained independence and became a democratic country after the colonial rule. Being a democratic country, India had a government which had to follow populist measures to achieve the confidence of the voters. The army preparedness and border security towards the Chinese front was possibly not a part of the populist measures. This was the reason for the weakness of the Indian border on the Chinese side. On the other hand, the Chinese were very well trained and equipped to fight in the adverse Himalayan conditions which provided them an edge over the Indians.
Next, if we observe the Indian side of the border, it is the steep Himalayan slopes standing tall but on the Chinese side, there were flat areas in the form of Tibetan plateau. So the Indians had a geographical disadvantage in the area. Above it, the Indian eastern front on the Chinese side lacked basic amenities like border roads, army camps, hospitals etc. Also, the supplies to the Indian army lacked consistency due to lack of preparedness.
Then, the Indian army was using all the obsolete weapons and lacked modern weaponry as the Indian government had been building upon the economy and lacked concerted efforts towards army preparedness and modernization. Added to this was the Indian faith in the principles of Non Alignment which had left India with not so good relations with either of the two super powers including USA and USSR. Next there was some hostility shown towards the United States by some of the Indian political brass including the defense minister Krishna Menon. This had plagued the Indian army of modern weaponry.
Since independence, India had been facing a continuous threat from Pakistan on its western frontier and had concentrated most of its army in the western theatre. India’s political brass had thought of Pakistan being the sole threat to the territorial integrity of the nation. They had never anticipated a blitzkrieg over the Himalayas from the Eastern sectors from China. Now, open on both the fronts, the Indian army’s strength had to be split up into two parts with much of it still concentrated on the western front. This division further depleted the strength of the Indian army.
So we can safely conclude that the failure and the consequent humiliating defeat of the Indian army at the hands of Chinese army was not only the failure of the Indian army, but was the failure of the policies of the political class and the bureaucracy on the whole.