China's Destructive Policies
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Issue Book Excerpt: Rising India | Date : 11 Apr , 2011

Such an Indian weakness in relation to China is surprising because the diplomatic record of Chinese actions and declarations, and of American assessments of Chinese policies point to a pattern of destructive interventions which harms Indian interests and in the long run promote Pakistan’s self-destruction as well. The American diplomatic record of the 1960s reveals international concerns about the dangerous aspects of Chinese policies in relation to India and Pakistan, and by implication it reveals Indian culpability in promoting Chinese interests over Indian interests. Chinese policy towards India had a long term character that was formed during the Cold War period, its character was maintained following the end of the Cold War and, with the loosening of special Indo-Soviet ties after 1990, Chinese pressures on India intensified by an increase in the quality of Chinese military, nuclear, missile and naval aid to Pakistan.

Should the Chinese attack through Burma simultaneously, the Assam valley would be lost.

The comparison is with India’s relations with the USA. Once the Cold War ended and the nature of Indo-Soviet ties changed along with US government perceptions, a convergence emerged between India and America in terms of democratic values and economic and strategic interests. Two things happened: differences were bridged and new points of convergence emerged such as the formation of the US-India civilian nuclear deal. China’s policy on the other hand made marginal adjustments in its stance:

Beijing stopped talking about Kashmiri self-determination and Sikkim was recognized as a part of the Indian Union. But China did not abandon its policy of supporting Indo-Pakistani polarity and parity as Washington and other European powers did. Beijing went out of its way to insist on Indian nuclear disarmament while many international specialists and the major powers recognized the link between Indian threat perceptions of China and the nuclear question. So the character of American policy was to build India’s regional and international position; the character of Chinese (and Pakistani) policy was to degrade Indian power and the evolving pattern of its strategic and commercial relations with Southeast and East Asian states.

To a discussion of this aspect we now turn. The following references show that Washington and Moscow recognized in the 1960s that Chinese interventions had a destructive character but Indian practitioners have been slow in acknowledging it and Beijing’s practitioners remain committed to Sun Tzu’s mantra that ‘all warfare is based on deception’. Its diplomatic offensive within India and in international circles about its peaceful intent is deceptive given its massive military modernization program and internal organizational changes to fight in Asian theatres beyond Taiwan.11

A White House document (2 December 1965) reveals US advice to Pakistan that ‘bringing in China only destroys the sub-continent’. Instead it emphasized the value of Indo-Pakistani initiatives to resolve issues peacefully and to rely on initiatives from within the subcontinent. In contrast China had no such inclination. Similarly the memo noted Premier Kosygin’s view urging Indo-Pakistani reconciliation because ‘we want [a] stable sub-continent, to stand up against China’. A State Department telegram 10 May 1965 noted a Chinese plot to ‘wreck both India and Pakistan’. Robert Komer (White House) in a note to General M. Taylor noted on 21 April 1964 that ‘China is chief threat to sub-continent’.

The lack of transparency in Indian foreign affairs impedes the development of a reasoned public debate about issues that concern public interest and the general good.

Assistant Secretary of State P. Talbot’s cable noted that ‘Pakistan realizes that they have been suckered by Chicoms’. The Defence Intelligence Agency and Central Intelligence Agency report notes that ‘Chicom were real enemy’. A State Department’s telegram (1 January 1966) notes that Prime Minister L. B. Shastri was subject to attacks from nationalist right and ‘extreme pro-Chicom Left’ within India. Shastri recognized the interest of Washington and Moscow in détente and their ‘opposing Chicom interest in conflict’. Shastri recognized China as ‘India’s main enemy’ and a source of military aid to Pakistan. In this context the Tashkant agreement was a defeat for China according to the diplomatic record.12

A State Department telegram (8 March 1965) from American ambassador Chester Bowles notes Indian army headquarters assumed that Pakistani- organized, Chinese trained Bengali and tribal guerrillas would move into Assam from East Pakistan and from Burma but there was no consensus within the Indian political leadership on this point. The telegram recognizes the eastern part of the subcontinent as the area of risk of Chinese involvement given the menacing threats from Beijing and the threatening note by Beijing on Sikkim border. A Defence Department telegram gives the following assessment of the possible results of Chinese military involvement in the Eastern front. To quote:

“The Indian forces would have to withdraw from Ladakh and the Jammu and Kashmir area with the possibility of defending on the general line Pathankot-Shimla-Dehra Dun. In the Himachal and Uttar Pradesh the Chinese could be held in the foothills. In the Chumbi Pass area the Chinese could be held after initial advances. In NEFA the Indians could only delay to the Assam valley where it is felt the Chinese could be held. Should the Chinese attack through Burma simultaneously, the Assam valley would be lost.”13

A CIA document (13 September 1965) refers to an Indian note to China accusing Beijing of ‘mischievous attempt to connect India’s fight with Pakistan and the India-China border troubles’ and Moscow’s ‘indirect criticism of Beijing’s ‘inciting statements’.14

The linkup between China and Pakistan vis-à-vis India was indicated (7 September 1965) by China’s statement on ‘Indian aggression’ and Chen Yi’s demand for Indian troop withdrawal from Kashmir. To quote.

