The Chinese attempt to meddle with India during the 1965 India – Pakistan war ended in red face, as per a US declassified report. In the initial stages of the 1965 crisis, Peking had limited its involvement with false propaganda of a reportorial nature slanted to point up Indian culpability.
After discussions in Karachi on 3 and 4 September between Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Yi , the Chinese increased their propaganda support of Pakistan, pledging that they would “firmly support” Pakistan against India’s “armed provocations.”
As per the records, there were reports of uncertain reliability that Chen offered more concrete support– arms aid and/or a “second front”–but that Pakistan declined for the time being. In any event, Ayub told the US ambassador on 6 September, just after India had launched its major attack in the Punjab, that “we have not approached the Chinese. We do not want them … ”
Ten days later when battlefield reverses and the suspension of US military aid had made the Pakistani position more desperate, Peking issued an ultimatum to New Delhi to dismantle certain “military structures of aggression” on the Chinese side of the Sikkim-Tibet border within three days or face “grave consequences.” This threat implicitly committing China to some form of military action within a specific time limit in support of a non-Communist neighbor, was unprecedented, says the report.
The area of confrontation , however, was well chosen for a low-risk encounter. The Indians could not ignore the potential threat to the nearby Siliguri corridor, their only supply route to Assam and the ultimatum could be expected to discourage the transfer to the Punjab of units stationed in eastern India. Terrain and logistical problems, moreover, would prevent effective Indian countermeasures if shooting began.
Peking’s calculations were badly upset when on 18 September, before the Chinese ultimatum expired, Ayub began to seek a way out of the war. China was forced into a humiliati ng backdown, which it accomplished first by extending the ultimatum for three additional days and then by announcing lamely that India had met Peking’s demands.
The annoyance of the Chinese at having to suffer this embarrassment was reflected in the subsequent comment by a senior Chinese official that Sino-Pakistani friendship “can stand all tests, a formulation which has usually indicated the existence of differences, says the document.