With Indian troops being pushed back along the border by Chinese assaults, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent a remarkable call for help to President John F. Kennedy. Given the sensitivity of the letter, it remained classified by the Indian government until very recently.
Date: November 19, 1962
Author: Jawaharlal Nehru
Title: Letter to President Kennedy
Archival Source: "India: Subjects: Ambassador Galbraith: Special file: Miscellaneous messages, 1962: October-December" folder, Box 111, National Security Files, John F. Kennedy Library
This was the second of two letters that Nehru sent to Kennedy this day.
For more, see Nehru Begs for JFK’s Help to Fight China.
19th November 1962
Dear Mr. President,
Within a few hours of despatching my earlier message of today, the situation in the N.E.F.A. Command has deteriorated still further. Bomdila has fallen and the retreating forces from Sela have been trapped between the Sala Ridge and Bomdila. A serious threat has developed to our Digboi oil fields in Assam. With the advance of the Chinese in massive strength, the entire Brahmaputra Valley is seriously threatened and unless something is done immediately to stem the tide the whole of Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland would also pass into Chinese hands.
The Chinese have poised massive forces in the Chumbi Valley between Sikkim and Bhutan and another invasion from that direction appears imminent. Our areas further North Wont on the border with Tibet in the States of U.P., Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are also threatened. In Ladakh, as I have said in my earlier communication, Chushul is under heavy attack and shelling of the airfield at Chushul has already commenced. We have also noticed increasing air activity by the Chinese air force in Tibet.
Hitherto we have restricted our requests for assistance to essential equipment and we are most grateful for the assistance which has been so readily given to us. We did not oak for more comprehensive assistance particularly air assistance because of the wider implications of such assistance in the global context and we did not want to embarrass our friends.
The situation that has developed is, however, really desperate. We have to have more comprehensive assistance if the Chinese are to be prevented from taking over the whole of Eastern India. Any delay in this assistance reaching us will result in nothing short of a catastrophe for our country.
We have repeatedly felt the need of using air arm in support of our land forces, but have been unable to do as in the present state of our air and radar equipment we have no defence age fret retaliatory action by the Chinese.
I, therefore, request that immediately support be given to strengthen our air arm sufficiently to stem the tide of Chinese advance.
I am advised that for providing adequate air defence a minimum of 12 squadrons or supersonic all weather fighters are essential. We have no modern radar cover in the country. For this also we seek your assistance. Our needs are most immediate. The United States Air Force personnel will have to man these fighters and radar installations while our personnel are being trained. U.S. fighters and transport planes manned by U.S. personnel will be used for the present to protect our cities and installations from Chinese air attacks and to maintain our communications. We should if this is possible also like U.S. planes manned by U.S. personnel to assist the Indian Air Force in air battles with the Chinese air force over Indian areas where air action by the I.A.F. against Chinese communication lines supplies and troop concentration may lead to counter air action by the Chinese.
Any air action to be taken against the Chinese beyond the limits of our country, e.g, Tibet, will be taken by I.A.F. planes manned by Indian personnel.
Determined as we are to liberate all parts of our territory which may pass into the hands of the Chinese aggressors it is clear that sooner or later we would have to neutralise their bases and airfields by striking from the air. For this purpose I request you to consider assisting us with two Squadrons of Bombers of B-47 type. To man this indispensible arm we would like to send immediately our Pilots and Technicians for training in the United States.
The Chinese threat as it has developed involves not merely the survival of India, but the survival of free and independent Governments in the whole of this sub—Continent or in Asia. The domestic quarrels regarding small areas or territorial borders between the countries in this sub-Continent or in Asia have no relevance whatever in the context of the developing Chinese invasion. I would emphasize particularly that all the assistance or equipment given to us to meet our dire need will be used entirely for resistance against the Chinese. I have made this clear in a letter I sent to President Ayub Khan of Pakistan. I am asking our Ambassador to give you a copy of this letter.
We are confident that your great country will in this hour of our trial help us in our fight for survival and for the survival of freedom and independence in this sub-Continent as well as the rest of Asia. We on our part are determined to spare no effort until the threat posed by Chinese expansionist and aggressive militarism to freedom and independence is completely eliminated.
With kind regards,