Ahead of anniversary, China says wishes to settle boundary through talks “wholeheartedly”

A Chinese State-run newspaper has rejected the Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne’s statement that the outcome of the 1962 war would have been different had the Indian Air Force been deployed offensively. It pointed to Indian fears of “tough” Chinese retaliation and argued that India’s air capabilities at the time “could not be comparable to China’s.”

The Communist Party-run Global Times , a tabloid published by the People’s Daily that is known for its nationalist views, published the commentary rebutting the IAF chief’s statement in its Chinese-language editions this week.

The article was a rare commentary on the 1962 war in the Chinese media, which has largely ignored the upcoming 50th anniversary in a reflection of the event’s fading relevance in China and the government's overall reluctance to discuss a sensitive chapter in bilateral relations.

The article questioned the capabilities of the IAF during the war and appeared to argue that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) was capable of “tough retaliation” – echoing some Indian intelligence assessments from the time – despite its thin presence in Tibet.

“During the Sino-Indian border war, only 40 per cent of the airdrops fell to the Indian Army”, the article said, pointing out the difficulties in carrying out operations in border areas. It added that on the eve of the war, the IAF “could not be comparable” with the PLAAF as it had “mainly second-hand” British aircraft such as Vampires.

More advanced Hunter and Canberra bombers, it claimed, were not put into service until the end of 1962.

The commentary did not offer any detailed evidence of the strength of the PLAAF in Tibet, widely perceived at the time to be thin, besides suggesting the presence of bombers on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau “with a combat radius covering New Delhi.” The border conflict, the article concluded, gave India “no benefits.”

Separately on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei was quoted as saying at a regular press briefing, in response to a question on the border dispute that China hoped to “solve frontier disputes with India through friendly negotiation.”

On-going meetings between the two Special Representatives were “positive,” the official Xinhua news agency reported Mr. Hong as saying.

“China develops in a peaceful way wholeheartedly, and hopes to maintain a friendly and cooperative relationship with India,” he said. “China wishes to settle boundary issues through negotiation wholeheartedly.”