history : Why-did-China-invade-India-in-1962
Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:
Sino Indian War = Mapping error + Clueless, old Indian leadership + belligerent China that was trying to prove something.
Both China and India were great nations with a long history and after the European colonization in 19th century, both were rebuilding in the mid 20th century. But, both the nations could not decide how far their borders went as the nations waxed and waned at various times. China and India had two border issues.
- Aksai Chin in Kashmir (Western front) — Johnson line
- Arunachal Pradesh in North East India (Eastern Front) — McMahon line
Although I consider myself a patriotic Indian, I believe this is a serious case of India screwing up. We were fighting against a major power over a territory (Aksai Chin) that has virtually nothing to do with India. It was neither inhabited nor strategically important to India. OTOH, for China this territory is their major connection between their two main western provinces – Xinjiang and Tibet.
The genesis of the war lies in the Johnson line of mid 1800s that put the map of Ladakh far into the China's province of Xinjiang. Although neither the terrain nor its history bore any evidence of a connection with India, a civil servant at the Survey of India put the region with Kashmir.
Later, British & Chinese agreed on the more feasible Maccartney-Mcdonald line that put this region in China.
However, the Maharaja of Kashmir still didn't want to give up the region and had it in their map. Having took over Kashmir, Nehru kept it in India's map.
When Chinese authorities pushed back, Nehru tried to defend the indefensible line. The fact that India could not put a single human into the 30,000 sq.km region while China was building a massive highway, itself should have pointed to the actual claimant of the land.
But, Nehru was too headstrong and he was emboldened by the fact that China was in enmity with both the world powers – US & USSR at that time. Nehru thought that he could get away with his claim and China dare not attack India. The old man's gamble failed and China wanted to teach India a lesson while still sending a powerful message to the rest of the world.
India lost the war and China took back its territory.
On the eastern front, the story was tricky. Both China and India have a claim over the land (Arunachal Pradesh & Sikkim as it is known internationally and Kham holdouts/Southern Tibet as they are known in China) – although the geography and culture favor India's claim. India considered Himalayas as the natural boundary and it was also defensible. During the war, India held its territory and didn't lose much. It was also aided by the fact that India had a sizable air force based in Calcutta and any major advance into the plains of Assam could have put the Chinese troops in major disadvantage facing India's air attack.
IMO, India should have negotiated and given up Aksai Chin while firmly putting an end to China's claims on the eastern side. That would have been fair to both sides & we could have avoided a nasty war.