The book says China's policy was not to conquer and keep territory
NEW DELHI: 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.
"After the 1962 War, it was China rather than India, that became the leader of the Third World — an entirely new concept that China's omnipotent Chairman Mao Zedong had introduced to replace the old idea of non-alignment," it says.
Lintner also rejected analyses, including by Neville Maxwell, author of 'India's China War', that Nehru's "Forward Policy" was responsible for the war.
The Henderson Brooks report, an analysis of the war, had also blamed Nehru's Policy and the then army leadership for India's humiliating defeat. The Forward Policy, which had sought the raising of military outposts in areas claimed by Chinese and launching of aggressive patrols, increased the chances of conflict, the report had said.
In his book, Lintner also rejects perceptions of intelligence failures on the Indian side and that it was not aware of the massive Chinese build up along the border since 1959.
Lintner says Nehru's then intelligence chief Bhola Nath Mullik had repeatedly warned the government of Chinese manoeuvres along and across the border.
At the same time, the author observes that the problem was that Nehru refused to believe the Chinses were actually preparing for a war against India.
Lintner says the claim that the movement of troops around the Dhola Post in the northwest of Tawang and some skirmishes between the Indians and Chinese in the middle of October 1962 were the trigger for the War was part of a "twisted interpretation" of the cause of the war.
The Dhola post was set up by Indian troops on February 24, 1962.
China's Great Leap Forward was an economic and social campaign led by Mao and its aim was to rapidly transform the country from an agrarian economy into an economic power through rapid industrialisation.
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