The Time A NATO Country Was Invaded and NATO Did Nothing

The invasion of Goa

Grant Piper


Annexation of Goa. In Wikipedia.

On December 17th, 1961, after weeks of military build-up, a column of Indian tanks and motorized infantry rolled across the border of Goa. Goa was a Portuguese territory that was administered directly as a part of Portugal itself. Talks broke down after Portugal refused to cede control of their ancient possessions to India. Instead, fanatical generals issued orders to the Portuguese garrison to try and hold out to the last man.

India outgunned the small Portuguese garrison over 10:1. Portugal had just 3,500 defending troops standing in the path of 45,000 Indian soldiers. But Portugal had a secret weapon. They are a part of NATO. Goa was a territory that Portugal had held for almost 500 years, and it was considered a part of Portugal proper, not a colony or territorial possession. If the Indian tanks crossed into Goa, NATO was obligated to respond.

Unfortunately for Portugal, NATO did nothing. The communists in the USSR backed India’s bid to retake Goa and applauded their actions to “reunify” India and accelerate decolonization in the world. With Russia’s boisterous backing, India proceeded confidently, and NATO sheepishly backed down.

So much for Article 5.

The Status of Goa

(Public domain)

Goa was an ancient Portuguese territory that anchored their Indian Ocean possession for centuries. Goa was the administrative center for the entire Indian Ocean and had long ago been integrated as a part of Portugal proper. Goa was the name for a string of trading posts, ports, and forts owned and controlled by Portugal on the Indian subcontinent. Goa was founded in 1505 after a series of lucrative trade routes linking Europe to the Far East were found.

That means that Goa was a part of Portugal for 456 years. That is far longer than the United States has been in existence and even longer than the British presence in North America.

By 1961, most of Portugal’s territories had been lost or returned over the previous century. However, they were determined to hold onto Goa…



Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.