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‘Use of jets could have won India 1962 war’

New Delhi, October 8
India could have defeated China in the 1962 war had the combat power of its Air Force been used, a top serving officer has asserted, claiming that while the then political-bureaucratic combine had sought US Air Force's help but had not even consulted the IAF chief on the issue.

"In the final analysis, the use of the combat air power would have turned the tables on the Chinese and the 1962 war could well have been a debacle for China," Air Vice-Marshal A.K. Tewary said in an article in 'Indian Defence Review'.

Quoting top military and bureaucratic leadership of that time, he said the "costly and catastrophic omission" of not using the combat air arm of the IAF was a result of several factors that "impinged on the decision-making process at the highest level", including the "influence" on Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of Prof P.M.S. Blackett, the then Adviser for Defence, who was a British, as well as the counsel of then US Ambassador John K. Galbraith, who "over-estimated the capability of the Chinese air force in the absence of proper air defence infrastructure in India".

Another factor was the analysis of then Director of Intelligence Bureau (DIB) B.N. Mullick, a close confidant of Nehru, that Chinese bombers would bomb Indian cities in response to the use of the IAF's combat jets, Mr Tewary said. He pointed out that "since the IB did not have the first hand knowledge on Chinese air force capabilities, it sought help from 'our good friends (CIA)", which exaggerated the threat perception.

Mr Tewary quoted top defence analyst George Tanham and said while the political-bureaucratic combine "pleaded to US President John F. Kennedy for 12 squadrons of Star fighters (F-104) and four squadrons of B-47 Bombers as an immediate US air force help to stem the Chinese advance, they did not deem it fit to even consult the Indian Air Force chief".

The IAF officer said the then Army commander responsible for the NEFA, Lt-Gen B.M. Kaul, had conceded in his book that, "We made a great mistake in not employing our air force in a close support role during these operations".

Mr Tewary also quoted late National Security Adviser J.N. Dixit, who was then Under Secretary in the China Division of the External Affairs Ministry, as saying by the time Nehru was coming round to the suggestion for the use of air power the Chinese had declared a unilateral ceasefire.

Mr Dixit, the IAF officer said, had pointed out that the Chinese logistical arrangements and supply lines were too stretched and that it did not have sufficient air power in Tibet at that point of time.

"India's air strikes would stop the Chinese advance and neutralise the military successes, which they had achieved," Dixit had said, adding that this suggestion was rejected on the grounds that it had come from officers who were not military experts.

Making a comparison between the then Chinese and Indian air forces and the number and types of their aircraft fleet, Mr Tewary said the IAF, which was used only to drop supplies, could have been "employed for interdiction, battlefield air interdiction, attack on areas captured by the Chinese, attack as a retribution on deeper targets. This definitely was possible".

He also made a detailed point-by-point rebuttal of the advice and analysis of the IB at that time regarding the threat perceptions, which led the government not to deploy air power.

The issues included the location of Chinese airfields then, availability of night interceptors like the IAF's Vampire fighter squadron, the quantum of Chinese air effort and the theory of escalation of the war.

He concluded that the IAF could then carry more bomb loads than the Chinese, could attack major cities like Lhasa, Chengdu and Kunming as well as Chinese airfields and that the IAF had more modern and capable aircraft to carry out all these tasks successfully. — PTI



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