Dialogue October-December, 2012, Volume 14 No. 2
1. India, China and the Loss of the Himalayas
The Chinese invasion of India in October-November 1962 left India thoroughly humiliated and the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru physically and psychologically broken and disillusioned. Nehru asked one of the most eminent Europe and America’s China experts: "Tell me, why have the Chinese done this to me?" The reply was some thing like this: "They have done this to show you that you are dirt, that you are negligible, that they are all powerful and you are nothing."1 Needless to say that the invasion was to teach India a lesson, as the Chinese did to Vietnam later in February 1979. The then Supreme Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping arrogantly boasted that his country was teaching Vietnam a lesson.
China could do it because the Himalayas ceased to exist after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The communist country thoroughly and silently worked to muster strength to fight against India. India ignored thorough militarisation and military infrastructure build up by the Chinese on the Tibetan Plateau. India allowed her own resources – her political parties, intellectuals and even some diplomats such as K.M. Pannikar – to promote the Chinese cause against its own interests. The country ignored its own defence build-up as well as its vital interests in Tibet. It continued to ignore development of expertise on Chinese behaviour, mindset and strategy. Naturally, her ostrich-like behaviour could not save her.
Nehru was shocked because more than anybody else in the world, he had worked to promote China globally and expected China’s reciprocation. He least expected an invasion from that country. There is no doubt that deception is an essential part of Chinese policy and strategy. In September 1962, just a few days before Chinese invasion of India, the then Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Yi assured the Indian Defence Minister Krishna Menon that a small skirmish on the borders of two brothers like India and China was nothing. He said, "We are first brothers, let us preserve this brotherhood." In spite of such things, it may be said that the Chinese betrayal is a myth. Mao’s China never kept its intention to liberate Tibet, and even India, a secret.
Morality did not come in the way of the strategy of Mao. While Nehru was promoting China in Bandung, Zhou Enlai indulged in backstage intrigue against India with his Pakistan counterpart Mohammed Ali. He assured him that Pakistan’s membership of US-sponsored military pacts were no hurdles to a close relationship with China.2
The Himalayas Ceased to Exist
When India attained freedom in 1947, it had only 75 policemen on this side of the Indo-Tibetan.border to guard its Himalayan frontier. The situation, however, drastically changed soon after the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) of Mao crossed the Tibetan frontier. The gigantic peaceful buffer zone no more existed after the fall of Tibet in 1949, about which the Indian Representative in Lhasa prophetically forewarned through his cabled report to New Delhi just after the start of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. He wrote: "The Chinese have entered Tibet; the Himalayas have ceased to exist." The Indian diplomat understood the implications that the Himalayas, the greatest mountain range of the world, no longer guaranteed the security of India; New Delhi did not. The 1962 invasion was, naturally inevitable.
It needs mention here that the danger was anticipated even earlier in 1914. A letter written anonymously by ‘A Wandering Naturalist’ appeared in Pioneer Mail (July 24, 1914) with the following prophetic statement:
"We might well bear in mind that, at present everybody in Asia is engaged in a game of grab - even the chief victim (China), and if in the future anyone who has suffered from this policy is in a position to retaliate, he is likely to do so without discrimination. This being so, it would be wise to make our Indian frontier as secure as possible now, before the storm comes, and for that reason Great Britain can never afford to see China take Tibet... it would be of great advantage to us to place a friendly and possibly a formidable buffer state between the two empires, since it is the Tibetan Plateau, not the Himalayas, which form the real northern frontier of India. That is to say, we should uphold the status quo as it was a year ago after the (Chinese) revolution (of 1911) and if China does not agree, fight with her for the possession to Tibet since it would be easier to wage an aggressive war now than it will be to carry on a defensive one 10 or 15 years hence ... Mongolia has virtually perished - Tibet follows unless Great Britain signs her charter of freedom; and it requires no foresight to see what that implies. It will be the cheapest way in the end."3
Sino-Tibetan Historical Links
Tibet’s history begins with its first monarch who ruled the country from 127 B.C. It, however, emerged as a unified state and mighty empire in the seventh century A.D. under Emperor Songtsen Gampo. Both the king of Nepal and the Chinese emperor gave their daughters to him in marriage. The golden era of Tibetan history lasted for three centuries. Tibet, like any other country of the world, came under different degrees of limited foreign influence and interference in its long history. Its neighbours, the Mongols, the Gorkhas of Nepal, the Manchu emperors of China and the British rulers of India, played their parts. But the process was not one-sided. Trisong Detsen, who ruled Tibet during 755-797, conquered parts of China. Its capital, Chang’an (Xian of today) was invaded in 763 AD and China had to pay an annual tribute to Tibet. A treaty, concluded in 783 AD., demarcated the border between the two countries. There is mention of some Tibetan conquest in China on a pillar inscriptions on a stele at the foot of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The text of yet another peace treaty concluded in 821 AD.was inscribed in Tibetan and Chinese on three stone steles. It states:
"Tibet and China shall abide by the frontiers of which tbey are now in occupation. All to the east is the country of Great China; and all to the west is, without question, Great.Tibet. Henceforth, on neither side shall there be waging of war nor seizing to territory."
