Welcome to The India China Newsletter.
In this issue, I’m looking at a new history of the 1962 war that is being published in China. I reported on this publication in yesterday’s The Hindu. The book is being published ahead of the 60th anniversary that falls in October.
Three fairly long extracts from the book have been published in January in Guancha, on January 7, 14 and 21. Before we get to the extracts, a note on the significance of this book. This post is longer than 8,000 words, so you may wish to click on the headline to read in your browser.
As I reported in The Hindu (partial paywall):
Previous anniversaries of the war received only modest attention in China — far less than in India — and some Chinese military scholars have in the past viewed the war with India as one of China’s forgotten wars. Unlike the Korean War or war with Japan, the India-China war hasn’t been covered as extensively in Chinese films, television dramas or in the media.
That is now changing. There has been renewed attention on 1962 following the Line of Actual Control (LAC) crisis which began in April 2020 and particularly after the June 15, 2020 clash in Galwan Valley. If the normalisation of ties with India was one reason for downplaying 1962 in the past, the recent plunge in relations has coincided with greater interest both in 1962 and on the boundary dispute.
To mark the 60th anniversary, Zhang Xiaokang, daughter of the former PLA General Zhang Guohua who headed the Tibet military region and planned the Chinese offensive in the eastern sector in October 1962, brought together Chinese military researchers to compile a new history of the war, titled One Hundred Questions on the China-India Border Self-Defence Counterattack. Extracts of the book were published this month in the popular Chinese website Guancha. The book is based on interviews with PLA veterans and focuses on Chinese military strategy as well as on the legacy of the war.
In China, high-profile books on military history, a sensitive topic, cannot be published without a green light from the PLA’s Central Military Commission.
As I indicated above, I think the timing amid the downturn in relations, and the return of the border dispute to front and centre of the relationship in a departure from what we have seen in the last three decades since normalisation of relations, is no accident.
As you read the extracts below, do keep in mind this is how the PLA wants to portray the war and hence, read it as such — rather than, needless to say, an accurate historical account of the war. Also keep in mind there appear to be at least three obvious political motivations from this: 1. Zhang Xiaokang writing about the contributions and heroism of her father, which receive particular attention in the extracts 2. Military researchers wanting to bring greater attention to 1962, which I’ve often seen them argue has been relegated in importance to other wars 3. China’s emphasis on “counterattack” which is repeated in the extracts, and I note below in my comments, underline its sensitivity about a war where it was the obvious aggressor and about a war that punctures the still widely prevalent narrative in Chinese propaganda that China and “never attacked or invaded” another country.
Usual disclaimer: I have translated the extracts with the help of software and cleaned it up here and there. This is already 8,000 words long, so I have left out a few details that I thought weren’t relevant. And please excuse typos! For those interested, you can find the original articles here.
Why we should remember the self-defense counter-attack on the Sino-Indian border
January 7, 2022
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1962 China-India border self-defense counterattack, Zhang Xiaokang, daughter of Zhang Guohua, commander of the Tibetan Military Region and its founding lieutenant general, organized war history researchers together to compile "One Hundred Questions on the China-India Border Self-Defense Counterattack".
Based on interviews with veterans who participated in the war and collected first-hand information, the book reflects on the counterattack with a panoramic view, especially about the battle deeds of heroes, meritorious soldiers, martyrs, wounded and other front-line supporting civilians.
Although many decades have passed since this war, it has not been forgotten with the passage of time, and generations of soldiers and military fans have always been interested in this counterattack. What fascinates many military experts and researchers in China and abroad in particular is: how could our army wipe out more than seven brigades of India's most elite force in just a few days when they did not have much advantage in terms of strength and firepower? Why did our army take the initiative to retreat on the day of victory? Why did our army take the initiative to release the Indian prisoners and voluntarily return surrendered weapons and equipment to India? With Zhang Xiaokang's permission, Guancha has selected relevant extracts for publication, in order to tell the true story of the war.
Regarding the self-defense counter-attack on the Sino-Indian border in 1962, we can briefly discuss the war from three aspects: the direction of the war and the command structure, the stages of the war and the troops involved, and the results of the war and its strategic significance.
First, the direction of combat and command structure
The self-defense counterattack on the Sino-Indian border was divided into two strategic directions: the eastern front and the western front. The eastern section of the Sino-Indian border in Tibet was the eastern strategic direction, and the western section of the Sino-Indian border in Xinjiang (including Ali in Tibet) was the western strategic direction. Chairman Mao and the Central Military Commission unified the command of the entire counterattack operation and coordinated the counterattack operations in the two strategic directions of the eastern and western fronts.
On the 1,100-kilometer-wide battlefield on the Eastern Front, the first phase of operations was divided into the following two directions. The front command post of the Tibetan Military Region (referred to as the front finger of the Tibetan Military Region) was located in Mamagou in Shona County, which unified the command of operations in the direction of Namka Chu and Tawang, the main direction of the counterattack operations on the whole front. Its main members were: Zhang Guohua, commander of the Tibet Military Region, Deng Shaodong, Chen Mingyi, Zhao Wenjin the deputy commander, Lv Yishan, director of the Political Department; deputy chief of staff Shi Banqiao, Yu Yixing, deputy director of the Logistics Department.
