Nehru Allowed U-2 CIA Spy Planes in India after 1962 Chinese Incursion

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Washington, DC – The United States in 1962 stepped in to help India after the Chinese incursion and to ascertain the extent of Chinese advances into Indian territory, when Delhi allowed Washington to use Indian airspace and later an airbase for refueling its spy planes, according to declassified CIA documents.

After the October 1962 defeat, when the People’s Republic of China “overran all Indian fortifications north of the Brahmaputra Valley before halting their operations,” the Indian Government appealed to the United States for military aid, said the report from the independent National Security Archive (NSA), based on the latest set of declassified documents it obtained from the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act.

While evaluating India’s request, the US noted that the extent of the Chinese incursions could not be reliably evaluated; John Kenneth Galbraith, the US Ambassador to India at the time, suggesting using US aerial reconnaissance to provide both governments with an accurate picture.

India’s First Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on November 11, 1962 consented to allow the US to use Indian airspace for refueling the CIA’s U-2 spy planes to conduct renaissance of Chinese territories after a humiliating defeat in the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the report disclosed.

After receiving briefings from the flight missions in January and March of 1963, Prime Minister Nehru informed the Indian Parliament “about Chinese troop movement along the border.” The report further noted, “Although Nehru did not reveal the source of his intelligence, a UPI wire story surmised that the information had been obtained by U-2s.”

The U-2 missions carried out by the US were taking off from Takhli, Thailand, testing the endurance of the crew and the aircraft. With the intelligence community hungry for more coverage of portions of Western China that were still out of range of these missions, Ambassador Galbraith along with the chief of station at New Delhi in April 1963 “made the first official request to India for a base.”

Indian President S. Radhakrishnan in a meeting on June 3, 1963 with the US President John F. Kennedy agreed to allow the use of Charbatia, an abandoned World War II base, south of Calcutta (now Kolkata), but Indian work to improve it took longer than expected, so the missions resumed from Thailand’s Takhli, the NSA disclosed, based on the hundreds of pages of CIA reports released.

With the first mission out of Charbatia taking place on May 24, 1964, there was a suspension of further missions from there, as three days later Prime Minister Nehru died, the report said.

“The pilots and aircraft left Charbatia but other remained in place to save staging costs,” the report said, noting that in December 1964, when Sino-Indian tensions increased along the border, the US teams, “returned to Charbatia and conducted three highly successful missions.”

“By this time, however, Takhli had become the main base for Detachment G’s Asian operations, and Charbatia served merely as a forward staging base. Charbatia was closed out in July 1967,” the report concluded.

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