Day 17 – Q 2. Examine the series of incidents and the prevalent geopolitics that led to the Indo-China war of 1962. 

  • IASbaba
  • June 29, 2020
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GS 1, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing, World History
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2. Examine the series of incidents and the prevalent geopolitics that led to the Indo-China war of 1962. 
घटनाओं की श्रृंखला और प्रचलित भू-राजनीति की जाँच करें जिनकी वजह से 1962 का भारत-चीन युद्ध हुआ।

Demand of the question:

It expects students to write about the series of incidents and the prevalent geopolitics behind the Indo-China war of 1962. 


Recent face-off between India and China in Galwan valley has awaken the memory of 1962 war. China attacked India over multiple points across the border in 1962, leading to a month-long standoff between 10,000 to 20,000 Indian soldiers and 80,000 Chinese troops. Unprepared for the offensive, India lost nearly 4,000 soldiers in the war and suffered its most humiliating defeat.


The main cause of the war was a dispute over the sovereignty of the widely spread Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh border regions.

Series of incidents that led to Indo-China war of 1962:

  • Following India’s independence, British left behind a disputed legacy on 3,488km long boundary between India and then Tibet which laterally occupied by China. Dispute especially on McMahan line and Johnson line because of no mutually agreed border.
  • The first sign of discord between India and China came in 1950 when China invaded Tibet. This was blatant aggression, Tibetans looked up to India for help but India’s feeble protest merely antagonised the Chinese without helping the Tibetans.
  • Occupation of Aksai Chin: Opportunities to negotiate a border settlement in the fifties existed, but were not seized. India entered into the Panchsheel Agreement with China in 1954, hoping to put an end to Chinese provocations but that was not to be. On the contrary, China illegally occupied the Aksai Chin and completed construction of their Western Highway through it in 1957.
  • Asylum to Dalai Lama: In 1958 rebellion of Tibet led to the exodus of the Dalai Lama to India, which led to first armed clash with China occurred at Longju in the east. China perceived India is acting with both USSR and USA to destabilise Tibet. 
  • Forward policy: To counter continued Chinese aggression, India embarked on a policy of establishing a series of small posts all along its Northern and Eastern borders with China, to prevent further incursions. Called the ‘Forward policy’, most posts were not capable of giving a fight to the Chinese and were logistically unsustainable. Coupled with this, India neglected the improvement of infrastructure in the border areas, which was to cost the country dear when the conflict started in 1962. 
  • By 1959-60, Chinese had made up their mind that since India was not negotiating the border issue to their satisfaction, which was basically bartering the Aksai Chin in Ladakh for Chinese acceptance of the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh, they would “teach India a lesson”.

Prevalent geopolitical situations behind Indo-China war of 1962:

  • China wanted to show the world who is real master of Asia. It allowed India to take leadership in Bandung Conference of 1954 and maintained low profile till the completion of western highway connecting Xinxiang with Tibet.
  • After the failed talks between India and China in 1960, China was quite convinced that it has to fight war with India.  Success of Chinese armed forces in the long drawn civil war against Chang kai shek, Japan in Manchuria and against US forces in Korea boosted their confidence for expansion on Indian front.
  • Cold War peak: China chose time to execute its intension in the month of October when Cuban Missile crisis kept super powers busy in Atlantic and for the first time created threat of cold war becoming hot.  It created nuclear panic across the world. 
  • By 1960, relations between China and the USSR had also deteriorated to a point where their respective leaders were trading insults publicly. The reasons included USSR’s friendship with India as India had received more economic and military assistance than China. Another reason was the USSR’s neutrality in the Tibet border dispute.
  • Chinese perception of India as major threat to stability of Tibet. China perceived that India might acting at the haste of United state in giving asylum to Dalai Lama.   
  • India was more isolated than China due to faith in Non alignment movement. India’s defence capacity as compared to china was weak as we undermined Chinese threat.


India and China are two growing Asian powers and hence a clash of interests is inevitable.  The key is to keep it manageable and not allow it to flare up into another border war. It will be tough test for our diplomacy in the prevailing situation.

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