What Was India’s Forward Policy? Its Effect on India-China War of 1962

Forward Policy is a political strategy devised by the Indian policy makers and military strategists in 1961 to counter the movements of the Chinese army in the Indian administered regions. With the commencement of patrolling by the Chinese troops in the disputed border areas along the Mc Mohan line and to the south of it, the Indians too devised and launched a policy of setting up of outpost north of the Mc Mohan Line behind the Chinese troops with a view to curtail their replenishment and to drive them back to their territories.

Records establish that as a result of the Indian government’s Forward Policy around 60 such outposts were set up by the Indian Army out of which around 43 were established north of the McMahon Line.

The objectives of the policy were to obstruct the possible lines of Chinese progress to undermine their control of disputed areas through the interposition of the Indian Posts and patrol activities between the Chinese posts and to threaten the lines of communication and supply.

Whereas the army believed that the Forward Policy of the Indian Government would expose troops to unjust risks, the political leaders believed that Chinese would not react with force and would not go to war to solve the disputed border issues with India. However, with the penetration of the Chinese troops to the south of the Mc Mohan Line India reacted with its own Forward Policy to show that the lands were not uninhabited and that India was not intruding on Chinese territory.

China considered this as further evidence of Indian expansionist tactics aimed towards its growing interests in Tibet. According to the Indian history, implementation of the Forward Policy was a move which was intended to give proof of Indian occupation in the formerly uninhabited regions in which Chinese troops were patrolling as a design of their claim over it.

Initially with the advancement of the Indian Troops the reaction of the Chinese forces was to retreat within their mainland. Gradually as the Indian forces to accelerate their Forward Policy further Chinese forces started building more outposts to counter the Indian positions resulting in an interlocking of the armies and wait and watch deployment similar to a chess-board formation without exchange of any gun fires.

As per the record of the Indian history of war, while the Forward Policy was initially intended to prevent the Chinese from advancing into vacant areas by occupying them first; July 22, 1962 saw a change in the Forward Policy, wherein it was decided by the strategists to push back the Chinese from posts already occupied by them. Whereas Indian troops were ordered to fire only in their self-defense, all post commanders were given direction to open fire upon Chinese army if they feel a threat.

The Forward Policy is considered as a trigger to the war between China and India that occurred in 1962. The disputed Himalayan border did play the major attribute but one more reason considered as a catalyst was grant of political asylum to the Dalai Lama.Perception of the Chinese about India’s growing interests In Tibet also played a role in fuelling the fire.

Whenever the history of the Indo-Chinese War of 1962 is discussed, the subject of Forward Policy as a strategic political and military move goes along with it since it is supposed to have laid the very foundation on which the Indo-Chinese war was built upon.

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