Archive for November, 2012

A Parsi in the House of Lords…

Posted on November 26, 2012. Filed under: Business, Guide Posts, Indian Thought, Personalities, Public Speaking, The English |

Lord Bilimoria in the House of Lords. – Thursday 24 May 2012 –

My Lords, more than 1,000 years ago, a group of Zoroastrian refugees fleeing religious persecution in Iran arrived in India in what is now the state of Gujarat . The Zoroastrians asked the local king for refuge but he said there was no space for them in his land. One of the Zoroastrian priests asked the king for a cup of milk filled to the brim. The priest gently took a teaspoon of sugar and stirred it into the milk  without spilling a drop. He then said to the king, “If you take us into your kingdom, we will be like the sugar in the milk: we will blend in with you but we will also make your kingdom sweeter”. The king allowed them to stay and that group of refugees, and others who followed, flourished to become India ’s Zoroastrian Parsee community.

Fast-forward over 1,000 years and the Zoroastrian community is still tiny: only 69,000 people, less than 0.006% of India ’s population of 1.2 billion people, and yet wherever you go in India , everyone knows who a Parsee is. Moreover, what makes me so proud as a Zoroastrian Parsee is the reputation of our community within India . When I took over as UK chairman of the Indo-British Partnership, now the UK India Business Council, of which I am president, my Indian counterpart Narayana Murthy, one of India’s most respected business leaders, said to me, “I have never met a bad Parsee”.
Mahatma Gandhi said: “In numbers, Parsees are beneath contempt, but in contribution, beyond compare”.
Over the centuries, the Zoroastrian Parsee community has excelled in every field. Today, both the Chief Justice of India and the Solicitor-General of India are Parsees. Maestro Zubin Mehta, the world-famous conductor. I could go on. In fact, I could go so far as to say that in achievement per capita, theZoroastrian community is the most successful in the world by far. However, the community has not only looked after its own but has always put back into the wider community. It exemplifies one of my favourite sayings: “It is not good enough to be the best in the world, you also have to be the best for the world”.
The Zoroastrian faith was brought to the world by the prophet Zoroaster in around 1500 BC. It is said to be one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions, if not the oldest, with a god, a supreme being, and the concepts of good and evil and heaven and hell. This was the religion of the largest of the ancient empires, the Persian Empire . This was the religion of the Emperors Xerxes, Darius and Cyrus the Great.
The Emperor Cyrus is of course credited with writing the world’s first Bill of Rights, the Cyrus Cylinder, which is far older than our own Magna Carta, whose 800th anniversary we will soon be celebrating. The basis of Zoroastrian faith is three words: “Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta”—good thoughts, good words, good deeds.
When Jamsetji Tata, the founder, set up Tata Steel over 100 years ago in the jungles of what was then part of the state of Bihar, where our company, Molson Coors Cobra, now owns the only brewery in the state, a British civil servant at the time dismissed the idea of an Indian ever owning a steel factory and said he would eat every bar of steel that came out of that factory..
Dadabhai Naoroji entered the House of Commons as a Liberal in 1892, against all odds. In 1895, just three years later, the second Indian, Mancherjee Bhownagree, also a Zoroastrian Parsee, was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative. In 1922, the third—and the only one of the three Indians elected to the other place before India’s independence—was Shapurji Saklatvala, or “Comrade Sak”, who was elected as a Communist with Labour support.
I am so proud to be a Zoroastrian Parsee. I am so proud to be an Indian. I am so proud to be an Asian in Britain , and most importantly I am so proud to be British.”
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1962 War – the actual IB??? …

Posted on November 23, 2012. Filed under: From a Services Career |

This researched and documented piece by Wing Commander Joseph Thomas sheds authoritative light on the cause d’celebre of  this ill fated War. 

He shows that the brilliant, suave, polished Zhou was more fair and conciliatory than the arrogant Nehru who stood on wholly slippery ground. Over to Thomas.

Three decades ago, we were tasked with aerial survey of the MacMohan Line and I made startling discoveries. The moot point is “Where is the ML?”
.Macmahon was the Foreign Secretary of India and a former army engineer He was a specialist in survey and had worked on demarcating the Durand Line. He convened the 1913 – 1914 Shimla conference to delineate a Tibet-China border.

During the conference, Mac and Lonchen Shatra Dorje, the Tibetan representative, negotiated an agreement to delineate a boundary between Tibet and India in the Eastern sector.  It did not cover the middle  and western sectors.

Macmohan put his seal and Lonchen Shatra signed (because Tibetans do not initial). It was subject to ratification by the respective governments.  The Chinese representative, Ivan Chen, initialed only one of the maps.  On 03 Jul 1914 he declared serious differences over the proposed China – Tibet border and went  home.

Subsequently, both Tibet and India failed to ratify the agreement.  An agreement that is initialed but not ratified has no validity.

We claim that the intent of the treaty was to follow the highest ridges or watershed of the Himalayas – south of the high ridges should be Indian territory and North of the high ridges should be Chinese territory.

Starting from the 1950s, when India began patrolling this area, we found that at multiple locations, the highest ridges fell north of the McMahon Line as shown in the treaty map.

We modified our maps to extend the ML northwards to include features such as Thag La, Longju, and Khinzemane as Indian Territory. The actual treaty map itself is topographically vague and the treaty includes neither verbal description of geographic features nor description of the highest ridges.

Defining the boundary is a bilateral issue and it was a mistake to do it unilaterally.

The Central sector has only minor issues and is not a bone of contention.

The Northern sector (Ladakh) is more tricky.  A boundary between Ladakh and Ari (Western Tibet) was verbally defined circa 930 AD and was re-affirmed in 1684 and 1842.  The Chinese and we have different interpretations of this border at Demchok, Chushul, and Khurnak Fort etc.  But these differences are minor and can be reconciled, given the political will.

The problem lies in Aksai Chin which was not part of the 930, 1684 or 1842 agreements.

Till 1960 our maps showed the eastern boundary of Aksai Chin as “Undefined.”   A dotted line was printed to depict our claim line.  When the dispute with China hotted up, we printed new maps depicting the Aksai Chin boundary as a regular international boundary.  

Yet another instance of unilateral action.

In 1960  Chou En Lai visited New Delhi and offered  to accept the Mac Line in exchange for our accepting Aksai Chin as Chinese.  It was a fair offer, considering that our early maps showed the whole of Arunachal as being outside India.  Indeed, our administration moved into Tawang only in 1951.  Not that it was Chinese at that time.  It was neither in India nor in Tibet. Chou En Lai was rebuffed.

Viewed from the Chinese side, Indians claimed the Mac Line as the border but repeatedly occupied  land beyond it.  Also, from their point of view, Aksai Chin was “No Man’s Land” and they were the first to occupy it.

In 1962 things hotted up. In July there was the Galwan incident.  The Thag La action started on 08 Sept.    In October there was a 2nd Galwan incident.

Now, Thag La lies on the Tibetan side of the Mac Line.  We unilaterally altered the Mac Line to include it on our side. Brig Dalvi’s   7 Infantry Brigade was ordered to hold this disputed territory.

After the hammering of 7 Inf Bde, the Chinese paused and Chou sent another letter to Nehru.  This letter from Chou in early November was conciliatory and shows how the Chinese could never understand the rationale behind our actions. 

The letter goes on to say “Mr. Prime Minister, India is a great country with an ancient civilization.  China is also a great country with an ancient civilization   …. Your claim is the Mac Line.  Your govt will, no doubt, have an original copy of the Mac Line.  Please look at the original map and you will see that the Mac Line moves eastward from the Tri Junction with Bhutan at (xxx  lat and long) to (xxx lat and long) to (xxx lat and long).  Why then are your troops beyond this line?  Why do you claim territory beyond the line?”  

Chou proposed a cease fire and a pullback to 20 km on either side of the 08 Sep 62  positions.  We seemed to reject this offer too and fighting resumed with disastrous results for us.

The subsequent unilateral cease fire and pull back by China has to be seen in the context of the time.  We altered the Mac Line unilaterally and then declared it our sacred territory.

Similarly, there was no defined boundary in the Aksai Chin area.  Our own official maps said so.  We were instructed to replace the dotted line with a thick black line and make it the international border.  Again another unilateral action – I have not been able to find who initiated the idea of unilaterally fixing our boundaries.