The Basic Command Post of the Tibet Military Region was located in Lhasa and was responsible for commanding the counterattack operations in the auxiliary combat direction. Its main members were Tan Guan-san, Political Commissar of the Tibet Military Region, Wang Kang, Chief of Staff, and Bai Jian, Deputy Director of the Political Department.
In the second stage of operations, the Eastern Front was divided into the following three operational directions. The front command post of the Tibet Military Region was located north of Tawang, which was the main direction of the whole counterattack operation, with the same main members as in the first stage. The basic command post of the Tibetan Military Region was located in Lhasa, commanding the counterattack operations in the central area of the Eastern Front, with the same main members as in the first stage.
The command post, referred to as Ding command, formed by 54th Army Commander Ding Sheng, was responsible for commanding the counterattack operations in the direction of Walong on the Eastern Front. All commands were under the direct command of the Central Military Commission.
Western Front: The Kangxiwa Command Post formed by Xinjiang Military Region on the Western Front was under the dual command of the Central Military Commission and Xinjiang Military Region. The main members of the Kangxiwa Command Post were: Commander and Political Commissar He Jiashang, Deputy Commanders Liu Fasiu, Li Shuangsheng, Zheng Zhiwen, Deputy Political Commissars Xiang Xin and Li Bin, Chief of Staff Zheng Zhiwen, Acting Chief of Staff An Zhiming, and Director of the Political Department Li Bin. Kang (Kangxiwa) front command unified command of the western front direction counter-attack operations. The western front 600 km wide battlefield was divided into four defense areas: Tianwendian defense area, Heweitan defense area, Kongka pass defense area, Ali defense area. All four defense zones were under the direct command of the Kang Command.
Second, the combat phase and the troops involved in the battle
The self-defense counter-attack on the Sino-Indian border was divided into two stages.
The first phase of the counterattack operation was from October 20, 1962, with different end dates for the eastern and western fronts.
(1)In the main combat direction, i.e., the direction of Namka Chu and Tawang, the front command of the Tibetan Military Region unified the command of the Tibetan 419th Army (equivalent to one infantry division), the main force of the 11th Army Division (two infantry regiments), one part of the Shannan Military Division, and artillery, engineering and other military units, and implemented the Namka Chu Campaign, completely wiping out the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade and capturing Tawang and other southern Tibetan areas, which ended on October 25.
(2) In the direction of the eastern front auxiliary operations, the Tibetan military region unified command of Nyingchi military sub-district, Shannan military sub-district, in counter-attack operations wiped out the enemy, captured the border points, pushed forward the post, the front forced Walong, a strong response to the main direction of the battle of Namka Chu, operations ended on October 25.
(3) In the direction of the western front, Kangxiwa front command unified the 3rd Battalion of the 10th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Battalion of the 11th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Ali Cavalry Detachment, and artillery, engineers and other troops to carry out counter-attack operations, annihilating one of each of the 4 battalions of the 114th Infantry Brigade of the Indian Army, uprooting 37 Indian invasion positions. Most of the occupied territories were recovered, and the operation ended on October 29. The second phase of counter-attack operations, which generally began on November 18, 1962, began and ended at different times in various directions.
(1) In the main operational direction, namely Sela-Bomdila direction, the front command of the Tibetan Military Region unified the command of the Tibetan 419th, the main force of the 11th Army Division, the 55th Army Division, a part of the Shannan Military Division, as well as artillery, engineers and other military units. The battle of Bomdila saw the total annihilation of the 62nd Indian infantry brigade, the 4th artillery brigade, the basic annihilation of the 48th Indian infantry brigade, the 65th infantry brigade, the 67th infantry brigade, and enforced the traditional customary line of the Sino-Indian border and seized a major victory in the strategic decisive battle. The general attack of the battle began on November 18, 1962 and ended on the 20th.
(2) in the direction of Walong, the implementation of the Walong campaign, basically destroyed the 11th Indian infantry brigade, captured Walong and other key areas, and the front enforced the traditional customary line of the Sino-Indian border. The general attack of the battle began two days in advance on November 16, 1962 and ended on the same day.
(3) In the direction of the central area of the eastern front, the Tibetan military district saw the capture of Mechuka and other key areas. The counterattack operation began on November 18 and ended on November 22, 1962.
(4) In the direction of the western front, the Kangxiwa command uprooted the last six aggressive positions of the Indian army in the western part of the Sino-Indian border area, and recovered all the occupied territories. The counterattack began on November 18 and ended on November 20.
Third, Battle Results and Strategic Significance
In the self-defense counter-attack on the Sino-Indian border, our troops destroyed 8,853 Indian forces, including 4,885 killed and 3,968 captured. Our troops sacrificed 722 people, wounded 1697 people, and no one was captured. [NOTE: These are very different from India’s figures and they both highly overstate the Indian casualties while downplaying the Chinese casualties, which many Indian on-the-ground accounts of the war state were certainly higher. Also note the PLA has understated Chinese casualties in almost all of the wars it has been involved in.]
Tibetan military region commander Zhang Guohua commanded the main direction of the battle and achieved the greatest results. The first battle of Namka Chu and the decisive battle of Sela-Bomdila, in these two battles, a total of 6,960 Indian troops were annihilated, accounting for 79% of the total number of enemy annihilated by our army. Our troops lost 376 men and 811 wounded, and the ratio of enemy annihilation to our casualties was 5.9:1, capturing a big victory at a small cost.
