Strategic Lessons of 1962: A Contemporary Retrospective

Brigadier (Retd.) Rahul K. Bhonsle is managing a strategic risk and knowledge management focusing on strategic culture and security trends in South Asia, future warfare and human security.
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  • October 2012


    The 1962 India–China War is one of the most debated subjects in India’s recent military history. The discussion has been enriched by accounts of the war by a large number of principal Indian military protagonists, some to justify their own role which had come up for criticism in perspective.2 The report of the Henderson Brookes Enquiry has not been made public; however, Neville Maxwell, who was correspondent of The Times from 1959, and later went on to write the book, India’s China War, has quoted extensively from the same.3 Portions of the report have also been published in the April 2001 issue of Economic and Political Weekly.4 Anecdotal recollections and Maxwell’s critique of the war provide a treasure trove of lessons for the future.

    Even though the war has been extensively analysed, reviewing lessons from the contemporary perspective may be relevant. An attempt is therefore being made for a retrospective of lessons of 1962, focusing on those that assume salience and, in turn, possibly provide a window on possible correctives to prevent recurrence today. A key challenge for such an exercise is current environment scan. Clinical and objective evaluation of the present is wrought with peril of misjudgement, primarily due to incomplete information. To avoid the same, lessons for application in the current systemic, as assessed generically falling in the overall rubric of military strategy and operational art, have been considered for inclusion. These include role of the military and war in grand strategy, civil–military relations and management of higher defence, operational art, employment of air power, management of higher military appointments and cliques, defence preparedness and role of the media.

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