“The Sino-Indian War Was A Masterstroke That Placed China as The Leader of The Third World.” Analyze. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comment:

  • Look at the war of 1962 in the present-day context.
  • After 1962, China suddenly became the leader of third world nations, a place which India was vying for under the leadership of Nehru.
  • Therefore, base your answer on the rise of China post-1962 and how the war was used by the Chinese govt to push forward its international agenda for decades to come.
  • Points to discuss would be strategic calculations by Chinese for using India’s NAM credentials if India asked for help from any superpower that time; using war to show India as an aggressor in the international arena and maligning its image worldwide; for creating a goodwill among the rest of the nations in the subcontinent; picking upon US and Soviets if they supported India and making a case against anti-Chinese sentiments in international forums etc.


The Sino-Indian war was a war between China and India that occurred in 1962. A disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for war, but other issues played a role. In the wake of the Doklam crisis, it’s imperative to understand what was the motive behind the move by China in 1962. In the aftermath of the war, India was largely perceived as the provocateur, due to the Nehru’s Forward Policy, as part of which India allegedly established a string of outposts on and beyond the Line of Actual Control. But with recent reports and commentaries on the war coming out, questions are being asked as to whether this war was pre-planned by China by keeping long term gains in mind. The year 1962 saw China, with Mao back at the helm, successfully challenging both India and the Soviet Union and, in the end, becoming the leader of the Third World’s progressive and revolutionary forces.


  • According to classified documents, China began planning the war as early as 1959. 
  • The motivation to attack India was not a response to India’s outpost in Dhola, but a part of China’s strategy to establish its international political dominance.
  • The claim that Indian troop movements around the Dhola Post and some skirmishes between the Indians and the Chinese in mid-October determined the timing of the attack is part of this twisted interpretation of the causes of the 1962 War.
  • From the Chinese point of view, it was a masterstroke to decide to wage war on India at the same time that America was preoccupied with the Cuban Missile crisis. 
  • A direct American intervention supporting India in the war would be out of the question due to the ongoing Cuban Missile crisis, but if it did happen, it would force India to compromise its commitment to non-alignment. 
  • After the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States did decide to send military aid but by then it was too late for India. The Chinese had already achieved their objectives by the time Western military assistance arrived.
  • China was able to project successfully, that years of striving for India’s neutrality went to waste and capitalists were supplying arms to India thanks to the Chinese aggression.
  • China managed to force India to seek help from the United States, and also put the Soviet Union in the same anti-Chinese camp. It was a masterstroke that placed China as the leader of the Third World.
  • Nehru’s appeal for Western aid in his hour of need dented, if it did not destroy, India’s image as a non-aligned nation, thus diminishing its status both in the Communist bloc and the Third World
  • While China unilaterally imposed a ceasefire and ended the war, many scholars doubted the intention behind this. Some argued that the US and USSR were about to come out in support of India while others argued that with winters approaching, China would have found it difficult to manage the war in Himalayan regions. 
  • But whatever were the reasons, none of these explanations are consistent with the broader picture of China’s overall policies and strategic ambitions at the time of the war. 

1962 war was a limited action aimed at punishing India, dethroning it from its leadership position in the non-aligned movement, and forcing the Soviets to take sides in the wider conflict that had been raging within the international communist movement since 1960. China wanted to demonstrate its military might and superiority and, by withdrawing, it had shown its “goodwill” towards its neighbors and the rest of the world, demonstrating that it was not an aggressive power bent on capturing land from other countries. It was against the backdrop of these events that China emerged as the winner and the road now lay open for China to become the leader of the Third World. With one stroke, China had managed to capture three birds.

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