Our army captured 1 Indian aircraft, 3 helicopters (another 1 destroyed), 7 tanks (another 2 destroyed), 437 cars, 380 guns of all kinds, 6403 guns of all kinds (including 631 light and heavy machine guns), 112 rocket launchers, 32 rifle grenades and bomb throwers, 79,720 rounds of artillery shells, 412,0591 rounds of rifle shells, 16,921 hand grenades, and 4,790 rounds of mines. 16,921 hand grenades, 14,848 mines, 520 radios and telephones, 272 telephones, 258 binoculars, 36 artillery observation instruments, 45 large pieces of engineering machinery, 98 generators, 26 chargers, and a large number of military supplies.
Numbers are boring, but they can most accurately and objectively show the final results of the battlefield in which the two opposing armies fought to the death. The results of our army's battle dazzled the world. The complete victory of our troops in the self-defense counterattack on the Sino-Indian border is of great strategic significance.
In military terms, our army won a complete victory, completely crushed the rampant attack of the Indian invading army, annihilated the main force of the Indian troops participating in the war, negated the illegal "McMahon Line" with practical actions in the eastern section, and forced the traditional customary line on the Sino-Indian border in the western section, all the invasion strongholds of the Indian army were uprooted, and all the lost territories were recovered.
This battle, which greatly boosted the national prestige and military prestige, brought about a peaceful situation on the Sino-Indian border for sixty years, formed a huge psychological advantage of our army over the Indian army, and seized and maintained the initiative of our army on the Sino-Indian border.
Politically, China's self-defense counterattack dealt a heavy blow to the regional hegemony and expansionist policy of the Nehru government, forcing India to abandon the policy of "no negotiation on the Sino-Indian border issue" that the Nehru government stubbornly insisted on, and India's unilateral demand or even resorting to force to expand its territory, and sitting down to negotiate the border issue in accordance with China's demand. The border issue was negotiated peacefully in accordance with China's demand.
In terms of diplomacy, China's self-defense counter-attack completely exposed the essence of the Nehru government's power politics and deference to imperialism, tore off the veil of Nehru's "non-alignment", and served justice. In particular, after the victory of our troops, our government decided to unilaterally take the initiative to cease fire and withdraw, to release all captured Indian soldiers and officers, and to return weapons, equipment and supplies to the Indian army, which made the truth of who wanted war and who wanted peace more clear to the world and won high praise from peace-loving countries and people all over the world and strong reactions from international public opinion.
On December 3, 1962, the General Staff Department of the Chinese People's Liberation Army issued a telegram to the troops participating in the counterattack operation, "The Question of Naming the Operation Against the Invading Indian Army," which clearly stipulated that with regard to the naming of the counterattack against the invading Indian troops, for the sake of unified use internally and externally, the full name of the counterattack in self-defense of the eastern and western sections of the Sino-Indian border was determined. Since then, the entire army has been using the name "China-India Border Self-Defense Counterattack" in accordance with the regulations of the General Staff.
Why do we have to talk about the naming of this counterattack operation? The reason is that the issue of the name of the operation is essentially a matter of the concept of war. The most important thing is to distinguish the nature of war. In the history of mankind, war is distinguished by nature into two categories: just war and unjust war. The counterattack in self-defense on the Sino-Indian border is a just war conducted by the border troops of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) against the invading enemy in the Sino-Indian border area in order to promote a fair and reasonable solution to the Sino-Indian border issue. [NOTE: Such propaganda can sometimes be very useful in gauging the actual intentions – albeit not in the way intended by those writing. Reading between the lines of propaganda can be revealing, and in this case, what this tells us is that the reason why the naming of the war remains such an important matter, was that the Chinese military leadership and its researchers are very aware that the 1962 war, until today, is a glaring contradiction of the Chinese government’s still official line that it has never invaded or attacked another country. Hence, it is important to reenforce constantly the myth that it was a “counterattack”.]
The title of the book "India's China War" by the British writer and journalist Neville Maxwell shows that the basic position of the author is objective. India's war against China was an unjust war provoked by the Indian army's massive invasion of China in the Sino-Indian border area in pursuit of the Indian government's aggressive expansionist policy. On November 20, 1971, Premier Zhou Enlai met with Maxwell. In a 2014 interview, Neville Maxwell said, Kissinger read the book India's China War when it came out in the United States in 1971. It changed his view of China and he recommended the book to Nixon, which is recorded in the transcripts of the Nixon-Kissinger-Mao talks. When Kissinger visited Beijing, Zhou Enlai passed Maxwell a personal message that Kissinger told him, 'This book showed me I could deal with you.'
Some authors in the West have taken an anti-Chinese stand and discussed the war with absurd views. As for India, as the defeated side, on the one hand, it summarized the lessons of defeat internally; on the other hand, in its external propaganda, it ignored the facts and spread some lies that reversed black and white, such as "China invaded India", "Chinese troops retreated voluntarily because they could not keep up with the logistics "etc.
Zhang Xiaokang: Why was our army able to wipe out the elite brigade of the Indian army in the first battle at Namka Chu?
