03 March, 2021

Beyond Victimology

Nehru and Menon’s assessment of China was not quite the ‘Himalayan blunder’ it was made out to be

Corbis (From Outlook 22 October 2012)
Beyond Victimology
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

On the night of October 19, 1962, Chinese troops began infiltrating Indian positions along the border. At the crack of dawn, the attack commenced and within days, the Indian defences collapsed. A month later, the Chinese announced a unilateral ceasefire and pulled back. The ignominious defeat caused in Indian politics a bitterness without parallel vis-a-vis matters of foreign policy. Jawaharlal Nehru’s standing never recovered from this setback. Nor has his posthumous reputation. Fifty years on, the passions of 1962 are not yet spent. President Radhakrishnan anticipated the verdict of posterity when he chided the government for “credulity and negligence”. Nehru himself seemed to concede to the charge of naivete. “We have been living in an unreal world of our own creation,” he said, in an oft-quoted speech in Parliament.

Nehru’s mea culpa was aimed at soothing political tempers. Historians certainly need to approach it with scepticism. As A.J.P. Taylor observed, all politicians have selective memories—most of all those who...

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