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Sino-Indian War

The Sino-Indian war was a short border war between India and the People's Republic of China (PRC), the world's two most populous countries, which took place in late 1962. It was triggered by a dispute over the Himalayan border in the Aksai Chin. The disputed area was strategic for China as it contained a major road between Tibet and Xinjiang.

Table of contents
1 Causes of the War
2 Events in the War
3 Results of the War
4 External Links

Causes of the War

The border between British India and China had never been marked clearly. For reasons of security, Britain maintained a foward claim in the Himalayas, but administrative borders were further south. The main British claim was the McMahon Line.

India and the PRC shared good relations through the 1950s, including the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, proposed by the prime ministers of the two countries in 1953. However, after the PRC occupation of Tibet in 1959, the Indian government under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru adopted a policy of forward military deployment in the border area.

The Indian deployment was spread over a large area. Logistics were difficult to maintain, since the road network was poor. Many Indian units required airlift for resupply. In addition, many deployments were at altitudes over 14,000 feet, which required special high-altitude equipment and conditioning.

Nehru had relied on U.S. diplomatic support to maintain India's claim in the area. However, in October, 1962, American attention was focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis with the Soviet Union.

Events in the War

Indian and Chinese units were in close contact throughout September; however, hostile fire was infrequent. On September 8, 1962, a 600-strong PLA unit surrounded one of the Indian forward posts at Dhola on the Thagla Ridge. Nehru was attending a Commonwealth Prime Minister's conference in London, and when told of the act, told the media the Army had been instructed to "free our territory." However, Nehru's directives to Defense Minister Krishna Menon were unclear, and the response, codenamed Operation LEGHORN, was slow to move. By the time an Indian battalion reached the Thagla Ridge on September 16, Chinese units controlled both banks of the Namka Chu River. The day after, India's Chief of the Army Staff Kaul ordered that Thagla Ridge be retaken.

On September 20, a firefight developed at one of the bridges on the river, killing nine Chinese and Indian soldiers.

Hostilities began on October 16, 1962. China stated that it were responding to Indian provocations.

On October 20, 1962, the Chinese People's Liberation Army launched two coordinated attacks 1000 km apart in the Chip Chap valley in Ladakh and the Namkachu river. After securing a substantial portion of the disputed territory, the Chinese made an offer to negotiate on October 24. The Indian government promptly rejected this offer, and tried to regroup during the lull in the fighting.

By November 18, the PLA had penetrated close to the outskirts of Tezpur, Assam, a major frontier town nearly fifty kilometers from the Assam-North-East Frontier Agency border. Due to either logistical problems (from Indian accounts) or political reasons (from Chinese accounts) the PLA did not advance farther and on November 21 declared a unilateral cease-fire. The United States Air Force flew in massed supplies to India in November, 1962, but neither side wished to continue hostilities. The PLA withdrew to positions it occupied before the war and on which China had staked its diplomatic claim.

Results of the War

Defence Minister Menon resigned.

India's defeat in 1962 led to a revision of Indian military doctrine, training, organization and equipment. The Nehru government also decided to assimilate several territories that they saw as a source of espionage and resupply to potential enemies. In 1965 India seized Goa from Portugal by force and the then-independent state of Sikkim.

Many Indians still regard the territorial acquisitions as an illegal occupation, and for this reason proposals to formalize the border at the line of actual control have proven impossible to implement. However, neither the Indian nor the PRC government appear very interested in disturbing the status quo, and the disputed boundary, called by Indians the Line of Actual Control or the McMahon Line is not considered a major flashpoint now. However, in the 1980s India began to actively patrol up to the LAC, causing a regional crisis.

Military commissions from India and China meet regularly in the capitals of both countries to discuss the status of the border.

External Links

Remembering a War: The 1962 India-China Conflict