India remembered and paid homage on Saturday to the soldiers who fought in the 1962 India-China war. Defence Minister AK Antony, Marshal of the Indian Air Force and the senior-most living officer Arjan Singh, and the three service chiefs were present at the Amar Jawan Jyoti in New Delhi to honour the martyrs.
The nearly month-long war with China, in which about 4000 soldiers and officers lost their lives, began on October 20, 1962. The 4th Division that had fought admirably during World War II was demolished, and the Indian Army was forced to retreat from Arunachal Pradesh, then known as NEFA.
Despite the humiliating defeat, the war is strewn with stories of individual valour. For instance, at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese were held back by the Gurkhas and Sikhs despite heavy odds. On the other hand, Major Shaitan Singh Bhati and 114 of his gallant men of the 13 Kumaon held back the Chinese at Rezang La.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Indian establishment have consistently ignored the 1962 India-China war and its martyrs - until now.
Ending this five-decade-long neglect, Defence Minister AK Antony led the wreath-laying ceremony, remembering the martyrs, followed by the Field Marshall of Indian Air Force Arjan Singh.
The decision to honour the martyrs appears to have less to do with the years and more to do with the fact that as a nation, India appears to be more matured and prepared to deal with the trauma of 1962.
Earlier this week, speaking to reporters after addressing the Navy Commanders conference, the Defence Minister said that India is a peace-loving nation but will develop its roads and infrastructure and the capability to deal with "any eventuality". "We are now capable of defending every inch of our country," Mr Antony said.