Title:China’s India war: Collision Course on The Roof of the World

AUTHOR: Bertil Linter

PP: 320

PRICE: Rs.675

Publisher: Oxford University Press

There are some distressing incidences in the life of a nation. If one were to count such pathetic incidences for India then probably it would include the Second battle of Terai in 1192, Battle of Plassey in 1757, and the latest one, The Sino-India war of 1962. These incidences shattered the collective pride of India. The most recent of these conflicts, the Sino India war also made India loose the perception war. The world started to see India as the aggressor and China, the innocent victim, defending what rightfully belonged to them. Nehru was blamed for aggressive hostile policies towards China (the Forward Policy adopted by him during the ’62 war). Scholar and journalist Neville Maxwell’s book India’s China War, perpetuated this myth for long. Likes of President Nixon and his NSA, Henry Kissenger also subscribed to the views of Maxwell, which largely shaped the narrative regarding Indo- China war and the subsequent bilateral ties.

Like all other Social Sciences, History too remains open to interpretation. Bertil Linter, a reputed journalist and author to 17 books on Asian politics and History, offers alternate views in his book, China’s India War: Collision Course on The Roof of The World. This is a brilliantly researched book where Linter gives credible evidences regarding Chinese war preparations which started form 1959 and a gradually hardening stand taken by China against idealist Nehru’s misreading. Linter’s interest in the conflict zones of Himalayas dates back to his school days. He recalls, ‘In 1967, as a 14-year-old schoolboy in Sweden, I sent a handwritten letter to the Indian embassy in Stockholme asking them the information about the problem’. The Indian embassy graciously provided a lot of stuff to the young Linter. Little did they know that 50 years down the line, the boy will grow up to write a book that would challenge the prevailing wisdom on the subject!

Maxwell’s book, India’s China War declares that ‘it was India that provoked the war’. India banned Maxwell’s book but never came up with a firm rebuttal. Linter shifts the onus on the Communist leadership of China, with a range of evidences. The second chapter of the book, ‘The Line’, discusses at length the McMahon Line, diplomatic historian Alistair Lamb’s thesis on the border along with associated credible literature. Linter writes that the Chinese were unable to comprehend the genuine resentment and anger felt by Tibetans regarding Chinese occupation of their land and the Chinese were convinced of Indian hand behind Tibet’s angst. The then Chinese PM, Zhou En Lai, even speculated British and American support to Tibetan rebels in collusion with India.

China under Mao aspired to be the leader of the Third World, which was headed by India through forums like NAM. Post its defeat, India largely abandoned its non-aligned status. Military intervention in East Pakistan in 1971 was a departure from Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent ideas and thus, India ceased to remain a role model for the Third World. Linter has blamed Nehru for shortsightedness in dealing with China with a misguided faith in Zhou En Lai. He has quoted Chinese articles and documents to prove that Nehru’s love affair with China was lopsided. Chinese magazine Shijie Zhishi (World Knowledge) in an article published on 19th August 1949 proclaimed, ‘Nehru is riding behind the imperialists whose stooge he is, actually considers himself the leader of the Asian people…. As a royal slave of imperialism….’ If only some one in the higher echelons of decision-making in India could comprehend the Mandarin then!

Linter has made a short reference to Japan with an emerging India- Japan partnership. Add to this, USA and Australia and the quad turns into an anti-China alliance. The author has also analysed the stakes two Asian giants have in buffer states like Nepal and Bhutan, issues related to cross-border insurgencies, the sharing of water resources and strategic rivalries in the water bodies. This is a mustread book for anyone interested in International geostrategic relations and the undergoing intricacies of schemes termed by Linter as world’s newest ‘Cold War’. This is a remarkable book offering coherent insights to the reader.