Modi’s Response to China Will Define India's Position in the World
| Maahi Yashodhar, Senior Correspondent, IOP, Delhi - 09 Dec 2020

‘Red Fear: The China Threat’ - Authored by Iqbal Chand Malhotra

60-year cycle of what Nehru faced in 62, Modi is facing in 20

Iqbal Chand Malhotra is considered the big daddy of Indian television, having witnessed the conception, birth and growth of satellite television in the country, with expansion and launch of a plethora of TV channels over the years. Malhotra holds a first-class degree in Economics from Queens’ College, University of Cambridge. He is also a Foundation Scholar of the college and a Wrenbury Scholar of the University of Cambridge. From 1993 to 1995, he was an advisor on India to Media Moghul Rupert Murdoch and since then has produced over 500 hours of television programming which has been telecast worldwide. He has directed three award-winning feature documentaries. A member of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Iqbal has also served on the panel of Jurors for the Emmy’s. He is the co-author of the bestseller 'Kashmir’s Untold Story-Declassified'. He has visited both China and Tibet. Currently, Malhotra is Chairman & Producer, AIM Television Pvt. Ltd. He is a black belt Sho Dan in Karate-Do and also practices Shaolin Qigong.

His latest book ‘Red Fear: The China Threat’ catalogues, evaluates and infers the consequences of the political and military confrontations between India and China from the 15th to the 21st century.

“For India, today's post-Galwan situation is reminiscent of the challenge India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru faced in 1962 and the identical challenge India's 14th Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces in 2020. Vedic philosophy argues that time is cyclical, and not linear, and by this argument, the year 2020 completes a 60-year cycle that began in 1960. How Modi responds to this challenge will define India's relationship with China as well as its position in the world through the rest of the 21st century,” says, Iqbal Chand Malhotra, an award-winning TV producer and author of recently released book ‘Red Fear: The China Threat’. In this book, Iqbal Chand Malhotra, who contextualises all that transpired between India and China from the 15th to the 21st century, leading to where the two nations stand today.

He answers a few questions.

  • What was the reason for the first real armed encounter between Indian and Chinese troops on Chinese soil in the town of Dinghai on Chusan Island in July 1840?
  • Were the orders for the invasion of Aksai Chin issued by Mao from Moscow in December 1949, at Stalin's behest?
  • Was the pluck and raw courage of Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh to hold Nathu La first in 1965 and then again in 1967 the basis for General K. Sundarji's bold moves at Sumdorong Chu in 1986 and 1987?

“Contrary to the glowing accounts in popular imagination of a congruence of values and interests between these two nations, the relationship has been confrontational and antagonistic at many levels throughout these last six centuries,” according to Iqbal Chand Malhotra.

“The lessons of history are hard to learn. Nevertheless, China seems to have learnt them better than India. It bided its time well and positioned itself to humiliate and denigrate India whenever possible as retribution for the perceived harm India and Indians did to its society and economy during the infamous Chinese century of humiliation between 1839 to 1940,” Malhotra opines.

Here are Two Chapters from Iqbal Chand Malhotra’s latest book - ‘Red Fear: The China Threat’.

The second part of Chapter 11

Aviation Research Centre

If Mao had known that his brief invasion of India would cause such a well-calibrated response from India to enter into comprehensive cooperation with the US, he might not have chosen the route of invasion. In order to strategically draw closer, China and Pakistan started a comprehensive road-building programme in the Gilgit Agency in 1964. Thus, Sino–Pak cooperation paralleled Indo–US cooperation.

By Iqbal Chand Malhotra

After the departure of the Harriman delegation, Mullick approached Nehru on a special issue. He told Nehru that during the Second World War, the SOE had a sister arm called the Special Duties Service (SD), which was a secret air service created to provide air transport to support the resistance in the German-controlled territories. The service helped develop and support the resistance by bringing in agents, wireless operators and supplies. The parachute drop was the primary method by which the Special Duties units delivered supplies and most of the agents to the occupied countries. Small Lysander aircraft were also used to insert and extract agents from the field. Establishment 22 needed such a complimentary service and the Americans had agreed to supply aircraft, training and support for it during the just-concluded talks. Nehru agreed. He appointed Orissa Chief Minister Biju Patnaik, who was a former Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) officer, as the political point person in charge of dealing with the Americans. Patnaik had carte blanche in this regard, and it was up to him how to steer the relationship away from any domestic political fallout.