One stele was erected at Gungu Meru in the extreme East to demarcate the borders between Tibet and China, the second in Lhasa and the third in Chinese capital of Chang’an. It also needs mention here that’the Tibetans were the dominating power in Tarim Basin at least from the middle of the eighth until the middle of the ninth century".4 Tarim basin is present day Chinese Turkistan.
Genghis Khan and his successors created one of the vastest empires of the world stretching from Pacific Ocean to Eastern Europe. Prince Goden, Genghis Khan’s grandson, dispatched an expedition to Tibet and invited Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyalsen (1182-1251), one of the eminent spiritual hierarchs of Tibet to his court. This initiated Choe-Yon (priest-patron) relationship between them. Goden’s grandson and successor, Kublei Khan, embraced Tibetan Buddhism and adopted Drogon Phagpa, Sakya Pandita’s nephew, as his spiritual mentor. Kub1ei Khan adopted Buddhism as the state religion of his empire, and Phagpa as the empire’s highest spiritual authority. Kublei Khan offered to his Tibetan Lama political authority over entire Tibet in 1254 and conferred many titles on him. The important point to be noted in this context is that:
(1) This relationship (Choe- Yon) was a purely
(2) It pre-dated Mongol occupation of China and
Chinese Sung dynasty. Yuan (Mongol) dynasty was not a Chinese one. China formed only a small part of their empire.
(3) Tibetans never paid tax to the Yuan exchequer.
(4) Choe-Yon relationship continued
between Tibetan Lamas and
Mongols even after the overthrow of the Yuan dynasty in China.
(5) Unlike the Chinese, the Tibetans had their own
of administration, including Head of the State (Dalai Lama), a
Cabinet (Kashag), a National Assembly (Tsongdu), bureaucracy
and judicial system.
(6) The Government of Tibet levied taxes, minted money, issued postal stamps and ran its own postal service. and
(7) It had its own army.
Eighteen years before the overthrow of the Mongol rule and establishment of a Chinese ‘Ming’ dynasty in China, Sakya Lamas were replaced as the most powerful rulers of Tibet by a new Tibetan king, Changchub Gyaltsen (1350-1364), who enacted a Code of Law (Trimyg Shelchey Chonga) and ended whatever religious cultural ties the Mongol Khans maintained in the form of Choe-Yon relationship after that point of time.
Sporadic visits of Tibetan Lamas to the Chinese Court continued during the Han rule. With a difference that these Lamas didn’t belong to the ruling class of Tibetans. Some Tibetan kings of Tsang dynasty (1565-1642) did visit China during the Ming rule, but these visits did not exhibit any kind of subordination.
