Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
Sixty years back, on 21 November, the 1962 Sino-India war ended officially with the unilateral ceasefire/withdrawal of Chinese forces. This war was a black chapter in India’s history. Many Arunachali veterans and old-timers recall the war with fear and anger. Chinese forces entered deep into Arunachal along many axes, namely Tawang-Bomdila-Rupa, Taksing-Limeking, Mechuka/Manigong-Tato, Gelling-Tuting and Kibithoo-Walong axes. Though the Chinese forces penetrated without major opposition in many axes, many fierce battles were fought by a few units and small groups of soldiers.
By the end of the 31-day war, Chinese forces had penetrated about 100 kms inside Arunachal, reaching Rupa-Chaku, just 20 kms short of the Assam border. Along the Taksing-Limeking axis, Chinese forces entered 60 kms inside and crossed Limeking in Upper Subansiri district. Chinese forces entered 50 kms inside the Mechuka/Manigong-Tato axis and reached Tato in Shi-Yomi district. Chinese forces reached Tuting along the Gelling-Tuting axis and occupied Walong in Anjaw district.
During the war, many fierce battles were fought by both sides. About 22,000 Indian troops faced much superior Chinese troops numbering about 80,000. As per Chinese reports, Indian forces suffered 5,000 killed or wounded and 4,000 captured against Chinese casualties of 722 killed and 1,700 wounded. However, as per Indian reports, India lost 1,383 soldiers, 1,047 wounded, 1,700 missing and 3,968 captured against 1,300 Chinese soldiers killed.
Even after the 1962 Sino-India war, there have been regular clashes along the Sino-India border, including at Nathu La in 1967, Sumdorong Chu in 1987, the 73-day Doklam confrontation in 2017, Chinese incursions in Asaphila, Tuting and Chaklagam areas of Arunachal in 2017-2018, and the violent conflicts at Pangong Tso Lake and Galwan valley during 2020 in Ladakh.
China occupies a majority of Aksai Chin in Ladakh, claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘southern Tibet’, and issues stapled visas to Arunachal citizens. They object to visits by senior Indian officials/ministers to Arunachal and use rivers originating in China to arm-twist India.
Considering China’s stance, India has ramped up defence infrastructure and preparedness all along the border over the last few years and cannot be underestimated like in 1962. However, China is an emerging world super power and remains a challenge.
India and Arunachal should learn from the debacle in the 1962 Sino-India war and cannot afford similar mistakes, both militarily and strategically. Being a frontline state, Arunachal is directly affected. Like in 1962, the security pundits/leadership sitting in New Delhi should not take decisions about faraway Arunachal and Ladakh in isolation. The only way to counter the Chinese threat is by expediting infrastructure development like key roads, railways, bridges, airfields, etc, along the Sino-Indian border. We also need strategic assets like fuel/ammunition depots, hardened shelters, etc, especially on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. We also need to move our formation headquarters nearer to Arunachal Pradesh and need to adopt Chanakya Niti to avoid another debacle. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)