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As India, China face off again, late Brig Dalvi’s memoir on 1962 reminder of what went wrong

Late Brig J.P. Dalvi fought the 1962 war against China and was taken prisoner of war. His scathing words in his book, Himalayan Blunder, ring aloud on his 100th birth anniversary.

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New Delhi: As India and China remain in a tense standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, the words of Late Brig J.P. Dalvi (retd), who wrote a scathing book bringing to light the fault lines of the country’s political and defence leadership that led to the defeat in the 1962 War, ring aloud on his 100th birth anniversary.

“1962 was a National Failure of which every Indian is guilty. It was a failure in the Higher Direction of War, a failure of the Opposition, a failure of the General Staff (myself included); it was a failure of Responsible Public Opinion and the Press. For the Government of India, it was a Himalayan Blunder at all levels,” the Brigadier, who was taken prisoner of war (PoW), wrote in his book Himalayan Blunder.

The family of the Late Brigadier observes his 100th birth anniversary Friday.

“He was a battle-hardened soldier and I used to always call him Sir. His life was about his ‘paltan’. For him, my mother and I came afterwards,” Michael Dalvi, his son, told ThePrint on the phone from Dehradun.

Born in Basra in Iraq, the senior Dalvi was just 21 when he joined the Army.

“He was posted to Burma to fight against Japan in World War II. He spent four and half years there in the jungles which toughened him,” Michael said.

In 1962, when the India-China War broke out, Dalvi was commanding the 7th Infantry Brigade in the North-East Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh.

Dalvi’s book shows how the Indian political and military leadership failed to read the Chinese mind despite all the evidence around and later sent ill-equipped soldiers with World War I .303 Lee-Enfield 10 shot bolt action rifles, without any planning, to fight the Chinese who were in much larger size and armed with AK47s.

“I only hope those who currently control and conduct the destiny of our great country, and our unquestioning uniformed bravehearts learn from the hindsight of history,” wrote his son in an article on his father’s 100th birth anniversary.

Also read: India’s options against China shrink to two — limited war or another Wuhan

‘We had to clear ourselves of the charge of having been brainwashed’

In his book, the senior Dalvi wrote, “The Chinese had lit the fuse on 8 September by intruding into the Thagla Ridge area but this was not treated as a prelude to full scale invasion. It was dismissed as yet another minor border incident which “could be localised and dealt with firmly’”.

The Brigadier wrote that when they were repatriated on 3 May, 1963, he and his 23 fellow soldiers were greeted with correct military protocol, tinged with a chill reserve.

“It was only later that I found out that we had to clear ourselves of the charge of having been brainwashed — a strange charge from a Government which had itself been brainwashed into championing China’s cause for more than a decade without a doubt the prisoners had been declared outcast,” he wrote.

As journalist Frank Moraes wrote in the foreword for the book, Dalvi narrates the manner in which India’s own political leadership traitorously worked against its cause.

“In no uncertain terms, he holds three men responsible for India’s defeat – Jawaharlal Nehru, Krishna Menon, and General Brij Mohan Kaul.

“Issuing orders from Delhi, they seemed to be clueless about the situation on the battlefield. Undoubtedly, when they were rushed into battle, the Indian soldiers – underfed, ill-equipped, and unprepared as they were – never stood a chance against the powerful Chinese army. Regardless of that, the soldiers fought bravely and laid down their lives for their homeland,” he wrote.

Also read: LAC row began April, 5,000 Chinese troops sent to Pangong in May, claims state broadcaster

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  1. India fought a bitter battle with the Pakistanis during 1947-48. All the required preparations, should have been done during the 1950s.

    Lifting the Nation from poverty and economical development could have made the government neglecting the Military.
    What made the Army Generals to keep quite.

    However, Nehru was duped then, as Modi now. Both trusted the Rogue Chinese. Our people have neglected the ß borders, and these enemies occupy it.
    Then we pay with our bravehearts lives to receive the lost land. When will we learn.

  2. Having lived through 1962 war and aftermath as a young student, until I read Brig Dalvi’s book in 1970, I didn’t even know that India had lost the battle with China. Government machinery had so well browbeaten the press into silence even during those days. One feels sorry for those soldiers and angry about political leadership which made the soldiers to trek for eight days just to reach the border at Thagla Ridge. It is almost a miracle that they fought with whatever they had even after eight days ardorus trek. Brig.Dalvi says the soldiers did not have even winter clothing, not to speak of good weapons. Today, people who condemn Nehru and Krishna Menon are trolled. Brig. Dalvi’s book exposes the magnitude of their irresponsibilities. Even Lt.Gen BM Kaul, who was Nehru’s protege and a general with no battle experience, criticises Nehru in his book “Untold Story”. Talk about biting the hand that feeds!

  3. “Commemorating the Centenary celebration of Brigadier J P Dalvi” – This is a great moment for us and wish to attribute my sincere, heartfelt and warm felicitations 5o him and his beloved family.

    Right now , I am reading his book ‘Himalayan Blunder’ , which is an epic true to its core narrative of the failures of our country’s polity, military valour! The lesser said about Nehru and his omnipresent stooges is better since, their magnanimous failures of foresight and devine interventions had proved disastrous for this Nation, and the sovereignty and suzernity of our country.

    He proved his own shortsighted, near failures of governance and leading this country in practically every dimension, facets. Only failures galore. What a pittance!

    However, despite these half baked lunatic jokers of this ill fated country, we are proud to have a Military, which is one of the best in the world.

    My salutations to the great Brigadier, his family who inspires us till date.
    Their bravery , valour blood will never go waste. They faught against all odds alongwith his braveheart Officers and soldiers fought valiantly and written history.

    My deep heartfelt salutations also to the brilliant minds and intellects like Gen. Thimaya, (Chief of Staff), Gen. Thorat and Gen. Verma.

    Jai Hind! Vandemataram!

    N.B.: The Indian diaspora would very much appreciate if the 1962 war details by Henderson Brooks is released.

  4. I fail to understand why Henderson Brooks report is not made public, so much for a Government that brags about transparency. Those who don’t learn from History are condemned to repeat it.

  5. What about the role of Maj Gen Pathania, the GOC and the Brigade commanders ? Why didn’t they fight at SeLa, BomdiLa , Nauranag? Even Dalvi failed to deploy his men properly

    • Read the book once. Brig Dalvi writes mainly about his brigade’s experience, supported by the then political and military background. He does not write about entire Indo-China war.

  6. The author writes ” 1962 was a national failure of which every Indian is guilty”. In subsequent lines he held three persons responsible for the defeat. I don’t understand how an indian, a common citizen, is responsible for the failure.

  7. The book writes”1962 was a national failure of which every Indian is guilty”. In subsequent lines three persons are named for India’s defeat. I don’t understand how a common man, a citizen, is held responsible for the defeat.

  8. Also do a full scale report in Nathu la, Silkim how India won, how many Chinese pla soldiers were killleed, graphic details on how the Chinese soldiers were killleled so that we can re learn and Killeers them again.


    Thank you.

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