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The 1962 war in Tawang: A View from the Ground

25 Jul 2018

Ajai Shukla

Venue: Seminar Room, ICS
Time: 3:00 PM

Abstract 

The debacle of India’s 1962 war with China has been recounted from numerous perspectives. A rich, if not unbiased, history first appeared in the form of books written by military officers, and also by civil and intelligence officials, who played varied roles in that conflict. Later, as more information became available in the public domain, journalists and political analysts made important contributions. Information from the Chinese side was slower to come out but, when it did, contributions from China specialists challenged some of the views that had, by then, become entrenched.

Yet, there is little research or writing that delves into the experiences and perceptions of the populace in the areas where the 1962 confrontation came to a head, and where the key battles were fought. This narrative void is even more surprising, given that the People’s Liberation Army occupied Indian areas with significant local populations and ruled over them for over a month, providing valuable insights into the Chinese approach to border peoples and towards administering them.

Ajai Shukla will recount local perspectives of that war, drawing on a year of research in Arunachal Pradesh, during which he conducted numerous interviews with local people who witnessed the events of 1962. He will focus on the Tawang area, for three reasons. First, in contrast to the unpopulated Aksai Chin and other battlegrounds in Ladakh, the Tawang area was home to large local populations who experienced the 1962 war first hand. Second, this was the area where the war was triggered, the most important battles fought and the deepest Chinese advances made. Finally, Tawang is still arguably the most sharply contested border sector, and the key to resolving the boundary question. The perspectives and experiences of the people of Tawang, therefore, are of great relevance to New Delhi.

About the Speaker

Ajai Shukla is a journalist and commentator on strategic affairs, who writes for Business Standard newspaper. He also hosts a defence blog, Broadsword, which attracts 3,000-6,000 readers daily. He is collaborating with Sonia Shukla -- an Adjunct Fellow with the Institute of Chinese Studies – on an account of the lived experience of the local Tawang people of India’s arrival and consolidation in that area soon after independence. Earlier, as a war correspondent for NDTV, he reported from conflict zones like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, J&K and India’s northeast. Ajai served in the Indian Army from 1979-2001, including in Tawang. He graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1979, and did his post-graduation from King’s College, London in 1996-97. 

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