When China occupied Tibet, Prime Minister Nehru’s brows should have perspired, because he now had a monstrous red dragon to deal with, even as he struggled with mad dog Pakistan. But Defence Minister Krishna Menon was a powerful man with Communist leanings and Nehru-Menon took zero measures to empower India against the behemoth that now controlled the sources of some prime Indian rivers.
Even prior to their complete occupation of Tibet, China started building a National Highway, G219, connecting Xinjiang to Tibet via Aksai Chin and India ignored this development.
Although United States and Britain anticipated the ‘march of the red dragon’ and tried to empower India economically, their gestures were thwarted by ‘India’s Rasputin’ Menon, who saw our fortunes in China and Russia. Although neighbours next door could make better allies than distant powers, it should not be discounted that one superpower would not want another across its border – after 1962, it appeared that India was destined for a future as ‘China’s Canada’.
Even prior to their complete occupation of Tibet, China started building a National Highway, G219, connecting Xinjiang to Tibet via Aksai Chin and India ignored this development. “Nehru had been aware of the Chinese maps for some time but withheld the information from Parliament, fearing that it would inflame Indian public opinion…“ (Hyer, E; The Pragmatic Dragon…). Although Nehru-Menon later triggered 1962 primarily due to this issue, Nehru finally sidelined Menon and sought western help to fight China, because the routed Indian Military was unprepared for this war. When help arrived in the form of an alliance of anti-Soviets led by America (including Pakistan), China announced a ceasefire and Nehru complied, much to the world’s displeasure.
Fallouts of 1962
Far East Reporter (FER), a Chinese propaganda magazine from New York, published a report in 1963 underlining an agenda to convert India into extreme leftist country. Krishna Menon was removed as Defence Minister prior to America’s announcement of sending arms support to India, and FER opined that this was a result of the efforts of “reactionary forces”, meaning right thinking Indians. Such opinions elucidate that seeds of Maoism were already planted in India with support of surreptitious foreign agencies hailing human rights.
We shall never know what Krishna Menon’s ambitions might have been – maybe he wanted to become India’s premier with Chinese support or maybe he was simply cheated by his comrades.
The report also indicates the design of a ‘Strong United Front’ consisting of NE insurgents, CPI-Maoist and Kashmiri militants, backed by Pakistan’s ISI and China.
Regardless of whether America played Cold War games, and regardless of an extended war scenario that Nehru might have avoided by assenting to China’s ceasefire, some fallouts of 1962, to India’s detriment today, can be summarised as under:
- Sturdy Sino-Pak relations due to Pak’s fear that US was making excessive overtures to India,
- Completion of Karakoram Highway, connecting Pak–China, in 1979 with roots in G219,
- (Regardless of his statement surrendering Assam), Nehru did concede the Brahmaputra’s source, along with strategically important areas for the security of the Northeast like Chumbi Valley, when he discontinued the war.
Unholy Sino-Pak Bonhomie Post 1962
1962 was a watershed in Cold War alignments and Sino-Pak relations. Pakistan was a member of CENTO and SEATO, two anti-Soviet alliances – the reason why they were part of the coalition against China. But when Indo-US ties got stronger, they threatened to withdraw from those alliances and expedited their border negotiations with China. Bob Komar, a National Security Council staffer, noted, “The Pakistani(s) are going through a genuine emotional crisis as they see their cherished ambitions of using the U.S. as a lever against India going up in the smoke of the Chinese border war”.
With passage of time, Sino-Pak relations resulted in the CPEC and other alliances in furtive spheres such as joint espionage and disruptive activities by ISI-PLA. Extremism in India grew, producing Maoist organisations supported by domestic and foreign agencies. Under the garb of human rights, agencies with mysterious backing like Naga International Support Centre still support militancy in India from distant locations. The South Asia Intelligence Review stated “…that the Eastern Region Bureau of the CPI-Maoist…has been entrusted with the task of establishing a foothold in the NE. Trends indicate that the rebels are engaged in a bid to set up a corridor through North Bengal, particularly Siliguri, linking up their primary ‘Red Corridor’ strongholds with the Northeast, to access the predominant route for weapons’ smuggling into the country”. (Singh, AK; SAIR, October 31, 2011). After naming several organisations, including some that are active in NE India today, the report adds that ISI-PLA supply Maoists with arms and use China as the alternative route.
A bigger strategic threat to India could emerge if Sino-Bhutan joint field surveys over Bhutan’s disputed western border with China assents to Beijing’s demands.
The report also indicates the design of a ‘Strong United Front’ consisting of NE insurgents, CPI-Maoist and Kashmiri militants, backed by Pakistan’s ISI and China. Fortunately, present dispensation has taken a strong stand against insurgency and unarmed ‘revolutionary’ movements else matters might have taken a different shape by now.
Chumbi Valley and the Chicken’s Neck
A bigger strategic threat to India could emerge if Sino-Bhutan joint field surveys over Bhutan’s disputed western border with China assents to Beijing’s demands. India’s main concern here revolves around Chumbi valley, an arrow like protrusion of a part of southern Tibet between Bhutan and Sikkim. While it enjoys unmatched tri-lateral strategic importance, the red alert for Northeast stems from its precarious position close to Siliguri corridor (Chicken’s neck). Any Chinese thrust down the valley, and then this corridor, will cut NE from the mainland. The Lhasa-Shigatse-Gyirong-Yadong railway network, completion targeted by 2020, will take the NE security issue to another dimension – Chumbi valley, via Yadong, already leads to Kashgar (via Nehru-Menon’s G219) and then to Pakistan.
India and China are at a tug-of-war with Nepal, the Chicken’s other neighbour, and the winner is yet to be declared. The Chicken is being sandwiched by China from two fronts, Bhutan and Nepal, and hence India is in ‘Check’. On October 4, 2016, Shanghai Daily reported that two Chinese investors have expressed interest in developing an SEZ in Nepal after the SEZ bill was endorsed by Nepal’s Parliament only last month.
India cannot have an isolated Indus strategy by ignoring Brahmaputra and cannot wage a full blown war against Pak without cutting the supply of arms (and support) that China facilitates…
We have seen how China craftily announced that they blocked a tributary of the Brahmaputra right after India announced a review of the Indus Water Treaty, clearly implying that any Indian attack on Pakistan will not go unheeded by them. No matter how they defend their actions, it is another proof of what many have said about their Modus Operandi when it comes to the building of mega dams – secretly first, and then present it as necessary and beneficial. Although India and China have also announced a joint fight against terror, which is definitely good, one wonders how much India discussed the threats that ISI-PLA pose to her homeland security.
India cannot have an isolated Indus strategy by ignoring Brahmaputra and cannot wage a full blown war against Pak without cutting the supply of arms (and support) that China facilitates to rebel groups through their corporate faces.
India needs to go full throttle on a strategy that would not only secure her north-eastern borders and coerce China to go soft on our waters, but also brush-up our internal security system. The Chicken’s neck needs to be strengthened – ideally such a corridor should be devoid of civilians but in our case, not only is it teeming with population, but a highly restive one.