Mullick put R.N. Kao, a very able IB officer, to work with Patnaik. Kao had had to work with the Chinese Secret Service, the Tewu, in 1955 during the investigation into the sabotage of the Air India Super Constellation airliner Kashmir Princess over the South China Sea en route to Bandung. In December 1962, after the CIA notified the IB of its impending paramilitary support programme, Patnaik and Kao were dispatched to Washington on behalf of Nehru and Mullick to negotiate details of the assistance package. Upon his arrival in Washington, DC, Patnaik’s primary point of contact was Robert ‘Moose’ Marrero, who was also an aviator, having flown helicopters for the US Marines before leaving military service in 1957 to join the CIA as an air operations specialist. As the two pilots conversed, they recognised the need for a thorough review of the airlift requirements for clandestine warfare in the high Himalayas.

This gave birth to the Aviation Research Centre (ARC) on 4 June 1963. Mullick selected R.N. Kao to head the organisation from 1 September 1963 until 1 November 1966. Thus, ARC was the product of an intelligence cooperation agreement between the CIA and IB. Ten C-46 aircraft and six smaller STOL Helio planes with their pilots were deployed to a secret Indian airbase code-named ‘Oak Tree’ and also known as Charbatia in Orissa. Colonel Grewal was named the first ARC Operations Manager at the newly completed Charbatia Airfield. He was given full latitude to handpick his pilots, all of whom would go on deputation from the IAF and belong both administratively and operationally to the ARC for the period of their assignment.

The Special Centre

But Mullick was hungry for more. He also wanted to run agents on the field in Tibet. The focus of joint IB and CIA cooperation shifted to the ‘agent programme’. To monitor this effort, the New Delhi joint operations center, dubbed the Special Centre, was formally established in November 1963. To house the site, IB officers arranged to rent a modest villa in the F Block of the posh Hauz Khas residential neighbourhood in South Delhi. Ken Knaus, the first CIA representative to the Special Centre, arrived in India during the final week of November 1963. Knaus had the perfect background for the role as he had been heading the Tibet Task Force for almost two years. One of the Special Centre’s biggest challenges was keeping its New Delhi activities secret from the Indian public. In the midst of residential housing, the presence of foreign nationals—the Tibetans and Knaus—was certain to draw attention. To guard against this, Knaus, who normally came to the center three times a week, was shielded in the back of a jeep until he was inside the garage. Similar precautions were taken with the Tibetans, who were ferried between a dormitory and the centre in a blacked-out van.

If Mao had known that his brief invasion of India would cause such a well-calibrated response from India to enter into comprehensive cooperation with the US, he might not have chosen the route of invasion. In many ways, as a consequence of the invasion, Mullick pioneered the revamp of the entire structure of the area of intelligence in India, enabling this item of statecraft to flourish unimpeded by the earlier restraints placed by the shibboleths of non-alignment.

Sino–Pak Moves

In order to strategically draw closer, China and Pakistan started a comprehensive road-building programme in the Gilgit Agency in 1964. Thus, Sino–Pak cooperation paralleled Indo–US cooperation. These roads constituted the Karakoram Highway. Construction started in 1964 of a 650-kilometre road along the Indus Valley, linking the NWFP’s Hazara district through Gilgit and Hunza across the Mintaka Pass with the Sinkiang–Tibet Highway. The road was extended through a 120-kilometre-long feeder road in the north-east direction to provide much shorter access from the Tibet end instead of relying solely on the north-westerly Mintaka Pass, which, being closer to the Soviet border, was relatively more vulnerable.

