New Delhi: India was engaged in a bruising war with China in 1962 because the apparatus of the state was at fault but no lessons seem to have been learnt from this, diplomatic, military and media veterans of the “humiliation” that the country suffered 50 years ago lamented.
“The 1962 conflict occurred because the apparatus of the state was at fault but we still don’t take structured decisions,” former top diplomat K.Shankar Bajpai said at the second round table discussion on “50 Years After 1962: India-China Relations” organised by the India International Centre, the Subbu Forum and the Society for Policy Studies (SPS) Friday evening.
“The 1962 conflict was a total example of what a government should not do. It was governance of the Mughal style,” Bajpai, a former ambassador to China, US and Pakistan who was also the convenor of the National Security Advisory Board contended and then posed a question: “Have we learnt from it?”
He left the answer hanging but the implication was quite clear: that 50 years down the line, no lessons had been drawn from the conflict.
Another security expert, Brig (retd) Arun Sehgal, echoed Bajpai.
“Their is talk of jointmanship but there is no thinking on integrated joint operations. Because of this, there is no common operating picture,” he said.
Sehgal also rued that the Indian establishment continues to think that China will follow “the attritional policy of 1962”, while in reality it was “enhancing its capabilities for asymmetrical attacks”.
Lamenting the “casual decisions taken in Delhi”, Mohan Guruswamy. a China expert of the Observer Research Foundation, said: “In 1962, there was no coordination, there was casual decision-making. Are we condemned to repeat it?”
Inder Malhotra, veteran journalist who covered the war, said it was a result of a “total misreading of the situation” by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who never thought the Chinese would make an all-out assault but only resort to “small skirmishes” to settle their territorial claims.
“Indian forces at the time were hopelessly unprepared, Malhotra said. He said if the Indian Air Force was used to give air cover to the Indian Army – a flawed decision that has been rued by military experts since then – the results of the war would have been totally different.
However, Arvinder Singh Lamba, former vice-chief of army who retired recently, dismissed such fears saying “there was no scope for any surprises (from China) in future.
“We have come a long way,” he said, in terms of enhancing border surveillance and intelligence and fortifying border infrastructure.
C Uday Bhaskar, former director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), added that the much expected ‘Asian Century’ of the 21st century would be determined by the texture of the Sino-Indian relationship over the next two decades. Enhancing comprehensive national power is imperative , he added, but bemoaned the fact that the Indian political establishment has little time or comprehension of complex national security issues.