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Dr Kissinger’s Book on China – A Review, with focus on Sino – Indian Relations



Caveats / Disclaimers : Not the usual  one that my views do not represent         X Y Z, of the Government, because I do not represent any.  Nor am I privy to anything official for the best part of past two decades, including a stint in the Ist NSAB.

2. Am not a scholar or academic; also not an experienced podium seminar-arian.  Hence, if what follows fails to fall into any conventional pattern, in content or presentation, please grin and bear, since I am innocent of any.  The Paper is freely structured as a simple vehicle to record the flow of thoughts.  It is a somewhat freewheeling exercise.

3. I thank the organisers for selecting the subject, a double whammy, Dr.K and China.

4. If in the course of the permitted time for presentation, one sounds somewhat gushy and seem blown off feet occasionally, as well as glum and plodding at times, no apologies.  May please be deemed par for the course, as China is also a plodder’s paradise, besides the many other inscrutables Dr.K is never tired of attributing to it.

5.  That this Book is unique in many ways is quite obvious.   Not just because of the Status of Dr. K who has made about 50 trips to Beijing and the sheer mental and physical stamina on display.  Hypothetically, like Tendulkar’s phenomenal batting records, someone can beat that in numerical terms.  Or can conceivably even carry out missions of comparable importance in future.  But there is not even a “ghostly” chance of any one replicating the meetings he has add with Mao, Deng, and the successor Chairmen of CPC/CMC/PRC; or the meticulous manner he has kept a record of these and shared them with the world, whatever the differing perceptions of the  motive and the manner.

6.  However, the remarkable and fascinating raconteur that he undoubtedly is, I don’t want to put this forth as either an unsurpassable, or an unblemished record of the historic events he has exhaustively expatiated on.  A peer academic advocating a rival theology in US global strategy and managing China relations noted that Dr.K was reliving the most dramatic, consequential and gratifying events of his carreer and he is no sentimentalist.

Framework Perspective

7.  A word on my basic approach to the subject:  “It is an Ill-wind which blows India no good”.

8.  Accordingly, while I shall try to share some salient impressions on the major events, narratives, discourses per se, found in the Book I seek indulgence to go a little beyond and take time to dwell on what is there in the Book for India to takeaway from a number of angles.

9.   For good or bad, this will be understandably in the nature of lessons to be learnt, in the light of where we are now, our system and other deficiencies, and that have contributed calling for remedial action with urgency, to safeguard long and continuingly being neglected vital national interests.  If in the process one sounds somewhat depressed, or worked up, certainly not paranoid, that is unvarnished reflection of the harsh, prevailing ground reality that demands drastic, gargantuan changes.

10. If points made in the process seem ill informed, it is in spite of  due diligence, reasonably exercised, within the access of / facilities available to an “outsider” citizen, who most of the time gets  only a big black hole to gaze at,  despite an eligible , nay even professional background.

11.  Given this situation, akin to a traveller stranded in the hot Sahara desert of information vacuum, regarding  the hard details of what goes on under the patina of conduct of India – China relations, it is hardly surprising that one simply marvels at, and takes deep draughts from the nectar of  information flood that one  floats through in pages after pages of detailed and intimate accounts of what American and Chinese top leaders had been discussing frankly, on burning issues of war and peace that had marked the history of the world in the past decades since Dr.K had his first oeuvre into Chung Nanhai in February 1971.

12. Necessarily, time has to be given to portions of the book where Dr.K has discussed momentous events of contemporary global history, dissecting expertly their genesis and dramatic denouement, mostly reproducing the actual dialogue of the dramatis personae, one side of which comprised the Chinese Leaders at the helm at the given time, beginning from the great Helmsman himself.  This is because, in much of it, Dr.K was the participant, main brain behind and executor of decisions-his life’s ambition and struggle to achieve Peace with Honour where China would be greatest achievement and Vietnam the great frustration, a shared Nobel notwithstanding.

13. From the our perspective, perhaps inevitably, beyond the India – China Border War of 1962, dealt with in detail below, there is hardly anything detailed and significant directly related to this country, in the fascinating exchanges marking personal participation by Dr.K.  Even otherwise, it is quite disappointing that events which involve India and China as two vertices in a triangle in which the third one is of direct interest to us, like, of course, Pakistan, the U.S, the Soviet Union/Russia, South Asian neighbours, or existential issues like Kashmir, nuclear proliferation, and of late, Jihadi terrorism, which are not arguably insignificant, have not received the space and attention which would satisfy our curiosity.

14. This may be understandable from Dr.K’s scope for the Book.  But, from a personal perspective, it is a regrettable non fulfilment of a deeply felt, dire need in these areas, in the absence of any inputs at all, leave alone of a comparable nature, from our own participants in bilateral Summit meetings and exchanges with top Chinese Leaders.  This calls for remedial action. (Perhaps, after this Paper, Nehru Centre may be enthused to arrange for me to interlocute Dr.K to fill this void).

India – China Border Dispute

15. The India – China border war of 1962 has been covered here more in the perspective of a major illustration of Dr.K’s basic thesis on China’s “exceptionalism” and “singularity”, as characteristic style of statecraft  distilled in which principles of  “deterrent co-existence”, and “offensive-deterrence”(being defined as “luring in the opponents and then dealing them a sharp and stunning blow”)  are important components.

16.  For background history, account of developments and analysis thereof, he has devoted (only) eight pages (184 to 192 – Chapter-7).  This is one of the four major, foreign coercive forays undertaken by China, (a bygone era version of “shock and awe”!), he has chosen to highlight for this purpose, but given minimal space and importance, compared to the other three.

