Sunday, September 16, 2012




Can the history of our humiliation at the hands of China in 1962 repeat itself?

2.As we approach the 50th anniversary of the humiliation next month, we have to analyse this question in depth in our governmental national security community as well as outside. It is important for the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) to organise a series of brainstorming on this subject with the participation of experts on China from the Government and outside.

3. The starting-point of such a brainstorming has to be a presumption that the present efforts to solve our border dispute with China through talks may not succeed and  that we may be confronted with a fresh military confrontation in the future.

4.Should such a confrontation arise, are we better prepared  to face it today than we were in 1962? If not, what are the deficiencies still existing and how to remove them?

5.It is important for us to objectively  identify the factors that led to the 1962 humiliation and examine to what extent they have been removed. It is also important to foresee what kind of new factors not seen in 1962 could arise and what implications they could have for our capabilities.

6. It is my view that our ability to prevent another humiliation in future would depend upon our trans-Himalayan military strategy and capability as it did in 1962. The roles of the Army and the Air Force in such a strategy will be pre-eminent. The role of the Navy will be marginal. It will be our trans-Himalayan strategic mindset and tactical thinking that will determine the future course of any new military confrontation with China as it did in 1962.

7. I would identify the following as the basic causes of our humiliation  of 1962:

( a ). Though our civilian and military intelligence agencies had a satisfactory capability for the collection of infrastructure intelligence from Tibet, their capability for the collection of war indicators from Tibet was very poor. They detected in time the clandestine Chinese construction of roads such as the Aksai Chin road in the Western sector, but they missed the Chinese preparations for a military foray into our territory. The Chinese attack on our positions must have been preceded by weeks, if not months, of preparations on the ground in Tibet. The war indicators caused by such preparations were missed by our intelligence agencies.

( b ).Our capability for the analysis and assessment of China-related  intelligence was inadequate. Even the limited intelligence flowing from Tibet from human and technical sources was not subjected to vigorous analysis and assessment. Our knowledge and assessment of the Chinese military thinking and mindset were poor. We hardly knew anything about the India expertise in the PLA and the Chinese intelligence. As a result, we seriously underestimated the Chinese political and military will to assert their ground interests across the Himalayas and over-assessed and over-projected our capability to anticipate and neutralise any Chinese assertion of their will.

( c ). Inadequate professionalism in our Armed Forces and their inability to foresee different scenarios that could arise and identify the available options. This lack of professionalism was seen right across the board --- from the failure to procure the military stores that would be required for a trans-Himalayan war to readapting the training of our officers. The Army went into war with very little training and experience in mountain warfare and with very few equipment for such a warfare.

( d ). The inexperience of our political leadership in military-related decision-making and in enforcing the implementation of the decisions taken.

8. My assessment of the present position regarding these factors is as follows:

( a ).Our intelligence collection capability in Tibet has improved. Our intelligence agencies are unlikely to miss war indicators in Tibet as badly as they did in 1962.

( b ). Our analysis and assessment capability has improved over what it was in 1962, but continues to be inadequate. The Chinese language capability of our national security community is worse than what it was in 1962 and in the years immediately thereafter. Our ability to understand and analyse the Chinese military mind-set and thinking continues to be poor. Whatever capability we have built up in this regard has been largely influenced by Western thinking and analysis without an independent application of our mind. Our analysis and assessment infrastructure in respect of China-related intelligence lags behind our analysis and assessment infrastructure in respect of Pakistan-related intelligence. We can anticipate, analyse and counter Pakistan better than we can China. There are wild swings in our assessments on China----- from alarmism on the one side to total complacency on the other.

( C ).The professionalism of our Armed Forces has improved. They are better equipped, better trained and better led for a trans-Himalayan warfare today. But, there is a lack of convergence of thinking between the Army and the Air Force on the one side and the Navy on the other as to what China implies for our national security and Armed Forces. There is inadequate integrated joint staff thinking  in the Armed Forces as a whole on China. There is a newly-acquired fascination for naval power and an inadequate  appreciation of the continuing importance of military (Army related) and air power.

( d ). The understanding of our political class in matters relating to strategic decision-making on China is inadequate though it is better than what it was in 1962 and the years before. There is a clear understanding in our political class of China as a political and economic competitor, but inadequate comprehension of China as a military factor.

9.Two new factors that have made their appearance since 1962 have not received adequate attention in our national security community:

( a ). The Chinese search for alternate means of taking India by surprise. In 1962, they took us by surprise because our intelligence agencies had little capability for collecting war indictors from the ground in Tibet. The Chinese no longer enjoy this advantage. The increasing Chinese emphasis on the role of the helicopter-borne operations of their Army has to be seen in the context of their search for new means of taking India by surprise--- particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. The equipping and training of the copter wing of their Army is receiving increasing attention with some major exercises already noticed.

