Enduring Legacy of 1962: Cementing the Conflict of Perceptions in Sino-Indian Ties

Ms Shruti Pandalai is Associate Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • October 2012

    Fifty years since the 1962 war, India and China have moved on to become world powers with engagement and competition characterizing their relationship in keeping with the rules of realpolitik. Both sides argue that the past has been forgotten, yet the border dispute remains unresolved. Despite the rapprochement and robust economic engagement undertaken, the relationship has a constant undercurrent of tension and is often described as fragile. This article argues that the 1962 war cemented an enduring discourse of contested perceptions that have woven themselves into the nationalistic narratives in both India and China and are independent of the climate of talks between both the governments. There is a case to make that while India still carries the scars of 1962 psychologically, China has done little to assuage Indian concerns through deeds and actions. In perception, the Chinese often dismiss India as a non-priority in foreign policy agendas and accuse India of being inflexible and playing the victim card. While the war may not factor in the current strategic calculus of either state, it has deepened perceptions of suspicion and mistrust and polarized public opinion over the years.

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