17. Parenthetically, the India – China Border War has also been given  dubious pride of place, as a dramatic opening prop for the Prologue with which Dr.K has begun the Book !

18. I am refraining from elaborate comments on the Prologue, despite the relative profusion of Mao quotes there, in view of its apparent, vaguely described inaccuracies; (“one and half wars” China allegedly fought against India centuries back!) which need further verification.   There is also more useful and tangible purchase in the main Section devoted to the subject in Chapter-7 referred to above, to waste precious time and space on the Prologue.

19. Not being a critical element to his main purpose of the Book, in Dr.K’s broad brush treatment of the history and actual developments preceding the October – November 1962 Chinese attack on India, the facts are smudgy and a number of crucial issues have been glossed over.  In fact, there are arguably many historic inaccuracies, if not in exactitudes.

20.  Nevertheless, this Book has done yeoman service to the Indian cause by conclusively demonstrating that the Chinese attack was a well planned and meticulously executed “malice aforethought”, which was personally handled by Mao himself. The quotes attributed to Mao in this Section almost all have been sourced from an article by one John K.Garver.

(Mr Garver’s article has been annotated specifically for this Section, Foot Notes at serial #s 8 to 15, and at page 545 of the Notes.  He also gets the distinction of being the first authority referenced in the Book by virtue of the Prologue starting with Mao’s plan in October 1962 to go to War with India).

21.  In the absence of facility to immediately access the Garver article, which obviously is a secondary source, the authenticity of these quotes, based on two cited Chinese publications, remain untested. Other authorities like C.V.Ranganathan, Roderick Mac Farquar have sourced Chinese officials and documents, probably to much lesser effect,  one of them being a Chinese General (Lei Yeingfeng), who has claimed to be privy to Mao’s decisions and even advised him on Indian “plans” and “intentions” (fibbed up as far as our present knowledge goes),  leading to the final war action.

23.  What official efforts, if any, have been made in India to further cross check these accounts of what happened at the highest level on the Chinese side in 1962? And with what results?.  The two Chinese documents which appear to be Mr.Garvar’s primary sources have publication dates 1991 and 1998 (Chapter Prologue, Footnote, serial # 1, Page 531 of Notes,)

24.  It is imperative that such a study should be made not only to establish their authenticity, which is important in itself. Of greater value for future is   to study and analyze, in as much detail as possible, every contemporary statement, action, movement (military, political, diplomatic ) etc.,  from the Indian side at different levels in 1962, in the spatial and temporal  dimensions, which could have led, even by misperception, to the impressions and conclusions arrived at by the top Chinese Military and Party Leadership who were advised and decided.

25.  The possibility that these assessments by the Chinese side, at the Military and / or Party levels may have been made `a posteriori’, to justify an  `a priori’ decision, should not preclude a thorough investigation even at this late stage when most of our personalities closely involved may not be available, and the maintenance of records may be patchy.

26. Some of Dr.K’s assessments of Chinese working and decision making style described in this Section, which get repeated often in different forms, throughout the Book are worth reproduction for ready perusal.

“It was not yet an order for military confrontation; rather a kind of alert to prepare a strategic plan.  As such, it triggered the familiar Chinese style of dealing with strategic decisions: thorough analysis; careful preparation; attention to psychological and political factors; quest for surprise; and rapid conclusion“.

(Page 188, Chapter 7 – from an account of Mao’s meeting with Chinese Military Commanders in 1962)

(Whither India’s comparative methodology and decision making process, and   records thereof?)

27.  Dr.K goes on to mention two specific points which demonstrated the comprehensive way in which Chinese policy was being planned.  The Chinese leaders were concerned that the U.S might use the Sino – Indian conflict they were preparing for to unleash Taiwan against the Mainland.  Also the U.S may start some mischief in Indo – China, in the developments of the then current edition of the Vietnam War, and use it for an American attack on Southern China through Laos.

28.  They used a simple subterfuge to obtain quick reassurance on the first point.  At the routine Ambassador level meetings then under way at far away Warsaw, they got the U.S. Representative to deny any American intention of armed action in Taiwan by making a false allegation that the U.S. had amassed troops for this purpose, and getting it refuted by him.  Remarkable in itself, Dr.K also highlights this to additionally emphasize the difference between a comprehensive approach to policy making (Chinese model) and a segmented one (by others).

29.  Then Chinese Ambassador Wang Bingnan at Warsaw had claimed in his Memoirs that this information played a very “big role” in Beijing’s final decision to proceed with the operations in the Himalayas. (Page-189, Chapter -7).

(Whither Bingnang’s Indian counterparts, bar Mr.P.K.Banerjee’s memorable record of the late 1962 – 1963 events, preceding and succeeding the War when he was Cd’A in Beijing. Sardar K.M.Pannikar’s memoirs perhaps eminently ignorable for irrelevance).

30.  The role of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev and the Cuban missile crisis finds a mention in this Section, with references to Soviet flip-flops.  But Dr.K does not make a specific point that the then raging Sino – Soviet ideological war  may have played any significant role in the Chinese decisions and actions leading to the 1962 war – the point (the cruciality of the Soviet/Russian factor and role) he has made in every other of the three major comparable  international conflicts/crises he has elaborated on, namely, the Korean war, the Taiwan Straits crises and the third Vietnam war  (“We touched the Tiger’s  buttocks”), to exemplify China’s use of armed action as a policy tool in its international relations. (Page-340, Chapter-13).

31. It needs to be noted though that Dr.K has graphically/gleefully, but briefly, described, in different places, caustic /acerbic exchanges between the Chinese and Soviet leaders and their Publications, to show China’s irritation and indignation at different aspects of Indo-Soviet relations.  But not as significant factor in China launching the Border War.

