Sunday Levity: Pravda and the party line

The Soviet Union took sides during the India-China war…

During the 70s and the 80s, it used to be said that the Soviet Union is India’s ‘steadfast friend’ both for its political support for India at the United Nations and for its sale of military hardware to India. It was not always that way.

By remarkable coincidence the Sino-Indian conflict was occurring at the same time as the Cuban missile crisis. The latter preoccupied Moscow and Washington and provided an opportunity for Beijing to boost its standing in its rivalry with the Soviet Union for leadership of the communist world. Since 1959 the Soviet Union had demurred from taking fraternal Communist China’s side in the (Sino-Indian) border dispute, a failure of “class” allegiance that rankled Mao Tse-tung…

In October 1962, China again urged Moscow to take a “class position” on the border dispute and side with China. Preoccupied with Cuban affairs, Soviet leaders at first paid little heed to the looming clash in South Asia. However, on October 22, following President Kennedy’s public announcement of the missile crisis, Soviet leaders scrambled to build Chinese and other communist support for their harrowing position in the Caribbean. On October 25, Pravda published a front-page article approved by the Central Committee rejecting the previous Soviet position on the Sino-Indian dispute and now deeming the McMahon line a “notorious” result of British imperialism that could not be considered valid. Pravda argued further that India was being incited by imperialists…

As the Cuban crisis wound down the Soviets realized that their overture to China had failed. Beijing had mercilessly chastised Moscow for trading in the “liberty and rights” of Cuba. With the Sino-Soviet split and the cooling off of the Sino-Indian military conflict, Soviet leaders in early November flip-flopped yeat again, and, through Pravda, argued that China’s position on the border dispute was unjustified. [George Perkovich/India’s Nuclear Bomb]