The catastrophic year in Indian history, 1962 still serves as a stigma to our esteemed soldiers. Indian army was conquered by Chinese forces. It was the collapse of Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s Hindi- Chini Bhai Bhai foreign policy.
Having gained freedom from the British Raj, Indian democracy was facing its own challenges and the army was not fully prepared and equipped with ammunitions. Moreover, during the Indo-China war, the prime minister of India did not allow Indian Air Force to operate. Had it been so, the history that we hear today might have been different.
However, as Vic Johnson rightly said, “In life, there are no mistakes, only lessons”, this defeat served as a great teacher for India and founded the stone for upcoming victories. Significant changes were made in Indian Army to prepare India for future wars.
As is the pride of Indian army, it avenged its defeat in 1967. Here I enlist the details of two border skirmishes between India and China:
The Nathu La Conflict: Nathu La is a mountain pass in Himalayas where the Indian and Chinese border is separated only by 30 yards. Against the backdrop of Indo –Pak war of 1965, Chinese army warned Indian forces to vacate Nathu La Pass or face the consequences similar to 1962. Since border violations were common tactics used by Chinese army to instigate Indian forces, Indian state decided to fence the border from Nathu La to Sebu La (Sikkim). In 1967, when Indian army started the fencing work, Chinese Commissar arrived in India and requested Lt Col Rai Singh to stop laying down the wire which Lt Col out rightly declined.
After few minutes, Indian army heard a whistle originating from the Chinese side followed by a heavy gun fire. As the area was open, the Indian Army Personnel found it difficult to find a place to cover and prepare themselves. Within 10 minutes of fire, 70 Field Company and 18 Rajput suffered casualties and left Lt Col Rai Singh wounded. Looking at the Chinese aggression, Indian Army opened fire.
Only now they were prepared..
Indian army had marked the places where Chinese bunkers were situated and guns were placed at strategic locations to maximize the retaliation. The fierce fire exchange continued for three days. By the time firing stopped, a strong message was delivered across the border with destruction of most of their bunkers and a death toll reaching 400. On 15th of September exchange of dead bodies took place in the presence of Sam Manekshaw.
It could had been a lesson for China that 1962 mistakes will not be repeated but as ignorant as it was, Chinese army planned yet another attack.
The Cho La Conflict: After a humiliating and shocking defeat at Nathu La, the Chinese Army’s dream of suppressing India got shattered. On 1st October 1967, they attacked Indian army at Cho La pass. To their surprise, 7/11 GR and 10 JAK RIF stood firm and answered the Chinese firing with double magnitude. As a result, the Chinese Army lost 40 of their elite commandos. Once the Chinese army started to retreat, Indian Army ensured that there is no open fire on their retreating army as the severe damage was already done. By 10th of October, Chinese withdrew nearly about three kilometers away from the border to Kam Barracks which is one of the Chinese army locations.
Since then, Nathu La and Cho La passes are in control of India and China neither tried to raise its voice nor claimed these passes.
The end of the battle saw the Chinese Army leaving Sikkim after being defeated by Indian troops.
Final Casualties: By the time ceasefire was implemented, India had lost 88 of her brave soldiers and 163 were wounded. However, China suffered a huge loss with its 340 soldiers killed and 450 injured. Surprisingly, China never accepted the casualties.
Indian Army, as magnificent as it is, displayed great valor in the fight. Though, all the soldiers will always be in our memories few who could be enlisted and played major role in giving a blow to the Chinese reputation and morale are:
- Brigadier MMS Bakshi– Awarded with MahaVir Chakra
- Lt Col Rai Singh– Awarded with Mahavir Chakra
- Captain Dagar– Awarded with Vir Chakra
- Major Harbhajan Singh– Awarded with MahaVir Chakra
Lance Naik Krishna Bahadur deserves special mention. Even after getting shot by a bullet he continued fighting till martyred by a machine- gun blast. Lt. Gen Sagat Singh refused to leave Nathu La. Naib Subedar Gyan Bahadur Limbu, Rifleman Devi Prasad Limbu, Havildar Tinjong Lama and Colonel KB Joshi are few of the others who will be always remembered.
Effects of Nathu La and Cho La Skirmish on Chinese: The People’s Liberation Army was taught a good lesson and it was made clear to the Chinese Army and their political leaders that it is a difficult task to engage with the Indian Army in a one to one fight.
The Chinese Dragon was given the taste of fire from Indian Machine Guns.
The defeat of Chinese army was so humiliating that it never found a place in Chinese Print Media (Since Chinese print media is owned by government). China which was involved in cross-border skirmish and giving futile ultimatum to the Indian Army during the Indo-Pak war of 1965 did not dare to utter a single word during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, inspite of being against the formation of Bangladesh.
Few speculations suggest that mute stand of china is because of their opportunistic trait and chilling temperature of passes would cost them the lives of their soldiers. However, if this were true, China would have given up on Aski Chin and never claimed Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.
The morale of Indian Army regained its peak after giving the dragon a lesson for their ultimatum given to the Indian forces in 1965.
After 1967 fight with China, India defeated Pakistan in 1971 and Sikkim became an Indian State in 1975. After Cho La and Nathu La incidents, India and China never engaged in any cross-border firing. In 1986, India granted statehood to Arunachal Pradesh which was claimed by China but administered by India. After this, the Chinese government proceeded to protest and later on military movements were seen in this sector but peace talks settled the issue. In 1993, India and China signed an agreement to ensure peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Today, India maintains the third largest active military and China the first largest military in the world and if they go for war then its impact can’t be imagined.
Saluting those who live a hard life to keep India safe.
Written By Suraj K; Edited By Sneha S