32. The so called 1961 “Indian Forward Policy/Nehru’s Forward Policy” gets mention, as occasion to quote Mao epigrammatically telling the Central Military Commission (CMC) and top leaders, “a person sleeping in comfortable bed is not easily roused by someone else’s snoring”. (Page 187, Chapter 7).  (What or whom, did he have in mind in this allusion?!)

33.  Neville Maxwell who had made much of this “Forward Policy” as the main reason for “India’s China War”, in his eponymous Book sponsored by the PRC, (he was a State guest in Beijing writing the Book) gets a small foot note reference (Serial # 7, Page-545, Notes), in the early tracing of the history of the Simla Tripartite negotiations leading to the Mac Mahon Line Agreement (1914), to quote the Emperor’s then Representatives in Calcutta, Lu Hsing – Chi on the Middle  Kingdom’s positive attitude to the Simla Meeting; “We must exert muscles  to the utmost during this Conference”, (Page-186, Chapter 7)

34.  Dr.K, however fails to note that the main reason for the then Chinese Central Government’s refusal to fully “sign” the Tripartite Agreement was their non acceptance of the border between “Inner” (Sechuwan and Yunnan provinces) and “Outer” (present Autonomous Region area) Tibets, and not the India – Tibet segment of the Line, while he elaborates on the significance/ difference in Diplomatic Practice between “initialling” and “signing” an International Agreement.

35.  Though mentioning Tibet in the context of the evolution the Mac Mahon Line aspect of the border dispute, Dr.K briefly refers to HH the Dalai Lama (DL) taking asylum in India in 1959 in this Section, only to the extent of China beginning “to treat the issue of demarcation line increasingly in strategic terms”, not as a significant trigger for the Border War China launched three and a half years later. (Page  187, Chapter 7).

36. There is an amazing passage of brutal frankness, in a Book replete with breath taking dialogue scripts, on the 1959 Tibetan Revolt and the D.L’s escape – a verbatim record of a macabre exchange between Mao and Khrushchev during the latter’s visit to Beijing in October, 1959, that has to be highlighted by reproduction in full.  (Page-171, Chapter-6) In view of its length, I am putting it separately as Annexure -1.  Please do go through it and see why it is so.

37. Probably failing to shock, if earlier seen by any, this Satanic observation of the Soviet Leader, playing gratuitous Cassandra predicting the future trouble China had created for itself, by not taking recourse to the diabolic, quick, ultimate solution he would have favoured, but allowing the D.L. to escape to India, had proved so prophetic to the last “p” and “c”. This will surely be counted as another major “mistake” committed by Mao by his acolytes all down the generations.  Mr Nehru gets exculpation in the bargain.

38. Perhaps it was so destined for the good of humanity that Mao did not have occasion to meet Khrushchev earlier in the year prior to the escape of the D.L., to get inkling of incipient terminal possibilities.   Soviet Union / Russia and Mongolia have enjoyed irritating the Chinese by allowing visits by D.L., ostensibly for religious purposes like meeting Burriyat Buddhists.

39.  The sudden, mysterious death of Panchen Lama in 1985 in Tibet, soon after he indulged in public criticism of CPC’s policies in Tibet, will need to be looked at from a new angle-the Chinese leadership may have followed Nikita’s advice and ensured that the 1977 mistake was not repeated.

40.  Three other Mao quotes given by Dr.K in this Section on India – China 1962 War are worth reproducing, as they unambiguously establish the “malice aforethought” of Mao to unleash the War on India, as supplementary Diplomacy, with meticulous preparedness.

“You (perhaps referring Nehru) wave a gun, and I will wave a gun.  We will stand face to face and can each practice our courage.”  Mao defined it as policy of “armed coexistence” (to the CMC – page 188, Chapter-7).

“Lack of forbearance in small matters upsets great plans.  We must pay attention to the situation”. (to the CMC – Page 188, Chapter-7)

“We fought a war with old Chiang (Kai-shek).  We fought a war with Japan, and with America.  With none of these did we fear.  And in each case we won.  Now the Indians want to fight a war with us.   Naturally, we don’t have fear.  We cannot give ground, once we give ground it would be tantamount to letting them seize a big piece of land equivalent to Fujian province……Since Nehru sticks his head out and insists on us fighting him, for us not to fight with him would not be friendly enough.  Courtesy emphasizes reciprocity”.

(In early October 1962 – “to assembled Chinese leaders to announce the final decision, which was for war” – Page190, Chapter-7)

Other Aspects of Indian Interest

41. It is somewhat disappointing for the Indian observer that Dr.K. had not found time and space to cover China – Pakistan relations despite their having been found to be crucial in U.S – China bilateral talks, and had apparently been dealt with as such at top leadership meetings, from two important perspectives, namely, nuclear/missile proliferation and international terrorism, during the Clinton and George W.Bush, Presidencies.(On Terrorism, Dr.K evocatively describes China as an “agnostic bystander” – till America’s “9/11”)

42. However, all that he has to say on  the bilateral, collusive violations of international agreements and commitments on nuclear and missile non proliferation areas by the two “rogue” friends of the U.S. is :–

“Finally, the experience with the “Private” proliferation network of apparently friendly Pakistan with North Korea, Libya, and Iran demonstrates the vast consequences to the international order of the spread of nuclear weapons, even when the proliferating country does not meet the formal criteria of a rogue state.” (Page-496 – Chapter-18)

43.  The Book has nonetheless plenty of references to Documents where these subjects would have figured.  Other authorities have also referred to the hard and tough exchanges and negotiations between the U.S and China, inter alia, preceding China’s MFN admittance, specific sanctions against China and Pakistan, besides the ever present and thorny Human Rights in China issue.  The detailed records of the Clinton era, specially pertaining to his eight day visit to Beijing in October 1998 should be mined, besides others, to bring out these issues missing here. (Page 470 – Chapter 17 )

44. The following passage from Huang Hua’s harangue to Brzezinski in the segment relating to the third Vietnam War (page 352, Chapter 13) has something India can ponder over, in the light of its so far ineffective responses to Pakistan’s long persisting Low Intensity War strategy, to expose the fallacious perceptions it is based on.

