“Dear Comrade, On the eve of my visit to China, I venture to write to you to dispel doubts and rumors.”
Thus wrote Jawaharlal Nehru to each member of his Cabinet in 1954 before his famous (and in hindsight – an infamous) visit to China. He was using the Gandhian tactic of emotional blackmail by saying that he would not stand for re-election as the Congress President in 1955 and would not function as a Prime Minister “for sometime”. The letter had its intended effect as he beat down on the moderates, Centrists, and “right-wing” colleagues and India took a sharp turn to Communism and Socialism – more socialism at home, more flirting with Communism abroad. In hindsight, nothing could have been more tragic for the citizens and more properous for the ruling few! A empire that was to be built on mockery of the silent poverty and illiteracy through slogans and repeated emotional blackmail – was initiated only to be passed on as a family hierloom. India was betrayed and remained so.
Nehru was, meanwhile, in a hurry to make India Socialist and elevate Krishna Menon – a confirmed Left-winger as his foreign minister, which his more moderate party colleagues and cabinet members opposed!
On February 3, 1956, Menon joined the Union Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio. In 1957 he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay, and in April of that year he was named minister of defence under Prime Minister Nehru.
In 1962, India was attacked by China and given a drubbing – a staggering defeat. Three people were primarily responsible for that defeat and worse, the absolute criminal level of neglect and apathy towards the jawan (read the account of Namka Chu below) on the ground: PM Nehru, Defense Minister Krishna Menon, and General B.M. Kaul! Kaul had been elevated, some say, over other more capable officers and given charge where he made some glaring errors. After the war, two people were sacked – Krishna Menon and BM Kaul. Nehru died on May 27, 1964.
Furthermore poor planning in the air drops did not help. Instead of snow clothes & ammo they got tent pegs, kerosene was dropped in 200L barrels. Many rolled down slopes and although some could be retrieved, many were given up. Especially high were losses from drops by C119s due to the higher speed of the aircraft. Meanwhile two platoons of MMGs from 6 Mahar and 34 Heavy Mortar Regiment reached Lumpu. The mortars had no ammo. A little later four 75mm guns of the 17 Field Parachute regiment were dropped at Tsangdhar. On October 6th, Lt. Gen. Kaul and Maj. Gen. Prasad made their way to Namka Chu. The Brigade HQ was located at Rongla and Tactical HQ at Zimithang. The troops were extended on a frontage of 12 miles or 20,000 yards – more than 6 times their normal frontage. Furthermore the Corps, Divisional and Brigade commanders were all there. Lt. Gen. Kaul now seeing for himself the deathtrap set up for the Indian troops tried get all available resources. He sent a message to Eastern Command for “marshalling of all military and air resources.”
Late in the game Lt. Gen. Kaul realised what he had gotten into and was now desperate. The Govt. however was not ready to escalate the border clash into an all out war. Meanwhile the Grenadiers, Rajput and Gorkhas were on the way to Tsangdhar. The units had marched through severe cold, with groups of 3 men sharing 2 sheets. As mentioned they were in cotton uniforms resulting in a good deal of sick casualties; frostbite and pulmonary disorders. Two Gorkhas died of pulmonary-edema the next day. So Lt. Gen. Kaul now turned to his pet ‘positional warfare’ theory while Major General Prasad and Brigadier Dalvi wanted to find a way from their untenable position. The Chinese meanwhile had advantage of position and had now mustered up to a division at Thagla.
Sometimes, when I look back at these incidents, I find that criminally acted out as these were, they were repeated again and again and those in power – mainly Congress leaders (Gandhi family specifically) made capital out of it… while the others took the hit. And I am not even discussing the poor jawan who died of frost bite on the Himalayan mountain!
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