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Lt-Gen Thorat's 1962 warning on Chinese intrusions went unheard

Author: Gaurav C sawant
Publication: India Today.in
Date:  October 16, 2012
URL:      https://www.indiatoday.in/india/north/story/lt-gen-thorat-1962-warning-on-chinese-intrusions-went-unheard-119084-2012-10-16

Lt. Gen Thorat wrote an assessment after a year-long study of the Chinese build-up across the McMahon Line.

"Previously, the only real threat against India which merited consideration was from Pakistan. To this now has been added the threat from China," begins the 1960 assessment of Lt-Gen SPP Thorat , then army commander, Eastern Command, on the looming threat of China.

The assessment was written after a year-long study of the Chinese build-up across the McMahon Line. The army even war gamed Chinese incursions and India's response in the form of Exercise Lal Qila.

What emerges from the top secret papers is that the use of the Indian Air Force in an offensive role was integral to the Army's war plans.

In 1960, Lt-Gen Thorat felt that the Sino-Indian ties that had remained friendly in the past had undergone a considerable change.

"This is primarily due to the claim made by China upon large territories which are clearly ours. She (China) has also refused to recognise the McMahon Line as the international boundary and has made deliberate incursions into our territory in Ladakh, Uttar Pradesh and NEFA (NorthEast Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh)... We are required to resist to the full and evict any further incursions by China. This requires us to be fully prepared to undertake immediate military action..." his assessment said.

More than two years before the first wave of Chinese troops over ran the border on October 20, 1962, Lt-Gen Thorat had warned of the impending crisis. Exercise Lal Qila was held on March 17, 1960.

Lt-Gen Thorat, it appears, knew the Chinese would attack. He had assessed military and infrastructure build-up across the McMahon line. Lt-Gen Guru Bakshi, former director general, infantry, then a young captain, said: "In 1959, we as young officers were addressed by Gen. Thimayya. The impression we got was that the government, especially then defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon, was not interested in professional military advice. Gen. Thimayya had red flagged the Chinese build-up. The civilian leadership was not listening." The roughly 100-page top secret report accessed by Headlines Today/Mail Today records the situation in 1960 and also forecasts events that could take place in the coming years. Lt Gen Thorat wrote that the task was to "defend our territory and that of Sikkim against aggression from Pakistan and China and be prepared to give military assistance to Nepal and maintain law and order in the Naga Hills and Tuensang Agency (NHTA)".

With the help of detailed intelligence inputs, Lt-Gen Thorat assessed China's military build-up, and road and airfield construction plans.

Lt-Gen Shantanu Chowdhary, former vice-chief of army staff, said: "Sadly, there was lack of coordination between the top military and political leadership. Had effective preparations been done, when Lt-Gen Thorat warned, the situation would have been very different."

Lt Gen Thorat was also in favour of using the air force in an offensive role.

Recently, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne also said that had air power been used then, the results of the war would have been different.

Author and military historian Kunal Varma said: "Then defence minister was not convinced that China would attack India. (Then PM) Nehru went with his view and the rest is history. Had Lt-Gen Thorat's report been taken in the right spirit, India would have been better prepared."

 

 
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