“As for the argument that the Soviet Union would not dare to use conventional arms for fear of nuclear attack from the West, this is only wishful thinking.  To base a strategic stance on this thinking is not only dangerous but also unreliable”. (citation # 15, page 352, Chapter 13 and page 555 of Notes ).

45. The suggestion is that India needs to drastically change the ambience of bilateral equations in Subcontinent, and gain “strategic space and strategic autonomy”, by appropriate  actions and responses to periodic provocations by Pakistan, so that its “all weather friend” China, as ever pragmatic, finds it prudent to read the wisdom of the above quote to its permanently parasitic neighbour – with two small changes, inserting “India” in place of “Soviet Union” and “you” in place of “the West”, as highlighted in passage above.

46. The first three chapters of the Book constitute the historic build up to the main story of Dr.K tracing the evolution of the PRC from October 1949, covering the  great vicissitudes of the Mao era (1950, 1960s  and 1970s) before Deng’s Reforms propelled China to the forefront of World affairs, challenging one and all.   The contents of these three chapters are not based on his personal knowledge and association with PRC leaders which started from February, 1972, but drawn from various excellent, wide ranging sources, with scholarship and insights.

47. Parts of this history and conclusions can probably be challenged for accuracy and objectivity by experts.  In respect of India too there are quite a few examples of this. Nationalist feeling demands that one aspect cannot be left uncommented!

48. This relates to Dr.K’s references to China’s past naval power which lacked the same substance and depth as its surface military power. Dr.K inevitably, but perfunctorily, covers the exploits of Admiral Zheng He, (1405 – 1433) of the Ming Dynasty (Pages 9 – 10, Chapter -1) and refers to the next Emperor destroying the fleet and the records of Zheng He voyages.  Elsewhere, other authorities have also sought to justify the near total absence of Chinese naval tradition by way of sustained, durable conquests across the seas, quoting the German philosopher Hegel to the effect that like China all Asian nations were mere land lubbers without any navel exploits.

49. This displays total ignorance of the great Indian naval military traditions and exploits from its  Eastern Sea board, particularly during the Chola, Kalinga and Sedi dynasties, at least from 10 Century AD onwards, if not earlier, when great overseas Kingdoms and Hindu Civilizations were established in South and South East Asia across the seas which have sustained almost intact in places like Bali, Indonesia, even today, leaving sufficient  impact, even after  centuries,  in these countries of South and South East Asia.

Generalized Observations

50. Some pertinent overall impressions, if not conclusions, emerging out of the very detailed accounts given by Dr.K, while discussing different issues, different personalities, in different sections of the book, transcending the chronology perspective, (the schema of the Book woven in this fashion, needing back and forth traversing of pages, to see continuity on one subject or person, proves somewhat irksome), can be briefly noted down.

51. These figure repeatedly in the context of the four major historic occurrences, marking the evolution of U.S – China bilateral relations, post October 1949, namely; the triangle of U.S – Soviet Union – China, Cold War era and beyond, the tortuous negotiations over Taiwan, the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as the domestic convulsions  engineered by Mao in revolutionary zeal.

52. Behind the facade of fiery militancy bordering on nuclear war mongering/of “principled” ideological firmness/political toughness/historic Civilizational patience, drawing inspiration from Confucius,  Sun Tzu, and so on, the PRC leadership is capable of extreme elasticity and pliability,  surpassing the marvels witnessed in the fantastic physical contortions of the famed Chinese Circus Gymnasts.

53. The only principle of their “Principled stand” is pragmatic achievement of the desired goal, by hook or crook, which may be battle for survival against, or keeping at bay, the Polar Bear time and again, checkmate the U.S. Imperialism in Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and of late, the East Pacific, or determined pursuit of pulling the country out of backwardness, poverty, towards economic domination of the world.

54.  It looks like the hoary Middle Kingdom Statecraft culture held the concept of “consistency” at arm’s length and use of the ideograph to depict this.  Or that it had been banned along the way by Emperor Chin Shi Huang Di, with the writings of Confucius and other Chinese wise men.

55. Dr.K’s  dramatic, ‘blow – by – blow’  account of how the Chinese Leadership desperately sought to settle the crisis precipitated by Fang Lizhi, (China’s Andrei Sakhrov sans the Noble and perhaps the Hydrogen bomb), suddenly seeking refuge in the US Embassy in Beijing with his wife on June 4 1989, fearing the worst to his safety following the Tienanman (TAM) crack down, is a vivid, “no-holds-barred” play out of most of the above  “Chinese characteristics” (pages 428-432, Chapter 15). It is also the high point of the trust Chinese Leaders had in Dr.K and his (brain) power to deliver them from the most awkward of situations (they were many) when he specially undertook this mission (November 1989) as a non official.  The passage

“At this point Deng got  up from his seat and unscrewed the phones between his seat and mine as a symbol that he wanted to talk privately”  (page 430),

and what followed to a happy, face saving package deal end, epitomises the quintessential spirit and substance of  Dr.K’s Book, on himself, China, and all in between. Point to note:-  When the chips are down, there is no scale to measure the depth of a Chinese climb down.