“Communist China has issued another statement in support of the Pakistani position and strongly condemning Indian ‘aggression’. The Chinese statement claims that India continues to occupy Chinese territory and that India cannot evade responsibility for having taken the first step in committing aggression against Pakistan. This statement is undoubtedly designed to cause India concern without committing China to any course of action.”

Furthermore, the CIA observed:

“Communist China continues to apply pressure on New Delhi. Following the nasty note to India yesterday, Foreign Minister Chen Yi reportedly has now called for the withdrawal of all Indian troops from Kashmir. He made this demand during an interview in Algiers.”15

A White House memo from R.W. Komer to McGeorge Bundy (President John F. Kennedy’s special assistant) dated 15 May 1965 notes that the aim is to ‘contain Chicom in Asia’; and ‘we’re buying time for democratic India to come of age’. Komer further notes in a message to McGeorge Bundy dated 3 June 1964 that India-China is ‘really big game’, and ‘India is big business more so than all of Southeast Asia’. Elsewhere a US document (2 October 1965) notes that ‘China exploits India-Pakistan problems’.

Book_Rising_IndiaA Defence Intelligence Agency summary dated 20 October 1965 notes that Prime Minister Shastri recognizes that India ‘is the principal obstacle to an expansion of Chinese influence on the subcontinent….’.

It is a matter of speculation if India’s diplomatic record contains insights about the nature of China’s threat to India. Given an attitude of appeasement towards Beijing by the Nehru government and the lack of Indian military preparation in 1962, Indian secrecy about its diplomatic archives and its unwillingness to declassify the files after 30 years suggests a desire to withhold scholarly and press scrutiny of it assessments and its actions. The lack of transparency in Indian foreign affairs impedes the development of a reasoned public debate about issues that concern public interest and the general good.


  1. In 1600 Akbar’s India (which was two thirds the size of British India) had a revenue exceeding England’s in 1790. See P. Spear, A History of India, vol. 2, London, Penguin, 1987 edition, p.109. 200 years ago India and China had two thirds of the world’s economic input. See R. B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World, New York, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002, p. 2.
  2. C. Dasgupta, War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, 1947-48, New Delhi, Sage, 2002.
  3. See ‘Position of the United States with Respect to Asia,’ NSC 48/1 23 December 1949, in T. H. Eetzold and J. L. Gaddis, Containment, New York, Columbia University Press, 1978, pp. 252-53.
  4. See ‘The Chinese Checkmate’, Cynical Nerd’s the Indian National Interest, http://cynical-nerd.national, p. 52, June 7, 2006.
  5. See William Stevenson, Intrepid’s Last Case, New York, Willard Books, 1983, preface.
  6. G. Fairbairn, Revolutionary Guerrilla Warfare, Middlesex, UK, Penguin, 1974, pages 34 and 47; also Introduction and Chapter 1 in general.
  7. Donald Zagoria, ‘Choices in the Postwar World: Containment and China’, in C. Gati, ed., Caging the Bear, New York, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1974, pp. 119-122.
  8. See US government memorandum in F. S. Aijazuddin, ed., White House and Pakistan, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 526-539.
  9. This distinction borrows heavily from Andrew L. March, The Idea of China, New York, Praeger, 1974, pp. 7-8. For the anti-Indian stereotypes in Chinese and American thinking that surfaced in their deliberations to check India’s policy in the 1971 war, see F.S. Aijazuddin, ed., White House and Pakistan.
  10. L. F. Rushbrook Williams, The State of Pakistan, London, Faber and Faber, 1962, p. 120.
  11. See Martin Andrew, ‘The PLA’s New Calculus for Force Posture,’ The Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, vol. 6, issue 12, June 7, 2006.
  12. US Embassy, New Delhi to Jack Valenti, Special Assistant to President Kennedy, 2 December 1965. State Department telegram, 10 May 1965. State Department telegram, 8 March 1965. State Department telegram, 11 January 1966. White House Situation Room telegram, 7 September 1965. R . W. Komer memorandum to General Taylor, 21 April 1964. Assistant Secretary of State Talbot to Secretary of State, Washington, 25 March 1964. Secretary of State Dean Rusk memorandum for President, 25 April 1964. State Department telegram, 1 January 1966. State Department telegram, 23 December 1965. State Department telegram 1 December 1965. Central Intelligence Agency to the White House, 13 September 1965. State Department telegram, 6 September 1965.
  13. Department of Defence, National Military Command Centre, D320/JCS211/R2/20, section two, date not known.
  14. CIA to White House, ‘India-Pakistan Situation’. No. CIA/OCI 10759.
  15. CIA Intelligence Memorandum, From White House Situation Room to the President, 7 September, 1965, CITE CAP 65565.
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About the Author

Ashok Kapur

Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

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