The Manchus incorporated China into their empire by overthrowing the Ming dynasty. The new rulers of China belonged to the Qing dynasty (1639-1911). The fifth Dalai Lama became the most powerful ruler of Tibet in 1642 with the backing of his Mongol patron Gushri Khan. Regarded as a ‘Supreme Sovereign (Gongsa Chenpo) by the Tibetans, he maintained good relationship with both the Mongols and the Manchus. In 1639, he sent his envoy to the court of Qing Emperor Tai Tsung. Following Chinese Emperor Sbunzi’s invitation to the fifth Dalai Lama for a state visit to his imperial capital in 1653, the 5th Dalai Lama visited the same. The Tibetan sovereign and spiritual leader was accorded unprecedented respect during that visit, as recorded by W.W. Rockhill:
"(The Dalai Lama) had been treated with all the ceremony which could have been accorded to any independent sovereign, and nothing could be found in Chinese works to indicate that he was looked upon in any other light. At this period of China’s relations with Tibet, the temporal power of the Lama, backed by the arms of Gusri Khan and devotion of all Mongolia, was not a thing for the emperor of China to question."5
Contrary to what is claimed in China’s 1992 White Paper (Tibet – Its Ownership and Human Rights Situation), the title of Dalai Lama was not conferred by the Manchu monarch on the fifth Dalai Lama. In reality, the tittle ‘Talai’ (Dalai) Lama was conferred on Sonam Gyatso, the third incarnation of Panchen edum Drup, by Mongol monarch Altan Khan a hundred years earlier and then retrospectively on two previous incarnations.
Throughout the Qing rule, except for the last 2-3 years before their overthrow in 1911, the Manchu rulers firmly maintained the role of patron in the overall framework of Choe- Yon relationship with their Tibetan Lama priests. They readily sent their royal army helping the Tibetan government on four occasions: in 1720, to drive out the Dzungar Mongols from Tibet and escort the newly discovered Dalai Lama to Lhasa; in 1792, to drive out the invading Gorkha force from Tibet; and in 1728 and 1751 to restore order after the civil wars in Tibet. Every time the Qing army was called, it retired after finishing the given task. The Tibetans themselves dealt with incursions from Jammu in 1841-42; from Nepal in 1855-56 and Youngyhusband expedition from British India in 1903-04.
In 1753, just after the Nepali incursions, the Qing emperor suggested 29 points to the government of Tibet for strengthening their administration. That the suggestions were not mandatory is clear from the following statement of the imperial envoy and the commander of the Manchu army, General Fu K’ang-an:
"The Emperor issued detailed instructions to me, the Great General, to discuss all the points, one by one, in great length. This demonstrates Emperor’s concern that Tibetans come to no harm and that their welfare be ensured in perpetuity. There is no doubt that the Dalai Lama, acknowledging his gratitude to the Emperor, will accept these suggestions once all the points are discussed and agreed upon. However, if the Tibetans cling on their age-old habits, the Emperor will withdraw the Ambans and the garrisons after the troops are pulled out. Moreover, if similar incidents occur in future, the Emperor will have nothing to do with them. The Tibetans may, therefore, decide for themselves as to what is in their favour and what is not, or what is heavy and what is light, and make a choice on their own."6
The Tibetans implemented some of the suggestions. One of the suggestions was on the selection of the great incarnate Lamas, including the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, by drawing of lots from golden urn. The suggestions were only occasionally adhered to.
India’s Link with Tibet
India’s religious, cultural and literary links with Tibet need no elaboration. The relationship between the two nations during the last 2,200 years of their history remained most cordial and free from conflict. According to a Tibetan legend, a king of Koshala did not participate in the Mahabharata war, went to Tibet (Bhot) and established its first monarchy there. According to French scholars, Bon, the pre-Buddhist religion of Bhot, was derived from the word Pon/Punya. Bon, as described, was a form of Shaivism. As both Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva, and Mansarovar are located in Tibet, it does not seem to be improbable. In this connection, the relevance of Dr. Rammanohar Lohia’s statement, that no community settles its gods in foreign country, needs to be kept in mind.
Tibet: A Pawn in Colonial Game
The beginning of the 20th century proved not auspicious for Tibet. It became a helpless pawn in the great colonial game in which Britain, Russia and China were the players. The game had rather started before the end of 19th century. The British, unable to deal with Tibet independently and fearing Russian infiltration there, concluded two treaties with China in 1890 and 1893 without the participation and knowledge of Tibet although the same had provisions regarding Tibet. Naturally, the government of Tibet rejected them. This led to British invasion of Tibet in 1903 under Colonel Younghusband’s command. The Chinese government did not fulfill its obligations towards Tibet under Choe-Yon relationship and Amban Yu Tai held the Tibetans responsible for the invasion. The Younghusband expedition was withdrawn from Lhasa after a treaty, also known as the ‘Lhasa Convention’, with the Tibetan government that gave implicit recognition to Tibet’s unrestricted sovereignty in internal and external matters. China was not a party to the treaty; rather it was a foreign power for Tibet as per the terms of the 1904 Convention Para (d) of the Article IX of the convention, which reads:
"The Government of Tibet engages that, without the previous consent of the British Government (d) No concessions for railways, roads, telegraphs, mining or other rights shall be granted to any foreign power or the subject of any foreign power."
