His messages to the US President make pathetic reading.


I have been re-reading B.K. Nehru’s fascinating and absorbing autobiography, Good Guys come Second. It is all too clear from B.K. Nehru’s autobiography that in 1962, during the unequal Sino-Indian conflict Jawaharlal Nehru for the first time in his life lost his nerve. Nehru’s messages to President John F. Kennedy make pathetic reading. Of one of these B.K. Nehru writes, “The telegram when I read it in its entirely was so humiliating that found it difficult to prevent myself from weeping…” He came to the conclusion that “Jawaharlal’s spirit had been totally destroyed and he never really recovered. The destruction of his personality was not born out of fear…it was the destruction of his entire Weltanschauung which destroyed him.”

The pleading telegrams Nehru sent to Kennedy in November 1962 make very distressing reading. These are no longer classified. I quote one of them in its melancholy entirely.

“Dear Mr. President,

“Within a few hours of despatching my earlier message of today, the situation in the North East Frontier Agency Command has deteriorated still further. Bomdila has fallen and the retreating forces from Sela have been trapped between the Sela Ridge and Bomdi La. A serious threat has developed to our Digboi oil fields in Assam. With the advance of the Chinese in massive strength the entire Brahmaputra Valley is seriously threatened, and unless something is done immediately to stem the tide, the whole of Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland would also pass into Chinese hands.

“2. The Chinese have poised massive forces in the Chumbi Valley between Sikkim and Bhutan, and another invasion from that direction appears imminent. Our areas further north west on the border with Tibet in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are also threatened. In Ladakh, as I have said in my earlier communications, Chushul is under heavy attack and shelling of the airfield at Chushul has already commenced. We have also noticed increasing air activity by the Chinese Air Force in Tibet.

“3. Hitherto, we have restricted our requests for assistance to essential equipment and we are most grateful for the assistance which has been so readily given to us. We did not ask for more comprehensive assistance particularly air assistance because of the wider implications of such assistance in the global context and we did not want to embarrass our friends.

“4. The situation that has developed is however really desperate. We have to have more comprehensive assistance if the Chinese are to be prevented from taking over the whole of Eastern India. Any delay in this assistance reaching us will result in nothing short of a catastrophe for our country.

“5. We have repeatedly felt the need of using air arm in support of our land forces but have been unable to do so as, in the present state of our air and radar equipment, we have no defence against retaliatory action by the Chinese.

“6. I, therefore, request that immediately support be given to strengthen our air arm sufficiently to stem the tide of Chinese advance.

“7. I am advised that for providing adequate air defence, a minimum of 12 squadrons of Supersonic All Weather Fighters are essential. We have no modern radar cover in the country. For this also we seek your assistance. Our need is most immediate. The U.S. Air Force personnel will have to man theses fighters and radar installations while our personnel are being trained. US fighters and transport planes manned by U.S. personnel will be used for the present to protect our cities and installations from Chinese air attacks and to maintain our communications. We should, if this is possible, also like U.S. planes manned by U.S. personnel to assist the Indian Air Force in air battles with the Chinese Air Force against Chinese communications lines, supplies and troop concentration may lead to counter air action by the Chinese.

“8. Any air action to be taken against the Chinese beyond the limits of our country, e.g. in Tibet, will be taken by I.A.F. planes manned by Indian personnel.

“9. Determined as we are to liberate all parts of our territory which may pass into the hands of the Chinese aggressors, it is clear that sooner or later we would have to neutralise their bases and airfields by striking form the air. For this purpose, I request you to consider assisting us with two Squadrons of Bombers of B-47 type. To man this indispensable arm, we would like to send immediately our pilots and technicians for training in the United States.

“10. The Chinese threat as it has developed involves not merely the survival of India but the survival of free and independent governments in the whole of this sub-continent and in Asia. The domestic quarrels regarding small areas of territorial boundaries between the countries in this sub-continent or in Asia have no relevance whatever in the context of the developing Chinese invasion. I would emphasise particularly that all the assistance or equipment given to us to meet our dire need will be used entirely for resistance against the Chinese. I have made this clear in a letter that I sent to President AYUB KHAN of Pakistan. I am asking our Ambassador to give you a copy of this letter.

“11. We are confident that your great country will, in this hour of our trial, help us in our fight for survival and for the survival of freedom and independence in this sub-continent as well as the rest of Asia. We on our part are determined to spare no effort until the threat posed by Chinese expansionist and aggressive militarism to freedom and independence is completely eliminated.

“With kind regards,

“Yours sincerely,

“Sd/- Jawaharlal Nehru.”


Replies to “Nehru’s letter to Kennedy”

  1. We have and for a long time to come will be pacifists. Our mindset will need to change. We can gloss over achievements in many areas but the underlying truth is we are obsessively subservient and want to please , reasons for which we are where we are. Conviction to stand and stand up for the nation is very important as this makes us an entity of what we believe is a nation

  2. The comments that follow each such article involving our national figures from yesteryear makes for depressing reading.

    India was ruled by various hordes for the past 500 years precisely for these reasons. Where the Princely States kept squabbling over petty issues in the past, we now have our modern day “royalty” i.e Politicians and Bureaucrats doing the same. Even our national “heroes” have been divided on party lines.


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