- Usually, when we talk about the Sino-Indian war we discuss only the humiliating war India lost in 1962. Many of us don’t even know about the decisive victory of India in the 1967 battle, cause it was a small scale war limited to the region of Sikkim which didn’t receive any wide coverage neither in media nor in books.
- The Nathu La and Cho La clashes are also known as the second Sino-Indian war was the last major clash between India and China before 15/16 June 2020 at Galwan Valley.
- The reason for the battle was the border dispute and to get the control of Chumbi Valley, by acquiring the Jelep La and Nathu La pass. These passes provide the tactical advantage of observing the other side, and one can control the trade route to Tibet and can overlook others’ activity through these passes. As the MacMohan line was considered to be the border (crest of the Himalayas), but there were several points on the crest line which both sides claims, resulting in tensions and small skirmishes between patrol groups.
- To avoid such clashes India decided to build physical barriers in Nathula. In the 1965 Indo-Pak war, the Chinese Army warned India to vacate Jelep La and Nathu La. Considering the current situations divisional commanders were told to fall back as a result 27 Mountain Division vacated Jelep La, but GOC(General Officer Commanding) 17 Mountain Division Major General Sagat Singh refused, arguing that Nathu La was on the watershed which provides natural boundary which later proves to be a key factor of victory, however, Jelep La was immediately captured by PLA(People’s Liberation Army).
Nathu La Clash (11-14 September 1967)
As soon as the fencing work begin PLA troops started interfering with the work and threatening the Indian Army, on 7 Sep 1967 as India started fencing the southern side of Nathu La, PLA rushed to the position, threaten the Indian Army resulting in into the small scuffle. On the morning of 11th September when the Indian army started fencing work from Nathu La to Sebu La( major parts of Nathu La pass in the south, Camel’s Back -north).
One Chinese political Commissar with a section arrived and warned the commanding officer to halt the work, as the situation heated up fistfight broke out and Commisar’s glasses shattered. After which they went back to their bunkers, in the span of few minutes a whistle was blown and the Chinese started firing on Indian troops working on the fence and due to lack of cover India suffered major losses initially, but soon afterward artillery, mortars, and machine guns started rattling and India began to beat China. Due to the occupation of high position at Sepu La and Camel’s back India was able to destroy many Chinese Bunkers and caused heavy casualties to PLA. This war lasts 3 days and came to an end on 15th September with the exchange of bodies, India still holds Nathu La.
Cho La Clash(1 October 1967)
Just after facing defeat at Nathu La PLA again tries to show it’s power at Cho La which is few kilometers away from Nathu La by infiltrating the Sikkim border and claiming the pass as their territory. This all again led to the clash between these two armies whereas China Claims India provoked the war by capturing their territory and opening fire on PLA, this war lasts 1 day, and China was forced to withdraw 3Km back and is still there this all results in increasing morale of Indian troopers after 1962 defeat.
The war was not full-fledged because of the heavy deployment of the Soviet army near the Manchurian border diverted the Chinese attention that later results in the 1969 Sino-Soviet conflict. The other reason is likely to be the nuclear capability of China, as the Chinese tested their first atomic bomb on October 16, 1964, followed by the first nuclear missile launch on October 25, 1966, which forced India to think thousand times before taking any big step.
Indian defence ministry and other independent sources claims:
India- 88 KIA 163 Wounded
China- 340 KIA 450 Wounded
- Prime Minister: Indra Gandhi
- Chief of Army Staff: General Paramasiva P. Kumaramangalam
- Sam Manekshaw was the Eastern Army Commander
- Major General Sagat Singh Rathore GOC 17 Mountain Division
- Lt. General Jagjit Singh Aurora GOC 33 Corps.
Heroes of war
Maha Vir Chakra
Brigadier Raj Singh Yadav
|2nd Grenadiers||Nathu La|
|Lt. Colonel Mahatam Singh||10 J&K Rifles||Cho La|
|Major Harbhajan Singh (P)||2nd Grenadiers||Nathu La|
Captain Prithi Singh Dagar(P)
|2nd Grenadiers||Nathu La|
|Havaldar Lakhmi Chand(P)||2nd Grenadier||Nathu La|
|Sepoy Gokal Singh||Rajput Regiment||Nathu La|
A book based on 1967 incidents
Some unfortunate incidents
Not much info about these clashes are available, many truths are still to be discovered. Many unfortunate events also happened during these clashes. The biography of Lt. General Sagat Singh who was at the forefront and was giving instructions to hold on, recounts that he saw some of the soldiers escaping from the scene and he ( Sagat Singh) along with Sub. Major of 2 Grenadiers were forced to threaten them by pointing Sten gun on them to fight.
Another incident happened when Lieutenant N.C Gupta (now Colonel) reveals that a post at South shoulder was abandoned by 90 soldiers of 2nd Grenadiers, the reason for no response was not the faulty communication but was the absence of any troops. He holds that post alone for many hours, till the reinforcement was reached. For his extreme bravery and for saving the life of Major Bishan Singh he was awarded Sena Medal.
This war was very significant regarding the protection of sovereignty of the northeast , as through Nathu La pass it is very easy to reach the Siliguri corridor – the chicken neck of the northeast and by capturing it whole northeast region can be cut off from India. This war also worked as a morale booster for Indian troops after facing defeat in 1962 and which were recovering from the 1965 war, it also gave China a message to think twice before taking any step against India and took China to the negotiation table.
After this war, both nation’s Armed forces strengthen their position in the northeast and formed many bases. Sikkim became part of India on May 16, 1975, which helped India to maintain an upper hand in this region. There was an increase in the insurgency in the North East region which was supported by Chinese, the possession of Chinese made small arms, radio sets, and other equipment that were reported from the Mizo and Naga rebellions.