Many surmises were made at the time on the reasons for China’s sudden invasion and the equally sudden pull-out. A year after the event, the Chinese themselves stated that their aim had been ‘to thoroughly rout the Indian reactionaries and to shatter their plan of altering the border status quo by armed force and to create conditions for a negotiated settlement’.This was stated in an article in The Peking Review of 8 November 1963.
The words ‘altering the border status quo by armed force’ were apparently a reference to India’s ‘forward policy’ in Ladakh. Put in simple terms, the Chinese aim was to bring down the existing Indian Government (its leaders were reactionaries in Chinese eyes on account of their commitment to democracy) and in the conditions that would obtain after a Chinese victory, secure a settlement that suited China.
Chinese successes did not bring down the Indian Government. On the other hand, the whole country placed itself behind Nehru. A patriotic surge swept over the country and people came forward in their thousands to serve in the armed forces.
In the event, China failed to secure her political aim. Chinese successes did not bring down the Indian Government. On the other hand, the whole country placed itself behind Nehru. A patriotic surge swept over the country and people came forward in their thousands to serve in the armed forces.
Even though public clamour for rejecting the cease-fire was great, the Chinese once again made a virtue out of a necessity. They had to withdraw from Kameng before they were enclosed by deep winter on the wrong side of Bum La. Kameng and Lohit were linked politically, so they made a point to vacate both. In Ladakh there was no such compulsion, so they held on to their captured territory. Moreover, they had not brought up any armour and not much in the shape of mechanized transport. It was, in fact, impossible for them to bring mechanized forces across several hundred kilometres of mountainous terrain.
Till their unilateral cease-fire, the Chinese had come up against a small segment of the Indian Army – only about 24,000 out of 400,000. Indian reinforcements had begun to arrive and counter-attacks were sure to follow. The Chinese knew that with their overstretched lines of communication and without adequate transport for logistics, they would not be able to withstand these. There was also the possibility of outside intervention on India’s behalf. Thus, the Chinese decision to withdraw was not a magnanimous gesture on their part, as it was made out to be at the time.
The Indian Government accepted the cease-fire and the Army observed it strictly. The orders to troops were not to fire unless fired upon. The Chinese announcement of cease-fire was accompanied by a statement of how they would carry out their withdrawal; it also contained an invitation for negotiations. They specified that the withdrawal of their troops would commence on 1 December and that they would withdraw to positions 20 kilometres behind the Line of Actual Control which existed between India and China on 7 November 1959.
The countrys anguish was heightened by the fact that it had been led to believe that the Army was strong enough to meet any challenge.
They expected that India would do the same, i.e. keep her armed forces 20 kilometres away from the Line of Actual Control as it was on 7 November 1959. An identical proposal for a withdrawal had been made by the Chinese Premier in a letter to Prime Minister Nehru of that date. The Indian Government now made it clear that before there could be any discussions, the Chinese must withdraw to positions they held before 8 September 1962, i.e. the date on which their troops had invested the Assam Rifles’ post at Che Dong.
In their cease-fire declaration, however, the Chinese had stated that their withdrawal was not conditional and regardless of the fact that a common ground could not be found for negotiations, they commenced their pull-out on schedule.