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Brookings Now

JFK’s forgotten crisis: Remember when China invaded India in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Exactly 53 years ago this week, on October 22, President John F. Kennedy announced to the nation that Soviet missiles had been discovered in Cuba. “It shall be the policy of this nation,” he said, “to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

What the president did not discuss with the American public was that, two days prior, Chinese forces attacked Indian forces along a disputed Himalayan border between the countries. As the Cuban Missile Crisis continued to play out over 13 dangerous days in October, the president monitored the evolving crisis, worried that it might draw Pakistan in. 

Watch in this video as Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel describes newly-declassified evidence that Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked President Kennedy for assistance, including the use of American air power. 

Learn more about JFK’s “forgotten crisis” in his new book, “JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA, and the Sino-Indian War” (Brookings Institution Press, 2015).

Also read an excerpt from the book, published on India Today, in which Riedel explains how American support to India kept Pakistan out of the conflict.

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