Nehru’s address to the nation on October 22, 1962 over All India Radio
In contrast to the current reluctance to take people into confidence, Jawaharlal Nehru, within two days of the Chinese invasion, clearly asserted India’s territorial rights on the Indo-China border
Comrades, friends and fellow countrymen,
I am speaking to you on the radio after a long interval. I feel, however, that I must speak to you about the grave situation that has arisen on our frontiers because of continuing and unabashed aggression by the Chinese forces...
We are men and women of peace in this country, conditioned to the ways of peace... Because of this we endeavoured to follow a policy of peace even when aggression took place on our territory in Ladakh five years ago... We know the horrors of war in this age today and we have done our utmost to prevent war from engulfing the world. But all our efforts have been in vain in so far as our own frontiers are concerned, where a powerful and unscrupulous opponent, not caring for peace or peaceful methods, has not only threatened us but even carried these threats into action.
The time has, therefore, come for us to realise fully this menace that threatens the freedom of our people and the independence of our country.
But to conserve that freedom and integrity of our territory we must gird up our loins and face this great menace that has come to us since we became independent. I have no doubt in my mind that we shall succeed. Everything else is secondary to the freedom of our people, and of our motherland and if necessary, everything else has to be sacrificed in this great crisis.
Our border with China in the NEFA region is well-known and well estab- lished from ages past. It is sometimes called the McMahon Line, but this line which separated India from Tibet was the high ridge which divides the watershed. This has been acknowl- edged as the border by history, tradi- tion and treaties long before it was called the McMahon Line. The Chinese have in many ways acknowledged it as the border, even though they have called the McMahon Line illegal.
The Chinese laid claim in their maps to a large part of the NEFA which has been under our administration for a long time. The present Chinese regime was established about twelve years ago. Before that the Tibetans did not challenge it. Yet, on this peaceful border where
no trouble of fighting had occurred for a long time, they committed aggression and this also In large number and after vast preparations for a major attack.I am grieved at the set-back to our troops that have occurred on this frontier and the reverses we have had. They were overwhelmed by vast numbers and by bigger artillery, mountain guns and heavy mortars which the Chinese forces have brought with them.
I should like to pay a tribute to our officers and men who face these overwhelming numbers with courage.... But one thing is certain that the final result of this conflict will be in our favour. It cannot be otherwise when a nation like India fights for her freedom and the integrity of the country....
But freedom can never be taken for granted. It requires always aware- ness, strength and austerity.
I invite all of you to whatever religion or party or group you may belong to be comrades in this great struggle that has been forced upon us. I have full faith in our people and in the cause and in the future of our country...
We have followed a policy of non-alignment and sought friendship of all nations. We believe in that policy fully and we shall continue to follow it. We are not going to give up our basic principles because of the present difficulty....I wish you well, and whatever may befall us in the future, I want you to hold your heads high and have faith and full confidence in the great future that we envisage for our country.
(Extracts from speech on All India Radio, 22 October 1962, AIR tapes) Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.