India today for the first time paid tribute to the martyrs of the 1962 Indo-China war on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. In New Delhi, at the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial at India Gate, defence minister A K Antony, along with the three service chiefs, paid homage to those who fought in the war.
Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh, retired, the seniormost living service officer, laid wreath at the memorial and stressed on the need to strengthen the armed forces to protect Indian borders. Singh, the only IAF chief to be conferred the five-star rank of Marshal of the Air Force, equal to a Field Marshal, to which he was promoted in 2002. Singh and late Field Marshals Sam Manekshaw and KM Cariappa, have been the only five-star officers of the Indian defence services.
Antony said on the occasion that India of today is much stronger than it was in 1962. He said the country has grown stronger under successive governments and today it is capable of defending every inch of its border. He also said that India has been successful in working out border solutions with its neighbour through talks.
The war in 1962 started on 20 October, and about 4,000 soldiers and officers were killed in the 32-day long conflict. The 4th Division that had earned great admiration for its fighting skills during the Second World War was decimated by the Chinese army, and the Indian Army was forced to retreat from Arunachal Pradesh, which was then called known as the North-East Frontier Area or NEFA.
Although India was humiliated in the war, there were several incidents of individual bravery and skill. For example, at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese were held back by the indomitable Sikhs and Gurkhas despite their sustained attack. Major Shaitan Singh Bhati and his men stopped the enemy at Rezang La.
In China, the media struck a positive note, declaring India and China had come a long way since 1962 to establish a "comprehensive strategic partnership".