Patel and Nehru

Note: It is purely coincidental that I am writing this blog on 14th November i.e. on Nehru’s birthday.

In 1962 China humiliated India by conquering entire Arunachal Pradesh and Half of Kashmeer. India’s defeat was so humiliating that if it was not for United States Chinese forces would have entered New Delhi. China later moved it’s troops out of Arunachal Pradesh but Axai Chin is still under their control. Reading this history is really very painful for any patriotic citizen.

If you read textbooks and popular discourse this episode is whitewashed. When a mention is inescapable, the readers/students are lead to believe that the good man Nehru was betrayed by the evil and cunning China. That China pretended to be a friend and turned out to be a foe.

The truth is far from that. China was absolutely clear about its stand every time and in every communication. Reading the correspondence between Nehru, Chinese Government and India’s ambassador in China confirms all this. While we believe that China deceived India, Nehru himself conceded that it’s not China who deceived us but it was India who deceived himself. If Nehru was little more honest he would have said that ‘HE deceived India’.

The events were so shameful that China built road inside the India territory, they set up outposts but Nehru ignored all of this. Indian public itself had no clue that China was eating away Indian territory miles by miles everyday.

Had Nehru lived a little longer I am sure he would have seen his popularity among people turning into deep contempt.

Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel died in 1950. But he had sensed the danger. He wrote a letter to Nehru which is reproduced below. Read it carefully sentence by sentence. It is not just a wise man’s advice but it is prophetic. Mr. Patel had sensed the trouble 12 years before. Not only he had sensed it he had suggested that we should take measures to safeguard out interests. Look at the 11 points that he mentions.

Even if we assume that Nehru thought China was a friend, there was absolutely nothing to lose to adopt those safegaurds. The reason Mr. Nehru didn’t do it suggests only one thing and that is Nehru was self-centered, egoistic and incompetence Prime Minister whose mistakes the nations paid with land and blood.

Brigadier John Dalvi wrote his memoirs ‘Himalayan Blunder’ articulating how Nehru blundered. The book was banned by congress for the obvious reasons.

He narrates an incident where a guest faculty, a retired British official, after hearing that Nehru have signed Panchsheel agreement with china and have decided to give up the post in Tibet that british maintained in Tibet to check chinese advance, interrputs his class and warns India and China would soon be at war and people in this class will be fighting it. Brg. Dalvi remember that he was very angry with that gentalman questining his authority critising leader of his country.

Read the letter written by Patel to Nehru on 07th November 1950 a few days before Patel’s death.

My Dear Jawaharlal,

Ever since my return from Ahmedabad and after the Cabinet meeting the same day which I had to attend at practically 15 minutes notice and for which I regret I was not able to read all the papers,I thought I should share with you what is passing through my mind.

I have carefully gone through (all) the correspondence…but I regret to say that neither of them (our Ambassador and the Chinese government) comes out well as a result of this study…The Chinese Government has tried to delude us by professins of peaceful intentions. My own feeling is that at a cruicial period they managed to instil into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means.

There can be no doubt that during the period covered by this correspondence,the Chinese must have been concentrating for an onslaught on Tibet. The final action of the Chinese, in my judgement, is little short of perfidy. The tragedy of it is that the Tibetans put faith in us; they chose to be guided by us; and we have been unable to get them out of the meshes of Chinese diplomacy or Chinese malevolence. From the latest position, it appears that we shall not be able to rescue the Dalai Lama.

Our Ambassador has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions. As the External Affairs Ministry remarked in one of their telegrams, there was a lack of firmness and unnecessary apology in one or two representations that he made to the Chinese Government on our behalf.


…During the last several months, outside the Russian camp, we have been practically alone in championing the cause of Chinese entry into the UNO and in securing from the Americans assurances on the question of Formosa…In spite of this,China is not convinced about our disinterestedness; it continues to regard us with suspicion and the whole psychology is one, at least outwardly, of scepticism,perhaps mixed with a little hostility.

I doubt if we can go any further than we have done already …Their last telegram to us is an act of gross discourtesy not only in the summary way it disposes of our protest against the entry of Chinese forces into Tibet but also in the wild insinuation that our attitude is determined by foreign influences. It looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy.

With this background, we have to consider what new situation we are now faced with as a result of the disappearance of Tibet…Throughout history, we have been seldom worried about our North-East frontier. The Himalayas have been regarded as an impregnable barrier against any threat from the North.

…We can therefore, safely assume that very soon they (Chinese government) will disown all the stipulations which Tibet has entered into in the past. That throws all frontier and commercial settlements with Tibet, in accordance with which we had been functioning and acting during the last half a century, into the melting pot.

…Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include important parts of Assam. They have their ambitions in Burma also.

…While our Western and North-Western threat to security is still as prominent as before, a new threat has developed from the North and North-East.

Thus for the first time after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate on two fronts simultaneously. Our defence measures have so far been based on calculations of superiority over Pakistan. We shall now have to reckon with communist China in the North and North-East, a communist China which has definite ambitions and aims and which does not in any way seem friendly towards us.

Let us also consider the political conditions on this potentially troublesome frontier. Our Northern or Northeastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and tribal areas in Assam. They are weak from the point of view of communications.Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is an almost unlimited scope for infiltration. Police protection is limited to a very small number of passes. There, too, our outposts do not seem to be fully manned. Our contact with these areas is by no means close and intimate.

…I am sure the Chinese…would not miss any oppurtunity of exploiting these weak spots, partly in support of their ideology and partly their ambition. In my judgement, therefore,the situation is one in which we cannot afford to be either complacent or vacillating. We must ahve a clear idea of what we wish to acheive and the methods by which we should acheive it. Any lack of decisiveness in formulating our objectives or pursuing our policy to attain them is bound to weaken us and increase the threats.

Along with these external dangers, we shall now have to face serious internal problems as well. Hitherto,the Communist Party of India has found some difficulty in contacting communists abroad, or in getting supplies of arms, literature etc.from them. They had to contend with the difficult Burmese and Pakistan frontiers in the East or with the long seaboard. They shall now have a comparitively easy means of access to Chinese communists, and through them to other foreign communists. Infiltration of spies, fifth columnists and communists would now be easier.

…It is, of course, impossible for me to exhaustively set out all the problems. I have, however, given below some of the problems which,in my opinion, require early solutions, around which we have to build our administrative or military policy measures.

  1. A military and intelligence appreciation of the Chinese threat to India, both on the frontier and internal security.
  2. An examination of our military position and such re-disposition of forces as might be necessary,particularly with the idea of guarding important routes or areas which are likely to be the subject of di(s)pute.
  3. An appraisement of the strength of our forces and, if necessary, reconsideration of our retrenchment plans for the Army in the light of these new threats.
  4. A long term consideration of our defence needs.
  5. The political and administrative steps which we should take to strengthen our Northern and Northeastern frontiers.
  6. Measures of internal security in the border areas,such as U.P, Bihar , Bengal and Assam .
  7. Improvements of our communications,road,rail,air and wireless in these areas and with the frontier outposts.
  8. Policing and intelligence of frontier outposts.
  9. The future of our mission at Lhasa and the trade posts at Gyangtse and Yatung and the forces we have in operation in Tibet to guard the trade routes.
  10. The policy in regard to the McMohan Line.

*** End of Excerpts ***

* This letter of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel is excerpted from the book:”Makers of India’s Foreign Policy : From Raja Rammohun Roy to Yashwant Sinha” – by J.N. Dixit, published by India Today.

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