January 14, 2022
On October 6, 1962, in order to combat the arrogance of the Indian invaders, defend the security of China's southwestern frontier, and create conditions for a peaceful settlement of the Sino-Indian border issue, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) made a decision to resolutely counterattack the Indian army's attack. In the afternoon of October 8, Mao Zedong summoned Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yi, He Long, Nie Rongzhen, and Luo Ruiqing to a meeting at Yi Nian Hall in Zhongnanhai to discuss the Sino-Indian border conflict. This was a very important meeting of the Party Central Committee to study the deployment of self-defense counter-attack operations on the Sino-Indian border. Yang Chengwu, Zhang Guohua, Wang Shangrong, Zhang Hanfu, Qiao Guanhua, Lei Yingfu and others attended this meeting.
Chairman Mao said at the meeting, "Over the years we have taken many measures to seek a peaceful solution to the Sino-Indian border problem, but India has refused to do so and deliberately provoked an armed conflict, which has become more and more intense. Since Nehru must fight, we have no choice but to go along with it. As the saying goes, no fight, no deal. Perhaps if we counterattack, the border can be settled and a peaceful resolution of the border issue can be achieved. But our counterattack is merely a warning of punitive nature, merely to tell Nehru and the Indian government that a military solution to the border problem will not work."
At the meeting, Chairman Mao asked Zhang Guohua, commander of the Tibetan Military Region, "I heard that the Indian army has some fighting power, can it win?" Zhang Guohua replied firmly, "We can win, please rest assured, Chairman, we can definitely win."
Chairman Mao said, "Maybe we can't win, and that can't be helped, and when we don't win, we don't blame heaven and earth, but only our own incompetence. The worst outcome would be that the Indian army would encroach on our territory. But Tibet is a sacred territory of China, which is known to the whole world, and it is a natural and righteous thing that can never be changed. One day, we will take it back."
Let's appreciate this passage from Chairman Mao. First, we defy the enemy strategically, "One day, we will take it back." The self-defense counter-attack against India is a just war and will be won, whether smoothly or with twists and turns. Secondly, in in tactically valuing of the enemy, "maybe we can't win", he recognised war is full of fog and chance, and victory or defeat is a common thing for soldiers.
Nehru did not understand this because he lacked the experience of a military career. Chairman Mao not only understands but also emphasizes this point very much. "When we cannot win a battle, we do not blame heaven and earth, but only our own lack of ability." This statement was both a provocation to Commander Zhang Guohua and a charge to the Military Commission, the General Staff and the front-line commanders to consider the question of what to do if they could not win.
Therefore, the Central Military Commission attached great importance to the first battle and specifically requested in its instructions to the participating troops that "this battle against the Indian reactionaries, which is a matter of national prestige and military prestige, must be won in the first battle, and can only be fought well, not badly."
In view of the fact that the Indian army was ready for a large-scale armed attack on China, the General Staff issued an advance order to the Tibetan Military Region on October 8 to annihilate the Indian troops invading Namka Chu. Tibetan Unit 419 of the Tibetan Military Region mobilized in accordance with the advance order of the Central Military Commission.
After receiving the task of counterattack in Beijing, Commander Zhang Guohua immediately led the Chief of Staff of the Tibetan Military Region, Wang Kang, who was in Beijing to attend the army training conference, Gu Caoping, the Director of Military Training, Lu Hua, the Publicity Minister of the Political Department of the Tibetan Military Region, Qiao Xueting, the Political Commissar of the 155th Regiment, and other cadres who were in Beijing for study and medical treatment, to take a plane to stop at Xi'an and Golmud.
The first thing you need to do is to get a good idea of what you are getting into. At the meeting of the Standing Committee, Chairman Mao looked at the map and pondered for a while, then finally pointed to the Indian position and waved his hand forcefully and said: 'Sweep it away!’ The Standing Committee unanimously agreed that to fight we must fight hard and completely destroy the invading Indian army. Comrade Xiaoping also pointed out the need to buy time and asked me with concern about the food situation in Tibet.
Commander Zhang Guohua pointed out at the meeting, "This battle is a matter of national prestige and military prestige, with far-reaching implications, and is also an excellent opportunity for the troops to train and improve, and can only be fought well, not badly. Now everything must revolve around the war, obey the front, put their own tasks into practice, responsible for the outcome, now Beijing depends on us, it is the time for the Communist Party members to perform. We must mobilize urgently, give our all, fear no hardship, and fight for total victory." He also put forward requirements for prisoner policy, mass discipline, and battlefield discipline.
At the meeting, Commander Zhang Guohua and other military leaders studied and arranged various tasks, focusing on the deployment of 10 combat preparation tasked to the participating troops. After the deployment of the army's combat preparations, Commander Zhang Guohua studied the work of supporting the front with the leaders of the Tibetan Work Committee. Commander Zhang specifically found Comrade Hou Jie, who was in charge of local transportation, and asked him to deliver 50 carloads of artillery shells for the front within 24 hours. Although the distance was more than 190 kilometers and the road condition was very poor, Hou Jie organized the local support force to complete this task in more than 10 hours ahead of schedule.
On October 15, 1962, Commander Zhang Guohua led some personnel of the front command post of the Tibetan Military Region to arrive at Shona County, and met with Deng Shaodong and Zhao Wenjin, deputy commanders of the military region who arrived earlier, Lv Yishan, director of the political department, and Shi Banqiao, deputy chief of staff, and summoned Chai Hongquan, commander of Tibetan Unit 419, and Yin Fatang, political commissar, to report on the situation.