The Karakoram Highway has two branches. The first branch is the Gilgit–Kashgar Road. The second is the Qila– Khunjerab–Morkhun Road. The Gilgit–Kashgar Road follows the old caravan route through the Mintaka Pass. The Morkhun Road provides a direct link between the Chinese road network in Sinkiang and Tibet with PoK. It runs perpendicular through the earlier road built through Aksai Chin and connects Morkhun, 90 miles north-east of Gilgit or Gilgit–Kashgar Road, with Qila Nabi in eastern Sinkiang adjoining Western Tibet on the Lhasa–Aksai Chin–Kashgar Highway through the Khunjerab Pass on the Gilgit– Sinkiang border. This provides China with an alternate supply route for Sinkiang from Mainland China. This has increased China’s strategic advantage vis-à-vis India.

A year later, China began supplying military hardware to Pakistan. It started with MiG-15 UTI trainer aircraft, IL 28 bombers, F6 fighter aircraft and T-59 main battle tanks.

Charbatia Becomes a US Hub for U2 and Other Aircraft

The joint IB-CIA programme had a very strong positive outcome. Even as ARC and Establishment 22 were getting off the ground, the Americans asked for permission to fly U-2 missions over Tibet and Sinkiang, which Nehru approved. While the ARC’s primary assets, the C-46 aircraft, gathered intelligence on the PLA that proved useful to the Indian Armed Forces and its intelligence agencies, those over Sinkiang gave the Americans best available information on China’s proposed nuclear test site at Lop Nor. In early 1964, a U-2 detachment was based at Charbatia at the ARC base. Charbatia was referred to by the CIA as Oak Tree. This was a deliberate strategy to keep laypersons confused. The U-2 plane flew several missions over western China to obtain imagery reports, confirming China’s plan to test a nuclear device. To assist Kao and Grewal, the CIA dispatched Edward Rector to Charbatia in the role of Air Operations Advisor. Qualified as a US Navy dive-bomber pilot in 1940, Rector joined Claire Chennault’s famed Flying Tigers the following year. He scored that unit’s first kill of a Japanese aircraft and went on to become an ace. Rector came to Oak Tree with considerable Indian experience. During his Flying Tigers days, he had transited the subcontinent. And in late 1962, following his retirement from military service, he came to India on a Pentagon contract to coordinate USAF C-130 flights carrying emergency assistance to the frontlines during the war with China.

Mullick became increasingly permissive in his cooperation with the CIA. Some efforts at cooperation were also made in conjunction with Chiang Kai-shek’s government in Taiwan, which was one of the few nations that probably even surpassed India and the United States in its seething opposition to Peking. The Republic of China, for example, was allowed to station Chinese translators at Charbatia to monitor PRC radio traffic. ROC intelligence officers were even permitted to open remote listening outposts along the Indo–Tibetan frontier. This last effort was highly compartmentalised, even within the CIA staff in India. Wayne Sanford, the agency’s paramilitary officer in New Delhi, was shocked when Indian officials escorted him to one of the border sites operated by the ROC.

Another sensitive project combined the CIA, IB and the top mountain climbers from both nations. This project was conceived in late 1964 following the first PRC atomic test; this operation called for placement of a nuclear-powered sensor atop Kanchenjunga, the third tallest mountain bordering Sikkim and Nepal. From its vantage point atop the Himalayas, the sensor would theoretically relay telemetry data from intermediate-range ballistic missiles the Chinese were developing at test sites in Sinkiang. Because Kanchenjunga was later deemed too challenging—it is one of the world’s hardest peaks to scale even without the extra weight of sensitive equipment—the target was shifted in 1965 to India’s Nanda Devi. In October 1965, a device was carried near the summit but before the climbers had a chance to activate its generator, worsening weather forced them to secure the equipment in a crevice until they could return the following spring to activate it.

Of the planes delivered to ARC, several received further modifications in India. To provide for an eavesdropping capability, CIA technicians in 1964 transformed one of the C-46 airframes into an electronic intelligence (ELINT) platform. This plane flew regular orbits along the Himalayas, recording Chinese telecommunications signals from inside Tibet. For some of the nine remaining C-46 transports, ARC became a testbed during 1966 for a unique adaptation. Much like the jet packs strapped to the C-119 Packets during 1962, four 1,000-pound rocket boosters were placed on the bottom of the C-46 fuselages to allow heavy loads to be safely carried to and from some of India’s highest airfields.

