Think Tank (5/2022)
James Char, Associate Research Fellow with the China Programme
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Lessons and Legacies of the Sino-Indian War
07 Oct 2022

Marking the 60th anniversary of the 1962 Sino-Indian War, RSIS and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) co-convened a workshop to examine its lessons and legacies on 6 and 7 October 2022, in Singapore. The workshop aimed to study the past, assess relations in the present, and determine future prospects for peace under the shadow of war.


Presentations on the first day covered the broad purview of India-China relations. The first session explored the tools and rationales for economic competition between China and India, as well as the dispute over water sharing in the Brahmaputra River in current Sino-Indian tensions. India’s responses to rising geopolitical tensions with China were explored in the second session, where presenters examined how minilaterals are becoming a part of India’s strategy to cope with China along with China’s impact on Indian military modernisation. The third session looked at great power relations in Asia. The India-China great power relationship was analysed through the triangular relationship between India, China, and Taiwan. The session also highlighted the challenge of managing strategic stability in regional conflicts with a nuclear dimension. The final session of the day analysed how the 1962 war is both remembered and forgotten in India and China.


On the second day, the workshop discussed issues relating to the 1962 war and its impact on India and China. The first session explored the military lessons of the war for China. China’s aim in the war was to send a message to both India as well as the US and USSR over their political disagreements. The session also highlighted significant operational lessons for the Chinese military including organisational consolidation after the war, developing a competent officer corps, enhancing combat training, and improving logistics. The workshop hosted a roundtable discussion on Professor Khong Yuen Foong’s seminal book “Analogies at War” to examine how analogies are used in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine. A key question put forth was whether the 1962 war is the clearest analogy for the current Ladakh standoff. The day’s other sessions examined the Chinese military presence in Aksai Chin following the 2020 Galwan skirmish, including the nature of the force and its deployment patterns through Google Earth imagery. The final session discussed the status of bilateral relations at present and discussed prospects for peace.



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