Patel died in 1950 and could not taste success of seeing the Congress flooded with cultural nationalists. Nehru who died 14-years later - almost succeeded in his objective to de-fang the communists. Paradoxically, Patel’s stature grew after his death; Nehru’s reputation took a nosedive.
Ignoring, Nehru-Patel’s primary allegiance to the nationalist bourgeois, the right wing academics and analysts insist on the apparent differences between the two. Patel’s 07 November, 1950, letter to Nehru is cited as proof of former’s vision and latter’s myopia.
Spelling out his concerns about communist China Patel had then written, "Chinese ambitions in this respect not only cover the Himalayan slopes on our side but also include important parts of Assam. They have their ambitions in Burma also…While our Western and North-Western threat to security is still as prominent as before, a new threat has developed from the North and North-East. Thus for the first time after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate on two fronts simultaneously."
Patel did not have to inform Nehru. In 1949, speaking to Indian army officers in Srinagar Nehru had said, “Chinese revolution has upset the balance of power and the center of gravity has shifted from Europe to Asia thereby directly affecting India.“
There was no difference between Nehru and Patel on the Chinese issue. The latent bonhomie between the two resulted from their joint vision that informed them that China was the only route through which communism could ingress into India.
It was well known in early 1950s that the US had embarked on a Soviet containment strategy. Willy-nilly both were too eager to be a part of this western game; because such a global game helped them tame the domestic communists like the BT Ranadive and EMS Namoodripad.
The major difference between Patel and Nehru was on the approach to be adopted to contain communism. Patel wanted an all out aggression against China. Nehru’s approach was more nuanced. Much like the Americans, Nehru saw Mao’s communism as an opportunity drive a wedge in the Soviet camp as well as slice the Indian communist movement.
Nehru’s Tibet policy in the early 1950s was in tune with the American thought process. With the Korean front about to open up, America wanted the issue to only simmer and not blow up. Patel was in a hurry to join the western bandwagon and rhetoric on Tibet. And there in lay the genesis of India- China war of 1962.
In the 1950s Patel and Mao were both involved in the process of consolidating their nations. Throw out the last vestiges of imperial legacy. However, the Chinese never questioned Patel’s tactics in Hyderabad or Kashmir, the question that we need to dispassionately ask is why did Patel shout about Tibet?
Post Independent India had been truncated and vast chunks of territory sacrificed at the altar of Western strategic imperatives - similarly, China too had been chipped (Taiwan, Macau, Tibet, and Hong Kong) by the transatlantic big bankers.
In 1950s our Air and Naval chiefs were still British - Nehru had PMS Blackette as his military advisor and Chester bowels as his international affairs guru. Under such circumstances, India was as independent as Afghanistan or Iraq is today.
The Pakistan front had been kindled through regular arms supplies and support on Kashmir from America. Therefore, any Indian leader who even thought of opening up the China front in the East could hardly be called a visionary. It is for this reason that on Sino-Indian question Patel should fall into the category of class warrior rather than a statesman.
Both India and China were in the same boat, yet Patel saw evil in China. The only explanation for these leaders and many others with similar ideological bent of mind is that they were driven by the interests of propertied elite rather than any larger national interests. Their sense of detachment from their class and American interests were not as complete as the Chinese, who not only refused Soviet nuclear submarines in the 1958 to protect their land from becoming a Soviet military base but also told the Soviets in the 1960s,
“If the international Communist movement collapsed, this will not cause the sky to fall down.”