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Book Review – China’s India War: Collision Course on the Roof of the World; By Vartika S

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Image Courtesy: The Wire

Article 44/2021

Bertil Lintner, a Swedish author, journalist and strategic consultant, has written a book, “China’s India War: Collision Course on the Roof of the World “. He had a keen interest in border disputes since his childhood days. During his childhood, he sent a letter to the Indian embassy out of curiosity and his dedication towards knowing the nitty-gritty about border issues. The embassy replied to the young mind’s curiosity and shared some white papers, which made Bertil deeply interested in the subject. This interest led him to further expand on his research area, which led to the publication of this book. Neville Maxwell, an Anglo- Australian journalist, in his work “India’s China War”, focused on the fact that India provoked China to attack in October 1962. This was in contrast to Bertil Lintner’s perspective. This led him to write a book on China’s India War. This book has helped change the world’s opinion, which was formed after Maxwell’s book, which portrayed India as an aggressor. In this book, Lintner argues that China was preparing militarily and had taken a hard stance against Nehru long before the 1962 war. They were in preparation long before Dhola out-post and the 1959 arrival of the Dalai Lama in India.

The author had a keen interest in Sino- Indian relationship, and the current book is a diligent work of the author after studying and interpreting the Sino- Indian relationship. Lintner discusses the origin of “improbable border dispute”, and in the first few chapters, he familiarizes the leaders with the details of the 1962 war. “The line” deals in detail with the origin of the McMahon line. The crossing over of Dalai Lama in India in March 1959 against the Chinese attack on Lhasa led to the Tibet issue, which is a bone of contention and the reason for the poor Sino- Indian relationship. The author also discusses Chinese influence in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and North-east India. It mentions the conflict in the maritime domain between India and China. The author argues that after the 1962 war, China supported insurgents like Naga and Assamese to trouble India. According to the author 1962 war was used by Mao to strengthen his position at home, especially in the aftermath of the great leap forward, which had proved to be a disaster. A parallel can be drawn in the present Galwan border dispute to divert its people’s attention from Corona and its impacts. In the last few chapters author links China’s war with India and its aggression in South- Asia with a detailed review on its involvement with Nepal and Bhutan. Lintner believed that Nehru probably was not aware of the dislike that the Chinese were harbouring against him and that they were preparing for the war much in advance.

For a reader interested in knowing the Chinese stand on the border issue, especially after the Dhoklam crisis and the Galwan dispute, this book will provide an insight into it. Though Lintner blames China for starting the 1962 war, he has no official Chinese document to back his interpretation. This book is written by a journalist who is neither a historian nor a political scientist. His deduction is based on activities from both sides, along the border. The book is written to cater to a wide audience; the writing style is academic yet at the same time makes sure that it can be easily comprehended by even those who have less academic orientation in this field. Lintner’s work is written out of curiosity and is an honest scholarly account of China’s aggression along the 3000 km line. It is a book recommended for readers interested in the geostrategic position in reference to India- China. The writing style keeps the reader hooked and engaged though at times it is very detailed, so one tends to skip some sections. The timely publication of this book, as China has a dream of becoming a global hegemon, makes it an essential read for anyone who wants a crisp overview of China’s foreign policy with a historical background to pave the way to future analysis of the subject.

In 1962, India and China collided, and China caught India unaware and won. The ghost of war still haunts the border to this day, as is evident by the Dhoklam standoff in 2017 and the Galwan dispute in 2020. There is no clarity to this day on decision-making by both the countries leading to the 1962 war. Fifty years after Maxwell’s book, Bertil Lintner’s “China’s India war” has thrown light on the rightful perspective of the dispute in 1962. He has given a clean chit to Nehru regarding his Forward policy. China waged war on India due to its aggressive and expansive policy, which it continues to date. It is a book recommended to readers interested in Indo-China relations and offers a perspective other than Maxwells.

(Vartika Sharma is a third-year undergraduate student of global affairs at OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat & Research Intern at the Chennai Centre for China Studies. The views expressed are personal.)

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