In his Dec. 13 article, “The art of war, Chinese style,” Brahma Chellaney repeats the claim that, in 1962, China made a surprise attack on India. As China desk officer in Australia’s Department of External Affairs, I can assure him that, for me and my colleagues in London and Washington at the time, it was no surprise attack.
Throughout that year, Indian troops had been probing Chinese defenses along the line of control between the two nations. Beijing had warned that there would be consequences. When Indian troops moved into the Dhola Strip north even of the McMahon Line frontier claimed by India in the North East Frontier Area (NEFA), there were consequences — a rapid Chinese attack followed by an equally rapid withdrawal.
China, at the time, was offering to drop its claim for the large and rich NEFA area in exchange for India dropping its rather dubious claim to the arid, much smaller and deserted Aksai Chin area in the west. India was very foolish not to accept that deal because, as China today correctly points out, that McMahon Line, which British negotiated with Tibet in 1914, lacks legality since it failed to get the required approval of China. Today China seeks much of the largely Tibetan inhabited areas south of the McMahon Line.
Chellaney also has China invading an “independent” Tibet in order to attack India. If Tibet was so independent, why was Chinese approval needed for that McMahon Line in 1914?
True, since 1979 with its attack on Vietnam, China has moved to a much tougher frontier policy. But in the early 1960s, with Zhou Enlai at the helm, China tried hard to get India on its side. India’s Nehru preferred confrontation.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.