What If India Had Won The 1962 War Against China?
Tibet would have been liberated; the loss of face would have made
China retreat into its shell instead of becoming an aggressive
imperialist....and of course India's Marxists would have been
Indians have been conditioned to believe that we had not a ghost of a
chance against China in 1962; but that's simply not true. If the
Indian government had not been so blasÃ©; if the military leadership
had not been so ineffectual; if the Indian Air Force had not been
grounded, ill-advisedly; well, all historic ifs, but the outcome would
have been very different. China's army is a lot less than invincible,
as the battle-hardened Vietnamese proved by thrashing it in 1979.
Even the timing was propitious for India, yet we fumbled. In 1962,
China had just experienced four years of decreasing foodgrain
production and a major famine.
Chinese supply lines to the Indo-Tibet border were stretched thin, and
could have been disrupted from the air. If only the Indian political
and military leadership had not been criminally negligentâwhich is why
the Henderson-Brooks Report on the war has been suppressed, for it
would implicate too many in high placesâIndia could have won.
The end results would have been dramatic: Tibet would have been
liberated; Indians would not have been starry-eyed about China; the
loss of face would have made China retreat into its shell instead of
becoming an aggressive imperialist.
Tibet was an avoidable catastrophe. First is the decimation of a
vibrant Indic culture, that of the Tibetan Buddhists. They have been
doubly unfortunate. For, Tibetan Buddhism owes its traditions to the
few monks who escaped being beheaded by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1197 when
he sacked Nalanda. And now, in a repeat, they are being exterminated
once again, this time by fascist Han Chinese.
In 1962, China was quite weak militarily. If India had created a
coalition with Western powers, who worried about the Soviet-China
axis, the Han Chinese could have been ejected, and Tibet saved from
genocide. The Americans would have cooperated; in those Domino Theory
days, they even trained a group of Tibetans for a guerrilla resistance
movement back home. India, instead, chose to be gullible "useful
idiots", in Chou En-Lai's dismissive phrase.
However, in addition to altruistic concern for a sister culture, India
would have gained concrete things from Tibetan freedom. The plateau is
the source of many of the rivers in Asia, and benign Tibetan control
over them would have given much of Asia water security: the Indus, the
Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Irrawaddy all originate there.
Instead, China plans to divert the Brahmaputra northwards from Tibet.
If so, the Ganga-Brahmaputra doab would dry up, and civilisation as we
know it would end in North India. This is a national security issue of
the highest order, and Indians ignore it at their peril.
Chinese dams across the Mekong are already causing drought in
downstream riparian states like Laos and Cambodia. The Chinese
deliberately created floods on the Brahmaputra in Arunachal not too
long ago. There is every reason to believe China will proceed with
diverting water, ignoring India's objections.
This water war India could absolutely have avoided by routing China in
1962. Similarly, Chinese nuclear missiles in Tibet's high plains, as
well as the dumping of nuclear waste therein, both have serious
security and environmental implications for India.
On a more subtle level, the 'loss of face' to China would have had
incalculable value in geopolitics. At that time, China was viewed with
disdain. They got into the UN Security Council only because Nehru, in
his infinite wisdom, gave them the seat offered to India! Bizarre
experiments with fundamentalist Leninism/Stalinism, including the
Great Leap Forward, caused most observers to view China as a freak
Another side-effectâand in a way, this might have been the greatest
benefit to Indiaâwould have been the defanging of India's Marxists.
These evangelists for the Church of Marx would have been laughed out
of court if they plugged the sayings of Chairman Mao immediately after
China had been defeated by India. This would have prevented Marxist
infiltration into academia, institutions and the media, which urgently
need to be de-toxified from their baleful influence. Furthermore, both
West Bengal and Kerala would have been spared decades of
under-development and degeneration.
Thus, winning the 1962 war would have made an enormous difference to
India. But there is no mistaking the civilisational conflict between
India and China. In this millennia-old Grand Narrative, 1962 is a mere
skirmish. India colonised Asia softly: with a few exceptions, without
military conquest or migration. China colonised by demographic
Indic ideas went everywhereâWest Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia,
Tibet; even China and through it, Korea and Japan. The ideas were
enormously influential, and they included religion and philosophy,
martial arts, mathematics, language, architecture and mythology.
China, on the other hand, depended on demographic thrusts: periodic
emigration of Han Chinese took their culture and their industrial arts
with them. They were looking for survival, for lebensraum: for China
has poor land, and either too little or too much water. This process
has continued to the present, with the large Chinese diaspora.
The last word in this monumental competition has not been
written.China may be leading right now, but India is surely no
pushover any more.