Reed H. Chervin

National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association postgraduate scholar, 2015–16

Topic: Australia and the 1962 Sino-Indian War

Biographical note

Reed Chervin is a PhD student in the History Department at the University of Hong Kong studying modern China. Specifically, his dissertation is on the 1962 Sino-Indian War and how numerous countries became involved in the region before, during, and after the conflict. A major part of this project concerns the role of Australia as an informed observer that had favourable relations with both Britain and the United States – the key countries that provided India with emergency aid over the course of the war.

Project summary

It seems important to focus on Australia's involvement because of the country's historic engagement with Asia (for example World War II). In addition, because Australia was a signatory of the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty, the 1962 war threatened to involve a variety of countries – not unlike the Korean War. The Sino-Indian War remains relevant since the border between the two countries has yet to be determined through mutual agreement. This project will demonstrate not only how this historic conflict shaped Cold War alliances and rivalries, but also how it continues to affect perceptions of China and India.

It will make use of the National Archives of Australia in two major ways. Firstly, to relate the regional 1962 war to global developments, through Australian archival materials. This would provide a more holistic account of the conflict by showing its connection to other transnational events like the Cuban missile crisis. National Archives' sources reveal the perspective of a first world country belonging to the Commonwealth. Such a viewpoint is crucial when examining why certain countries provided military aid to India and to what extent fears of 'Red China' influenced the amount of assistance. Second, National Archives' files that have recently become available might challenge old assumptions regarding many aspects of the war. Australian diplomats enjoyed good relations with top Indian officials, who tended to confide in them more than the representatives of other countries. As this topic remains largely overlooked in scholarly literature, documents from the National Archives will facilitate innovative research.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019