On 27 May 1964, an ailing Nehru died in his sleep, denying Mullick his powerful patron of the last fourteen years. That October, colleagues (and competitors) saw the chance to ease Mullick out of the top intelligence slot. They succeeded but only to a degree. Although he gave up his hat as IB Director, he retained unofficial control over joint paramilitary operations with the CIA. That position—which was officially titled DG Security in February 1965—answered directly to the new Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and oversaw the ARC base at Charbatia, the Special Centre, Establishment 22 and the sensor mission of Nanda Devi.

The CIA Helps India Recover its Spirit

Thewholesecretliesinconfusingtheenemy,sothathe cannot fathom our realintent.

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Mao’s Alternate Reality

By Iqbal Chand Malhotra

 The ceasefire announced by the PRC in the Sino-Indian war came into effect on 20 November 1962. It meant different things to different people, particularly those involved as prominent personalities in the autumn war.

In the opulent and sybaritic luxury of Room 118 in the Great Hall of the People in the Zhongnanhai district of Peking, Chairman Mao Tse Tung stared at the collection of late autumn leaves on the lawn outside his window. He needed to be distracted from the matters of state. The distraction was in the form of a coy teenage girl.

In a riveting book, Mao’s physician, Dr Li Zhisui, has revealed that Mao had an insatiable appetite for sex and was quite happy to manifest his sexual desire with either gender. But in November 1962, during the Sino-Indian war, Mao was besotted by a young 14-year-old girl called Chen. She was his favourite partner from the diverse supply of young people available in his harem. Mao was obsessed with longevity and, according to Dr Li, he used to follow the ancient Daoist prescription for ageing men to supplement their declining yang or male energy with yin shui or the water of yin. Yin shui was the vaginal secretion of young women. Because yang is considered essential to health and power, it cannot be dissipated. Thus, when engaged in coitus, the male rarely ejaculates. Frequent coition is, therefore, necessary to increase the amount of yin shui.


However, in pursuit of many women, Mao contracted trichomonas vaginalis, but because he was asymptomatic, he refused to be treated for it. Instead, he became a chronic source of transmission of the disease. Interestingly, trichomonas vaginalis also leads to psychiatric disorders. What is fascinating is that Mao, who professed to be an atheist and a communist, was actually a follower of the ancient Chinese religion of Daoism. This religious philosophy co-existed along with Confucianism in ancient China, particularly during the Eastern Zhou period which gave rise to the Chinese dream of world domination. Was Mao’s ruthless cruelty along with his delusions of grandeur a consequence of this disease? Dr Li Zhisui obliquely alludes to it. It is unfortunate that in those days, the Government of India had an inadequate system of intelligence from within China and that it was, therefore, unable to decipher the reasons for Mao’s almost visceral hatred of India.

A New Army Chief

For Nehru, the news of the dire threat to the plains of Assam, brought to him on 19 November by General Thapar, was devastating. According to Shiv Kunal Verma, the author of The War that Wasn’t, on the morning of 20 November 1962, all of India was still in the dark about the ceasefire because the Indian Charge D’affaires in Peking had not relayed the news to New Delhi. Nehru had summoned Lt. Gen. Thorat, now retired, by special aircraft to New Delhi, ostensibly to offer him the job of COAS in the wake of General Thapar’s resignation. When Thorat met him in the morning, a sleep-deprived Nehru was cutting a cigarette into tiny pieces with a pair of scissors. Since the conversation between Nehru and Thorat veered round to Krishna Menon and degenerated into acrimony, Nehru was distracted and Thorat left without receiving a job offer.

Nehru wanted Kaul to succeed General Thapar; however, President Radhakrishnan dissuaded Nehru from taking that step. The next in line to be offered the job was Lt. Gen. Daulet Singh, who passed on the offer. After Menon’s resignation was accepted by Nehru on 1 November 1962 in the midst of the war, Nehru personally took charge of the Ministry of Defence. Menon, with due credit to him, recommended Thorat for the top job, even though he had earlier sabotaged Thorat’s natural succession. Now, with Thorat getting Nehru’s goat, the job by default went to Lt. Gen. J.C. Chaudhuri.

