Monday, August 7, 2017

Chinese propaganda: yesterday ...and today

Indian POWs in Tibet with blaring loudspeaker
I have often mentioned on this blog, The Three Warfares, more particularly the Propaganda/Information Warfare.
Today China believes that it has mastered the Art and that it has demonstrated it in brainwashing many Indian journalists in the wake of the Doka La confrontation, near the trijunction between Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim.
This may have been true during the first weeks in view of the of the paucity of information (and knowledge) from the Indian side.
Propaganda (or disinformation) has always taken an important place for the survival of a totalitarian regime. It continues today, whether it is with North Korea or China.
During the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict, the Indian POWs in Tibet were subject to the heavy Maoist propaganda machine. Unfortunately in most (not to say all) of the cases, it did not work.
Today, the Chinese are probably attempting to brainwash the Indian soldiers on the ridge on the heights of the trijunction in Bhutan.
If they do, they are again bound to face a failure once again…
The Indian jawans is just not brainwashable!

Here is the account of a young captain who was taken to Tibet as POW war in October 1962. He recalls his days in the camp in the Yarlung Valley.
Note that I had earlier posted another account of the Indian POWs in Tibet on this blog.

Initially, Capts [captains]and below were housed together with the JCOs [Junior Commissioned Officers] in one of the village tenements. The Chinese discovered that their political propaganda was effectively countered by some of us whenever their officers came to us for “friendly chats”. In the event, it had no effect on any of our JCOs and the result was that when we met the NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers] at mealtimes (twice daily) the same was effectively countered by all of us for ensuring that they are not wrongly influenced. This realization to set in, took the Chinese authorities almost one month. It was them that all eight of us were shifted to another hut. Although this reduced our contact time with the JCOs, we nevertheless still met twice daily at the Langar [Common kitchen] and made it a point to counter some of the blatant lies which the Chinese were trying to spread. Somehow the Chinese had come to the firm conclusion that if they could mete out exemplary punishment to one of us, the articulation of opposing viewpoints to their propaganda would either stop or would be stifled to a low murmur. This was the background to the drama enacted in late Dec’62 when the whole camp was gathered at one place (excluding Fd Offrs [Field Officers]) and a charge sheet was read out against me, in Chinese duty translated by Lt Chou in English and another interpreter in Hindi, “for trying to …our dissension in the cordial relations between Chinese and Indian People”. Accordingly, “criminal Capt …is awarded 30 days solitary confinement.” As in case of our SCM [Summary Court Martial], there was a small squad standing nearby which handcuffed the prisoner and escorted me away to the place of confinement.
This event had a salutary effect on everyone for a day or two, as I learnt later. I was kept in a dark room with no light, but twice a day a sentry used to leave the food plate inside. Lt Thong visited me once every day and tried to persuade me to officially apologise for being an enemy of Chinese-Indian friendly relations and to connect my ways for future. He promised that as soon as I accepted my mistake, the rest of my punishment would be commuted. While it was quite depressing for the first two days I found that regular recitation of Japji Sahib [Sikh mantra recitation] , the only “Path” (Prayer) I know by heart helped me retain my spirit. By the third day I found myself walking inside that dingy room which was diagonally 7 ½ paces, practically throughout my waking hours, and made me much more determined than on the first two days. The plan to effect and escape from the PW camp was fortified in my mind over the next two to three days, while still in solitary confinement.
On the fifth day, Lt Thong and the Company Commander (Fatty) came to my cell at about mid-day and said that the camp Commandant had decided to take a lenient view of my crime, and in order to promote age-old friendly relations between the two peoples, has decided to release me unconditionally. It is only when I rejoined my other colleagues that I learnt of the counterproductive effect my punishment had on the men of my Para Troop, officers/JCOs and NCOs of our company. All of them expressed open resentment to the Chinese interpreters who used to visit them over the day for “friendly chat”. 2/Lt [Second Lieutenant] A, my Gun Position Officer, and 2/Lt B. of 2 Rajput were extremely vocal in telling all the JCOs and NCOs at meal times to display their unhappiness to the Chinese on their action. A. also told me that, you had also forcefully told the Chinese that it was a folly on their part to have tried to somehow tame me. I think Thong or Chou conceded to him that they did not realize that I would not break after one or two days and agree to apologise publicly. Had my prayers not given me the required strength, I could have crumbled and agreed to accept my mistake. Perhaps, they would then have repeated the drama effecting my release in front of everyone. It is due to the strong support from my seniors like you, my own colleagues and JCOs/men of our company and the OR of my Troop who were in another sub unit who made the Chinese rethink and release me unconditionally on the fifth day.
On returning to my colleagues, I took only two of them in confidence to join me in planning escape from the PW camp. While I did think of including 2/Lt D. as well but he was slightly handicapped due to his injury. Thus, it was only A., B. and self who went ahead and collected the Tibetan dresses and footwear from the locals in exchange for our cigarette rations. On the days when we were on water-duty for the Company Langar it was easy for us to contact the residents living in the village en route to the stream from where the water was collected. When I came to seek your blessings and approval in Feb 63, rations of Sampa [tsampa or barley flour] for one month or so plus apparel and footwear had already been mustered and one guide arranged. He was keen to flee Tibet and was the main service whom I had befriended for the execution of our plan. As I look back, I cannot help realizing that the success quotient of the plan conceived by us was very low. Your matured advice, based on far more experience, was invaluable in touring down our bubbling spirit to teach the Chinese a lesson. Within three weeks of my meeting you for the plan approval, the Chinese announcement of repatriation of PWs commencing was made. I think the date was 2 Mar 63. While the senior Officers left soon thereafter, ours was the last batch to be handed over on 25 May at Bumla. We left the camp on 22 May and reached the handing over venue on the third afternoon. Throughout our return journey by road all three of us were carefully analyzing the plan we had made. While we realized even then that our chances of getting across successfully were not high, passage of years and experience leaves, no room for doubt that we did not have even a 10% chance of success. It was only the daring spirit of youth which propelled us to seriously go-ahead with a plan with such a low probability of success...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You're right about brainwashing. But you should not dismiss another dimension in the methods used by China. There are ears within the Indian establishment that are sensitive to China's current discourse. It is always useful for China not to neglect these ears. But beyond that, future wars will have other forms: to categorize the perceptions of the enemy society, to dissuade for fear of escalation. And the positions taken by the Chinese Ministry of Defense, the military maneuvers of the PLA are certainly in this perspective.