Thus China was a foreign power as per this Article. The British, however, signed another Adhesion Agreement with China in 1906 and one with Russia in 1907. These agreements recognized the existence of sphere of British influence in Tibet. It also introduced the concept of Chinese "suzerainty" over Tibet. These developments were followed by Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1908. Article IX(d) of 1904 treaty with Tibet was modified vide Article III of the Adhesion agreement with China to read:
"The concessions which are mentioned in Article IX (d) of the Convention concluded on September 7th 1904 by the Great Britain and Tibet are denied to any state or subject to any state other than China."
Thus, China was included to take its help, if needed, and with a view to exclude Russia, which was the cause of greater worry for the British rather than a weak China. To neutralise Russia further, the 1907 Agreement between Great Britain and Russia was reached, as per which "the suzerain right of China over Tibet" was recognized to assure Russia of the equidistance of Tibet with both Great Britain and Russia.
The Dalai Lama, who left Lhasa a few days before Younghusband expedition, traveled to parts of Tibet, Mongolia, Siberia and other republics of Russia and parts of China, before reaching Beijing in September 1908. Contrary to what was expected, he was asked to kowtow to the Emperor and sit on a lower throne like any other vassal. He declined to do so, following which a diplomatic solution was finally found. He was to meet the Emperor and the Empress informally, dispensing with the rigid court protocol. He was accordingly invited to the palace after a few months. The Emperor died soon after and the Dalai Lama performed the funeral rites. When the Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa in December 1909, more than five years after the British troops had crossed the bridge on the Tsangpo river, he found the situation totally changed. The Chinese invasion of Tibet was on. The protector was stabbing the protege priest. The Choe-Yon relationship was already dead.
Manchu Invasion of Tibet/China’s Forward Policy
The Younghusband expedition destroyed the military strength of Tibet and exposed its inner weaknesses. At the same time, China witnessed vacillation of Great Britain. Moreover, Tibet developed inner conflict. Relations between Lhasa and Kham were not smooth. Incidentally, the Khampas exhibited the same contempt for Lhasa even in 1950 after four decades, which helped China to "liberate" Tibet smoothly. Under such circumstances China decided upon a new Tibet policy. General Zhao Erfeng, the Chinese warlord and Governor of Sinning, was appointed the new Army Commander for Tibet. Zhao (known in Tibet as Butcher Zhao) started advancing in the Tibetan territory as soon as Younghusband departed from the plateau. His brother Zhao Erxun was responsible for Sichuan. The Zhao brothers aimed to integrate Tibet into the Chinese empire. They began by dividing Tibet into different administrative divisions; Amdo became the new administrative province of Qinghai. Parts of it were integrated into South of Gansu and northwest of Sichuan. Kham became Xikang, Zhao invaded Kham in 1905. He began meticulously "razing monasteries, killing monks and beheading Tibetan officials, who were immediately replaced by Chinese officers in his effort to cinicize Kham."7 As French explorer Jacques Bacot has described: "Zhao was a truly terrible man, extraordinarily energetic and hard; he could coldly do things, after reflection, which would surprise us even when we knew that he was a maniac of cruelty."8 As Charles Bell has written: "The memory of Chao Erfeng’s (Zhao Erfeng) ruthless invasion in Eastern Tibet, his destruction of the monasteries and killing of monks has established a memory of bitterness that is still alive in Tibet"9 While the Empress continued to reassure Dalai Lama, the ground situation was just the opposite. Slight protests or old grudge resulted in mass killings. As many as 1,210 monks and laymen were butchered in Chating, and-more than 300 in Bating. Even the Dalai Lama was sacked. The Tibetan government sent an emissary to Calcutta with a request for sending a telegram to Beijing as the Amban did not forward their case earlier to Beijing. The Tibetan government treaded cautiously as the Dalai Lama was still in China. When he arrived, the news of arrival of the Manchu army led him to decide to seek political asylum in India. (Similarly, 50 years later, the 14th Dalai Lama had to flee to India after PLA’s invasion of Tibet.) There was unprecedented revolt and uprising in Tibet against the Chinese, who were ousted from Tibet. The 13th Dalai Lama left Kalimpong for Tibet in June 1912. Tibet remained free for nearly 40 years till it was recaptured by the Chinese army.
