As the nation pays homage to the martyrs of the 1962 India-China war that ended in a defeat for the country in the western and the eastern frontiers, Major Gurdial Singh Jammawalia (95), who was posted on the international border in Jammu and Kashmir remembers each detail clearly.
Though Jammawalia did not take part in the war but was aware about the happenings in the arid desert of Ladakh where the Indian troopers were dropped without being acclimatised to the hostile climate that claimed many lives.
However, many reasons are accorded to the defeat of the Indian army during the war but Jammawalia who was injured during the battle against Japanese troops during World War-2 in Burma says that partition of the country made our army weak enough to lose a war.
"Most units of the army were divided among India and Pakistan that weakened our strength," recalls the aging Major.
He adds China started transgressions at the Mc Mohan line in the east that was never defined. "China had started encroachment in Ladakh and transgression in east that was not noticed by the Indian army due to their scanty presence in the area," said Jammawalia.
He says, "As soon as China started a full-fledge war on October 20, 1962 India sent its 4th division based in Ambala to Ladakh to fight the enemy. However, it was not enough to defeat the mighty army of the Chinese that had been preparing for the war since long."
Jammawalia who was based at the Madhopur-Chambjoriyan sector on the international border recounts that the situation on the border with Pakistan was also tense. "We had two enemies at that time, on one hand China and on the other Pakistan. As both China and Pakistan had cordial relations, the threat was real."
He says that the capabilities of the Indian army were reduced due to the absence of the British officers who earlier led the force and were missing after partition. "India did not have any experience of a full fledged war and China took advantage of this shortcoming," says the Major.
He further says that the lack of infrastructure on the borders made 'our defeat easy.' "There was scarcity of food and water for the soldiers posted on the border with Ladakh as there were no proper roads in the region. This was the actual cause of our defeat," remarks Jammawalia candidly.
Jammawalia also says that even today India is not prepared to take on China, in case of an eventuality. "India needs more infrastructure along the borders and more power. We have learnt no lessons from the 1962 war. China is advancing its infrastructure with the passage of time.
He goes on to say that in UK, children from royal families join the army while in India no politicians send their children to the army. He believes that the youth of the country are no longer attracted towards the defence forces and this is a cause of worry.
He goes on to say that four generations from his family have been in the army and wishes the same for his future generations.