For this kind of fast-paced combat operations and work in the oxygen-deficient environment of the plateau, Zhang Guohua, commander of the military region and other leaders into Tibet for more than a decade, had long been accustomed to it.
Set the battle resolve
The frontline command post of the Tibetan military region is only 15 kilometers away from the invasion stronghold set up by the Indian army. The village is a small village in a ravine. As Commander Zhang Guohua commanded the world-famous battle of Namka Chu in the self-defense counterattack on the Sino-Indian border here, it has become a historical place.
At this time, the most important duty, and the most urgent core task of Commander Zhang Guohua, as the highest commander of the front line, was to set the battle resolve as soon as possible.What is the battle resolve? There is a famous saying circulating in the military world: every battle or battle has to be fought twice, the first time in the mind of the commander, the second time is actually fought on the battlefield. The "first fight" in this adage is when the commander sets his mind for battle. It can be seen how important it is to set down the determination of the battle.
The Central Military Commission decided to take on the Indian army in the Namka Chu area as the main counterattack direction, concentrating the main force of the Tibetan military region of about 2 divisions, under the unified command of the Tibetan military region front command, to carry out a counterattack.
The counter-attack in the Namka Chu area was strategic in nature, and the strength was basically the size of a campaign corps, so our army defined this counter-attack as the "Namka Chu Campaign". This battle is the first battle of self-defense counter-attack in the main direction of the Sino-Indian border, and the success or failure of the first battle is of great importance to the overall situation of the counter-attack.
What kind of determination did Commander Zhang Guohua have for the battle of Namka Chu? And how was it decided? The core issue in determining the determination of the Namka Chu campaign is to determine which enemies to destroy first.
The General Staff Department had already made it clear in the "Order of Battle on the Annihilation of Indian Troops Invading the Namka Chu Area" issued at 12:00 on October 9, 1962 that one battalion of Indian troops would be annihilated first, and made specific arrangements for the 154th, 155th, and 157th Regiments of the Tibetan Military Region under the 419th Tibetan Unit, of which two regiments would be the first echelon and one regiment would be the second echelon to annihilate one battalion of Indian troops invading the Namka Chu area in the first battle.
On the basis of understanding the strategic intention of the Central Military Commission, analyzing and judging the enemy situation and terrain, and determining the basic method of warfare, Commander Zhang Guohua thoughtfully proposed a determined plan to destroy the 7th Infantry Brigade, the "ace unit" of the Indian Army in front of him, in the first battle. This determination plan was supported by the other leaders of the Tibetan military district front command.
The battle planners had two options: one is to destroy 1 battalion of the Indian army in the first battle, and the other is to destroy 1 brigade of the Indian army in the first battle, and the difference in strength between the two is as much as 5 times. Which one to choose?
Yin Fatang was then political commissar of Tibetan Unit 419, who later served as the first secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region, deputy political commissar of the Chengdu Military Region and political commissar of the Tibetan Military Region, and other important positions. In an interview published in 2005 in the Military History magazine of the Academy of Military Sciences, Yin Fatang said, "Commander Zhang Guohua decisively put forward a bold plan to annihilate one brigade of the Indian army. After this plan was reported, the General Staff and the Military Commission, including several old marshals, disagreed, fearing that our appetite was too big for this elite brigade.”
The General Staff did not agree to withdraw the order. The main consideration was: the first battle to destroy 1 battalion of the Indian army was a sound and feasible plan to annihilate the enemy, which was conducive to a quick battle and could guarantee a victory in the first battle.
In February 1958, when Marshal Ye Jianying led a Chinese military delegation to India, the then Chief of Staff of the Indian Army General Thimayya, arranged for Marshal Ye and his party to visit a joint land and air attack combat exercise organized by the 4th Division of the Indian Army. Kaul, then commander of the 4th Indian Division, organized and commanded this joint land-air attack combat exercise code-named "Dhanashee", which fully demonstrated the offensive combat capability of infantry and tanks with the support of artillery and air force. Kaul was later tasked with commanding the invasion of China along the eastern section of the Sino-Indian border.
The recent combat experience of our troops was an important reason. From November 1960 to February 1961, in the Sino-Burma border operations, our troops and the Burma Defense Force jointly fought against the remnants of the Kuomintang forces that had fled to Burma, and achieved a great victory. Our troops fought for hundreds of miles in the "Golden Triangle" in the heart of the border between Burma, Laos and Thailand, wiping out one part of the enemy and destroying all of them, destroying the "lair" of the remnants of the Kuomintang that had been operating for 10 years, liberating 30,000 square kilometers of Burma and 300,000 people. The mission given by the Central Military Commission was completed. However, our tens of thousands of troops (including logistical support troops) only destroyed 741 of the remnants of the Kuomintang army… The main reason is that our army fought for the first time in the tropical mountains and jungles for large-scale operations and had a lack of experience. This battle was less than two years past.
The war against the U.S. and Korea, and the Sino-Burmese border guard operation offered real combat experience and showed our army could fight foreign troops or out of the country. This was different from the past domestic revolutionary war and the war against Japan.
Commander Zhang Guohua sent two consecutive telegrams to the General Staff on October 16 and 17 to report the battle determination and operational deployment to annihilate the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade in the first battle, and stated the specific reasons. Eventually, the two battle determination plans with different objectives of annihilating the enemy were reported to Chairman Mao. Chairman Mao said, "He is the front-line commander, let him fight." Political commissar Yin Fatang said in an interview, "Chairman Mao still has the courage. That's what gave the battle of Namka Chu its large scale."
