Is India marching towards another Himalayan blunder?

Published: July 27, 2017


PHOTO: AFP The writer is an Islamabad based international affairs analyst with a master’s degree in International Relations. He can be reached at and tweets @Jawad5677

The Sino-Indian war of 1962, which resulted in India’s humiliating defeat, was conceded by then Brigadier John Dalvi as the ‘Himalayan blunder’. During the war, Dalvi was the commander of the Indian seventh Brigade, which after the defeat led to his capture by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China on Oct 22nd 1962. In his book The Himalayan Blunder, Dalvi openly narrated the causes that led to the shameful defeat of India. And with no end in sight, the current tensions between India and China in the Bhutan tri-junction may repeat history.

The row between Beijing and New Delhi began in June when China tried to construct a road in its disputed area with Bhutan, the Doklam Plateau in Tibet, which doesn’t have any land contact with India. Delhi, however, perceived this as an unacceptable change to the status quo with potentially serious strategic ramifications, leading to the Indian army trespassing into the area. No bullets were fired but the Indian army stopped China from building the road. It is a strange coincidence that the main pretext of the Sino-Indian 1962 war was also on the issue of a disputed Himalayan border and one of the triggers was a road construction in Aksai Chin. The two countries have around 3,488-km-long common border, most of which is disputed amongst them.

According to India, it intervened at Thimphu’s request. New Delhi is not willing to leave the territory, while Beijing has set a precondition for dialogue that Indian troops must leave the area. In an article in the Global Times, Long Xingchun, an analyst at the Chinese think tank and the director of the Centre for Indian Studies at China West Normal University, criticised India’s move. “Even if India were requested to defend Bhutan’s territory, this could only be limited to its established territory, not the disputed area. Otherwise, under India’s logic, if the Pakistani government requests, a third country’s army can enter the area disputed by India and Pakistan, including India-occupied Kashmir,” said Xingchun.

China has made it clear that there is no room for negotiations and its foreign policy is reflected in the reporting of its official press agency, Xinhua News Agency. The agency in its recent commentary said that India could face “embarrassment” if it does not withdraw its troops and the situation could get “worse”. In fact, the row took another dimension when Xinhua News Agency’s commentary brought the Ladakh region into the discussion. It said, “India should not regard the existing situation as the same as or even similar to the previous two standoffs in 2013 and 2014 near Ladakh, a disputed area between China, Pakistan and India in southeastern Kashmir. Diplomatic efforts led the troop’s frictions there to a well-arranged end. But this time it is a totally different case.” It is rare for China to call Ladakh a “disputed” region and make a reference to Kashmir.

Though Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj claimed that the border standoff between India and China has not escalated further, amid the ongoing row with the Indian army in Doklam, China held an 11-hour military drill close to the borders of Arunachal Pradesh. With China flexing muscles, the Indian army also test fires howitzer guns at Pokhran.

With fears of a military conflict mounting between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, if India stubbornly adheres to its current stance, then it may have to face a second episode of the ‘Himalayan blunder’, which will be worrisome for the whole South Asian region, including Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • zoro
    Jul 27, 2017 - 9:42AM

    Wishful thinking ???Recommend

  • Raj
    Jul 27, 2017 - 10:18AM

    You have only reported as a pakistani giving importance to only China’s view point and totally hiding the facts and india’s replies. The Doklam area is an unsettled territory as per 2012 agreement with China, Bhutan and India. Then suddenly china is claiming it to be its own. This is what happened to Tibet. So, India does not want Bhutan to be converted into Tibet. China has been using co-ercive action against all its neighbours. Today’s india is not the same as that of 1962 and even this applies to Paksitan as well. India cannot do the same thing which it did in 1971. India today is strong and of course china is also different. But everyone knows in a war both sides suffer and there is no winner and economically, both countries will go back few years. So, china is misjudging that, in the event of war, only india will suffer and china can sit coolly. This is not so. There will be damages both sides. China started this conflict and it should end by withdrawing its troops and this is what Sushma Swaraj said it and that stands valid till today. Chinese media is in the habit of writing scandalous articles and anti-india rhetoric on daily basis and so it does not matter for INdia and even Chinese officials speak strongly against india. But India is using politie language and does not indulge in rhetorics. China cannot bully india and india must do everything to stop hegemonistic China to threaten neighbours.Recommend

  • GKA
    Jul 27, 2017 - 10:18AM

    Some facts here please

    China’s stance is a reversal of an agreed position of 2012 endorsed by both sides. So this is not a dispute but a violation of an agreement