56. The Chinese Leadership of all generations practises with  consummate success all verbal and physical feints, duplicity, outright lies, wrapped in deliberate studied ambiguity, grandstanding calls for World Revolutions against Imperialism, Revisionism, Hegemonism, Brinkmanship in readiness to risk nuclear war annihilation, as a tool of blackmail, and so on, to achieve well planned, meticulously executed, long range objectives of domination, even from an intrinsically weak position – Wei Qi style.

57. Mao’s deprecatory references to his own well publicized stirring calls for World Revolution, and joking about them (“firing big cannons”,) to American author Edgar Snow, Australian Communist leader E.F.Hill, Dr.K, and President Nixon, as quoted, confirm that this was one of the many tactical postures in the PRC / CPC armoury to fight opponents, specially from positions of  inherent weakness.

58. The known history of the 1962 India-China Border War, and the “unknown” developments in this area of the past three decades since the resumption of the dialogue between the two countries, post the 1962 War hiatus, (dealt with in detail elsewhere in this Paper),  are the close-to-home, hurtful, demonstration of these “Chinese Characteristics”.

59.   Most of the time they have succeeded in pulling the wool over the eyes of “friends” as well as “foes” at the given point of time. (many time the same entity is simultaneously invested with both the roles and dealt with).

60. PRC’s ‘cohort’-ing with impunity with “rogue”countries and their discredited leaders, shunned by most the world at a given point of time, like those of Sudan, Zimbamwe, Ethiopia, Somalia, Combodia, Myanmar and many despots of latter America, inter alia, for crass material to benefits like access to oil and other commodities, or for diplomatic purposes, uniquely sets them apart as unafraid of isolation or widespread unpopularity.  Eventually they have the last laugh.

61.  There have been, inevitably, a few misfires and failures, in this approach, and the PRC has taken the tumble, at times grievous hurt, on the chin, and continued to march forward.

62.  Now the Chinese involvement with Col.Gadhafi in Libya and the temporary set-back in their oil fortunes there are the latest illustration.  Their cosy relationship with Bangladesh after a short interregnum, despite their support to the hilt to Pakistani suppression in the East, prior to and during 1981 war, is another classic of adroit, nimble footwork, turning 180 degrees, sans any qualms.

63. All along,  the Chinese Leadership has demonstrated extraordinary capacity to mobilize resources, man power, material and what have you, on a stupendous scale, and concentrate these to tackle the tasks on hand, be it the Korean War, Taiwan Straits crises, border show downs with the Soviets in Siberia, or the ill-conceived, force-marching of the country to instant economic Utopia, through the Great Leap Forward steroid administration, the Societal Purification and perpetual Revolution sought in the GPCR, dazzling achievements in putting up modern Infrastructure show pieces like Export Oriented massive SEZs, the Three Gorges Dam, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the mammoth Highways, Airports, Hyper Speed Railways Projects  or modern Cityscapes, the reverse engineering of the high-tech weapons systems, sophisticated secret spy gadgets like those carried on the U.S EP-3 surveillance aircraft knocked down in a collision over Hainan and, of late, disconcerting cyber attacks on strategic assets of countries all over the world with uncanny ease which can poise them to the role of  Hitler of the future e-universe.

64. Many a time they only seem to have missed asking the cardinal, favourite question which Chairman Mao had always recommended to be asked “for whose benefit?”

65.  In the process, they have not flinched from inflicting unimaginable hardship and privations on their populous, generally docile countrymen, either consciously/uncaringly aware of the consequences, or taking in stride and seeking to manage the disastrous unintended collateral damages, and unimaginable waste of material resources, without any cost (human and material) effective considerations.

66. The Jury, which is Time and Future, will be out for long before the final word gets pronounced on the efficacy of this strategy, its success on sustainable basis and the humongous price paid.

67. So far the cardinal support structures of their polity and society, organs of the Government, the Communist Party and the PLA, have held well enough together in facing down the challenges and overcoming obstacles, external as well as domestic, in the implementation/achievement of the policy objectives and goals in a highly impressive fashion, as far as the outside world can see.

68. There are however evident signs of strain, accompanied by efforts of the Leadership to adjust to the changes, not all amenable to old style, suppressive management methods, under fastly changing conditions wrought by barely ‘cope’-able modern technological sweeps.

Miscellaneous Highlights

69.  Besides the many gripping accounts of meetings of top Chinese Leadership with their U.S and Soviet counter parts, Dr.K has covered some with a few other world leaders which are noteworthy.  The one Deng had with the peppery PM of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew, (LKY) is exemplary for the typical forthrightness with which the latter accuses Deng for past misdemeanours, and worse, of the PRC and the CPC, which had naturally made the South East Asian nations wary of the ongoing campaign of Deng to mobilize their support against Soviet – Vietnamese efforts at hegemony over the region and Deng’s silent acquiescence with the charge. LKY’s tongue – in – cheek prediction that the Mainland Chinese,  with better pedigree compared to the Singaporeans, should have no problem making even greater economic progress, has proved  perspicacious   (Pages 358, 359 Chapter 13).

(Whither Indian Political leadership in comparable confrontations with their Chinese counterparts on issues of graver direct threat to our national interests?.  Or Records thereof?)

