A new book now claims that China had been preparing for war with India in 1962 and was not taken by surprise as is often portrayed.
Communist leader Mao Zedong declared war on India in 1962 because he saw the country as a “soft target” and thought the way to regain his own control over China would be unifying it against an outside enemy, says a new book.
The other key objective of the war was to strengthen China’s position geopolitically among the newly independent nations in Asia and Africa and block India’s emergence as a leader of the developing world, Swedish strategic affairs expert Bertil Lintner argues in his book, ‘China’s India War’.
Lintner contradicts the popular perception that Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Forward Policy” of 1961 had triggered the war in which India suffered a disastrous loss, and says that preparations by China for the war started much earlier.
The Swedish expert links the preparation for the war by China with the disastrous result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, launched in 1958, to modernise the country.
“By 1961, anywhere between 17 and 45 million people had died as a result of Mao’s policies which had caused a famine rather than, as intended, any rapid industrialisation. Mao was discredited and, very likely, (was) on his way out,” says Lintner in the book published by the Oxford University Press.
The Chinese leader would have thought the best way to regain power was by unifying the nation, especially the armed forces, against an outside enemy, he argues.
Lintner says Mao felt India was a “soft target” as it had, in 1959, granted the Dalai Lama asylum after the Buddhist leader fled Tibet following a “failed uprising” against Chinese occupation of the region.
The book says China’s policy was not to conquer and keep territory.
The aim of the war, the book suggests, was to strengthen China’s position geopolitically among the newly independent nations in Asia and Africa.