The war was more a victory of India’s policy of non-alignment than a humiliating defeat at the hands of China.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) recently celebrated its 84th anniversary with the usual fanfare. In a film made for the occasion, the IAF’s achievements in all the wars and rescue missions since World War II were highlighted. Its remarkable performance in the wars against Pakistan in 1947-48, 1965 and, above all, the decisive victory of 1971, was well emphasised. Regarding 1962, the narrator regretted that the IAF was not used in the Sino-Indian conflict — an intervention many military historians and retired officers claim could have altered the final outcome to a great extent. It was only the helicopter and transport crew of the IAF that were deployed to service forward pickets in the then North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and Ladakh.
What was the reluctance of India’s political and military leadership to use its offensive air power assets to stop the advance of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in NEFA and Ladakh? Let us first examine the strength of the air force of both the countries in 1962.