By the early 1950s, however, the Indian government, which is to say Nehru and his acolyte officials, had shaped and adopted a policy whose implementation would make armed conflict with China not only "thinkable" but inevitable.
From the first days of India's Independence, it was appreciated that the Sino-Indian borders had been left undefined by the departing British and that territorial disputes with China were part of India's inheritance. China's other neighbours faced similar problems and, over the succeeding decades of the century, almost all of those were to settle their borders satisfactorily through the normal process of diplomatic negotiation with Beijing.
The Nehru government decided upon the opposite approach. India would, through its own research, determine the appropriate alignments of the Sino-Indian borders, extend its administration to make those good on the ground and then refuse to negotiate the result. Barring the inconceivable -- that Beijing would allow India to impose China's borders unilaterally and annex territory at will -- Nehru's policy thus willed conflict without foreseeing it.
Through the 1950s, that policy generated friction along the borders and so bred and steadily increased distrust, growing into hostility, between the neighbours. By 1958, Beijing was urgently calling for a standstill agreement to prevent patrol clashes and negotiations to agree on boundary alignments. India refused any standstill agreement, since it would be an impediment to intended advances and insisted that there was nothing to negotiate, the Sino-Indian borders being already settled on the alignments claimed by India, through blind historical process. Then it began accusing China of committing 'aggression' by refusing to surrender to Indian claims.
From 1961, the Indian attempt to establish an armed presence in all the territory it claimed and then extrude the Chinese was being exerted by the Army and Beijing was warning that if India did not desist from its expansionist thrust, the Chinese forces would have to hit back. On October 12, 1962, Nehru proclaimed India's intention to drive the Chinese out of areas India claimed. That bravado had by then been forced upon him by public expectations which his charges of 'Chinese aggression' had aroused, but Beijing took it as in effect a declaration of war. The unfortunate Indian troops on the frontline, under orders to sweep superior Chinese forces out of their impregnable, dominating positions, instantly appreciated the implications: 'If Nehru had declared his intention to attack, then the Chinese were not going to wait to be attacked.'
On October 20, the Chinese launched a pre-emptive offensive all along the borders, overwhelming the feeble -- but, in this first instance, determined -- resistance of the Indian troops and advancing some distance in the eastern sector. On October 24, Beijing offered a ceasefire and Chinese withdrawal on the condition that India agree to open negotiations: Nehru refused the offer even before the text was officially received. Both sides built up over the next three weeks, and the Indians launched a local counterattack on November 15, arousing in India fresh expectations of total victory.
The Chinese then renewed their offensive. Now many units of the once crack Indian 4th Division dissolved into rout without giving battle and, by November 20, there was no organised Indian resistance anywhere in the disputed territories. On that day, Beijing announced a unilateral ceasefire and intention to withdraw its forces: Nehru, this time, tacitly accepted.
Naturally the Indian political public demanded to know what had brought about the shameful debacle suffered by their Army. On December 14, a new Army commander, Lieutenant General J N Chaudhuri, instituted an Operations Review for that purpose, assigning the task of enquiry to Lieutenant-General Henderson Brooks and Brigadier P S Bhagat.