The Shaksgam Valley Deal

For Mao, who had successfully drained the Indian establishment of their ‘collective mojo’, the task of keeping Lop Nor out of public gaze remained, notwithstanding the ‘victory’ over India.

In the early 1950s, Soviet aerial surveys of the Shaksgam Valley revealed that the Shaksgam River originated in an area between the Shaksgam Glacier and the Shaksgam Pass. This river merges with the Raskam River at a point called Chog Jangal and, thereafter, the combined river is known as the Yarkand River. The Yarkand River merges with the Tarim River. The Shaksgam River lies on the northern side of the Karakorum watershed as does the Karakash River that flows north from Aksai Chin and merges into the Tarim River. Both the Shaksgam River and the Karakash River originate within the political boundary of Maharaja Hari Singh’s state of Jammu and Kashmir that merged with India on 26 October 1947. Because of his unwillingness to let the Indian Army recover the entire lost territory of this state from the clutches of the Pakistan Army whose proxies invaded the state on 22 October 1947, Nehru was responsible for India losing territorial control over the Shaksgam River in 1947. Further, because of Nehru’s unwillingness to prevent the Sino–Soviet invasion of Aksai Chin in March 1950, India lost territorial control over the Karakash River to China.

Both the Shaksgam River and the Karakash River flow into the western part of the Tarim River. The eastern part of the Tarim River that flowed into Lake Lop Nor was scheduled to become radioactive; so was Lake Lop Nor. The latter was going to be the drainage point of all the radioactive debris from China’s proposed nuclear tests. It, therefore, became crucial for China to usurp and claim ownership over both the Shaksgam River and the Karakash River in order to provide for the future irrigation needs of the entire Tarim Basin post the nuclear tests that were planned. In effect, China had to steal both these rivers if it wanted to go nuclear at the selected site of Lop Nor.

Second, Kim Philby had leaked the knowledge of the three British nuclear monitoring stations in the Gilgit Agency to the Soviets. By the by, China also came to know of them. After Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO pacts in 1954, it was speculated that there was a proposal by the British to set up a fourth nuclear monitoring station in Raskam Village in the Shaksgam Valley or Trans Karakoram tract, which was ceded to China as part of the Sino–Pak Boundary Agreement signed on 2 March 1963. Today, this village is known by its Chinese name of Yilike. A metallic road connects it with Mazha, which is a junction on the Chinese Sinkiang–Tibet Highway, now called C219.

If a nuclear monitoring station had been set up at Raskam Village, it would have looked over the Taklamakan Desert directly at Lop Nor. Therefore, it became critical for China to legitimise ownership of the Shaksgam Valley and build the basis of a deep and lasting friendship with Pakistan. Mao was thus able to erect an impenetrable wall of secrecy around Lop Nor.

The Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report

Meanwhile, one of the first things that General Chaudhuri did was to order an investigation into the military debacle in October and November 1962, during the just-concluded hostilities. For this investigation, General Chaudhuri appointed a team of two officers led by Lt. Gen. Henderson Brooks, then the GOC XI Corps. Brigadier P.S. Bhagat vc (later Lt. Gen.), then the Commandant at IMA, Dehradun, was the junior member of this team. It is said that General Chaudhuri was initially keen to initiate a full-fledged study of the ‘debacle of 1962’, but he was advised to avoid any investigation on the higher direction of that conflict. This would require the Brooks–Bhagat team to access files pertaining to governmental decisions. And this was unacceptable. India’s new Defence Minister Y.B. Chavan stated that the government was unwilling to institute an enquiry into its very own policies and decisions.