The Simla Convention
Simla Convention was held between Great Britain, China and Tibet in 1914. In the convention, "Tibetans had come so well prepared with volumes and volumes of original documents, while Chinese had no documents to prove their allegations"10 The meeting was not fruitful due to the delaying tactics of the Chinese delegates. As Hugh Richardson has observed: "It was to ensure the reality of Tibetan autonomy but still to leave the Chinese with a position of sufficient dignity." In an agreement signed on April 27, China pledged not to convert Tibet into a Chinese province; on the other hand, Great Britain was not to annex any portion of the country. The boundary between Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh (then NEFA) was initialed by British and Tibetan representatives, to which McMahon gave his name. The problem cropped up as China did not want to surrender newly conquered areas of Kham (Eastern Tibet) by Zhao Erfeng, while Tibet insisted on them. The final document, of course, was signed on July 3, 1914 only by Great Britain and Tibet.
Chinese Claim Over Tibet
Tibet was an independent country when China’s PLA invaded it in 1949. The International Commission of Jurists’ Legal Enquiry Committee on Tibet thus reported in its study on its legal status:
"Tibet demonstrated from 1913 to 1950 the conditions of statehood as generally accepted under international law. In 1950, there was a people and a territory, and a government that functioned in that territory, conducting its own domestic affairs free from any outside authority. From 1913-1950, foreign relations of Tibet were conducted exclusively by the Government of Tibet, and countries with whom Tibet had foreign relations are shown by official documents to have treated Tibet in practice as an independent State."11
Chinese suzerainty claim over Tibet rests on the assertion that the area was conquered by the Mongol rulers of China. Basing on such queer logic, any country of the world may claim suzerainty over the other. For example, Greece over Iran, Afghanistan and parts of India and Central Asia; and Mongolia over China, Central Asia and parts of West Asia; and so on. (Arpi, p. 265) Moreover, for Tibet, the relationship was based on the personal relationship between the Mongol and Manchu monarchs and the Tibetan Lamas as patrons and priests. It was never a suzerain-vassal relationship between China and Tibet. Such relationship was initiated and flourished during non-Han dynasties of Yuans and Manchus.12
Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, referring to the suzerainty of China over Tibet observed: "Chinese suzerainty oyer Tibet is a constitutional fiction, a political affectation, which has only been maintained because of its convenience to both parties .... As a matter of facts the two Chinese (i.e. Manchus) Ambans at Lhasa are there not as Viceroys, but as Ambassadors."13
The status of the Amban can be gauged from the fact that Younghusband refused the former’s offer of mediation between him and the Tibetans and instead decided to deal directly with the Tibetan government. The explanation Amban Yu Tai gave to Mortimer Durnad, the then Foreign Secretary to the Government of British India, amply illustrates the status of Amban: "He was only a guest in Lhasa – not a master – and he could not put aside the real masters, and as such he had no force to speak of.?"14
The Chinese suzerainty claim over Tibet ignores the fact that its neighbouring countries – Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia – had their diplomatic missions in Tibet before the occupation of that country by the PLA. India’s special interests in Tibet were recognized and the world community supported their cause in the U.N. The Chinese "suzerainty" claim was recognized by the colonial powers only due to compulsions of their "Great Game". Incidentally, even Mao Zedong accepted Tibetans as foreigners. After he was given food and shelter during his Long March through Tibetan region, he remarked: "This is our only foreign debt, and we must pay the Mantzu (sic) and Tibetans for the provisions we were obliged to take from them."
