On 25th August 1959, around 300 Chinese troops crossed into the Longju
region of the Subashin Frontier division and opened fire at the Indian post
there. The post was completely surrounded and was captured, but the Indian
garrison was later released. In both cases the Chinese heavily outnumbered
the Indians. The Indian posts were isolated and solely dependent on air
supply. They were typically manned by 12-15 men and with no chances of
reinforcements, since there were no access roads leading to them. This was a
glimpse of things to come, unfortunately all that transpired were a few protest
notes from the Ministry of External Affairs.
By late 1959, Chinese excursions into Indian Territory were getting more
and more frequent, and as a result the Army was finally given control of the
Indian border in NEFA. The 4th Indian Division was ordered into Assam,
from Punjab. It was given the task of defending the entire McMahon line
from the Bhutan tri-junction to the Burma border. Unfortunately, it was a task
that it was ill prepared and equipped to handle. India’s plans of peaceful
settlement were momentarily shattered by these acts of aggression.
India again seized on an opportunity to settle when Chou En-lai visited
Delhi in April 1960. Chou En-Iai, however, wanted to reopen the whole
2,000 mile-long border. He had earlier indicated that China would agree to
India’s claim in the northeastern sector, but went back on this when the
Indian side would not agree to the Chinese claim-line in Ladakh.
An opportunity to settle the problem was thus lost. While unconfirmed
rumors flew, not without some credibility, in the Indian press that the
Chinese were training Maoist guerrillas in India’s northeast, Chou left for
Nepal and made an anti-India statement there, inflaming passions on both
sides and making the situation even more tense. Each side tried to extend its
actual line of control and the border question became a matter of prestige and
test of strength for both.
After much protest by India, to these acts of aggression on its territory,
the Chinese made it clear that the Sino-India border had never been formally
delimited and that it is making claims to certain sectors of the boundary in
dispute. China went further, accusing India of trying to unilaterally change
the state of the border by “pressing forward steadily across the eastern section
of the Sino-India border”.