70.  To illustrate (one of many) the confidence and aggressive facet of Chinese diplomacy, even when in a hole of relative weakness, Dr.K  cites detailed accounts of meetings of not only Deng, but also of second tier leaders like Foreign Minister Huang Hua, where they passionately hector his successor NSA, Zbig. Brzezinski, on the wrong line of policy and approach, in their view, adopted by the U.S towards the Soviet Union, (in the backdrop of the 3rd Vietnam War) which, inter alia, allowed the Soviets various concessions in areas of trade and technology, instead of putting military pressure on it, that would rebound to haunt the U.S. through competition and challenge in future (Page 351- 353 Chapter 13).

(Incidentally, Dr.K may also have enjoyed, in a Lucretian way, showing off the contrast with his own performances !)

71. It is ironic that, right now, the shoe is on the other foot.  The accommodative policy adopted by the U.S towards China in the past two decades, 1990-2010, in trade and technology transfer areas, have made China a major challenge to U.S, while the Soviet Union had withered away.

72. Throughout the Book Dr.K gives invaluable insights into the PRC and CPC inner working, and thought – cum – decision making processes at the highest levels from extensively researched authentic records, mostly of U.S provenance, but also plenty of Chinese and Soviet origin. It is felt that China watching scholars and diplomats will reap adequate dividends if they strive to access similar archival records of Albania, under Enver Hoxha / Mehmet Shehu the only country which PRC/CPC had kept close relations with during its decades of “revolutionary” isolation, including the domestically turbulent GPCR years, when it strove to be the center / leader of World Revolution and Communist Orthodoxy. In particular, significant keys to the mystery of Lin Piao’s death and the rise and fall of the Gang of Four may be available here.

73.  To a lesser extent, Ceausescu’s Romania and Tito’s Yugoslavia were also close to the PRC/CPC in varying degrees, at different points of time, politically (anti Soviet), if not ideologically. Their Archives may also contain useful material to understand the thinking and working of the Chinese Leadership at the relevant times.

74. These countries of Eastern Europe are singled out since they have now become open and accessible to the outside world, especially to the U.S. and the European Union, unlike the DPRK, the sole continuing dark house of the pro-China ideological pantheon of yester years.   (The kid-glove handling of the potentially devastating shenanigans of the DPRK by China, its sole prop and patron, remains a mystery, to say the least.)

75. The most important take for me personally from Dr.K’s Book, in dealing with China is the phrase “Insistent Posture” (IP).  This occurs obscurely (Page 508) in the last brilliant Chapter-18, “The New Millennium”, in the context of Dr.K comprehensively analysing a December, 2010 seminal, authoritative Statement on PRC Foreign Policy by State Councillor Dai Bingguo in its  multi faceted aspects.  It has apparently been used by the “Triumphalist” school in the ongoing “The National Destiny Debate”, exemplified by two very popular, “deeply nationalistic” Books, “China is Unhappy”, a 2009 collection of essays, and “China Dream” a 2010 publication by PLA Senior Colonel Liu Mingfu, both of which advocate that China should stand up and follow aggressive measures “to become the number one in the world”.   One ostensible purpose of Dai Bingguo is to distance the PRC leadership from this popular, almost militarist posture, carry conviction with and reassure the world about the bonafides of the Official policy, namely, “peaceful rise” – since revised to “peaceful development” – and “harmonious world”.  (Pages 504 onwards,  Chapter-18).

76. All the above three offerings have been expertly summarised and analyzed by Dr.K, with appreciable objectivity and thoroughness, as well as realism of an American strategic thinker.  Hence, one should refrain from seeking to gild the lily, as it were, but recommend that this Chapter should be read in full, along with the succeeding, equally brilliant, “Epilogue”, where, after drawing parallel from the developments leading to World War-I, with the help of a U.K. diplomatic study, “The Crowe Memorandum”, he weighs in, ever so gently, in favour of a non-confrontationist development of U.S – China relations, in future, in the face of real, strong,  inevitable challenges.

77. I have plumbed that “Insistent Posture” should be watch word hereafter which should guide India’s approach to all aspects of bilateral relations with the PRC. This has been elaborated illustratively in the relevant paras on the subject.

Obiter on India – China relations / Additional takes

78. The nitty-gritty of the post Nehru era India – China border dispute negotiations have been marked by near total secrecy. This has been plainly proven to be purposeless, self defeating, counterproductive, and arguably much worse.  This has given rise to lot of unhealthy speculation about various proposals proffered by either side.

79. One of these is a “swap”, attributed to different Chinese Leaders including Mao, Chou, Deng, at different points of time.  In essence this amounted to a Chinese offer that they would allow India to keep the disputed area in the Eastern  sector, in return for India’s acceptance of the Chinese claims in the Western (Ladakh) sector.

80. Dr.K’s Book refers to this Swap  in suitably authentic tone, as having been offered by Chou Enlai, and its non acceptance by India, without however any specific official level citation at this point (page 187, Chapter 7).  Other references allude to this subject else were in the Book in general terms, basing on the secondary source, Mr John Garver.

81. Ambassador C.V.Ranganathan’s Book, “India and China, The Way Ahead”, second edition, 2004, (herein after referred to as “CVR – ICWA”), gives strong credence to this thesis, with a detailed narrative of the 1979 talks in Beijing  between Deng and the visiting then Indian EAM, Mr. Vajpayee, wherein the Swap had figured (Pages 166 – 168, CVR – ICWA).  No documentary authority has however been cited.  The narrative also shies away from authoritatively spelling out specific details of the Swap.  It however avers   that India rejected the PRC proposals on Constitutional legal, technical grounds, again without citing any authority.

82. “CVR – ICWA” nevertheless speculates that difficulties envisaged in “selling” any line of territorial compromise to the Indian public to settle the Border issue would be electoral hot potato.   Does this mean that India just kept mum without any response, beyond, “Sorry we cannot accept this for domestic political reasons”?.  Or they discussed their problems with their counterparts, in whatever fashion, but had chosen to hide it from the Indian public.