Militarisation of Tibet
Tibetan plateau is the most militarized zone in the world today. As against India’s permanent deployment of 7-8 military divisions in the Himalayas, China has 5,00,000 soldiers stationed on the plateau.15 China has also 300 to 400 ready to fire nuclear warheads, and about 1,000 others that may be assembled at short notice, based on the Tibetan plateau. Chinese missiles bases are located at Serkhog (Datong) armed with DF-3 missiles, Terlenkha (Delingha) with DF-4 missiles and at other places to strike targets in Russia ‘and India."16
Development of Security Infrastructure in Tibet
China, right from early 1950s, planned and acted to provide and maintain its security infrastructure on the Tibetan plateau. Beijing built a 22,000-km highway network comprising 15 main highways and 315 subsidiary roads radiating from Lhasa within five decades. Railways construction took slightly more time.
The Southwest Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, the Southwest Military Region Command, and the Command Headquarters of the 2nd Field Army of China jointly issued a ‘Political Mobilisation Directive’ on November 8, 1950 on China’s armed invasion of Tibet. It read: "The task of marching into Tibet was to liberate Tibetan people, to complete the important mission of unifying the motherland, to prevent imperialism from encroaching on even one inch of our sovereign territory, and to protect and build the frontier of the motherland."17
It also directed every officer and man of the PLO to "take every care in their march forward to preserve and save manpower and materials, actively repair and build roads to develop communication and transportation, immediately after the cessation of military action".
The 2,400-km Chengdu-Lhasa road to link Tibet with China and 2,100-km Siling-Lhasa road not only secured PLA occupation of Tibet, but also brought Chinese troops and armaments at India’s doorsteps. A network of highways helped China plug all entry points of Tibet from India within seven years of its entry into Tibet.
India’s Poor Handling of Tibetan Affairs
It is a well-known fact that India did not handle the Tibetan affair properly. This cost our country immensely. India was spending about Rs 5-6 crore per day about 12-13 years ago for its protection. The Chinese are spending many times more.18 The expenditure on both sides is far greater now.
As mentioned earlier, Nehru was shocked and psychologically shattered after the humiliation suffered at the Chinese hands in 1962. He realized, though late, that he had been taken for a ride by the Chinese leaders. But was that really the case? Did China really betray India? Or what is dubbed as Chinese betrayal and deception is a myth? Was it not a case of India’s self-deception?
Nehru had a romantic view of the Indo-Chinese relations, as he was thoroughly incapable of understanding the Chinese behaviour and communist mindset of Mao and his followers. That’s why he ignored the sage advice and words of caution of his colleagues. Nehru’s remark about China, during his wartime visit to that country in 1939, is worth quoting:
"I found, to my joy, that my desire that China and India should draw closer to each other was fully reciprocated by China’s leaders, and more especially by that great man who has become the symbol of China’s unity and her determination to be free. I met Marshal Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang many times and we discussed the present and the future of our respective countries. I returned to India an even greater admirer of China than I had been previously, and I could not imagine that any adverse fate could break the spirit of these ancient people, who have grown so young again."19
Nehru further wrote:
"In my mind the problem of India was tied up with other world problems. More and more I came to think that these separate problems, political or economic, in China, Abyssinia, Spain, Central Europe, India, or elsewhere, were facets of one and the same world problem ... The challenge of fascism and Nazism was in essence the challenge of imperialism."20
The solidarity with China’s cause and struggle was not limited to words; it found active support in India. The Congress organised "thousand of meetings and demonstrations all over the country in sympathy with the people of China" and even other victims.21 Nehru continued to talk of Sino-Indian friendship even after October 1950 Chinese invasion of Tibet, as is evident by his noting dated January 12, 1951:
"Great nations have arisen in Asia with long memories of the past they have lived through and their eyes fixed on a future of promise... China has taken a new shape and a new form but whether we like that shape or form or not, we have to recognize that a great nation has been reborn and is conscious of her new strength. China in her newfound strength, has acted some times in a manner which I deeply regret. But we have to remember the background of China ... We, in India, have had two thousand years of friendship with China. We have differences of opinion and even small conflicts but when we hark back to that long past something of the wisdom of that past also helps us to understand each ether."22