As a result, the terms of reference of the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report, as it came to be popularly known, was to look only at what went wrong militarily—issues like training, equipment, physical fitness of troops and the role of military commanders. The purpose of this exercise seemed to fix the blame only on the ‘failure of military commanders and to the tactical mishandling of troops on the ground’, Chavan said in a low-key statement to the Parliament. Moreover, the focus of the enquiry was restricted to the operations of IV Corps, which was responsible for the debacle in NEFA. The outcome in Ladakh or the western sector was not even considered. Nevertheless, what the two distinguished officers produced was an unforgiving analysis of the problems along the entire Sino–Indian border, discovering along the way a great deal that Lt. Gen. B.M. Kaul would like to have kept hidden. The report laid the blame on Army HQ for its direct interference by bypassing the established chains of command for the deployment of troops on the frontline against the Chinese. The example cited is of the general staff in Delhi giving direct orders to HQ 7 Brigade, bypassing the established chains of HQ Eastern Command, HQ IV Corps and HQ 4 Mountain Division in order to capture a PLA post 1,000 yards north-east of the legendary Dhola Post, and to contain PLA concentration south of Thag La Ridge at the NEFA frontline. This order could be seen to be as incredible as the order for ‘the charge of the light brigade’ during the Crimean War in the mid-19th century.

The controversial Sinophile and Indophobe author Neville Maxwell opines that Henderson Brooks and Bhagat placed the immediate cause of the collapse of resistance in NEFA on the panicky, fumbling and contradictory orders issued from IV Corps HQ in Tezpur to a coterie of officers they judged to be grossly culpable, namely Lt. Gen. L.P. ‘Bogey’ Sen, Lt. Gen. B.M. ‘Biji’ Kaul, Maj. Gen. Niranjan Prasad and Brigadier (later Maj. Gen.) D.K. ‘Monty’ Palit. But the investigation, even if it wanted to, could not have access to records of meetings in the Ministry of Defence, since Menon had categorically disallowed any notes or minutes to be kept of his meetings, saying these were top secret in nature. Therefore, the Brooks–Bhagat team was unable to access crucial information to see if the blame lay on Krishna Menon and his core team. It thus absolved them of responsibility for their blunders in the ultimate analysis.

Establishment 22

In October 1962, after Nehru fully understood the import of the Chinese invasion, which left him floundering around trying to figure out how to handle this enormous crisis, the ever crafty Mullick put across a very unusual proposal.

Mullick said that he had a chat with Sir Roger Hollis, the then DG of MI5, which was the parent organisation of the IB. Hollis had suggested that the IB create a force of Tibetan saboteurs to undertake cross-border clandestine sabotage of PLA units, garrisons and facilities in Tibet. For the purposes of deniability, the force should only be staffed with Tibetans. The force should be modelled along the lines of the Second World War British organisation called the Special Operations Executive or SOE. Mullick added that there was an army officer who was a perfect fit to head such a force. This was a distinguished and decorated officer who had served in the Long-Range Desert Group of the British Army that conducted sabotage operations behind German lines in North Africa during the Second World War. This officer was Maj. Gen. S.S. Uban. Mullick also convinced Nehru that since the British had no money and fewer resources, he could get these at no cost from the Americans. It was necessary to do things correctly.

What Mullick in all probability did not disclose to Nehru was that the suggestion to create such a force had actually come from CIA Chief Allen Dulles who was interested in fixing the lack of effective coordination between the CIA and the large unwieldy force of Tibetan Chushi Gandrug guerrillas operating from the Nepalese border region of Mustang. If India joined in, then things would get much easier. A crestfallen and floundering Nehru could find no fault with Mullick’s suggestion. Since the British had successfully created and operated such a force of both British and expatriate Europeans to hit targets behind German lines, there was no reason why such a force of Indian-trained Tibetans could not do the same behind Chinese lines.

