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Day 21 – Q 3.Do you think India’s first Prime Minister- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru misunderstood the intentions of the Chinese in the 1950s? Critically comment. Was there any other way to address the Chinese problem? Suggest.

3. Do you think India’s first Prime Minister- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru misunderstood the intentions of the Chinese in the 1950s? Critically comment. Was there any other way to address the Chinese problem? Suggest. 

क्या आपको लगता है कि भारत के पहले प्रधानमंत्रीपंडित जवाहरलाल नेहरू ने 1950 के दशक में चीनियों के इरादों को गलत समझा था? समालोचनात्मक टिप्पणी करें। क्या चीनी समस्या को दूर करने का कोई और तरीका था? सुझाव दें।


India adopted a policy of friendship towards China from the very beginning. Nehru had great hopes that the two countries with their common experience of suffering at the hands of colonial powers and common problems of poverty and underdevelopment would join hands to give Asia its due place in the world.


Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Views towards China

  • Nehru’s understanding of Chinese history, of the history of revolutions, especially the Russian revolution, had convinced him that China should not be isolated and pushed into a corner, but should be brought into the community of nations and its revolution humanized. ‘We know enough history to realize that a strong China is normally an expansionist China,’ he said, but did not want to precipitate any conflict with China as it would be as disastrous for both countries as was the French-German conflict. He added that soon after the Chinese revolution he had come ‘to the conclusion that our borders were going to be, well, threatened in some way.
  • With Pakistan already hostile, India did not need another neighbor as an enemy. Preparing for war on two fronts would have meant an end to development. Therefore, the conflict, even if inevitable, should be delayed as much as possible by adopting a friendly approach and asking others to do the same, for example by trying to get China into the UN.
  • He understood that the Chinese occupation of Tibet meant a common border with attendant conflicts. But he also saw that China could not think of expansionism as yet, as it had big problems to solve. After the revolt in Tibet, and the Dalai Lama’s arrival, and the border clashes, he was well aware of the dangers, but what good would it has done to threaten China? In an effort to checkmate the Chinese he did make diplomatic preparations, by moving closer to the Soviets.
  • Nehru was shocked at the scale of the 1962’s attack, as he had thought at there may be occasional border skirmishes here and there, but not an invasion of this nature. He erred in not anticipating the precise nature of the attack, rather than in the foreign policy he pursued. A further mistake was the panic in appealing to USA and UK for help, as next day the Chinese withdrew.
  • Nehru was well aware and had been warning of the possibilities of border clashes with the Chinese since 1959. But neither the political nor the military leadership anticipated the precise nature of the Chinese attack, and were therefore taken by surprise.
  • The failure was also, it is felt, due to the lack of a proper system of higher defence command and management, and because there was no system of defence planning and the structure of civil-military relations was flawed. The chiefs of staff were not integrated into the civilian policymaking structure, but remained theatre commanders preparing for the near-term future but not for the long-term future security environment. Despite Nehru’s warnings since 1959, of trouble with China, much professional thought had not gone into the planning for a war in the Himalayas. It was a failure of logistics, of intelligence, or rather of analysis of intelligence, of coordination of different wings such as the Army with the Air Force, etc.

There were no other ways to address the Chinese problem

India was newly independent country in 1950s; even though Investment on defense was one of the important factors but her main priority was eradication of poverty, development of agriculture, development of Health and Education of her people which was more important and foothold issue. India’s First Prime Minister Nehru took a pragmatic decision to concentrate on development of nation rather than investing scarce resources on defense. As per the political scientists this was the best solution available at that time.


The debacle of the India-China war in no way raises doubts on the correctness of Nehru’s basic thrust in foreign policy. For example, nonalignment ensured that even in the India-China war, the US and the Soviet blocs were not ranged on opposite sides and India succeeded in getting greater or lesser sympathy from both. Nehru had been right in pursuing a policy of friendship with China, even if it ended the way it did.

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