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The Sino-Indian war was a short border war between India and the People's Republic of China (PRC), the world's two most populous countries, which took place in late 1962. It was triggered by a dispute over the Himalayan border in the Aksai Chin. The disputed area was strategic for China as it contained a major road between Tibet and Xinjiang, and ended in a complete Chinese victory. It remains the largest military conflict at such a high altitude, combat taking place at over 14,000 feet. 
Causes of the War
The border between British India and China had never been marked clearly. For reasons of security, Britain maintained a forward claim in the Himalayas, but administrative borders were further south. The main British claim was the McMahon Line which had been drawn up during the Simla Conference of 1914. However, owing to various disagreements with the British, the Republic of China refused to ratify and recognize any agreements reached at the Conference. As a result, China did not recognize the validity of the McMahon Line border. After the independence of India and the establishment of the PRC in the late 1940s, the issue of the border was not fully resolved.
India and the PRC shared good relations through the 1950s, including the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, proposed by the prime ministers of the two countries in 1953. However, after the PRC established control over Tibet in 1950, the Indian government under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru adopted a policy of forward military deployment in the border area into areas controlled by China. China reacted angrily, disputing India's claims about border areas. For several years up to 1962, India and China both maintained forces in the disputed area. At times, each side accused the other of having moved troops into 'their' side of the border as each side tried to extend its line of actual control. A few skirmishes occurred during this time. The cause of the escalation into war is disputed but generally is considered to have been precipitated by Operation ONKAR in which India decided to move troops and establish patrol posts as far forward as possible, in some sectors north of the McMahon line into territory claimed by China. China disputed the troop movement and border claimed by India. India's invasion and annexation of Portuguese Goa the previous year (1961) may have contributed to Chinese suspicion over Indian motives. Negotiations between the two countries deterioriated over the following months and eventually culminated on October 12, 1962 with Prime Minister Nehru declaring that he had issued orders to "free" the invaded areas. Fighting began shortly thereafter with both sides claiming to that the other was the aggressor.
Events in the War
Indian and Chinese units were in close contact throughout September; however, hostile fire was infrequent. On September 8, 1962, a 60-strong (misreported as 600) People's Liberation Army (PLA) unit surrounded one of the Indian forward posts at Dhola on the Thagla Ridge , three kilometers north of the McMahon line. Nehru was attending a Commonwealth Prime Minister's conference in London, and when told of the act, told the media the Army had been instructed to "free our territory." However, Nehru's directives to Defense Minister V.K. Krishna Menon were unclear, and the response, codenamed Operation LEGHORN, was slow to move. By the time an Indian battalion reached the Thagla Ridge on September 16, Chinese units controlled both banks of the Namka Chu River. The day after, India's Chief of the Army Staff Kaul ordered that Thagla Ridge be retaken.
On September 20, a firefight developed at one of the bridges on the river, killing nine Chinese and Indian soldiers.
On October 12, Nehru proclaimed India's intention to drive the Chinese out of areas India claimed. On October 14, Indian defence minister Menon called for fighting China to the last man and the last gun.
On October 20, 1962, the Chinese People's Liberation Army launched two coordinated attacks 1000 kilometers apart in the Chip Chap valley in Ladakh and the Namkachu river. After securing a substantial portion of the disputed territory, the Chinese made an offer to negotiate on October 24. The Indian government promptly rejected this offer, and tried to regroup during the lull in the fighting.
Indian resistance had been determined but feeble. The Indian deployment was spread over a large area. Logistics were difficult to maintain, since the road network was poor. Many Indian units required airlift for resupply. In addition, many deployments were at altitudes over 14,000 feet, which required special high-altitude equipment and conditioning. The Indian "jawans" (soldiers) were also not well supplied or trained for mountain combat. Some skirmishes also took place in the Indian protectorate of Sikkim (at that time) at the Nathula Pass.
By November 18, the PLA had penetrated close to the outskirts of Tezpur, Assam, a major frontier town nearly fifty kilometers from the Assam-North-East Frontier Agency border. Due to either logistical problems (according to Indian accounts) or political reasons (according to Chinese accounts) the PLA did not advance farther and on November 21 declared a unilateral cease-fire. The United States Air Force flew in massed supplies to India in November, 1962, but neither side wished to continue hostilities. The PLA withdrew to positions it occupied before the war and on which China had staked its diplomatic claim.
Results of the War
Initial reaction to the war in India was mixed with the populace wondering as to how India had lost the war so easily and who was at fault. Defense Minister Menon resigned, though many in the government blamed Prime Minister Nehru. China at the time and continuing until today maintains that India was the aggressor, though India disputes the claim. The Indian government commissioned an investigation resulting in the Henderson-Brooks Report on the causes of the war and reasons for defeat. However, the report has not been made available to scholars or the public for the last four decades.
India's defeat in 1962 led to an overhaul of Indian Army in terms of doctrine, training, organisation and equipment. Although the Indian Army's defeat by the Chinese in the border war of 1962 was a national humiliation, the nation reacted to the '62 war with an unprecedented surge of patriotism. The main lesson India learned was that India must strengthen its defenses and stand on its own feet to be of consequence in the world. India's policy of weaponization via indigenous sources and self-sufficiency was thus cemented. National sovereignty, it affirmed, could not come at the expense of becoming a client state of any superpower or by joining any military alliance with or under them.
In the early 1980s, following a shift of emphasis in the Indian military, it was decided that the Army was to actively patrol the Line of Actual Control. Friction began to ensue over the Chinese occupation of the Sumdorong Chu pasturage, lying north of Tawang. The media, catching wind of the situation, gave it national prominence, and an angry exchange of official protests between the Indian and Chinese governments followed. Adding to the bickering, a bill was passed creating the state of Arunachal Pradesh, a territory that China claims in its entirety.
The military re-occupied Hathung La ridge, across Namka Chu, twenty-five years after vacating it. Army chief K. Sundarji airlifted an entire brigade to nearby Ximithang, alarming the panicked Chinese. The Indian government collectively flinched against the tough talk from Beijing, but stood firm at the insistence of the army. The result paradoxically was a thaw. In 1993 and 1996, the two sides signed the Sino-Indian bilateral Peace and Tranquillity Accords, an agreement on maintaining peace and tranquillity along the LAC. Ten meetings of a Sino-Indian Joint Working Group (SIJWG) and five of an expert group to determine where the LAC lies have taken place but the pace of progress has been tardy to say the least.
Neither the Indian nor the PRC government appear very interested in disturbing the status quo, and the disputed boundary, called by Indians the Line of Actual Control or the McMahon Line is not considered a major flashpoint now.
Military commissions from India and China meet regularly in the capitals of both countries to discuss the status of the border.
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