Skip to main content

Intelligence and the Sino-Indian War of 1962

  • 441 Accesses

Abstract

The 1962 war between India and China was marked by lapses in intelligence performance on the part of the defeated country, India. These lapses originated from resource constraints and lack of analytical experience. A civilian agency with a policing culture was tasked with collecting and assessing military intelligence. The result was an inability to appreciate the profound impact that subtle differences in Chinese domestic calculations and military postures could have on Beijing’s readiness to escalate hostilities.

Keywords

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD   139.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD   179.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Learn about institutional subscriptions

Notes

  1. 1.

    On various aspects of Indian intelligence before and during the 1962 war see: Mahadevan 2008, 2011; Hoffmann 1972 and, controversially, Maxwell 2000.

  2. 2.

    Hoffman 2006, pp. 182–183.

  3. 3.

    Subrahmanyam and Monteiro 2005, p. 72. Vertzberger 1984, p. 196. It needs to be mentioned however, that Mr. Subrahmanyam subsequently distanced himself from his earlier findings in an interview with the author on 7 September 2008. He claimed to have developed a view that the failure extended to both collection and analysis, which would fit the argument of this chapter.

  4. 4.

    Askew 2002, p. 201.

  5. 5.

    Davies 2004, pp. 499–500.

  6. 6.

    As one writer has noted, organizational mindsets ‘become an Achilles heel to a professional strategist or intelligence analyst when they become out of date because of new international dynamics’. This is precisely what happened to the IB in 1962. George 2004, p. 387.

  7. 7.

    Interestingly, this problem seems to have been noted right from the time civilian intelligence agencies were created in the UK prior to the First World War. Bennett 2014, p. 55.

  8. 8.

    Pascovich 2014, pp. 236–237.

  9. 9.

    The words most commonly featured in Indian discourse on the 1962 war are ‘betrayal’ and ‘aggression’. Regimental museums in the Indian Army for instance, refer to soldiers killed during the 1962 War as ‘martyrs to Chinese aggression’. Bhola Nath Mullik, a former IB chief who headed the agency between 1950 and 1964 and thus played a decisive role in the events described here, later saw fit to subtitle one volume of his memoirs as ‘The Chinese Betrayal’. Mullik 1971.

  10. 10.

    Mullik 1971, p. 230.

  11. 11.

    Chen 2006, pp. 85–86.

  12. 12.

    Khanduri 2006, p. 323.

  13. 13.

    Cited in Hoffmann 1972, pp. 970–971.

  14. 14.

    Guruswamy 2006, pp. 224–226.

  15. 15.

    Many years later, an IB official who had drafted assessments of Chinese intentions in 1962 observed that warning analysis must also extend to studying the defensive capabilities of one’s own side. He noted that although this task was normally outside the mandate of intelligence agencies, it was necessary in order to prepare policymakers for dealing with the aftermath of a shock defeat. Dave 2006, p. 32.

  16. 16.

    Verghese 2012.

  17. 17.

    Palit 1991, pp. 97–98.

  18. 18.

    CIA 1963a, b, p. 32.

  19. 19.

    Grabo 2004, p. 114.

  20. 20.

    Interview of former senior IB officer by the author. The officer later transferred to the Research and Analysis Wing (India’s foreign intelligence service) upon the latter’s creation in 1968. Interview date: 25 July 2008, location withheld.

  21. 21.

    Bhargava 1964, pp. 64–65.

  22. 22.

    CIA (1963b) central Intelligence Agency—Freedom of Information Act Electronic Reading Room, accessed online at http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/14/polo-08.pdf on 28 July 2014, p. 18 and p. 41.

  23. 23.

    Arpi 2004, p. 128 and Chakravarti 1961, pp. 56, 60.

  24. 24.

    Malhotra 2005, p. xxxii.

  25. 25.

    Mullik 1971, pp. 329–333, 410.

  26. 26.

    Karnow 1990, pp. 438–439; Brugger 1981, pp. 240, 255.

  27. 27.

    Dhar 2009, pp. 132–139.

  28. 28.

    In 1958, Mao had precipitated an international crisis by ordering artillery bombardment of two small islands in the Taiwan Strait. He later explained the logic of this action: ‘A tense situation helps to mobilize people, in particular those who are backward, those middle-of-the-roaders’. Quoted in Dikotter 2011, p. 45.

  29. 29.

    Mullik 1971, p. 195.

  30. 30.

    Mullik 1971, pp. 498–499.

  31. 31.

    Dalvi 1969, p. 123.

  32. 32.

    Official 1962 War History, Ministry of Defence, Government of India, accessed at http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-FORCES/Army/History/1962War/PDF/1962Chapter10.pdf, on 28 July 2014, p. 430.

  33. 33.

    Worthing 2007, pp. 165–166; Prasad Varma 1965, p. 113.

  34. 34.

    Mehra 2007, p. 181.

  35. 35.

    Sukumaran 2003, pp. 341–343.

  36. 36.

    Bhat 1967, p. 66.

  37. 37.

    Hudson 1957, pp. 181–182.

  38. 38.

    Palit 1991, pp. 160–161.

  39. 39.

    Central Intelligence Agency 1964, p. v.

