The Indian defeat in the 1962 border war with China not only resulted in loss of territory, but also raised questions about the foreign policy conduct of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru’s formulation of Non-Alignment, which was couched in the language of third block neutrality, was interpreted as hedging by revisionist scholars, and came under intense criticism.
Indian liberals, a minor but vocal force of public opinion, were highly sceptical of Nehru’s neutral posturing and instead, advocated closer alignment with the US-led block. For Indian liberals, such posturing made sense given their own deep aversion to both the Chinese and Russian communism, the shared democratic credentials of India and US and with the benefit of hindsight, the possibility of allying with the winning side in the Cold War.
The muted Soviet response, hapless Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) posturing, and the Anglo-American promise and delivery of military support in the crucial moments of 1962, seemed to vindicate Indian liberals, even if temporarily.
Produced below is the editorial from the 15th December 1962, issue of the Indian Libertarian magazine, which warns of the dangers of Chinese expansionism, suggests Indian leveraging of China’s Tibet problem, and argues for closer US-India alignment based on clear headed political realism.
1962 will go down in history as a memorable year which, for the first time, witnessed the invasion of India by foreign hordes through the Himalayan passes. The impregnability and inviolability of India’s Himalayan borders have now proved to be a myth. Beyond the Himalayas, stretches today not the sacred land of the Lamas, but the Tibetan colony of the Chinese Red bandits who drove The Dalai Lama and his patriotic followers out of their motherland in 1960 and are now busy rooting out the time-hallowed Tibetan culture and civilisation and implanting there in its stead their miserable and despicable communist faith and their crude values of terror, deceit and fraud. No longer does India enjoy the centuries old peaceful and happy neighbourly relations with Tibet. The Red enemy from China is now not only at India’s Northern gates but he has also forcibly broken them open and occupied a strategically important position within India’s own precincts. Having accomplished this feat in one grand stride, he is now using all his communist wiles to lull India into a false sense of security so that he might be enabled to consolidate his position there.
This, in short, is what the ‘Cease-Fire’ proposals of China amount to. China will never willingly relinquish unless forced to do so, her control of all the passes in the Himalayas right up from the Karakoram Pass near-about Ladakh in the North West, to Tawang and Walong in the NEFA region in the North East and the adjoining areas. She still reserves to herself by her cease-fire proposals, the right of a conqueror to re-occupy the proposed No Man’s Land (which, in fact, belongs to India) in case Nehru’s Government proves too intractable, pugnacious and defiant. She also wants some respite from her adventurist military operation in this region just to consolidate her ill-gotten gains and further tighten her grip of the Himalayan passes so as to be able to dominate and mould as suits her liking, India’s internal life, political, social and economic, by ever pointing out a loaded gun at her from these northern heights.
To isolate India from her neighbours, China is cleverly wooing Pakistan, which is reeking, from its very birth, with intense communal and religious hatred for India. Communist intransigence of China and communal fanaticism of Pakistan may well come together as they have done. For they have one thing in common. Both detest the secular democratic spirit of India. But Pakistan will do well to remember that the day is not far off when she will have to pay dearly for such ill-conceived romantic adventure with China as India has done at a heavy cost.
In this situation, India finds herself between the devil of China on the one hand and the deep sea of Pakistan on the other. Her leadership is at bay. It finds it hard to wriggle itself out of the ties and attachments for communist countries, fostered and strengthened over a number of years by its very ‘Non-Alignment’ policies. The leaders including Mr Nehru are now sincerely wanting to hurl back the Chinese invaders from our soil and for that purpose, have entered into military agreements with USA and Britain. But some mysterious forces seem to hold them back from going ahead with the full implementation of these agreements. The probable reason is that the ardent desire so long entertained by our leaders to carve out a distinctive kingdom of socialist pattern in India has drawn them irresistibly closer to the Communist bloc than to the Democratic bloc, despite India’s neutrality. It seems that they are not yet able to outlive this past even when the logic of Sino-Indian war has made them realise the stern reality of a world-wide titanic struggle proceeding between the forces of Red slavery and those of democratic freedom. They are now casting, however, a wishful look towards the Western nations for military aid and financial help in this hour of peril. The tragedy of the situation is that in the absence of a clear assurance forthcoming from India that she, as a genuinely non-aligned but democratic country, would always stand against totalitarianism and colonialism, wherever found, either in the old colonies of Western nations or the new colonies held by Russia and China, USA and UK willy-nilly have to carry on with a dubious ally like Pakistan in this region of South Asia. If only India should prove her bona-fides in regard to her faith in democratic freedom, all her difficulties with China and Pakistan would vanish into thin air. India would then be in a position not only to fight successfully the Chinese invaders but also to effectively counter and neutralise Pakistan’s capacity for mischief and trouble.
But all this would be impossible without a furious rethinking on the part of our leaders of India’s foreign policy. Mr Nehru would then be not justified in making a fine metaphysical distinction after the manner of a Vedantin, between the ‘Maya’ (illusion) of Chinese chauvinism and the ‘Parabrahma’ (the Supreme Reality) of Communist Vedantism, as he did the other day. He would then have to rally the whole nation behind him not only to throw out the Chinese from the Indian soil, but also to fulfil the positive and inspiring ideal of preserving India’s Free Way of Living now menaced by the twentieth century Red Napoleonism of China.
He would have also to dispel from the minds of the Western nations, the fears and suspicions that India’s Non-Alignment is not a mere way of escape from shouldering the onerous responsibility devolving on her as a Democracy, to fight relentlessly for saving Freedom and Democracy from world communism.
In that event, India would have to play the special role of the Defender of Freedom of all South-East Asia- a role assigned to India by the prophet of Indian nationalism, Shri Aurobindo Ghosh as far back as 1950, with rare prophetic vision and political insight.
Thus if our leadership should free itself from the political and ideological cobwebs that have polluted its mind and follow the straight – and may be even narrow- path to a fuller and richer democratic life, Western countries, which have proved themselves to be India’s real friends in the hour of her need, will do everything in their power to replenish her military strength and augment her economic resources and help her solve the knotty Kashmir problem.
Thus, on a proper analysis of the relation of forces in the East and the West, it will be found that India finds herself in the present delicate situation as a result of her past misguided policies and ideological aberrations. It is, therefore, high time that India made a clear and unambiguous confession of her unflinching faith in Freedom and Democracy, which went into the very framing of the Indian constitution. The spiritual crisis she is passing through is no less great than her military crisis. In fact, the former has aggravated the latter. Let India make a wise and deliberate choice here and now and “Seek First the Kingdom of Freedom”. And it is certain as anything that within a short time ‘All Other Things Will be Added unto Her’ from within and from without and she will come triumphantly out of her present trials and travails.
The original text can be accessed here.
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.