    Secondly, reference here is being made to Aksai Chin. Readers need to be reminded that Aksai is part of Jammu and Kashmir. While Pakistan constantly says Kashmir should be handled according to wishes of kashmiris, it unilaterally “ceded” that territory to China without consulting any Kashmiris. Also, by being being a party to the agreement, China effectively recognizes that the land was not its to tresspass on, and it only acquired it through a cessation agreement –
    that too with a counterparty whose international position is that the land is disputed !Recommend

  • ranja
    Jul 27, 2017 - 10:53AM

    China has many enemies now as it has border disputes in land as well as it is claiming the sea of south china entirely as if it owns the wealth of sea. Hence japan,vietnam,indonesia, phillipines have reasons to get annoyed with china. Russia will also not support china as it has also border dispute with china. if india is attacked, help will come from usa and japan apart from the moral support from most of the countries who know china is always aggressor to grab other countries land. india can withstand war with china as it is also a nuclear armed country and conventionally , it can withstand war with china. china can be taught lesson by all countries by stopping its imports when its economy will collapse. china will lose its face with the world once if sanction is given by U N if it does not stop the war with india , should such situation arise, in which case, china economy will burst due to many countries comply with U N regulation of sanction not to trade with china. Recommend

  • sateesh
    Jul 27, 2017 - 10:59AM

    World is surprised with India s boldness and capability to face china which usa even does not haveRecommend

  • Pakistani
    Jul 27, 2017 - 11:36AM

    Absolutely. India has always been ‘all talk and no action’. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jul 27, 2017 - 11:40AM

    @sateesh: Actually the world is laughing at India of even thinking of being in the same league as China.Recommend

  • Faisal
    Jul 27, 2017 - 1:38PM

    Yes, pls. one more Himalayan blunder. That’s the only one good thing that’ll come out of India for Pakistan. Otherwise the last 70 years of contacts with India have proved toxic and utterly destructive for Pakistan. Time to escape from all things Indian in our lives. Leaving an India battered by the Chinese can only make the process more seamless. Recommend

  • kp
    Jul 27, 2017 - 2:27PM

    china is still in shock of shameful defeat in 1967 chhola war on these same grounds,Recommend

  • Asad Malik
    Jul 27, 2017 - 6:33PM

    Don’t confuse boldness with stupidity Recommend

  • Omar Sadiq
    Jul 27, 2017 - 7:38PM

    Name 1 neighbor, with which Endia does not have hostile relations???? Pls don’t name Afghanistan, as its not a neighbor of yours.Recommend

  • tatvavetta
    Jul 27, 2017 - 7:53PM

    It is not China against India. It is Japan, USA, Vietnam, Philipines, Australia also who are affected by China.Chinas new found prosperity and military might is to grab seas and lands around it. Very soon China will have claims on moon. This is a century of integrating not of dividing. European Union is about collapsed boundries and not building new frontiers. This is age o f removing fears and not spreading terrors.Our aim should be to resolve disputes by engagement with other humans not to build barriers between us. China is blocking movement of ships in International waters. China is clearly building roads for military movements and advantages. China second largest economy should behave like a world leader and not a bully. Hilter also bhaved similarly. China should be reasonable.Recommend

  • Viraf Mehta
    Jul 27, 2017 - 8:22PM

    Mr. Jawad Akram, Don’t you think Pakistan should bother about the various blunders it is facing on the social, political and economic fronts instead of worrying about India? Leave us alone, we know how to take care of ourselves.Recommend

  • harkol
    Jul 27, 2017 - 8:27PM


    It may interest you, that India GDP today is exactly where Chinese GDP was 12years back. Not in same league? With 4-5% more growth rate than what China can manage, india can catch up with china GDP in about 20years.

    This is not to say there are no asymmetry in Mulitary equation. It is about 1:2. But, India only seeks to secure it’s borders, not change the status quo by force. China seeks to change status quo. Chinese military supremacy over India is insufficient to do that. Recommend

  • Pappu Khan
    Jul 27, 2017 - 10:24PM

    Bhutan and India have a 5-decade old treaty which states that in case a ‘third’ country attacks Bhutan, then Indian army would fight to protect Bhutan’s sovereignty.
    Pakistan has no such treaty with China.Recommend

  • Komal S
    Jul 27, 2017 - 10:28PM

    China surely mis-calculated the Indian stance. China cannot afford to be a bully now. Only choice China has now is let it drag until winter sets in and hopefully the issue slowly dies down.Recommend

  • Raj
    Aug 14, 2017 - 10:47PM

    @Omar Sadiq:
    You name any one neighbour with whom China or Pakistan is having cordial relationship. Same is the status with India.Recommend

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