Let us be glad that the Chinese withdrew.  They could have ceased fire and held on to whatever they had gained.

Now from War to the present Dialogue 

In 1988 Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited China, the first PM to visit China in 34 years. Both countries agreed to set up a joint working group to settle the boundary issue.

In 1991 Chinese Premier Li Peng visited India and pledged to resolve the boundary question through friendly consultations.

1993 was a landmark year when Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao visited China and signed an agreement on Border Peace and Tranquility.  This essentially signaled an intent to freeze the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the international border.

Since 1993 India and China have moved forward on various fronts.  Trade has expanded to the point where China has become one of our largest trade partners.

However, the border issue remains an irritant.  It is time to settle our borders on the basis of the 1993 agreement and then to demarcate it on the ground.

Here follow pictures which speak louder than words

This is taken from a Dakota of 43 squadron.  One wing of the Dakota is  seen.  The picture is of crossing the Nila La pass en route to  Thoise,  the Sasser Range and the Chip Chap valley.

As squadron commander of the photo squadron in 1981

And here is a picture of great historic value.

The picture shows the participants in the Simla Conference 1913-14

 This is the McMahon Line Map 1 from the Bhutan  tri-junction to the Tsang Po/Dihang/Brahmaputra. This  is a very important map, because it covers the Thag La area where the fighting started

 These pictures show the vintage of the maps and the lack of clarity — no contours.

We surveyed this line by first flying at maximum altitude, taking pictures and making a mosaic. The pictures and mosaic were in black & white and so it was really difficult.  This is the Mcmahon Line, Map 2  from  the Tsang Po/Dihang/Brahmaputra upto the tri-junction with Burma. It covers the  “fishtails.”

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The1962 hammering by China – Nehru, the culpable icon …

Posted on November 16, 2012. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

50 Years After 1962 is  a piece by B.G. Verghese, who was then Assistant Editor and War Correspondent of The Times of India. The 1962 Sino-Indian conflict is half a century old, but to understand what happened one needs to go further back to Indian independence and the PRC’s establishment and absorption of Tibet. Perhaps one should go back even earlier to the tripartite Simla Convention of 1914 at which the Government of India, Tibet and China were party and drew the McMahon Line. The Chinese representative initialled the Agreement but did not sign it on account of differences over the definitions of Inner and Outer Tibet.
Fast forward to March 1947 when Nehru’s Interim Government hosted an
Asian Relations Conference in Delhi to which Tibet and China (then
represented by the KMT) were invited. Both attended. India recognised
the PRC as soon as it was established in 1949 and adopted a One-China
policy thereafter. In 1951 China moved into Tibet. A 17-Point Agreement granted it
autonomy under Chinese sovereignty. This converted what until then was
a quiet Indo-Tibet boundary into a problematic Sino-Indian frontier, with China adopting all prior Tibetan claim.                                                                                                                                             

Even prior to that Sardar Patel had expressed himself on new security
concerns in the Northeast. In a letter to Nehru he warned that the
Himalaya could no longer be regarded as an impenetrable barrier and
that the Tibeto-Mongoloid character of the population on “our northern
and northeastern approaches… and the penetration of communist
ideologies into some of these areas, posed a new threat”. He juaccordingly urged a review of border policy and security , including internal security, improvement of rail, road, air and wireless communications, policing and intelligence on the frontier, and territorial claims on India (Durga Das, 1973). The Sardar passed away soon thereafter. Nothing changed.

The historic Sino-Indian Treaty on Relations between India and the Tibet Region of China was signed in 1954. India gave up its rights in Tibet without seeking a quid pro quo. The Panch Shila was enunciated,\ which Nehru presumed presupposed inviolate boundaries in an era of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai.

The young Dalai Lama came to India in 1956 to participate in the 2500th anniversary celebrations commemorating the Enlightenment of the Buddha but was reluctant to return home as he felt China had reneged from its promise of Tibetan autonomy. Chou En-lai visited India laterthat year and sought Nehru’s good offices to persuade the Dalai Lama to return to Lhasa on the assurance of implementation of the 17 Point Agreement by China in good faith.

