Before 2020, there was 1962, which is back in the spotlight in the wake of the India-China clash in Galwan Valley and the standoff at Pangong lake. TOI reported extensively on the state of the conflict and the situation on the border, along with perspective on the policies of the then Nehru-led Indian government, India’s determination to push back, and China’s designs and the blowback they met with.
Even before China’s socalled ‘surprise’ invasion began on October 20, 1962, TOI had, in the months leading up to the war, reported how the Chinese had encircled key Indian posts in Galwan Valley and in July opened fire on Indian patrols in the Pangong lake area and Chip Chap river region of Ladakh.
When the October invasion happened, TOI reported that Chinese troops had come in “in all sectors of the Sino-Indian border” and had “shouted HindiChini bhai-bhai slogans in the wilderness of Thagla ridge… in the Namka Chu valley” hours before they’d intruded. The paper said that in four days, Chinese forces had advanced into Indian territory across the McMahon line “to a depth of 6 to 8 miles” and taken control of “the entire sector from the Bhutan border to the Bum La pass, a distance of 40 miles.” But “both on the Ladakh and NEFA fronts, Indian troops” were continuing, the paper stated, “to fight heroically in the face of overwhelming odds,” having been “heavily outnumbered” and facing an “overwhelming superiority in fire power.”
As setbacks for India grew bigger, with the Tawang valley and many key posts falling and Peking simultaneously inviting PM Nehru for negotiations, TOI headlined the Indian government’s resolve that talks would happen only “if China vacates latest aggression” and “not under the threat of Chinese military force.” The paper reported on what Nehru called the “emotional upheavals” in India and also global reactions as students volunteered to join the armed forces, the opposition — except for the CPI — roundly condemned China, various groups held protests and most democracies, including the UK and US, backed the Nehru government.large76658017
But, as November turned out no better for India on the borders, TOI was soon informing Indians about how pressure from the opposition had forced Nehru to seek defence minister V K Krishna Menon’s resignation and how the economic fallout too had begun (as it has today), with RBI cancelling the licence of Bank of China to carry on business. The paper wrote that Nehru had told Parliament that China’s intrusion was “pre-meditated,” and it recorded the increasingly robust counter-attacks of the Indian forces despite all odds and their heroic sacrifices, after which some posts were recovered and some ground yielded “only after inflicting heavy casualties” on the intruders.
China finally unilaterally called for a ceasefire and withdrew its troops from November 21, having had an advantage all through. It proved right what TOI had said in its editorial on October 25, five days after the invasion: China wanted to subject New Delhi’s determination “to an extremely searching test” and bring about “a compromise settlement in which the Chinese will be the beneficiaries.” The paper had commented that “Chinese reasonableness, if it is possible to conceive of such a thing, will be made evident not by talking of peace but by resolute action…. That is the kind of language which Peking will readily understand.” And TOI had severely criticised Krishna Menon as well, saying his “activities and comments” were “a source of bewilderment and dismay to his fellow citizens.”