It is amply clear that Nehru had very high opinion about China, but the latter did not reciprocate. Chinese Communist journal World Culture described him as "a rebel against the movement for national independence, a blackguard who undermines the progress of the peoples’ movement, a loyal slave of imperialism into (whose) slavish and bourgeois reactionary character has now been instilled the beastly ambition of aggression."23 The mismatch between Nehru’s idealism and naivety and Mao’s real politic, and their perceptions about each other proved costly for Tibet and India; the Himalayas became a zone of tension and instability. As mentioned above, while Nehru had a very high opinion about China, the Chinese leaders were full of contempt for him and other Indian leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi."24
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was not happy over the PLA entry in Tibet but India’s concerns were discourteously dismissed by the Chinese government. Patel wrote to Nehru: "It looks as though it is not a friend speaking in that language but a potential enemy". He suggested: "We have to consider what new situation now faces us as a result of disappearance of Tibet as we know it and the expansion of China up to our gates." He further noted prophetically:
"Chinese irredentism and Communist imperialism are different from the imperialism of the Western powers. The former has a cloak of ideology which makes it 10 times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national and historical claims ... While our Western and North-Western threats to security are still as prominent as before, a new threat has developed from the North and the North-East. Thus, for the first time, after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously. Our defence measures have so far been based on the calculations of superiority over Pakistan."25
Chinese Mindset and Mao’s Behaviour Towards India
China’s Sun Tzu, like India’s Kautilya and Kunika, was a great strategic thinker. His Art of War, like Arthashastra of Kautilya and Kunik Niti of Mahabharata, is a great treatise on war and statecraft. Unlike Indian leaders, who hardly know Kautilya’s writings and even name of Kunik, Mao was not cut off from Sun Tzu, who was Mao’s favourite teacher, Sun Tzu, has written: "To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting." Mao tried to do exactly the same, when he talked to Nehru on survival and supremacy of China after a nuclear war.
Charles Bell has quoted the thirteenth Dalai Lama, which provides insightful observation of the China’s behavior towards her adversaries: "The Chinese way is to do something rather mild at first; then to wait a bit and if it passes without objection, to say or do something stronger. But if we take objection to the first statement or action, they urge that it has been a misunderstanding, and cease, for a time at any rate, from troubling us further."26
Mao held Nehru and other Indian leadership in contempt for its emphasis on non-violence as also the Indian culture/religion as he had scant understanding of the same. Zhisui Li, the personal physician of Mao, in his The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The inside story of the’ man who made modern China, has written: "History had taught him to befriend distant states and be wary of those that are near ..."27
Nehru was naive and his naivety was fully used by the Chinese. His lack of understanding of the Chinese psyche and motivations also came to their help. While Mao could himself take strongest actions, he used Zhou to pacify India and the world."28
K.M. Pannikar, the then Indian ambassador in China, also gave wrong advice to Nehru to avoid any mention of the McMahon Line of 1914, demarcation of Indo-Tibetan border east of Bhutan during his talks with Beijing and the then Prime Minister was naïve enough to accept it. According to a scholar:
"Intellectually supple, Pannikar was touched by vanity and ambition and hopelessly lost in the Byzantine maze of Chinese communist politics of which he had no experience. Worse, he was reluctant to take advice from those on his staff equipped to dispense it."29
Claude Arpi has outlined three characteristics of the Chinese people during the 5,000 years of their history: attachment to their land, including what they perceive to be their land; obsession with power and thirst to dominate other powers; and dislike for loss of face.
Aggressive Chinese Imperialism
Dr. R.C. Majumdar writes about the traditional Chinese way of thinking and acting:
"There is, however, one aspect of Chinese culture that is little known outside the circle of professional historians. It is the aggressive imperialism that characterized the politics of China throughout the course of her history at least during the part which is well known to us. Thanks to the systematic recording of historical facts by Chinese themselves, an almost unique achievement in oriental countries ... We are in a position to follow the imperial and aggressive policy of China from the third century B.C. to the present day, a period of more than twenty-two hundred years ... It is the characteristic of China that if a region once acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a short period, she should regard it as a part of her empire for ever and would automatically revive her claim over it even after a thousand years when ever there was a chance of enforcing it."30
China’s strength vis-a-vis India lies in (i) its realistic policies, and (ii) India’s weaknesses. Unlike India, China never misused or wasted time, it continued to build up inner strength. It built roads and. railways on the Roof of the World, while India indulged in criminal waste of opportunities.
