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The Sino-Indian Border War (Simplified Chinese: 中印边境战争; Traditional Chinese: 中印邊境戰爭; pinyin: Zhōng-Yìn Biānjìng Zhànzhēng; Hindi:चीन व भारत के राजनीतिक संबंध), was a war, declared from September 1962, triggered by a dispute over the Himalayan border in Aksai Chin between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of India. The war ended with the Chinese unilaterally declaring a ceasefire on November 21, 1962 after defeating India in Aksai Chin. The disputed area was claimed to be strategic for the PRC, as it enabled a western connection (China National Highway G219) between the Chinese territories of Tibet and Xinjiang. Aksai Chin remains in Chinese control today.
The Sino-Indian War remains one of the largest military conflicts fought at such a high altitude, with combat taking place at over 14,000 feet (4267 meters) . For another high-altitude conflict, see the Kargil War of 1999.
Causes of the war
British India and Tibet had never clearly marked their mutual border. The British Survey of India mapped the boundaries of Aksai Chin and the British government put up boundary markers, but administrative borders lay further south. The British claimed the McMahon Line, drawn up during the Simla Conference of 1914 and agreed to by the Tibetans. However, owing to various disagreements with the British, the Qing Dynasty authorities and the Republic of China refused to accept terms imposed by Britain. China refused to recognize the boundary on the grounds that Tibet, as an alleged dependency of China since the rule of the Qing Dynasty, could not make treaties. As a result, China did not recognize the validity of the McMahon Line. Even after the independence of India in 1947 and the establishment of the PRC in October 1 1949, the issue of the border still lacked full resolution.
India and the PRC maintained good mutual relations through the 1950s, which featured the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, proposed by the prime ministers of the two countries in 1953. However, after the PRC occupied Tibet in 1950, the Indian government under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru adopted a policy of forward military deployment in the border area. China disputed India's claims about the demarcation of the Line of Actual Control. For several years up to 1962, India and China both maintained forces in the disputed area. At times, each side accused the other of having moved troops into 'their' side of the border as each side tried to extend its line of actual control. A few skirmishes occurred during this time.
Both Chinese and Indian sources continue to dispute the cause of the escalation into war. India disputed the troop movement and border claimed by China. Negotiations between the two countries deteriorated over the following months, which transformed a boundary problem into a dispute, which then progressed into a border war. China maintained that parts of the boundaries remained undetermined and up for negotiation. Indians held that previous events had already determined the boundaries, and decided to establish checkposts all along them. Fighting began shortly thereafter, with both sides claiming that the other had started the aggression.
Events in the war
Indian and Chinese units maintained close contact throughout September 1962; however, hostile fire occurred only infrequently. On September 8, 1962, a 60-strong (misreported as 600) Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) unit surrounded one of the Indian forward posts at Dhola on the Thagla Ridge, three kilometers north of the McMahon Line. Nehru had gone to London to attend a Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference there, and when told of the act, told the media that the Indian Army had instructions to "free our territory". However, Nehru's directives to Defense Minister V.K. Krishna Menon remained unclear, and the response, codenamed Operation LEGHORN, got underway only slowly. By the time an Indian battalion reached the Thagla Ridge on September 16, Chinese units controlled both banks of the Namka Chu River. The day after, India's Chief of the Army Staff Kaul ordered his men to re-take the Thagla Ridge.
On September 20, at one of the bridges on the river a firefight developed, killing nine Chinese and Indian soldiers. On October 12, Nehru proclaimed India's intention to drive the Chinese out of areas claimed by India. On October 14, Indian defence minister Menon called for fighting China to the last man and the last gun. On October 20, 1962, the Chinese People's Liberation Army launched two coordinated attacks, 1000 kilometers apart, in the Chip Chap valley in Ladakh and the Namkachu river. After securing a substantial portion of the disputed territory, the Chinese made an offer to negotiate on October 24. The Indian government promptly rejected this offer, and tried to regroup during the lull in the fighting.
Indian forces had offered determined but insufficient resistance. The Indian deployment covered a large area. Many Indian units required airlift for resupply. The Indian jawans (soldiers) also lacked both good supplies and good training for mountain combat. Some skirmishes also took place in Sikkim (at that time an Indian protectorate) at the Nathula Pass.
By November 18 the PLA had penetrated close to the outskirts of Tezpur, Assam, a major frontier town nearly fifty kilometers from the Assam-North-East Frontier Agency border. Due to either logistical problems (according to Indian accounts) or for political reasons (according to Chinese accounts) the PLA did not advance farther, and on November 21 it declared a unilateral cease-fire. The United States Air Force flew in massed supplies to India in November, 1962, but neither side wished to continue hostilities. The PLA withdrew to positions it had occupied before the war and on which China had staked its diplomatic claim.
After the war
After India's defeat, Indian Defense Minister Menon resigned. Prime Minister Nehru also faced significant accusations from government officals. Neither China nor India officially admitted to starting the war, while accusation continues between the two governments. Despite winning the war, the Chinese government still faced questions regarding its diplomacy . The Indian government commissioned an investigation, resulting in the Henderson-Brooks Report on the causes of the war and the reasons for defeat. However, the Indian government has refused to declassify the relevant documents. No known commission of inquiry has reported on the Chinese side on the events that led to the war. India's defeat in 1962 led to an overhaul of Indian Army in terms of doctrine, training, organisation and equipment.
In the early 1980s, following a shift of emphasis in the Indian military, the Indian army began to actively patrol the Line of Actual Control (LoAC). Friction begin to ensue over the Chinese occupation of the Sumdorong Chu pasturage, lying north of Tawang. The Indian media gave the matter national prominence, and an angry exchange of official protests between the Chinese and Indian governments followed. The Indian Parliament passed a bill setting up the state of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory in which China claims 11 of 15 districts.
In 1993 and 1996, the two sides signed the Sino-Indian Bilateral Peace and Tranquillity Accords, an agreement on maintaining peace and tranquillity along the LAC. Ten meetings of a Sino-Indian Joint Working Group (SIJWG) and five of an expert group to determine where the LAC lies have taken place but little progress has occurred.Recently as a goodwill gesture during the visit of Chinese Prime Minister to the India, China recognised the territory of Sikkim, as belonging to India. Neither the Indian nor the PRC government appear very interested in disturbing the status quo, and the disputed boundary, called by Indians the Line of Actual Control or the McMahon Line, does not currently appear to be a possible major flashpoint. Military commissions from China and India meet regularly in the capitals of both countries to discuss the status of the border. However, they have made little progress in resolving this contentious border issue.
- Remembering a War: The 1962 India-China Conflict - From Rediff.com
- Neville Maxwell: Henderson Brooks Report
- 1962 Sino-Indian War, Hindustan Times
- Sino-Indian War (1962)
- Critical Asian Studies Article: Sino Indian War 1962
- War in the Himalayas: 1962 Indo-Sino Conflict
- India, China to speed up border dispute talks: 2005 Xinhuanet
- 1962 War and Its Implications For Sino-India Relations