174. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Brubeck) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0
- Fighting on Sino-Indian Border
Fighting on the Sino-Indian border has become much more serious and has imposed a heavy logistical burden on the Indians. Diplomatic efforts to ease military tensions on the border have failed at least for the present. In response to Indian requests, the U.S. is giving assistance to make possible certain limited purchases designed to ease Indian military transport and communications problems. Additionally the Departments of State and Defense are studying the availability on short notice and on terms acceptable to India of transport, communications and other military equipment in order to be prepared should the Government of India request such U.S. equipment to cope with the Chinese threat.
The focus of military activity has shifted from Ladakh on the western border with China to a point just east of Bhutan on the eastern border along the MacMahon Line. According to the Indians, some 300 to 400 Chinese troops crossed the MacMahon Line on September 8 or 9, threatening Indian outposts near Dhola, one to two miles inside Indian-claimed [Page 341] territory. In point of fact, it is unclear as to whether the MacMahon Line lies north or south of this area. Firing between the opposing forces began on September 20 and continued intermittently, with light casualties on both sides, until October 10 when it became much heavier. Both sides have accused the other of provoking the initial firing on September 20. Nehru announced on October 12 that in the October 10 fighting the Chinese had suffered nearly a hundred casualties, and the Indians, seventeen. He said he had ordered the Indian Army to clear Indian territory in the Northeast Frontier.
This is the most serious engagement of the Sino-Indian dispute. The Indians claim the Communist Chinese were responsible for initiating the fighting on October 10. India, however, may itself have been responsible for this action in order to expel the Chinese from the Indian-claimed territory in this area which is of far greater strategic importance to India than is Ladakh. While we have no confirmation of Indian responsibility, the Indian Foreign Secretary informed Ambassador Galbraith that Indian forces have been under orders to open fire on Chinese on Indian-claimed territory in the Northeast in contrast to their orders to move as possible but not shoot in Ladakh. Moreover, the Indian Army has greater strength and resources in this area than in Ladakh.
Intelligence reports indicate that Indian air transport facilities have been put under severe strain by supply operations in support of the Dhola operation. We have had difficulty in arranging for routine U.S. freight charter flights from Calcutta to Katmandu because of this situation.
In the meantime, there have been no reports of incidents in Ladakh since early September when the Indians state four Chinese soldiers were killed in a still unpublicized engagement near the Chip Chap River.
We consider that the Chinese objective in shifting the focus to the East has been to put additional pressure on the Indians to come to the negotiating table on Chinese terms. We do not believe either side desires the conflict to become more extensive than the present skirmishing on the border. Considerations of “face” could, however, intensify this skirmishing. The Indians are now publicly committed to expel the Chinese from Dhola and the Chinese are equally committed to remain where they are.
India’s more firm military policy, implemented last spring of stopping or pushing back the Communist Chinese in Ladakh, resulted in several minor military skirmishes. Concerned that the resulting military tensions should not lead to a widening or intensification of the conflict beyond the point of Indian capabilities, India initiated an attempt about two months ago to calm the situation by diplomatic activity. (See our [Page 342] memorandum of August 15, 1962.)1 In a series of notes India proposed preliminary talks for the purpose of creating a climate in which later negotiations on the border could take place. Under pressure from Parliament, Nehru’s position hardened to the point of insisting that such talks should have as an objective the re-establishment of the previous “status quo of the border,” i.e., the withdrawal of the Chinese from the parts of Ladakh which they occupied.
The Communist Chinese maintained their position in favor of negotiations on the border, but “without pre-conditions,” i.e., without withdrawal or acceptance of the Indian position that the border is delimited. Reasserting this position the Chinese proposed that negotiations be initiated in Peiping on October 15, and that both sides should withdraw 20 kilometers from their present positions prior to negotiations. The Indians agreed to talks on October 15, but on their own terms. With such distance between the two positions, reinforced by actual fighting, the prospect for an actual meeting has been dim.
In its latest note on the subject dated October 6 India repeated its willingness to hold discussions with the Chinese under the conditions previously indicated, but further indicated that it would not enter into talks under duress and that therefore the Communist Chinese would have to terminate their latest incursion across the MacMahon Line first.
Since the Dhola activity began, the Government of India has made three requests for U.S. assistance in arranging for Indian purchase of spare parts and military transportation and communications equipment. Recognizing the connection with the border engagement, we have given the requests priority attention.
- On October 2 the Indian Foreign Secretary asked for Ambassador Galbraith’s assistance in urgently procuring C-119 spare parts for purchase by the Government of India. Although hindered by the chaotic state of Indian supply and procurement procedures, the Air Force determined what parts were needed, made available stocks on hand, and ordered immediate local manufacture of those stocks which were unavailable. These parts, with the exception of two unidentifiable items, are currently in the process of shipment to India.
- On October 4 the Indian Embassy asked the U.S., in view of the emergency, to agree to divert two Caribou transport airplanes, on order with De Havilland of Canada, to the Indian Air Force for purchase. The Secretary of Defense directed that the Defense Department comply with the request and the Department of State on October 11 informed the Indian Embassy of the U.S. Government’s willingness to make the aircraft [Page 343] available for purchase. The delivery date is expected to be in the last week of October.
- Our Embassy in New Delhi informed us October 3 that the Indian Defense Ministry had directed the Indian Embassy in Washington urgently to request export licenses to permit the purchase of 250 ANGRC-9 radios for use along the Sino-Indian border. Although the U.S. has not as yet received such a request, the Army is trying to work out problems of availability in advance.
In addition to the above steps taken in response to specific Indian requests, we are attempting to determine what additional steps the U.S. Government might take should the Government of India request further assistance. The Departments of State and Defense are inquiring into the early availability of transport, communications, and other military and quasi-military equipment on terms which would be likely to be acceptable to India. We do not plan to discuss such specific assistance with the Indians, however, unless the Government of India itself raises the subject.