ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Inception of Aviation Routes between India and China

Chinese National Aviation Corporation initiated the diplomatic relations for air connectivity between China and British India in the 1930s. The proposal included extending the CNAC’s service from Chungking in South-west China with Dinjan (in upper Assam). This was the context for the development of an air route between China and India. This commercial venture (which was threatened by World War II) played an active part in the wartime operation, especially after the fall of Rangoon and the consequent capture of the Burma Road by the Japanese forces.

There has been an emergence of new research which focuses on the impact of World War II in ­India. Indivar Kamtekar, for instance, looks at the impact of war propaganda—what did not happen, as distinct from real events—what happened (Kamtekar 2002a). In yet another piece, he argues that the war efforts increased “the state’s appetite for resources” in India and Britain. But the similarity ends here because the war had differential social impacts on diverse classes (Kamtekar 2002b). Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper (2005) provide us the story of how the Allies operated among the hill peoples of the Assam–Burma frontier. They look at the various ways in which people were mobilised for the war effort, as their participation became vital for the withdrawal of the Japanese forces.1 Alternatively, Jangkhomang Guite (2010) provides us with a different story of the World War II episode in North East India. He speaks about the participation of local people (Kukis) with the Indo–Japanese forces not only in terms of materials, labour and intelligence services but also in terms of men of war. Although these approaches are innovative methodologically, as a supplement to these studies, I want to deploy the perspective of transport history to throw light on what happened with particular emphasis on British Assam and the war drama in its neighbouring Southeast Asian stage. This article is an attempt to study the coming of the transnational air transport built during World War II. The role of air transport in wartime has been so far understudied. In fact, the logistics of war depends on an efficient transport networks needed for quick troop mobilisation. Efficient transport is the prerequisite for success in war as well as for commerce.

North East India provided some of the most memorable spectacles of World War II. The region witnessed frantic constructions of not only road networks but also aerodromes aimed at mobilising armies and opening new tactical supply routes. The fall of Rangoon and the consequent capture of the Burma Road in 1942 under Japanese forces necessitated the construction of an alternative supply route between British India and Southwest China. These transport logistics built during wartime facilitated the movement of material assistance to the Chiang Kai Shek’s Chinese Nationalist Government forces fighting against the Japanese. Air fields built in Assam during the war period played strategic importance as it ensured the withdrawal of Japanese forces from Assam–Burma frontier and ultimately from China. This is the context for the development of the wartime air transport between British Assam and China. However, soon the success of this institutional memory seems to be forgotten when Indian military weakness was exposed during the Indo–China war of 1962.

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Updated On : 23rd Aug, 2017

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