( b ). The Chinese testing and fine-tuning of integrated techniques of an Army-Air Force role in defending Tibet  from external threats and in asserting their will trans Himalayas. There has been an increase in the number of Air Force exercises in Tibet. Not adequate knowledge of Chinese Air Force exercises in Yunnan is available, but my surmise is that in any future military confrontation with India, the Chinese will use their Air Force defensively  from Tibet and offensively from Yunnan.

10.In 1962, the entire North Myanmar was a political, administrative and military vacuum. The Myanmar Government presence has since improved in the Rakhine (old Arakan) and Chin areas bordering Bangladesh, but remains the same in the Kachin State bordering Yunnan. The Kachin State and Yunnan are very important in any trans-Himalayan military strategy. We continue to neglect these two important regions from the point of view of our intelligence coverage as we were doing before 1962. The  Kachin State is important for defending our North East in any new confrontation with China. The Rakhine State is important for our Indian Ocean objectives and our energy security.

11. I do not consider it necessary to touch upon the nuclear aspect in this analysis. It has to be discussed in camera. ( 17-9-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)


What They don't Want You to Know said...

Thanks, Mr Raman, you are back to your rational rather than emotional/bigoted analysing.

I have thought for a long time that the biggest strategic threat to India comes from China, not Pakistan, and that the latter country poses a tactical threat to us. In your article though you don't consider how China might use their all weather friend tactically in the build up to and actual conflict with India.

Also, and please correct me if I am wrong, I believe the Indian air force was not used on Nehru's orders in 1962. Are our current corrupt politicians of whatever party still as insanely stupid as Nehru was?

peter g. said...

There is no point in comparing our capabilities of 1962 to the present. 50 years have gone by and our defense capabilities have vastly improved but we should not forget that so has the Chinese PLA.Tibet was a God-forsaken place then but today it is different.Lhasa had nothing except the Potala palace to speak of but today it is a bustling modern city with PLA and PLAAF bases with all weather capabilities. Recent reliable reports speak of five fully operational airbases at Gongar,Linchi,Hoping, Pangta and Gar Gunsa.A well connected rail network over the TAR. Of special significance is is the Qinghai-Tibet Railway line which will assume much strategic importance during any hostilities either offensive or defensive. TAR has over 58,000 Kms of roads. To safeguard these assets,the PLAAF is steadily building up its strength in the TAR. As reported by TOI sometime ago, the Chengdu military region and the PLA airbases in TAR are exclusively tasked for an anti-India role.Missiles have been sited at Qinghai province and obviously the targets are in India.Of course, India has come a long way too, in defence preparedness but the Chinese outnumber us three to one in all aspects, be it manpower or material.There is nothing much we can do about it except to strengthen our intelligence assets .Sadly our intelligence organisations both civil and military are totally Pak oriented.We know a lot about Pak but very less about China. Like you have said, we dont even have many Chinese language specialists worth speaking of.

Visible Trade said...

I broadly agree with Peter g. on the matter of sea change in the last 50 years and on the matter of strengthening the intelligence assets. I am sure the exercise that you have suggested is important for long term planning and should be / would be undertaken periodically.

I have 2 other comments:

1. You are underestimating the role of navy in this war. My feeling is that it will have substantial role on the outcome of the war.

2. Humiliation is a given in any war with China. Very broadly we are at least 30 years behind in production capacity, economic power, aggression assets or support infrastructure. We may win a battle but we do not have the capability to fight a war with China let alone win it.

Sourav said...

Excellent post Sir. Yunnan is really becoming a front-line state in Sino-Indian relations. From conventional military to helping insurgency in North East from there (we know Paresh Barua operates from there).

I disagree with peter g on the size factor. In modern warfare numbers only mater when every thing else remains equal and same. Force ratio is a better indicator. An aggressor need at lest 3 to 1 force ratio in easy terrain against a trained enemy. Now what kind of force ratio required in trans-Himalayan terrain (probably the most difficult and literally up-hill)? But, i agree on the sea aspect with him. In case of an escalation sea based supply lines can become battlegrounds.

Totally disagree with Visible Trade. War is not trade. All the reasons that Sri Raman has shown for the humiliation in 62, the political establishment of that time must take the blame for it. Post Vietnam and post Afghanistan the kind of argument Visible Trade is making does not even make sense.

Lastly must also appreciate Sri Ramans discretion by not talking on the nuclear aspect and cause unnecessary panic. But, will be looking forward to a more broad based post on general nuclear preparedness of UPA govt.

Wishing you best of health, regards - tweetingsourav.