The conflict with China has dominated public discourse in the recent days, and has included many comments, often uninformed, andhistorically unfounded, on the Chinese invasion of 1962 and the role of Jawaharlal Nehru. We reproduce below a letter that Nehruwrote to the Chief Ministers of all the States the very next day after the attack, written on October 21, 1962 .
My dear Chief Minister, The last two or three days have brought very disturbing news about the situationon our frontiers. As I write to you, we have not yet received any accurateinformation of this situation. But it is clear that the Chinese forces have attacked us all along the frontier in the NEFA and Ladakh in great numbers and have dislodged positions that our forces had taken up at various places….
The Chinese are issuing statement after statement trying to show that it was the Indian forces that organised a large-scale attack on them in all the sectors and that they acted only in defence. It is amazing to what lengths the Chinese are going in disseminating utterly false accounts….
As a matter of fact, the Chinese Government issued a statement at about 7a.m. (Peking time) on the 20th October stating that the Indian forces had attacked them in large numbers. It was only sometime after this that the major attack of the Chinese started. It has become a habit for the Chinese to blame others for what they propose to do….
It is clear that the situation that has arisen is one of gravity and danger to India and its integrity. It would be foolish for me to prophesy what further developments may take place in the near future. But about one thing we are certain: that we must throw all our strength and determination in resisting this blatant attack and aggression on India by the Chinese….
We have not declared war against China and we do not intend doing so at present or in the foreseeable future. Any such declaration of war is not beneficialto us in any way and would lead to far-reaching consequences. But the fact is that we are in military conflict with the Chinese, and all the consequences of this conflict will be borne by us.
We have thus to prepare ourselves in every way not only to carry on this conflict to its successful conclusion, but also to face the other consequences that may arise from it. Whatever happens, we cannot surrender to the Chinese aggression or bow down to it. However long a time it may take us, we shall fight with all our strength against this outrageous aggression on our territory….
No self-respecting nation can tolerate this kind of aggression, and we will certainly not do so. I cannot say how long it may take us to clear our territory from the aggressors. However long that may be, we have to work to that end with resolution and the determination to achieve our objective. It is not enough for us to say that and to shout slogans….
We have to concentrate on this great struggle which threatens our integrity and freedom. Everything else will have to take second place. This is a matter which cannot be dealt with on party lines. It is a supreme national issue, and every person who is an Indian must realise his duty in this crisis. We must, therefore, concentrate on building up this unity to face this invasion of India…
China is a great and powerful country with enormous resources. But India is no weak country to be frightened by threats and military might. We shall build up our strength, both military and economic, to win this battle of Indian freedom. We shall always be willing to negotiate a peace, but that can only be on conditions that aggression is vacated. We can never submit or surrender to aggression. That has not been our way, and that will not be our way in the future.
(Extracts from Jawaharlal Nehru’s Letter to all Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, dated 21 October 1962)
Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library