Thursday, April 3, 2014

Neville Maxwell interview; miles away from truth!

1908 Map of India

A self proclaimed expert on India-China relationship of 1960's, Australian journalist Neville Maxwell, is at it again. Few weeks ago, he tried to create a diplomatic storm by publishing few pages from the Henderson Brooks Report about 1962 India-China war, which he managed to obtain clandestinely as it still remains classified in India. In an earlier blogpost I have already tried to explain, why there is nothing new in Maxwell's so called revelations that ordinary people of India do not know, may be except for few operational details, which in any case, are really the concerns of the army only.

Totally unsatisfied with the lukewarm response he received from media to his so called great revelations, he has now given an interview to Times of India, which at the most, can be called as stating the obvious but after colouring it black. The facts, as stated by him are all parts of history now and no one would ever deny it. But the inferences drawn by him are just-in plain English- Rubbish!

First, let me touch upon few events in history to make things easy to understand. I would restrict myself here mainly to events in Ladakh as there was never a real dispute about border in Arunachal Pradesh, though Chinese came up with a dispute much later as a negotiating table counter point.

A tripartite meeting of the British administration in India and representatives of Tibet and China was held in 1913 at Shimla in India. A draft treaty was agreed upon during this meeting. This agreement is known as Shimla treaty. According to the terms of this treaty, the relationships and borders between these three countries, namely India, Tibet and China, were fixed and agreed upon. However, even though the Chinese representative attending the meeting, Mr. Ivan Chen had initialed the draft treaty, he refused to put his country's official seal on the paper. Subsequently, the Government in Beijing declared that this treaty was unacceptable to China. According to representatives of India and Tibet, since the treaty was mainly about the relationships and the borders between two sovereign countries, India and Tibet, they believed that the Chinese representative had merely attended the meeting as an observer and his approval or disapproval had no bearing on the proceedings of the treaty. Eventually another meeting was held in July 1914 between representatives of India and Tibet and the draft treaty was finally approved, initialed and sealed.

 India-Tibet Border agreement of 1914 

In this accord, it was agreed that a region spread over 14380 square miles and known as Aksaichin: located east of Ladakh, between Karakoram mountain range and Kun Lun mountain ranges, would be part of British India. The region of Ladakh in those days, was part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, old references show interestingly that the state administration used to have a small police outpost at Shahidulla( Located on present Tibet- Xinjiang road) far beyond the Aksaichin area and deep inside Tibet on the old trade route.

It should be clear that India's borders with Tibet were negotiated and settled by the British with Tibet. No Government of Independent India was party to that agreement. After India became independent, the Indian Government of the newly formed Democratic Socialistic Republic of India, was handed over the country's borders as a historic legacy and obviously it was the responsibility and duty of the newly elected Government of India to control and defend country's borders by using all means available to it.

Totally disregarding these historic facts, Maxwell comes out with a strange argument;

Then in 1954 he (Nehru) compounded that mistake by laying cartographic claim to a swathe of territory in the north-west, the Aksai Chin, a claim which was beyond anything the British had ever claimed and on an area which Chinese governments had treated as their own for at least a hundred years. To make matters worse, he ruled that there should be no negotiation over that claim either! So Indian policy had created a border dispute and also ruled out the only way it could peacefully be settled, through diplomatic negotiation.”

Nothing can be further from the truth! Only error committed by Government of India- led by Nehru- perhaps was to trust Chinese leadership and the job of maintaining the border was assigned to CRPF or Central reserve police force instead of regular units of the army. Since the region became quite inaccessible during winter months, only occasional patrols were run to Aksaichin by the CRPF and that too only during summer time. Chinese took advantage of this lax and token control regime to annexe this region.

Regarding Nehru's forward policy, Maxwell completely distorts the facts when he says:

By September 1962 the Indian "forward policy" of trying to force the Chinese out of territory India claimed had built up great tension in the Western (Ladakh) sector of the border, with the Chinese army just blocking it. Then the Nehru government applied the forward policy to the McMahon Line eastern sector and when the Chinese blocked that too India in effect declared war with Nehru's announcement on October 11 that the Army had been ordered to "free our territory", which meant to attack the Chinese and drive them back.”

Let us look at the course of events in 1950's. As I have mentioned above, Chinese had started their illegal activities in Aksaichin area in 1950's itself. Before we proceed further, it is important to note, why such an inhospitable and remote region was and is so important for China as well as India. For India, it was country's only gateway to central Asia after the partition in 1947. For China, the remote western provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang were effectively separated by Indian possession of Aksaichin and prevented it from movement of armed forces from Tibet to Xinjiang and vice-versa, regions where there was considerable unrest. Trouble really started sometime in the decade of 1950's, when Chinese decided to construct a road joining Tibet and Xinjiang illegally, in the Indian territory.