The executive order authorising such a force was issued by the Government of India on 14 November 1962, which was also Nehru’s birthday. Mullick had proposed this as Nehru’s gift to the nation on his birthday. Extraordinary times require extraordinary decisions. Setting up Establishment 22 was in many ways’ anathema to a man like Nehru who had an aversion to all such martial activities, particularly of the cloak and dagger variety. By withholding the use of the air force in the war and ensuring the rout of the army in NEFA, Mullick had paradoxically expanded the remit of his empire. He had added paramilitary-based black ops to his repertoire. A tripartite agreement between the IB, the CIA and Chushi Gandrug was signed, with the Tibetan outfit represented by General Gompo Tashi Andrugtsang and Jogo Namgyal Dorjee. Chushi Gandrug was to source 12,000 Tibetan Khampa fighters from the potential recruits available in Mustang in Nepal. These were Mullick’s own equivalent of the Gorkhas. Thus, the Indian State now had two streams of foreign mercenaries fighting for it, namely the Gorkhas from Nepal in the Indian Army and the Khampas from Tibet in Establishment 22.

The Dalai Lama’s elder brother Gyalo Thondup, who was at that time deeply involved with the CIA, flew to Mustang with a team of CIA and IB officers to interview and select the front echelon of Tibetan officers for the new force at its HQ in Chakrata near Dehradun, then in the state of UP. The initial complement of Tibetan officers was led by a man called Jamba Kalden. The CIA sent an eight-member team of instructors led by former United States Marine Corps (USMC) Colonel Wayne Sanford who helped set up the entire matrix of the force. Colonel Sanford was the then head of the CIA’s Special Operations Group. The CIA was investing a lot in this business.

The Americans Get Their Act Together

Nehru appealed to Kennedy for assistance. Immediately, Washington stepped into the fray and responded generously to Nehru’s appeal for assistance. By 2 November, the USAF had already flown eight missions into India every day for a week by using Europe-based Boeing 707 transports. Each plane was packed with basic infantry equipment to refit the soldiers streaming off the Himalayas, who, in most cases, were outfitted with more primitive gear than had been afforded to even the CIA’s Tibetan guerrillas. These supplies were later ferried by USAF C-130 transports to smaller airfields near the frontier battle lines.


At the White House on 19 November, Kennedy convened a high-powered meeting that discussed increased US military assistance to India and options for a show of force in the region. Also mentioned was the possibility of using the CIA’s Tibetan guerrillas. The new CIA Director John McCone, who replaced Allen Dulles after the Bay of Pigs, was on hand to brief Kennedy on such covert matters. With McCone was Des FitzGerald, the CIA’s Far East Chief. At the end of the meeting, it was decided that Ambassador-at-Large Averell Harriman would lead a high-powered delegation to New Delhi to fully assess India’s needs. General Paul Adams, Chief of the US Strike Command, was to head the military component. From the CIA, Des FitzGerald won a seat for the mission, as did the head of the Tibet Task Force, Ken Knaus. On 21 November, Harriman’s delegation left for New Delhi. Although the Chinese declared a unilateral ceasefire while the group was en route, the situation was still tense when it reached New Delhi the following day. Without a pause, Ambassador Galbraith ushered Harriman into the first of four meetings with Nehru. The results of these discussions were plans for a major three-phase military aid package encompassing material support, help with domestic defence production and possible assistance with air defences.


The National Security Action Memorandum Number 209, approved on 10 December 1962 by JFK, authorised a new military aid package for India. Under the aid programme, it was decided that the US would:

1. assist in creating and equipping six new mountain divisions to work with the Indian Army to guard the Himalayas,

2. help India increase its own arms production facilities and

3. prepare for a US–UK air defence programme for India

As a sideshow to Harriman’s talks, the CIA representatives on the delegation held their own sessions with Mullick and his deputy M.M.L. Hooja. This was a first, as Galbraith had previously taken great pains to downscale the agency’s activities inside India to all but benign reporting functions. As early as 5 November, he had objected to projected CIA plans due to the risk of exposure. But in a 13 November letter to Kennedy, Galbraith had a qualified change of heart because Menon was no longer the Defence Minister. By the end of the Harriman mission, the CIA and IB had arrived at a rough division of labour. The IB, with CIA support from the Near East Division, would work towards developing Establishment 22 as a tactical guerrilla force. The CIA’s Far East Division, in the meantime, would unilaterally create a strategic long-range resistance movement inside Tibet. The Mustang contingent would also remain under the CIA’s unilateral control.

Iqbal Chand Malhotra Image credit - The New Indian Express


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