83.  Whichever way, even if essentially correct, this premise is a totally fallacious, escapist, if not a “cop-out”, showing poor appreciation and judgement of the dynamics of India’s domestic polity.

84.  India’s relations with the PRC is one area which can be safely postulated as extrinsic to, and fairly well insulated from the vagaries of domestic electoral politics, which can be safely kept that way unless violently mishandled.

85. Whatever the assessed obstacles, these will not go away with time, but only assume more dangerous dimensions, eventually bringing greater grief to the country, through the tactics of “seeping aggression” being  successfully pursued by the PRC, through more frequent,  enlarging, and growingly emphatic references to their claims to Tawang and “South Tibet”, which had not been seen till recently. (Please also see discussions on LAC elsewhere).

86. Recently, there was an article in Chinese media in which the author discussed in detail the relative merits of China handing over to India areas claimed by it in the Eastern Sector (Arunachal Pradesh), in return for India agreeing to China’s retention of the area under its occupation in the Ladakh Sector (Aksai Chin).

87. Probably for the first time, this author claimed at length that Chairman Mao had himself convincingly advanced in detail (obviously before his death) the strategic advantages of China retaining Aksai Chin, compared to lesser purchase in keeping Arunachal Pradesh.  This seemed to indicate the existence of an ongoing debate, or its recrudescence, on the subject within China and a serious attempt being made by some section of the leadership to gain wider acceptance among the country’s population for this move, in the face of internal opposition.

88. This clearly calls for India to have a goal and a strategy to take advantage of such debates in China by appropriate, adroit modifications in negotiating positions / postures

89. In view of these developments, it is time that GOI sets all speculation on this at rest without further delay, with an authentic, comprehensive report on Border negotiations held so far since 1963-1964, on the lines of the White Papers published on pre 1963 events.  Simultaneously, GOI should make public every aspect of what all has transpired in bilateral negotiations between the two countries covering all subjects, beyond the Border Dispute too.

90. There is a special urgency to do this immediately in respect of negotiations on the exploitation of waters of international rivers flowing out of Tibet for which both the Governments have constituted the “India – China Expert Level Mechanism on Trans – Border Rivers” which holds annual meetings.

91. The potential long term adverse effects of the River Waters issue are much more damaging to the future of the Nation and its population, than even the dispute over Border territorial claims, whose (mis) handling over the years has proved dangerous enough to National security. The absence so far of any meaningful detailed disclosures on this subject, covering GOI’s attitude and actions, if any, as well as PRC’s responses, if any, evoke an eerie, nightmarish feeling of replay of the Border dispute tragedy of the 1954 – 1962 vintage.

92. In the absence of more detailed information, the PM’s recent statement on the River Waters, in the current Parliament Session, gives the impression that GOI may be following a wrong course of action intending to domestically down play the problems with the PRC, in the misplaced assessment that this is either necessary, or will lead to maintaining over all, friction – free, “friendly” relations with the PRC.  If so, there has been a culpable failure to learn the lessons from the tragic experiences of Mr.Nehru which led to his refusal to a January, 7 1963 oral message of Chou Enlai requesting to meet personally and discuss the six (NAM) nation Colombo proposals, with the observation,

“matters are gone too far and the people of India could not be persuaded to accept Chinese ‘bluff and nonsense’ any more”.

(Pages 99 – 101 of India’s CDA in Beijing, Dr.P.K.Banerjee’s Memoirs of the Chinese Invasion of India).

93. Whitepapers published by GOI on the 1962 War graphically show the background for Mr.Nehru’s above frustration.  That it is fatal to second guess PRC’s intentions and meanings from their cleverly ambiguous statements, especially from a self induced, pre conceived naive mind set, resulting in make believe or wishful interpretations of what one wants to see and hear, rather than nailing the PRC in writing on what they had specifically intended or wanted say.

94.  Two letters exchanged between the two Prime Ministers, one of Mr Nehru dated May, 22, 1959 where he sought it interpret Chou Enlai on having accepted the Mac Mohan Line during his visit to India in January, 1957 (letter written after a lapse of two years after the visit!) and Chou Enlai’s flat contradiction of the same in his reply dated September, 8, 1959 are prime examples of the failure to adopt the methodology of “Insistent Posture” (refer Para 73).

95.  An extract of Diplomatic Note dated 31 May 1962 by the Chinese Foreign Ministry to the Indian Embassy in Beijing at Appendix – II is another shining illustration of the dangers of the preconceived mind set in dealing with the PRC (Page-142, CVR – ICWA).

96.  There was no Dr.K  in the 1950s to  wise up  the world with experience to share in dealing with latter day Middle  Kingdom Mandarins who have carried the same Imperial DNA for millennia,  mutated for good measure with dyed – in – the wool , Marxist – Leninist Revolutionary ambitions.

97. GOI will be well advised even now to go over with fine tooth comb what all have been officially exchanged with the PRC, on the subject of River Waters,  what replies the PRC had given in writing, including the record of exchanges at annual meetings of Experts. ( hopefully they are comprehensive )

98. In the very likely event of turning up gaping voids, immediate damage control action should be initiated to raise all doubts of Indian and Foreign Experts on Rivers water management of outflows from the Tibet region verbatim to the PRC, get specific point wise replies and put all information in public domain ASAP, for appropriate evaluation of all issues including political, by Experts, for further dialogue in the spirit of “Insistent Posture”. (refer Para 73)

99. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a crucial concept, which unfortunately has remained only that, for decades now, in India – China Border negotiations.  The PRC has successfully evaded giving any meaningful idea of their version of this LAC, in spite of undertaking to do so in solemn bilateral undertakings in Agreements signed by Heads of States and Governments of the two countries periodically. Absence “Insistent Posture” on GOI’s part, the PRC has merrily gotten away without giving any concrete description of the LAC, so that they can draw it any time in future South of Tawang and tell GOI that they have never said anything contradictory before officially and they cannot be proven wrong.  And they will get Neville Maxwells of 21st century (perhaps some Indians too!) to paint them as paragons of all Celestial virtues, attributed to Confucius, Sun Tzu et al.

