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Jawaharlal Nehru ignored intelligence report of Chinese road in Indian territory in 1957: Book

Author: Rajeev Deshpande | TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 14, 2020
URL:   https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jawaharlal-nehru-ignored-intelligence-report-of-chinese-road-in-indian-territory-in-1957-book/articleshow/78096926.cms

In early 1957, an audacious secret mission into Aksai Chin that saw an Indian Army officer and a havildar join a group of yak grazers in disguise actually provided first-hand evidence that China had illegally built a road in territory claimed by India.

Unfortunately, the efforts of Lt Col R S Basera of Kumaon Regiment and Havildar Diwan Singh of the Corps of Engineers went abegging despite the immense risks and hardships they undertook as then defence minister V K Krishna Menon and then PM Jawaharlal Nehru remained sceptical about the road’s exact location. It would be a full two year later before the Indian government admitted in Parliament that the road had indeed been built.

In a soon to be out book, ‘End of an Era, India Exits Tibet’, well-known China expert Claude Arpi has set out in exhaustive detail, based on Nehru Memorial Library papers, de-classified Indian and Chinese documents and personal interviews, how even voluminous reports by its own agencies about the ominous consolidation of China’s occupation of Tibet failed to prod India into action.

The theme of the book is about India losing all its influence in Tibet, helping China press aggressive claims along the border with India. This came at the cost of letting down opinion in Tibet that looked up to “Chogyal Nehru” and felt India could come to their aid in preventing “Sinofication” of their culture and ways.

Arpi’s research however, indicates that India did have options. At the time, the Indian Air Force was clearly superior to China’s military air arm and could have aided in helping Tibetan resistance, which was significant. The diplomacy itself, given India’s strong presence through trading centres, could have been forceful.

Indian reports from Tibet spoke of the speed with which motorable roads were being built but failed to stir New Delhi. The roads enabled Chinese troops to reach India’s borders quickly. The long preparation saw Mao Zedong, annoyed by the asylum to Dalai Lama and Nehru’s attempts to “undermine” China’s leadership in the Third World, to order attacks on Indian positions on October 1962.

Lt Col Basera’s trip actually reached the road and took its measurements. But on return, Menon and Nehru asked the director of military intelligence if the road could be confirmed by a map. The secret patrol had, however, carried no maps for security reasons.

This was not the only evidence of the road. Even earlier, British mountaineer Sidney Wignall went to Tibet with the knowledge of the Indian military. He was captured but released at a high pass and reached India after an incredible journey. His report of the Aksai Chin road was dismissed by Menon in Nehru’s presence as CIA propaganda.

 

 
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