At 0000 hours on October 17, 1962, the Central Military Commission finally issued the "Order of Battle to Annihilate the Invading Indian Army," deciding that "with the troops now concentrated in the Tibetan Military Region, we will first annihilate the Indian Army that has invaded the Namka Chu area north of the 'McMahon Line,' and prepare for continuous operations to annihilate the enemy that may have support in Tawang." And stated: "Regarding the operation to annihilate the enemy in the Namka Chu area, we agree with the deployment of the front command of the Tibetan Military Region at 0100 hours on October 16."
It can be seen from this order of the Central Military Commission: the military commission's operation order is rather general in the objective of annihilating the enemy, and does not clearly instruct to annihilate the 7th brigade of the Indian infantry, leaving room for maneuver. At the same time, it also clearly approved the operational deployment proposed by Commander Zhang Guohua to annihilate the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, which also retracted the operational order issued by the General Staff Department on October 9.
On October 20, 1962, our army launched the general attack of the battle of Namka Chu. After the rapid artillery attack, the 155th regiment of the Tibetan 419th unit carried out the main attack on the right flank, the 154th regiment carried out the assisted attack on the left flank, the 157th regiment carried out a circuitous attack to the flank and rear of the Indian army; the 2nd battalion of the 32nd regiment of the 11th division and the border guard detachment of the 2nd regiment of the Shannan military sub-district guarding the post carried out a holding attack on the front.
Due to the well-designed operation, the attack was fully prepared, and the suddenness of the battle was achieved, especially because the majority of the commanders were brave and good at fighting, and the battle was combined with a circuitous encirclement and tactical division and encirclement, and the main attack was carried out from the enemy's weak side and rear. After being captured by our troops, Brigadier Dalvi, commander of the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, said, "You have eliminated a brigade in 24 hours, which is rare in the world”.
After wiping out the Indian army in the Namka Chu area, the front command of the Tibetan Military Region, under the order of the Central Military Commission, lost no time in commanding the 419th Tibetan troops, and took advantage of the victory to cross the "McMahon Line", attacked and wiped out the enemy, capturing Tawang in one fell swoop.
Our troops fought until the north bank of the Tawang River, only to be ordered by the Central Military Commission to stop the pursuit. The battle of Namka Chu ended in victory on October 25.
Results of the Battle of Namka Chu
The capture of Tawang by our troops has very important military and political significance. Tawang, the most important political and religious center in this region, is also the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama. He was born in 1683 and Tawang has become an important Tibetan Buddhist shrine in Tawang. By crossing the illegal "McMahon Line" and capturing Tawang, our troops have in fact denied the illegal "McMahon Line" and further demonstrated that Tawang and other southern Tibetan areas belong to China.
In commenting on the Battle of Namka Chu, the most interesting question is: Why did Commander Zhang Guohua dare to propose a different plan to annihilate the enemy than the General Staff headquarters? In this regard, war history researchers believe that there are at least three things. First, Commander Zhang Guohua understood the strategic intent of the Central Military Commission profoundly. The Central Military Commission's strategic intent and requirements, is not only to be cautious in the first battle, but also "not to fight, but to fight hard and painfully". Zhang Guohua wanted to "hit hard and hit pain". The most important military quality and ability of a battle commander is to understand the strategic intent, which Commander Zhang Guohua did completely. Secondly, Commander Zhang Guohua is extremely talented in military command. As a founding lieutenant general, he has been in a hundred battles from Jinggangshan to Tibet, and has often stood alone. The first battle of Namka Chu, Zhang Guohua, despite the high cold and lack of oxygen deep into the front line, promoted military democracy, asked for advice from subordinate commanders, so as to have a good idea; finally, with his own combat talent, in the mind first annihilated the 7th brigade of the Indian infantry. With such a bottom line, he dared to propose a different operational plan from that of the General Staff.
Third, Commander Zhang Guohua was brave enough to take charge. War is full of chance, and there are many famous generals in the past and present who lost in the "fog of war". The war against India was a self-defense counterattack that China had no choice but to endure for a long time, so what did victory or defeat mean? It speaks for itself. The highest commander of the Indian front, General Kaul, the 4th army commander, became a "scapegoat" after the war and faced a thousand accusations; once enjoying international and domestic prestige, Nehru, because of the defeat fell to the ground.
On October 22, 1962, the Central Military Commission issued a "commendation order" to the troops who participated in the self-defense counterattack on the Sino-Indian border.
In his article "Comrade Zhang Guohua in Tibet", Dang Yuchuan, secretary of Zhang Guohua, commander of the Tibetan Military Region, recalled the specific circumstances of receiving the telegram from the Central Military Commission. The battle of Namka Chu was highly praised by the Central Military Commission. On October 22, the Central Military Commission said: "The commanders of our participating troops, fighting with high spirit under the difficult conditions of the severe cold on the plateau, hard work, courageous and good fighting, annihilated the enemy and achieved a great victory in the initial battle." The front of the Tibet Military Region had just received a telegram from the Central Military Commission, and before it had time to forward it to the troops, it received another notice from the Central Military Commission retracting the telegram. Zhang Guohua and other chiefs of the military region's front command were puzzled, and no one could figure out what had gone wrong.