Visiting China in 1954, Nehru drew Chou En-lai’s attention to the new political map of India which defined the McMahon Line and the J&K Johnson Line as firm borders (and not in dotted lines or vague colour wash as previously depicted) and expressed concern over correspondingChinese maps that he found erroneous. Chou En-lai replied that the Chinese had not yet found time to correct its old maps but that this
would be done “when the time is ripe”. Nehru assumed this implied tacit Chinese acceptance of India’s map alignments but referred to the same matter once again during Chou’s 1956 visit to India. .

The matter was, however, not pressed. Nehru had in a statement about that time referred to the words of a wise Swedish diplomat – Dag Hammerskjoeld – to the effect that though a revolutionary power, China would take 20-30 years to fight poverty and acquire the muscle to assert its hegemony. Therefore it should meanwhile be cultivated and not be isolated and made to feel under siege as the Bolsheviks were in 1917. This postulate was, however, reversed in 1960-62 when Nehru interpreted the
same wise Swedish diplomat to mean it was the first 20-30 years after its revolution that were China’s dangerous decades; thereafter the PRC would mature and mellow. This suggests a somewhat fickle understanding of China on Nehru’s part.

The Aksaichin road had been constructed by China by 1956-57 but only came to notice in 1958 when somebody saw it depicted on a small map in a Chinese magazine. India protested. The very first note in the Sino-Indian White Papers, published later, declared Aksai chin to be “indisputably” Indian territory ” and, thereafter, incredibly lamented the fact that Chinese personnel had wilfully trespassed into that area “without proper visas”. The best construction that can put on this language is that Nehru was even at that time prepared to be flexible and negotiate a peaceful settlement or an appropriate adjustment. Parliament and the public were, however, kept in the dark.

Though outwardly nothing had changed, Nehru had begun to reassess his position. According to his son Ashok Parthasarathi, his father, the late G. Parthasarathi met Nehru on the evening of March 18, 1958, after all concerned had briefed him prior to his departure for Peking as the new Indian Ambassador to China. GP recorded what Nehru said in these terms:

“So G.P. what has the Foreign Office told you? Hindi-Chini bhai bhai? Don’t you believe it! I don’t trust the Chinese one bit. They are a deceitful opinionated, arrogant and hegemonistic lot. Eternal vigilance should be your watch word. You shd send all your Telegrams only to me – not to the Foreign Office. Also, do not mention a word of
this instruction of mine to Krishna. He, you and I all share a common world view and ideological approach. However, Krishna believes – erroneously – that no Communist country can have bad relations with any Non-Aligned country like ours”.

This is an extraordinary account and is difficult to interpret other than, once again, as symbolising Nehru’s fickle views on China which GP had no reason to misquote.

Chinese incursions and incidents at Longju and Khizemane in Arunachal and the Kongka Pass, Galwan and Chip Chap Valleys in Ladakh followed through 1959. The Times of India broke many of these early stories. There was a national uproar. It was while on a conducted tour of border road construction in Ladakh in 1958 with the Army PRO, Ram Mohan Rao that I first heard vague whispers of “some trouble” further east. We however went to Chushul, where the air strip was still open,
and beyond to the Pangong Lake unimpeded.

The Khampa rebellion in Tibet had erupted and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 via Tawang where he received an emotional welcome. The Government of India granted him asylum along with his entourage and over 100,000 refugees that followed and he took up residence with his government-in-exile in Dharamsala. These events greatly disturbed the Chinese and marked a turning point in Sino-Indian relations. Their suspicions about India’s intentions were not improved by Delhi’s connivance in facilitating American-trained Tibetan refugee guerrillas
to operate in Tibet and further permitting an American listening facility to be planted on the heights of Nanda Devi to monitor Chinese signals in Tibet.

China had by now commenced its westward cartographic-cum-military
creep in Ladakh and southward creep in Arunachal.