Tail Piece

100. Dr.K devotes  time and space in the Book to highlight China’s “Singularity” and “Exceptionalism”. One salient aspect emphasized is the great influence of China’s ancient Civilizational history, Culture, and writings of Philosophers like Confucius, Sun Tzu as the bedrock and guiding force throughout the many millennia, to the cataclysmic contemporary developments of 20th/21st Century, and the strength and sustenance Mao and his successors had drawn from this, to the extent of even using the same ancient elliptical, allegoric, epigrammatic, vague circumlocutory verbiage  to hide and fudge,  so as to thrive and succeed.

101. India has also been blessed with ancient history and civilization and great philosophers and thinkers whose teachings had served generations of Rulers and the Ruled for millennia. Except that in Indian case there seems to be a disastrous break in the past couple of centuries under British colonialism, and contemporary Rulers seem unaware of and unwilling to draw strength,  sustenance and guidance from their Heritage, in meaningful, practical ways.

102. This is an important point to ponder over while learning from the successful Chinese experience, so rivetingly told in the Book by the master practitioner of International Diplomacy.

103.  Another noteworthy/mentionable fact is that the PRC has been most successful in educating and sensitising the entire country**  without significant distinction among populations in rural and urban areas, on the major aspects of its Foreign Policies and external relations with important countries at any given point of time, (dealt with in the Book), both in broad strategic long term perspective and nuances, as well as immediate tactical moves, as situations develop, so as to be able to demonstrate massive support on the street, especially when it concerns countries like Japan, Soviet Union, Vietnam and the U.S.

** Graphic details of the various “educative” measures and their phenomenal success are given in pages 498 to 502 – Chapter-18.

104.  The paradox and contrast with GOI in keeping its “Aam Admi” in total darkness on momentous external relations issues affecting national security, thereby denying itself the strength and support of the masses, needs to be taken note of and corrected.  Even allowing for the differences in the systems of government, control over media etc., this gulf is a major, self inflicted failure which is regrettably, totally unjustified.


Note: In addition to the specific sources cited in the body of the Paper,   I have benefited from the contents of the unpublished monograph, “The Real Story of China’s War on India, 1962, by the late Mr A.K.Dave, I.P, formerly of the Intelligence Bureau.

(The Writer Mr N Narasimhan, is former Secretary to the Government of India with long experience in covering developments relating to China. Email: The CCCS acknowledges with thanks the permission given by the Nehru Centre, Mumbai for republishing the presentation made by the writer.)




………… “Khrushchev, whose strong suit was not diplomacy, managed to raise the sensitive issue of the Dalai Lama; few topics could generate a more hair-trigger Chinese response.  He criticized Mao for not having been tough enough during the uprisings in Tibet earlier that year, which had culminated in the Dalai Lama’s flight to northern India: “ I will tell you what a guest should not say (:) the events in Tibet are your fault.  You ruled in Tibet, you should have had your intelligence there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama.  After Mao objected, Khrushchev insisted on pursuing the subject by suggesting that the Chinese should have eliminated the Dalai Lama rather than let him escape:

KHRUSHCHEV……As to the escape of the Dalai Lama from Tibet, if we had been in your place, we would not have let him escape.  It would be better if he was in a coffin.  And now he is in India, and perhaps will go to the USA.  Is this to the advantage of the socialist countries?

MAO: This is impossible; we could not arrest him then.  We could not bar him from leaving, since the border with India is very extended, and he could cross it at any point.

KHRUSHCHEV: It’s not a matter of arrest; I am just saying that you were wrong to let him go.  If you allow him an opportunity to flee to India, then what has Nehru to do with it?  We believe that the events in Tibet are the fault of the Communist Party of Chine, not Nehru’s fault.

It was the last time Mao and Khrushchev were to meet.  What is amazing is that for another ten years the world treated Sino-Soviet tensions as a kind of family quarrel between the two Communist giants rather than the existential battle into which it was turning.



The two para extract below is from  Page-142 of the Book, “India and China The Way Ahead”, by Ambassadors C.V.Ranganathan and Vinod C.Khanna, (second edition, 2004).


1.      In response to the Sino-Pak communiqué of May 3, 1962, announcing their agreement to conduct boundary negotiations, the Indian Government protested to the Chinese that in the light of certain earlier Chinese statements it was under the impression that China had accepted, without any reservation, that the sovereignty over the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir vested solely in India.

2.     In their reply, the Chinese asked “When did the Chinese Government accept without any reservation the position that Kashmir is under Indian sovereignty?  The Indian government could not cite any official Chinese document to prove this arbitrary contention but, basing itself solely on the guesswork and impression of Indian diplomatic officials who have been to China, insisted that Chinese Government authorities had made statements to that effect….With regard to he Kashmir dispute, it has been the consistent position of the Chinese Government to be impartial and to wish that India and Pakistan will reach a peaceful settlement…….”

Reply quoted in Para 2 above is from the Note given by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Beijing, to the Indian Embassy, Beijing, on 31st May 1962.


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