India’s Internal Weaknesses
India’s weaknesses in the Himalayas and in its relationship with China have been too serious and too many. Our country, very often, neglected, and continues to neglect even now, its national interests in the pursuit of so called high-minded principles. China has not only developed powerful regional assets (Pakistani and others) but also Indian ones (in politics, academia and media), who function as Chinese proxies in India. The gravity of the situation may be judged from the fact that many, even in the corridors of power in India, give certificate to China of its peaceful intentions and that there is no danger from China. China, while dealing with India, hides its capacities and actions; follows the strategy of deception and caution on the lines directed by Deng Xioping: "Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership". The Chinese diplomacy of smile and small concessions (for example, showing Sikkim as Indian territory) with occasional rebuff is in line with the same. As India lacks a proper think tank and expertise about China, the Chinese lobby dominates the silent audience of intellectuals and media men in India. Further, lack of proper understanding of the Chinese behaviour has led to ·confused signals and wrong policy initiatives on part of India since Independence.
Incidentally, it needs mention that "India’s official adoption of the Chinese languages of sovereignty came only in 2003, as a part of the price for a visit to the Beijing by Prime Minster Atal Bihari Vajpayee" and it was, according to M.L. Sondhi, a "criminal negligence."31
1. Weldron, Arthur; Viewing Future Through History, in Prakash Nanda (Ed.), RISING INDIA, New Delhi, Lancer, 2007, p. 4.
2. Premen Addy, Tibet and the Wider World in Sino-Indian Relations, in Prakash Nanda (Ed.), op. cit, p. 46.
3. Addy, quoted on Pp. 48-49.
4. B.N. Puri, Buddhism in Central Asia, New Delhi, 1987, p. 88.
5. W.W. Rockhill, The Dalai Lamas of Lhasa and Their Relations with Emperors of China, T’oung Pao 11, 1910, p. 37.
6. Quoted in Tibet for 50 Years under Communist Rule, Dharamsala; Pp. 123-24.
7. Claude Arpi, The Fate of Tibet, New Delhi (2002), quoted on p. 163.
9. Bell, Portrait of a Dalai Lama, p. 398; quoted by Claude Arpi, p. 163.
10. Claude Arpi, p. 177
11. International Commission of Jurists, Tibet and Chinese People s Republic, Geneva, 1960.
12. Claude Arpi, p. 263.
13. Papers: CD 1920, no 66, Gol to 10, January 8, 1903, India Office Library; quoted in Tibet Under Communist China: 50 Years, p. 126.
14. Sir Percy Sykes, Sir Mortimer Durand: A Biography, London, 1926; p.166.
15. Tibet Under Communist China: 50 years, Pp. 56-57; Dharamsala, India, 2001.
17. NCNA, Peking, November 1, 1950, from Hsin-hua Yileh-pao, Vol. 3, No.1, November 1950.
18. Prof. Dawa Norbu, Tibetan Buffer: Good for Both India and China, in Statesman, September 18, 1999, New Delhi.
19. Nehru, Jawaharlal; Autobiography; Delhi, OUP, 1989; p. 608.
20. Ibid, p. 601.
22. Tan Chung (Ed.), Across The Himalayan Gap: An Indian Quest for Understanding China; Delhi, Gyan Books, 1998; p. 7.
23. Addy, Premen; Tibet and the Wider World in Sino-Indian Relations, quoted; in Prakash Nanda’s book, op. cit., p. 44
24. Ibid, p. 50.
25. Ibid, p. 44.
26. Bell, Charles; Portrait of a Dalai Lama; London, Wisdom Publication, 1987, p. 112.
27. Quoted PremenAddy, p. 46
28. Arpi, p. 391
29. Addy, p. 45
30. The Organiser, Diwali issue, 1965, New Delhi.
31. Arthur Waldron, Viewing the Future through History, in Prakash Nanda’s Rising India, p. 7.
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