In the midst of suspicion, they soon received a second telegram from the Central Military Commission. The two telegrams were compared, and the latter added the phrase: "The Central Military Commission is extremely pleased with the frequent transmission of good news." It can be seen how satisfied the Central Military Commission was at that time.
When Zhang Xiaokang interviewed Miao Zhongqin, who was then the head of the Border Defense Section of the Operations Division of the Tibet Military Region, Miao Zhongqin was already in his nineties, but he still remembered clearly the two occasions when the former command of the Tibet Military Region received calls from the Central Military Commission, which were consistent with what Secretary Dang Yuchuan said.
"The Central Military Commission is extremely pleased with the frequent reports." This phrase is said to have been added by Chairman Mao. After the Central Military Commission's "Commendation Order" reached the participating troops, the majority of the commanders were overwhelmed with excitement and said they would resolutely fight the subsequent counterattack in accordance with the Central Military Commission's request in the "Commendation Order" to "refrain from arrogance, make further efforts, and prepare for continuous strikes against the invading enemy.”
How was Dalvi captured by the army?
January 21, 2022
The capture of Dalvi
At 7:30 on October 20, 1962, the Battle of Namka Chu was fought. At the order of Zhang Guohua, the commander of the Tibetan Military Region, a total of 190 guns carried out a 15-minute artillery raid on the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade on the south bank of the Namka Chu River.
The roar of artillery in the valley caused the mountains to tremble and the sky to shatter. Our sudden, heavy and intensive artillery fire hit the Indian army's vital points accurately.
The main Indian artillery positions were destroyed and lost their fire support; some of the fortifications were destroyed by our artillery fire, reducing the resistance to our infantry's impact.
In particular, after the command post of the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade and the battalion and company command posts were heavily damaged by our artillery fire, communication was interrupted and soon command and liaison between the top and bottom was basically paralyzed.
Brigadier Dalvi, commander of the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade, wrote in his memoir:
"At exactly 5 a.m. (note: New Delhi time) on October 20, 1962, two flares were fired by Chinese troops across Bridge No. 3. Immediately afterwards shells from more than 150 artillery pieces and heavy mortars rained down on the slopes of the Thag La front. Our positions at Bridges Three and Four, the artillery positions, the logistic base, the wooden bridge, the temporary civilian bridge and the 7th Brigade headquarters about 1,000 yards from the river bank were all heavily bombarded.”
"This is the moment of truth. This is the moment when the Thag La Ridge ceases to be a piece of land and becomes a laboratory for measuring, testing, and refining India's foreign and defense policies. For a few minutes the sound of the guns whistling past our heads stunned everyone. The scene was all the more startling when contrasted with the hitherto silent state. The fact that the armies were so close together made it seem hard to believe. The incident had begun. It was the end of years of miscalculation, many months of anxiety and many days of hope, and the end of a week of confusion and terror. The day it broke out is one that India will never forget. Every primary textbook of Indian history will record this sad story of disgrace. Within minutes of the Chinese army's attack, the 7th Brigade fell apart. In any case, it was hopeless to reinforce or turn the tide of battle. I had no reserve forces. My communications with the battalions were soon cut off as well. The battalion commanders could not communicate with their company commanders because all telephone lines had been destroyed. The radio operators also stopped sending and receiving because the Chinese army began to attack their command and they had to defend themselves."
After our troops launched the general attack of the battle, Brigadier Dalvi soon found that the communication between his brigade command post and the battalions and companies had been broken, and when he was "surrounded by the superior strength of the Chinese army and could not hold on," he made up his mind to withdraw and flee. The commanders of the 2nd Company did not know that the Indian prisoners they captured included Brigadier Dalvi, because there was no interpreter among the Chinese and Indian personnel at that time, and they did not speak each other's language.
Comrade Wei Ke, then director of the political department of the Tibetan 419th, recalled that the 154th and 155th Regiments pursued the troops overnight, and the command post of the Tibetan 419th Troops pursued the troops on foot together, and caught Dalvi the next day. He said: “The interpreter went and asked, "What do you do?" He said, "I am the 7th Brigade Commander Dalvi!" The interpreter was overjoyed and came back to me and said, "He's 7th Brigade Commander Dalvi" I didn't quite believe it; I was going to ask him myself. I went in person and asked, "What do you have to prove you are Dalvi?" He said he didn't have time to put on his uniform when he ran away, just a shirt, but there was a picture in his shirt pocket that he and Kaul, the Army commander, had taken in the back garden when he was sent off to his post in the 7th Brigade and invited to dinner by Kaul. He showed me the photo and I asked him what else he had as proof, and he said he didn't have any. A captured Indian company commander next to him said, "I can prove that he is Brigade Commander Dalvi." I asked Dalvi, "Why did you admit that you were the brigade commander? He said, "That's the rule."