The highly regarded Chief of Army Staff, Gen.K.S. Thimayya began to
envisage a new defence posture vis-à-vis China in terms of plans, training, logistics and equipment. However, Krishna Menon, aided by B.N. Mullick, the IB Chief and intelligence czar, who also was close to Nehru, disagreed with this threat perception and insisted that attention should remain focussed on Pakistan and the “anti-Imperialist forces”. Growing interference by Krishna Menon, now Defence Minister, in Army postings and promotions and strategic perspectives so frustrated Thimayya that he tendered his resignation to Nehru in 1959. Fearing a major crisis, the PM persuaded Thimayya to withdraw his resignation, which he unfortunately did at the cost of his authority. Nothing changed. Mullick and Menon sowed in Nehru’s mind the notion that a powerful Chief might stage a coup (as Ayub had done). This myth was for long a factor in Government’s aversion to the idea of
appointing a Chief of Defence Staff.

President Ayub of Pakistan had on a brief stopover meeting with Nehru in Delhi en route to Dhaka in 1959 had proposed “joint defence”. Joint defence against whom, was Nehru’s scornful and unthinking retort? Yet Nehru was not unconscious of a potential threat from the north as he had from the early 1950s repeatedly told Parliament that the Himalayan rampart was India’s defence and defence line. He had somewhat grandiloquently and tactlessly proclaimed that though Nepal was indeed a sovereign nation, when it came to India’s security, India’s defence
lay along the Kingdom’s northern border, Nepal’s independence notwithstanding! Yet he had been remarkably lax in preparing to defend that not-quite-so-impenetrable a rampart (as I had argued in an article in the Times of India in 1950) or even countenance his own military from doing so.

However, almost a decade later, Himalayan border road construction commenced under the Border Roads Organisation and forward positions were established. This Forward Policy, though opposed by Lt Gen.Daulat Singh, GOC-in-C Western Command, was pushed by Krishna Menon,de facto Foreign Minister, and equally by B.N Mullick, who played  a determining role in these events, being present in all inner councils.

Many of the 43 new posts established in Ladakh were penny packets with little capability and support or military significance. The objective appeared more political, in fulfilment of an utterly fatuous slogan Nehru kept uttering in Parliament and elsewhere, that “not an inch of territory” would be left undefended though he had earlier played down the Aksai chin incursion as located in a cold, unpopulated, elevated desert “where not a blade of grass grows”. In August Nehru announced
that Indian forces had regained 2500 square miles of the 12,000 square
miles occupied by the Chinese in Ladakh.

A series of Sino-Indian White Papers continued to roll out. The Times of India commented on August 15, 1962: Anyone reading the latest White Paper on Sino-Indian relations together with some of the speeches by the Prime Minister and Defence Minister on the subject may be forgiven for feeling that the Government’s China policy, like chopsuey, contains a bit of everything – firmness and conciliation, bravado and caution, sweet reasonableness and defiance…We have been variously
informed …that the situation on the border is both serious and not so serious; that we have got the better of the Chinese and they have got the better of us; that the Chinese are retreating and that they are advancing…”.

Backseat driving of defence policy continued to the end of Thimayya’s tenure when General P.N.Thapar was appointed COAS in preference to Thimayya’s choice of Lt. Gen S.P.P Thorat, Eastern Army Commander. Thorat had produced a paper in the prevailing circumstances advocating that while the Himalayan heights might be prepared as a trip-wire defence, NEFA should essentially be defended lower down at its waistwhich, among other things, would ease the Indian Army’s logistical and
acclimatisation problems and correspondingly aggravate those of the Chinese. The Thorat plan, “The China Threat and How to Meet It”, got short shrift.

The Goa operation at the end of 1960 witnessed two strange events. The new Chief of General Staff (CGS), Lt. Gen. B.M Kaul marched alongside one of the columns of the 17th Division under Gen Candeth that was tasked to enter Goa. Thereafter he and, separately, the Defence Minister, Krishna Menon, declared “war” or the commencement of operations at two different times: one at midnight and the other at first light the next morning. In any other situation such flamboyant showmanship could have been disastrous. However, Goa was a cake walk and evoked the mistaken impression among gifted amateurs in high places that an unprepared Indian Army could take on China.

Kaul’s promotion to the rank of Lt. Gen and then to key post of CGS had stirred controversy. He was politically well connected and had held staff and PR appointments but was without command experience. The top brass was divided and the air thick with intrigue and suspicion. Kaul had inquiries made into the conduct of senior colleagues like Thorat, S.D Verma and then Maj.Gen. Sam Manekshaw, Commandant of the Staff College in Wellington !

Even as the exchange of Sino-Indian notes continued, Nehru on Oct 12,
1962 said he had ordered the Indian Army “to throw the Chinese out”, something casually revealed to the media at Palam airport before departing on a visit to Colombo!

A new 4 Corps was created on October 8, 1962 with headquarters at Tezpur to reinforce the defence of the Northeast. Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh was named GOC but was soon moved to take over 33 Corps at Siliguri and then moved again to the Western Command. Kaul took charge of 4 Corps but appeared to have assumed a superior jurisdiction because of his direct political line to Delhi. Command controversies were further compounded as at times it seemed that both everybody and nobody was in charge. Thapar himself and Gen L.P. Sen, now at Eastern  Command, also went to recce and reorder defence plans along the Bomdila-Se La sector. At the political level and at the External Affairs Ministry the adage was “Panditji knows best”.

Kaul was here, there and everywhere, exposing himself in high altitudes without acclimatisation. No surprise that he fell ill and was evacuated to Delhi on October 18 only to return five days later.

Following Nehru’s “throw them out” order, and against saner military advice and an assessment of ground realities, a Brigade under John Dalvi was positioned on the Namka Chu River below the Thagla Ridge that the Chinese claimed lay even beyond the McMohan Line. It was a self -made trap. It was but to do or die. The Brigade retreated in disorder after a gallant action, while the Chinese rolled down to
Tawang which they reached on October 25.

The London Economist parodied Kipling. A text of a pithy editorial titled “Plain Tales from the Hills” read, “When the fog cleared, The Chinese were there”! That said it all.

A new defence line was hurriedly established at Se La.  Nehru was by now convinced that the Chinese were determined to sweep down to the plains. The national mood was one despondency, anger, foreboding. Only one commentator, the Times of India editor, N.J.Nanporia, who sadly just passed away a few weeks ago, got it right.

In a closely reasoned edit page article he argued that the Chinese favoured negotiation and a peaceful settlement, not invasion, and India must talk. At worst the Chinese would teach India a lesson and go back. Critics scoffed at Nanporia. I too thought he was being simplistic. A week or 10 days later, in response to his critics, he
reprinted the very same article down to the last comma and full-stop. Events proved him absolutely right.

On October 24, Chou En-lai proposed a 20 kilometre withdrawal by either side. Three days later Nehru sought the enlargement of this buffer to 40-60 km. On November 4, Chou offered to accept the McMahon Line provided India accepted the Macdonald Line in Ladakh approximating the Chinese claim line (giving up the more northerly
Johnson Line favoured by Delhi).

I was by now in Tezpur, lodged in the very pleasant Planter’s Club which had become a media dormitory. The Army arranged for the press to visit the NEFA front. Scores of Indian and foreign correspondents and cameramen volunteered. Col Pyara Lal, the chief Army PRO, took charge. On November 15-17 we drove up to Se La (15,000 feet) and down to Dirang Dzong in the valley beyond before the climb to Bomdila.

Jawans in cottons and perhaps a light sweater and canvas shoes were manhandling ancient 25-pounders into position at various vantage points. We had seen and heard Bijji Kaul’s theatrics and bravado at 4 Corps Headquarters a day earlier and were shocked to see the reality: ill-equipped, unprepared but cheerful officers and men digging in to hold back the enemy under the command of a very gallant officer, Brig
Hoshiar Singh.

We had barely returned to Tezpur on Nov 17 when we learnt that the Chinese had mounted an attack on Se La and outflanked it as well. Many correspondents rushed back to Delhi and Calcutta more easily to file their copy and despatch their pictures and footage. Military censorship delayed transmission. I discovered later that between the Tezpur PO’s inability to handle much copy and censorship, few if any
of my despatches reached the Times of India and those that did had been severely truncated.

Even as battle was joined, Kaul, disappeared from Tezpur to be with his men, throwing the chain of command into disarray. The saving grace was the valiant action fought at Walong in the Lohit Valley. Much gallantry was also displayed in Ladakh against heavy odds.