References

  • Arpi C (2004) Born in Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement. Mittal Publications, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Askew J (2002) The Status of Tibet in the Diplomacy of China, Britain, the United States and India, 1911–1959. Thesis submitted to the University of Adelaide

    Google Scholar 

  • Bennett G (2014) War and Intelligence. RUSI Journal 159(4):50–55

    Google Scholar 

  • Bhargava GS (1964) The Battle of NEFA: The Undeclared War. Allied Publishers, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Bhat S (1967) India and China. Popular Book Services, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Brugger B (1981) China: Liberation and Political Transformation 1942–1962. Croom Helm, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Chakravarti PC (1961) India-China Relations. Firma KL Mukhopadyay Publishers, Calcutta

    Google Scholar 

  • Chen Jian (2006) The Tibetan Rebellion of 1959 and China’s Changing Relations with India and the Soviet Union. Journal of Cold War Studies 8(3):54–101

    Google Scholar 

  • CIA (1963a) The Sino-Indian Border Dispute. DD/I Staff Study 12 March 1963. http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/14/polo-07.pdf Accessed 28 July 2014

  • CIA (1963b) The Sino-Indian Border Dispute DD/I Staff Study 19 August 1963 http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/14/polo-08.pdf Accessed 28 July 2014

  • CIA (1964) The Sino-Indian Border Dispute. DD/I Staff Study 5 May 1964 http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/14/polo-09.pdf Accessed 28 July 2014

  • Dalvi JP (1969) Himalayan Blunder: The Curtain-raiser to the Sino-Indian War of 1962. Thacker and Company Limited, Bombay

    Google Scholar 

  • Dave AK (2006) The Real Story of China’s War on India, 1962. United Services Institution of India, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Davies PHJ (2004) Intelligence Culture and Intelligence Failure in Britain and the United States. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 17(3):495–520

    Google Scholar 

  • Dhar A (2009) CIA’s Eye on South Asia. Manas, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Dikotter F (2011) Mao’s Great Famine. Bloomsbury, London

    Google Scholar 

  • George RZ (2004) Fixing the Problem of Analytical Mindsets: Alternative Analysis. International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-intelligence, 17(3):385–404

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Government of India (1962) Official 1962 War History, at http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-FORCES/Army/History/1962War/PDF/1962Chapter10.pdf, Accessed 28 July 2014

  • Grabo CM (2004) Anticipating Surprise: Analysis for Strategic Warning. University Press of America, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Guruswamy M (ed) (2006) Emerging Trends in India-China Relations. Hope India Publications, Gurgaon

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoffman SA (2006) Rethinking the Linkage between Tibet and the China-India Border Conflict: A Realist Approach. Journal of Cold War Studies 8(3):165–94

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoffmann SA (1972) Anticipation, Disaster, and Victory: India 1962–71. Asian Survey 12(11):960-979

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hudson GF (1957) Communist Ideology in China. International Affairs 33(2):176–184

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Karnow S (1990) Mao and China: A Legacy of Turmoil. Penguin, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Khanduri CB (2006) Thimayya: An Amazing Life. Knowledge World, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Mahadevan P (2008) The Failure of Indian Intelligence in the Sino-Indian Conflict. Journal of Intelligence History. 8(1):1–27

    Google Scholar 

  • Mahadevan P (2011) The Intelligence Aspects of the 1962 War. Indian Military Review 2 (July):23–24

    Google Scholar 

  • Malhotra I (2005) Introduction. In: Subrahmanyam K, Monteiro A (eds) Shedding Shibboleths: India’s Evolving Strategic Outlook. Wordsmiths, Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Maxwell N (2000) India’s China War. Random House, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Mehra P (2007) Essays in Frontier History: India, China and the Border Dispute. Oxford University Press, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Mullik BN (1971) My Years With Nehru: The Chinese Betrayal. Allied Publishers, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Palit DK (1991) War in the High Himalaya: The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962. Lancer International, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Pascovich E (2014) Military Intelligence and Controversial Political Issues: The Unique Case of the Israeli Military Intelligence. Intelligence and National Security 29(2):227–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prasad Varma S (1965) Struggle for the Himalayas: A Study in Sino-Indian Relations. University Publishers, Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Subrahmanyam K, Monteiro A (2005) Shedding Shibboleths: India’s Evolving Strategic Outlook. Wordsmiths, Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  • Sukumaran R (2003) The 1962 War India-China War and Kargil 1999: Restrictions on the Use of Airpower. Strategic Analysis 27(3):332–356

    Google Scholar 

  • Verghese BG (2012) The War We Lost. Tehelka 41,9. 13 October 2012, at http://www.tehelka.com/the-war-we-lost/ Accessed 10 September 2014

  • Vertzberger Y (1984) Misperceptions in Foreign Policymaking: The Sino-Indian Conflict, 1959–1962. Westview, Boulder, CO

    Google Scholar 

  • Worthing P (2007) A Military History of Modern China: From the Manchu Conquest to Tiananmen Square. Praeger Security International, London

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Prem Mahadevan .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2017 T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Mahadevan, P. (2017). Intelligence and the Sino-Indian War of 1962. In: Baudet, F., Braat, E., van Woensel, J., Wever, A. (eds) Perspectives on Military Intelligence from the First World War to Mali. T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6265-183-8_3

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-6265-183-8_3

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague

  • Print ISBN: 978-94-6265-182-1

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-6265-183-8

  • eBook Packages: Law and CriminologyLaw and Criminology (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics