The Dalai Lama's War

Nearly fifty years ago, India and China met in a brief, bloody border clash that would come to define—and destroy—the legendary Nehru. Was this the first step in an inevitable clash between two rising civilizations?

Issue: Sept-Oct 2011

IN THE late autumn of 1962, there was a short, intense border war between India and China. It resulted in the complete rout of an underprepared and poorly led Indian Army. For the two rising powers, the battle—and its outcome—was seen in national, civilizational and ideological terms. These nations were, or at least saw themselves as, carriers of ancient civilizations that had produced great literature, philosophy, architecture, science and much else, but whose further evolution had been rudely interrupted by Western imperialists. India became free of British rule in 1947; China was united under Communist auspices in 1949. The recovery of their national independence was viewed as the prelude to the reemergence of China and India as major forces in the world.

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