The use of the air force had been considered. Some thought that the IAF had the edge as its aircraft would be operating with full loads from low altitude air strips in Assam unlike the Chinese operating from the Tibetan plateau at base altitudes of 11,000-12,000 feet. However, the decision was to avoid use of offensive air power to prevent escalation.

On November 18, word came that the Chinese had enveloped Se La, which
finally fell without much of a fight in view of conflicting orders. A day later the enemy had broken through to Foothills along the Kameng axis. Confusion reigned supreme. Kaul or somebody ordered the 4th Corps to pull back to Gauwahati on Nov
19 and, as military convoys streamed west, somebody else ordered that Tezpur and the North Bank be evacuated.

A “scorched earth” policy was ordered by somebody else again and the Nunmati refinery was all but blown up. The DM deserted his post. A former school and college mate of mine, Rana KDN Singh, was directed to take charge of a tottering administration. He supervised the Joint Steamer Companies, mostly manned by East Pakistan lascars, as they ferried a frightened and abandoned civil population to the South Bank. The other modes of exodus were by bus and truck, car, cart, cycle and on foot. The last ferry crossing was made at 6 p.m. Those who remained or reached the jetty late, melted into the tea gardens and forest.

The Indian Press had ingloriously departed the previous day, preferring safety to real news coverage, – as happened again in Kashmir in 1990, when at least women journalists subsequently redeemed the profession. Only two Indians remained in Tezpur, Prem Prakash of Visnews and Reuters, and I, together with nine American and British correspondents. Along with us, wandering around like lost souls, were
some 10-15 patients who had been released from the local mental hospital.

That was the most eerie night I have every spent. Tezpur was a ghost town. We patrolled it by pale moonlight on the alert for any tell-tale signs or sounds. The State Bank had burned its currency chest and a few charred notes kept blowing in the wind as curious mental patients kept prodding the dying embers. Some stray dogs and alley cats were our only other companions.

Around midnight, a transistor with one of our colleagues crackled to life as Peking Radio announced a unilateral ceasefire and pull back to the pre-October “line of actual control”, provided the Indian Army did not move forward. Relieved and weary we repaired to our billet at the abandoned Planter’s Club whose canned provisions of baked beans, tuna fish and beer (all on the house) had sustained us.

Next morning, all the world carried the news, but AIR still had brave jawans gamely fighting the enemy as none had had the gumption to awaken Nehru and take his orders as the news was too big to handle otherwise! Indeed, during the preceding days, everyone from general to jawan to officials and the media, but everyone, was tuned into Radio Peking to find out what was going on in our own country. Satyamave Jayate! But even today we still lack a coherent communications policy.

1962 was a politically-determined military disaster. President Radhakrishnan said it all when he indicted the Government for its “credulity and negligence”. Nehru himself confessed, artfully using the plural, “We were getting out of touch with reality … and living in an artificial world of our own creation”.

Yet he was reluctant to get rid of Krishna Menon, (making him, first, Minister for Defence Production and then Minister without Portfolio, in which capacity he brazenly carried on much as before). Public anger finally compelled the PM to drop him altogether or risk losing his own job.

Nehru was broken and bewildered. His letter to John F Kennedy seeking US military assistance after the fall of Bomdila was abject and pathetic. He feared that unless the tide was stemmed the Chinese would overrun the entire Northeast. He said they were massing troops in the Chumbi Valley and he apprehended another “invasion” from there. If Chushul was overrun, there was nothing to stop the Chinese before Leh.

The IAF had not been used as India lacked air defence for its population centres. He therefore requested immediate air support by twelve squadrons of all-weather supersonic fighters with radar cover, all operated by US personnel. But US aircraft were not to intrude into Chinese air space.

One does not know what and whose inputs went into drafting Nehru’s letter to Kennedy. Non-alignment was certainly in tatters.

Tezpur limped back to life. On November 21, Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Home Minister, paid a flying visit on a mission of inquiry and reassurance. He was followed the next day by Indira Gandhi.

