‘1962 War Broke Nehru’ – Rediff.com India News


“The war of 1962 exposed the purely intellectual foundations of Nehruvian foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis China, which is why there was such a shock.”

IMAGE: Then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After The clash of December 9, 2022 Between Indian and Chinese troops in Tawang, the Opposition, led by the Congress, criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modisaying that his government is “endangering the country”.

Not surprisingly, the government responded Calling the 1962 War and then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Bharatiya Janata Party pointed out that this is not “Nehru’s India, which lost 37,242 sq km to China while it slept”.

The blame for the decline in relations between India and China was taken by those who blame Nehru’Hindi-Chini Bhai BhaiSardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s letters to the then Prime Minister, warning him not to trust an expanding China and to build up a military force to meet the challenge it posed, especially after the annexation of Tibet in 1951.

In their book Nehru: The debates that defined Indiaauthors Tripurdaman Singh and Adeel Hussain He tried to provide a way of understanding the Indian Prime Minister’s mind through discussions with his contemporaries, including Patel.

The book discusses Patel’s correspondence with Nehru on the China issue, and calls the latter’s approach to China as “supine”.

In Part 2 of the interview Rediff.com‘s Utkarsh MishraSingh and Hussain said, “To say that Indian politics was not supine in the early 1950s is a denial of both fact and current opinion.”

What I gleaned from the correspondence between Nehru and Sardar Patel on the Chinese question was that both agreed on the nature of the problem, however, they had different ideas on how to deal with it. do you agree
Nehru was not wrong in saying that preparations for war with China in 1950 would cost India dearly in its formative years. However, he also admitted that preparations needed to be made to secure India’s Northern and North Eastern borders. And he also made a distinction between these two preparations.
How do you see these developments between the 1950 and 1962 War?

Tripurdaman Singh: I don’t think they agreed at all on the nature of the problem. Nehru conceptualized postcolonial India’s position in the world very differently from Patel. For Nehru the costs of preparing for a contest with China were not merely material; there were also ideas.

They had closer ties with the West, abandoning India’s attempt to gain prominence in Southeast Asia as a major anti-socialist and anti-colonial force, giving credibility to Nehru and India as the Anglo-American front leg. machinations, undermining Nehru’s credentials as a great socialist statesman.

Patel’s position was that India assumed its status — political and legal — as the successor to the Raj (with its claims and responsibilities) largely divested of its colonial heritage and sought to assume the mantle of socialist internationalism as Nehru had wished.

The distinction you identify did not really exist in practice, as Nehru believed that socialism meant peace and therefore war with China was not possible.

Training was minimal, completely preventing the possibility of war. And we know how that ended.

Nehru himself gave the verdict: We were living in a world of our own imagination….

While Nehru’s remarks on Tibet reflect India’s abandonment of a friend it looked up to, is it fair to call the entire pro-China policy “supine”?
India sheltered the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees. Also, in the following years, India tried to formalize its borders with China, while China was doing so gradually.
Is there no evidence that India rejects Chinese interpretations of the border and that China has given clarifications on them over the years?

Singh: By the time India sheltered the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees, it had already helped China occupy Tibet militarily and then helped China legitimize its occupation.

Attempts to raise the issue at the United Nations were opposed by the Tibetans and American efforts to arm the Tibetans. Sino-Indian relations had already deteriorated and there was enormous sympathy in India for the Dalai Lama in 1959.

To say that this proved that Indian politics in the early 1950s was not supine is a denial of reality and current opinion. It is important to note that politics was considered supine by many contemporary observers at the time, including Patel and (Chakravarti) to Rajagopalach.

Now there were many reasons, some even reasonable, for the policy to evolve as it did, and we will explore them in the book. But then giving up on Chinese demands, after allowing them to gain enormous strategic advantage — in pursuit of self-imposed ideological preconditions — negates what was happening in the early 1950s would not be right.

Nehru’s views on China seem to lie not in his internationalism, but in his pan-Asianism and deep distrust of the West.
How did Nehru, who always appreciated Western democracies and even supported the Allies in the war against fascism when India itself was under the yoke of one of them, come to distrust the Western powers?
Was it because of their attitude towards the Kashmir issue and their wholehearted support to Pakistan?

Singh: I don’t think Nehru ever appreciated western democracies. He actively disliked America. Not so much should be read into the war for the Allies. It was the default position for most reasonable people.

in addition to foreigners such as (Subhas Chandra) Bose, nobody wanted a world ruled by Hitler or an India ruled by Japan. Furthermore, Nehru was closely associated with socialist circles in Britain and Europe, which were uniformly anti-fascist.

I think several things went into his mistrust of the West. To some extent, of course, Western colonialism and the crucible of anti-colonial politics from which it was created is explained. Here the West was the natural enemy.

But more than that, he wanted to reject Sino-Soviet accusations of being a Western skinhead and become the world’s leading advocate of colonialism and socialist internationalism — the big brother leading the little brothers in Southeast Asia to freedom and socialism.

These necessarily meant moving away from the west.

Adeel Hussain: Nehru’s early political years were spent fighting Western colonialism. So there was always an element of mistrust in his politics towards liberal democracies that defended or quietly accepted colonialism.

The brief strategic alignment with the British government to combat fascism was born of necessity, not trust.

After independence, Nehru was concerned that the other Asian powers would not accept India as a fully sovereign country, but would continue to see it as influenced by the Western powers.

This thinking may explain why Nehru largely eschewed close contact with the Western powers as Prime Minister.

In his letters of 1950, Nehru envisioned a World War if China attacked India. However, when the war broke out in 1962, India did not get help even from its trusted friends. Does Nehru then question his understanding of world politics?

Singh: he does. He said that after the war he lived in a world of his imagination.

He wrote during the war (the american) President (John FKennedy and asked the United States for military assistance, including requesting American bomber squadrons to bomb China, at a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were close to a possible nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The war of 1962 exposed the purely intellectual underpinnings of Nehruvian foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis China, which is why there was such consternation. It broke Nehru.

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