When news of such Chinese activities started circulating in Ladakh, Indian army decided to send an observation patrol to the region. In the summer of 1952, two officers: Captain R. Nath of Kumaon Regiment and Captain Suri of Ladakh Militia were sent by the army to Aksaichin region with a team. This team entered Aksaichin through Kongka pass mentioned above and travelled up to Kanak pass. During observations they came to know from local shepherds about Chinese surveyors carrying out survey of this region for building a road in Aksaichin. There were no PLA army units in that area then. Both these officers were felicitated and praised for their good work but their report was just kept under wraps. Just imagine that if India had sent army units to Aksaichin then and had prevented Chinese for carrying out the road building work, the entire border dispute, which developed later would have been nipped in the bud. By 1955, Chinese had well established themselves west of Kanak pass. In 1957, they announced that Aksaichin was part of China and the road joining Tibet and Xinjiang was ready. Chief of army staff, General Thimayya wanted to start an army operation in Aksaichin but was prevented by the then defense minister Krishna Menon, who claimed that China was India's true friend.

In 1958, two other Indian patrols in Aksaichin were made to surrender by PLA and then later released. Unfortunately, all these developments were completely hidden from Indian people by then Prime minister of India, Jawaharalal Nehru, who still thought that China was the greatest friend of India and would never take any steps against India. For China, Nehru's policy of keeping China border activity under wraps was a great boon, as they developed massive infrastructure along the Ladakh borders and built a well planned offensive capability there. Nehru was forced within an year to change his China perspective, as two major incidences took place. The first incidence out of these two, was the uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule and subsequent asylum asked by Tibetan head of state, Dalai Lama in India. This had major repercussions on Nehru's China policy. Many in India started criticizing Nehru for his soft attitude towards China and wanted India to take strong steps to counter Chinese menace.

The second incidence is known as “Kongka pass incident” and was essentially caused by complete lack of co-ordination in Delhi between Home ministry controlling CRPF, and defense ministry with Krishna Menon in charge as a minister. By September 1959, Chinese had encroached upon Indian areas outside Aksaichin and their army units had started even arresting the Indian border police on routine patrol. Indian Government was still not ready to take any action and on the contrary asked the home ministry to stop border patrols. India's home ministry, controlling the border police, probably were unaware of Chinese build up in Ladakh and what was happening inside Aksichin, and decided to take counter action on its own against Chinese.

Home ministry ordered Deputy Superintendent of Police or DSP Karam Singh to take a team of 40 policemen and establish police outposts In Kongka pass area with the first post to be established at Hot Springs. DSP Karam Singh reached Hot Springs on 20h October 2012 and then started surveying the area for further action. He was not aware at all about the fully equipped PLA soldiers entrenched in that area. DSP Karam Singh's troupe was quickly surrounded by the PLA soldiers and was asked by them to leave.

In an extremely defiant gesture, DSP Karam Singh bent down, picked up an handful of dust and touched it to his heart, indicating that the land belongs to India. When Indian media came to know about this, DSP Karam Singh and his team became national heroes overnight. But that was too late. At Kongka pass DSP Karm Singh's team faced complete massacre. They just could not defend themselves with their WW II .303 bolt rifles against Chinese soldiers equipped with semi automatic rifles, machine guns and mortars. Within few hour, 10 policemen from DSP Karam Singh's team were lost. Realizing that they can not defend themselves, Indians finally surrendered. They were released by the Chinese after 12 days with much torture and only handful unarmed Indian police were allowed to take back the bodies.

Nehru Government, in fact, tried its best to hide all these happening from the general public. However when the gravity of the problem reached the crisis level, finally finally a decision was taken that all CRPF personnel from Ladakh would be replaced by army units. As news of China's aggression and illegal occupation of Ladakh slowly leaked in Indian media, Prime Minister Nehru faced heavy fire for his China policies both within Congress party and the nation's parliament. Finally buckling under tremendous public pressure, he announced the so called “ Forward policy” under which, Army would establish forward posts in the areas where Chinese had established control during last few years. Those who knew the current situation, realized the ineffectiveness of this announcement. However, general public in India thought that China would now be paid in its own coins.

I was a young man of 19, when China-India war broke out. I have witnessed the tremendous upheaval through which all of us went through those eventful days. What remains as memory is the unbelievable defeat of Indian Army and later as things became clear, the follies of Nehru Government in neglecting the armed forces and a almost child like trust shown by the Nehru government to deceitful China ruled by Mao.

Prime minister Nehru can be blamed only to this extent and not for anything else. He was a total pacifist and would have never ordered military aggression on another country. He declared his forward policy against China most reluctantly under great public pressure. What Maxwell- who is known as an apologist for China - is saying in his interview, is obviously the Chinese official version of the episode and should be left at that. In the end, it appears to me that Maxwell has some old personal scores to settle with Government of India and is probably trying in vain to rake up some old issues and in process trying to blame Nehru for the things he never did.

3rd April 2014

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