1962 Report from India and South Asia
Roadtrip-'62 ™ usually travels the United States, but today we travel around the world of 1962, looking at the news. The southern part of Asia has conflicts that have been ongoing since before 1962…it seems some things never change.
Let’s begin with China vs. India to illustrate ongoing conflict. On October 20, 1962, China invaded lands occupied and claimed by India since the British controlled the country in 1914. The various Chinese governments since that time never agreed to the British-drawn border. The area in question is in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which we will also see is a source of conflict between India and Pakistan. Some observers credit the immediate cause of the invasion to China’s claims that India supported Tibetan separatists. India did indeed shelter the Dalai Lama in 1959, when the spiritual leader fled Tibet, and allowed Tibetans to set up a government-in-exile. Others noted that China had recently completed a road connecting their provinces of Sinkiang and Tibet, and wanted to secure it by bolstering their claim to the disputed land nearby. Especially after India sent troops to build new border patrol stations within the disputed territory. The Chinese had further reason to suspect India of expansionist policies, because India had taken the Portuguese colony of Goa (see below) the previous year. Whatever the proximate cause of this Sino-India War, over 2,500 Indian soldiers were either killed or went missing, and the Chinese also suffered loss of life. After several weeks of fighting, which eventually involved the United States providing more modern arms to India, China unilaterally declared a cease-fire on November, 20 1962. They then withdrew to the former border, a “Line of Actual Control” proclaimed by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959, which placed the new Chinese road within their control. The area gained by China, known as Aksai Chin, has been claimed by India to be 2,500 square miles and is still controlled by China.
The more recent conflict has similar beginnings, though it was about 1,000 miles to the east. The dispute began June 16, 2017 when China started to pave a road in the Himalayan territory of Doklam, which China considers part of its land but India recognizes as part of the kingdom of Bhutan, its close ally. India sent its troops to stop China, and in turn China sent its troops to reinforce its claims. This time, the results were non-violent, with no shots fired. After two months of literal pushing and shoving by the troops, on August 29, 2017, both sides retreated. Poor demarcation of borders was again at the heart of the dispute. In this case India and China have different interpretations of where the tri-junction between these two countries and Bhutan actually lies. The issue may flare up again because the road remains temporarily unpaved.
Moving on to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir as previously mentioned, this area lies at the heart of a dispute between India and Pakistan. Back when India gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, it formed two countries: Pakistan and India. Some areas were disputed, including the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, the situation had not yet been settled, though about half of the territory had been controlled by India since 1949, after the United Nations failed to resolve a war between the two countries. Neither side upheld the UN resolution of 1948, which required India to hold a plebiscite, or vote of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to determine which country to join. The UN resolution also required Pakistan to withdraw its troops from Kashmir, which they did not do. A cease-fire was signed however, and after additional fighting in 1965 and 1971, a Line of Control has been respected by both India and Pakistan.
As previously mentioned, India was also active in the area of Goa, a former colony of Portugal also known as Portuguese India. Goa was the last remaining Portuguese colony on the Indian subcontinent, it having lost some smaller areas in 1954. The question of the status of Goa had divided the United Nations during 1961, with US Delegate Adlai Stevenson fearful that it might be the question that could end in the death of the United Nations. Though India took Goa by military action in December, 1961, Portugal only recognized Indian control in 1975. One symbol of Portugal’s refusal to recognize their loss is a postage stamp issued in January, 1962. The stamp was part of a worldwide effort to publicize the United Nations’ World Health Organization’s drive to eradicate the disease malaria, and many countries issued stamps to publicize the effort. The United States joined the effort with its stamp issued March 30, 1962. Speaking of stamps, the country of Bhutan previously mentioned issued its first postage stamps in 1962, the same year the first road useable by trucks and cars was opened. Bhutan also opened a national museum, national library, national archives, national stadium, and a number of government buildings in the capitol of Thimphu in 1962, including the National Assembly and the High Court.
Another country located in the Himalayan Mountains near India is Nepal. It is more well known than Bhutan because of the capital city of Kathmandu and the country’s proximity to Mount Everest. The international border between China and Nepal runs across the mountain’s summit. Following the move by King Mahendra to scrap the democratically-elected governing body in 1959, guerilla forces attacked police posts and sabotaged government installations for several years, including throughout 1962. There was even an attempt to assassinate the king. The guerilla attacks ceased in November 1962, during the Sino-India War, adding to suspicion that India was behind them. Nepal remained a Hindu Kingdom until 2006, when the monarchy was abolished and it became a federal republic of its 7 states.
Burma, now known as Myanmar, has recently been in the news due to its treatment of the Rohingya Sunni Muslim minority living in its western area. These people have been persecuted and tens of thousands have fled to nearby Bangladesh as refugees. Burma has suffered under a military government for many years, beginning in March 1962, when General Ne Win led a bloodless coup. At the time there were many factions vying for control, including two different groups of communists! Since that coup, the country’s successive governments have limited the rights of the Rohingya because they do not consider them citizens, but consider them as immigrants from India. The political situation was so bad during 1962 that the government forced charity organizations such as the Ford Foundation to withdraw their representatives. All economic activity was socialized under government control. Riots at Rangoon University were put down by troops, who killed over a dozen demonstrators. After more riots and widespread killing of demonstrators in 1988, a new military junta even staged a coup against the old! The situation has continued since then, with some observers calling it the world’s longest civil war. Some things never seem to change.
Video of Myanmar soldiers rounding up and beating Rohingya people, from Daily Mail.
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2017 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
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