“I asked him if he had any trouble after he was captured. He said, "No! Look at my gold ring, my gold watch. This army of yours is a civilized army." I asked him what he needed. He said, "Please sir, find me some cigarettes to smoke." I didn't know how to smoke, and Political Commissar Yin Fatang didn't smoke, and Chief of Staff Cao Zongkui did. I called Cao Zongkui and said, "You lend me two packs of cigarettes." He didn't have many cigarettes with him, but when he heard it was Dalvi who wanted them, he didn't hesitate to say, "Two packs for you." That took care of Dalvi’s cigarette addiction. I asked him again what else he needed. He said he was thirsty, so I said to the Indian soldier I had captured, "You go and carry canned milk." I asked him what else he needed, and he said he didn't need anything more. He said to me, "Don't worry these people (meaning the Indian prisoners) won't look for any trouble, I'll keep them honest and in line."”
Comrade Qu of the Political Department of the Tibetan Military Region said in his recollection, "I was assigned the task of escorting Indian prisoners to the rear. I met the captured Indian brigade commander, Brigadier General Dalvi, and we tried our best to meet whatever he wanted to eat. During the three days he stayed in the front command of the military district, he ate fruit candy, white sugar, and was given a few cigarettes. After he had eaten and drank enough, he fell down and fell asleep. Deputy Chief of Staff Shi Banqiao and Director Lv Yishan of the Tibetan Military Region's former command talked to him successively, explaining to him the friendship between the Chinese and Indian people and the reasons for this conflict. Dalvi behaved calmly and talked and laughed freely. But when the PLA studio wanted to take pictures of him, he was reluctant, saying that he was afraid that if he published it in the newspaper, he would not live well in the future."
Regarding our army's prisoner policy and prisoner management, Dalvi said, "You were able to follow the government's policy and Mao's instructions completely, overcome your inner hatred, and treat your prisoners with friendship, which is difficult for a general army to do."
In the Indian prisoner internment facility, Dalvi and other Indian prisoners watched a number of New China movies as well as cultural performances. It was proposed that Dalvi and other captured Indian officers above the rank of colonel visit the Chinese mainland. Under the arrangement of the Chinese government, 27 captured Indian officers of the rank of colonel or above, led by Brigadier General Dalvi, visited Wuhan, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuxi and Beijing in the Chinese mainland. In May 1963, Dalvi and his group of 27 Indian officers of the rank of colonel and above were released in Kunming and returned to India by air.
In his memoirs, Dalvi recounts some of the circumstances of the Indian defeat. He said it was "a failure of the senior command of the war, a failure of the Staff Headquarters (including me); a failure of the responsible public opinion and the press; and, as far as the Indian government was concerned, an outright blunder."
In his memoirs, Dalvi revealed the Indian government and army had deliberately created the border dispute and launched a massive attack on China, attacked Nehru for its unbridled expansionist policy of "driving out the Chinese", reflected the unpopularity of the Indian government's anti-China policy, and stressed the need for the two peoples to live in friendship for generations to come.
It should be interesting to see what the rest of the book says, but so far, I’ve only seen these three extracts. I hope you found them interesting. I’ll keep readers posted as and when more comes to light.
Thank you as always for reading! Wishing all readers a very happy Year of the Tiger, and hope the year fares better than the last, my zodiac, did (the Ox).
May the king of animals bring us all some much needed cheer in the coming year!
Basically a view from the
*'other side of the hill'.*
The Sino-Indian war remains a trauma for us even today, but all these years, as far as the Chinese were concerned,
it did not form an important part of their institutional memory -- or a subject of study by the Chinese military/political hierarchy.
Tactical, strategic and political aspects of the Korean war, the two Sino- Japanese wars and Mao's victory against Kuomintang/ Chiang Kai Shek (forces) was what they remember or study.
That is till recently. The last few years has changed their focus to lessons learnt and how the Indian Army thinks and fights.
How the Chinese will think, plan and execute a war with India need not be a mystery, if we prepare ourselves, ensure we have the capability to fight a coordinated battle and get over the outdated 'Chandaal' pamphlet.
For us in India, many books and articles about the 1962 war by Indian authors were always available. But we had very limited availability of material about the Chinese political and military strategy of the 62 war, their perceptions, battle plans and higher direction of war.
Strangely, perhaps the only available treatise which gave a rather different story (about Indian military and political incompetency) from what we like to believe, was Maxwells book, 'India's China War' and that famous postmortem 'report' still officially classified by the govt of India, but available on the 'net'.
And there was, ofcourse, an attempt made some time back by PJS Sandhu in his contributions to the USI Journal regarding the 'Chinese version' of the sequence of events.
Without going into the usual nonsensical excuses of 'ill planned tactical operations and untenable defences or lack of ammunition or non availability of winter clothes or antiquated rifles etc', if there is one sentence which sums up why there was a rout of the Indian Army (which surprised even the Chinese), it is-- *breakdown of command, control, communications and inability to fight a coordinated battle coupled with poor leadership.*
Half a dozen plus brigades don't disintegrate without a fight or at least making it a costly victory for the enemy.
This article by Zhang Xiaokang, daughter of Zhang Guohua, commander of the Tibetan Military Region during the war only reinforces this point.
You write, "China’s emphasis on “counterattack” which is repeated in the extracts, and I note below in my comments, underline its sensitivity about a war where it was the obvious aggressor and about a war that punctures the still widely prevalent narrative in Chinese propaganda that China and “never attacked or invaded” another country."
This is of course the Indian line that China was "the obvious aggressor". What about the other set of documents from that period, the leaked sections of the Henderson-Brooks report that Neville Maxwell published as a book recently? Maxwell claims that it was India that was the aggressor.
So we still don't know whodunnit?