Was the forward policy of 1962 flawed?
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Was the forward policy of 1962 flawed?

The leak of the long-suppressed Henderson Brooks committee’s operational review of the 1962 debacle on the Internet has generated a lot of interest. Much of the debate is a bit ill-informed however.

chandigarh Updated: Mar 23, 2014 10:42 IST
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Hindustan Times

The leak of the long-suppressed Henderson Brooks committee’s operational review of the 1962 debacle on the Internet has generated a lot of interest. Much of the debate is a bit ill-informed however.

One of the major points of contention is whether the government’s Forward Policy, initiated in late 1961, provoked the Chinese aggression. So what was the Indian plan? In Ladakh, Indian troops were to establish a line of outposts on the ground to prevent further Chinese ingress into our land.

Further these posts, manned by infantry in penny-packets, were to be set up behind and in between those of the intruders to cut them off from their supply lines ultimately forcing them to withdraw. Our own forces were to keep probing eastwards through gaps in the enemy’s frontline unbalancing them. This pattern of encirclement and counter-encirclement resulted in an interlocking, chessboard-like deployment between the two forces.

gorkha rifles, eastern ladakh

A party from 1/8 Gorkha Rifles (now 3 Mech) patrolling the shores of the Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh as part of the forward policy in October 1962.

Such a policy, however, requires adequate logistical and communications infrastructure to maintain such isolated and often cut-off garrisons. While the Srinagar-Leh road was opened in October 1961 maintenance of posts was only possible through airdrops or by difficult mule tracks. Secondly, these small outposts needed to be backed up by strong reserves located centrally on interior lines of communication from where they could be moved swiftly to deal with any contingency. Given the paucity of forces available this was not possible.

What we now know of Chinese preparations, including upgrading communications, moving additional troops into the sector and build-up of supplies confirms their aggressive intentions. The Indian Forward Policy may have brought forward the enemy’s offensive plans but did not act as a casus belli on it’s own. Our strategy was meant to protect our land and assert our sovereignty in a definite way.
NDC student officers visit Punjab

In the late ’50s, the government felt the need for education of policy-makers in the higher decision-making aspects of national security.

The aim was to train leaders with the potential of rising to the top of their professions. The National Defence College, located in New Delhi, therefore, came up in 1960 as the highest seat of learning in strategic affairs for senior officers of the armed forces and civil services. The NDC runs a 47-week national security and strategic studies course leading up to the award of an MPhil degree from Madras University. The method of study is for assigned groups to identify issues, interact on these subjects with visiting experts and to evolve papers on the studied topics.

A team of the institution’s 54th course (January-December 2014) led by Major General PK Mallick, Senior Directing Staff (Army III) consisting of 15 officers, including four from foreign countries visited Punjab from March 10-14 on a study tour as part of the curriculum. The visit’s purpose was to study the state’s economy, advances in science and technology.

They visited the Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, the Bhakra-Nangal project and Information Technology Park, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research and Quark City in Chandigarh-SAS Nagar. This writer interacted with the visiting officers at a lunch hosted at the DSOI, Sector 36, by the Directorate of Defence Services Welfare, Punjab, who coordinated the visit.

Please write in with your narratives of war and soldiering to msbajwa@gmail.com or call on 093161-35343

First Published: Mar 23, 2014 10:38 IST