1962's Other Crisis: India and China go to War
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1962's Other Crisis: India and China go to War

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Fifty years ago, on the morning of October 20, 1962, China’s People’s Liberation Army assaulted Indian military positions along their disputed frontier. The Chinese attack, justified domestically and abroad as self-defense, resulted in the only major armed conflict in modern times between the world’s two most populous countries. The Indian military, poorly prepared and naively led, was routed. A second major Chinese assault the following month forced India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to write to President John F. Kennedy in desperation to request air support from the United States. Having brought India to its knees, Beijing declared a unilateral ceasefire on November 21, and the PLA withdrew to its pre-war positions.

This short but savage war, which resulted in over 2,000 fatalities, was fought just as the world’s eyes were fixated upon the nuclear stand-off between the United States and Soviet Union over the latter’s deployment of nuclear missiles to Cuba. That may partly explain why the war goes largely unnoticed today by strategic experts in the West and across the Asia-Pacific, including many Sinologists. But just as history is often written by the winners, it is rarely forgotten by the losers. The border conflict casts a long shadow over how India has perceived, and continues to perceive, Chinese intentions.

Despite the importance of Sino-Indian ties for the United States and other regional and global powers, that relationship is prone to much misinterpretation. Observers are often content to characterize relations between Beijing and New Delhi either as unbridled competition by two rising powers or sinister cooperation against the U.S.-led international order. The reality is in fact far more complex.

Fifty years after their border war, China and India remain locked in their dispute over territory the size of Greece, populated by well over a million people. It makes the disagreements over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea Islands – both recently in the news – pale by comparison. The clash over the Sino-Indian frontier has complex origins, rooted in the non-demarcated boundaries of British India, differing interpretations of sovereignty, and the legitimacy of Chinese claims to Tibet. While border negotiations between Beijing and New Delhi continue periodically behind closed doors, Chinese and Indian maneuvering manifests itself publicly in subtle but deliberate shifts in policy concerning mundane activities such as military interactions, the printing of official maps, and the issuing of visas. While meaningful, such messaging is occasionally exaggerated by irresponsible and ill-informed members of the media in India and nationalist bloggers and commentators in China.

Comments
71
bhattarai
March 20, 2014 at 14:04

if India tries to control absolute power over south asian countries Nepal will bann recruiting gurkhas and dispose tripartite agreement n china will gallop india in less time..i hope India wont do that,as hindu they r our brother..

zanzan
September 30, 2013 at 11:52

Mr. Indian–how old u r? If you are smart enough  to read the world history plz go on. 

Most of the Indians are jealous of China and its way of development. I suggest you to admire China. India needs 50 more years to reach current political [maoist will do it], social, cutural and economic level of china and during this 50 years China won't sit idle. 

Sri Lankan
May 8, 2013 at 15:18

On the Contrary, India is the worst enemy of the whole of South Asia…!..Creating terror to destablilize all neighbouring states, and finally intervening to maintain India`s dominancy in external affairs of that state…!…China is a friend in need to us Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Bengalis and Nepalese…!..India, actually, is the Enemy…!

bhattarai
March 20, 2014 at 14:14

m nepali n i thnk u r right.. And know one thing they are very clever to owe international pride through cheating…they said buddha born in india and they taught their genration n stdnts same so dat they cud strngly believ that false thng..now they are saying Gurkhas as their national pride bt world knws gurkhas are nepalese..nepale did a gr8 mistake to allow recruitng gurkhas in indian army.. If nepal will bann gurkhas to them then they will bcom meow meow..if any body of nepal does some gr8 thing in intrntnal arena they make the person as indian origin in media so quick wid no hesitatn..foolish indians

[...] growing power certainly generates concern and the two countries have a longstanding dispute over territory the size of Pennsylvania. To its west, India also borders Pakistan, a volatile country whose [...]

Fancy Liu
January 24, 2013 at 12:37

The war has always been the trick that the politician carry out their political intention by sacrificing the benefit of  the civilians.  Peace and development are the main topic in current society. I would like china becoming more powerful in economy than in political. If our life can improve significantly,  anything else is more meaningful for us?

Indian
December 12, 2012 at 06:45

China is the worst country ever in the history of world. China is also a very big cheater country who cheated with India in1962's war by attaching on it all of sudden. China is enemy of the entire world not only India 

bhattarai
March 20, 2014 at 14:22

look m nepali frm darjeelng..if china is worse why dnt they intervene on our political affair lyk u do..as they are more boarder to our land(nepal) though they are telling to bann tibetans in nepal..first of all india sud knw their status n stop blaming other..if u r encroachng our small land country what serious china to do the same to u??

ariel
October 27, 2012 at 17:00

John Chan on one side and the whole world on the other side. Fellow readers and bloggers, please appreciate the fact that Chan was released from a rehab center/mental asylum to defend and espouse China's cause in cyberspace. The war of words is similar to the WWII which was fought between the Allied Powers on one side and a mad man called Hitler on the other. Here is one mad cap who wants the entire world to see and interpret history through Communist China's prism and anything contrary is perceived to be imperialistic and in furtherance of Western agenda. One opium shot and Johnny's comments go ballistic. And one should not forget the fact that he earns 20 cents per comment which enables him to buy a bit of his opium.

graham irish
October 27, 2012 at 06:08

@JC – again with the handbook. The Irish in the british empire were deprived of voting rites, ruled by an elite, denied land rites, did not have freedom of religon or expression, used as cannon fodder, while they died from starvation and disease. All this while making their masters rich. The british empire was run pretty much  the same way the chinese elite run china. We were nobodies in our own country pretty much the same as you are nobody in yours. You cant even move around in your own country in the same problem free way as we in the west can. Your opinions are not of your own, they are the product of your political,social and educational indoctrination. Try to google the new york times today, you see they only let you know what they want you to think….

JohnX
October 26, 2012 at 20:29

John Chan wrote: "1. Australia has invaded Indonesia and interfered its sovereignty with hegemony actions, its ex-PM voiced strongly that the possibility of China weakens its influence in its domain, and strong voice in Australia elite calling futuristic nuclear weapons to maintain its dominance in the area in the name of China Threat. The above point the hegemony reality Australia maintained in its surrounding."
 
I would like to respond to this post by you John Chan.
 
The Australians did not invade Indonesia. East Timor was Portuguese territory before Indonesia took it and the Aussies only helped sort out the dispute at a later date.
 
Actually there were complaints earlier by ex Australian WW2 troops who never agreed to Ozs compliance with Indonesian aggression as the East Timorese had been strong supporters of Australian troops in WW2 against the japanese.
 
Australia only and finally stood up for those they should have supported in the 1970s. If anything, it was a return of honour for Australia to stand up for East Timor. The next on the list should be Papua.
 
I would hope that you learn something or try and understand other issues, but i have given up believing that you want to understand your neighbors, so what ever.
 
As for China, the world isn't Chinas enemy, but it also wont accept Chinese aggression in the name of we hate them we do because of some yada yada b/s that China now needs to justify its aggression/

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