Nehru had meanwhile broadcast to the nation, and more particularly to “the people of Assam “to whom his “heart went out” at this terrible hour of trial. He promised the struggle would continue and none should doubt its outcome. Hearing the broadcast in Tezpur, however, it did not sound like a Churchillian trumpet of defiance. Rather, it provided cold comfort to the Assamese many of whom hold it against the Indian state to this day that Nehru had bidden them “farewell”.

I remained in Tezpur day after day for a month waiting day after day for the administration to return to Bomdila. This it did under the Political Officer Maj
K.C. Johorey just before Christmas. I accompanied him. The people of NEFA had stood solidly with India and Johorey received a warm welcome.

Thapar had been removed and Gen J.N Chaudhuri appointed COAS. Kaul went into limbo. The Naga underground took no advantage of India’s plight. Pakistan had been urged by Iran and the US not to use India’s predicament to further its own cause and kept its word. But it developed a new relationship with China thereafter.

The US and the West had been sympathetic to India and its Ambassador, Galbraith, had a direct line to Kennedy. However, the US was also preoccupied with growing Sino-Soviet divide and the major Cuban missile crisis that boiled over in October 1962.

The COAS, Gen Choudhury ordered an internal inquiry into the debacle by Maj. Gen Henderson Brooks and Brigadier P.S Bhagat. The Henderson Brooks Report remains a top-secret classified document though its substance was leaked and published by Neville Maxwell who served as the London Times correspondent in India in the 1960s, became a Sinophile and wrote a critical book titled “India’s China War”. The Report brings out the political and military naiveté, muddle, contradictions and in-fighting that prevailed and failures of planning and command. There is no military secret to protect in the Henderson Brooks Report; only political and military ego and folly to hide. But unless the country knows, the appropriate lessons will not be learnt.

India did not learn the lesson that borders are more important than boundaries and continued to neglect the development of Arunachal and North Assam lest China roll down the hill again. However, given the prevailing global and regional strategic environment and India’scurrent military preparedness, the debacle of 1962 will not be repeated.

Many have since recorded their versions of what happened in 1962 : Kaul, Dalvi, D.K (Monty) Palit (who served under Kaul as Director of Military Operations), Neville Maxwell, S Gopal in Volume III of his Nehru biography, S.S. Khera, Principal Defence Secretary and Cabinet Secretary, in his “India’s Defence Problem”, Y.B Chavan, as retold in his biography by T.V.Kunhi Krishnan, and others.

Each has a tale to tell. But the truth, differently interpreted though widely suspected, remains the greatest casualty of 1962.

(Also read –

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English Usage …

Posted on November 14, 2012. Filed under: Light plus Weighty, Quotes, The English, Vocabulary/Words |

The guy who made up this sentence is a many splendoured genius! The first word has one letter, the second has two letters, the third three letters and so on till the twentieth word is with twenty letters!

“I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting: nevertheless extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality counterbalancing indecipherability transcendantalizes intercommunication’s incomprehensibleness”

Then there was this here competition for the correct usage of the two words, ‘complete’ and ‘finished’. The winning entry had universal appeal as well as high humor. It went something like this – 

‘The word complete best describes those persons who have found the right partner in their marriage. The word finished best describes those who have found the wrong partner! And they are completely finished if anyone of them finds the other in bed with some one else!”

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Gossip and Socrates …

Posted on November 1, 2012. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personal Magnetism, Personalities, Searching for Success, The Great Greeks, Weekly Goals |

Gossip is some thing the whole world loves. But being called or described as a gossip monger is something we all loathe. So how do the sensible get out of this horrible. but lovable  past time?

.Here is the story of how the great Socrates suggested it be shunned. He suggested what is described as the Triple Filter Test . So when some one ran to him to tell him what he had just heard about Diogenes, Socrates asked him to first check whether what he was going to tell him, would pass the Triple Filter Test?
First Filter -Has one made absolutely sure that what one is about to tell is true? This is a Filter of Truthfulness .
.Second Filter – Is what is a about to be told any good? This is a Filter of Goodness.
.Third Filter – Is what is about to be told of any use? This is the filter of Utility.
So maybe if we could pause to make these small checks, we could end up eliminating our tendency to gossip!


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