A World War over some sheeps and a few Yaks?
As I mentioned in my last post, ‘differences of perceptions’ on the Tibet-Sikkim-Bhutan and the Sikkim-Tibet borders are not new.
China used fully these differences during the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1965, threatening to interfere in the War and opening a new front in Sikkim.
This has been well-documented in the Notes, Memoranda and Letters Exchanged between the Government of India and China(known as White Papers on China) published by the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.
Today, I post an extract of White Paper No. XII (pertaining to January 1965 to February 1966). The Note relates to an incident which took place in Delhi on September 24, 1965.
An Indian politician (and later Prime Minister of India) took a herd of 800 goats to the Chinese Embassy in Delhi to send a message to Beijing: is it worth starting a war over some pastures in the Himalaya or because some herds had crossed an unmarked line?
Here is the Note given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing to the Embassy of India in China on September 26, 1965.
Let us hope that the Chinese missives are less rude today.
I wish I could find a cartoon (by Shankar for example) of the ‘incident’.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China presents its compliments to the Indian Embassy in China and has the honour to state as follows:
In the afternoon of September 24, 1965, a mob of Indian hooligans went to the gate of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi to make provocation led by Indian officials and Congress leaders and driving a flock of sheep before them.
They made a huge din, yelling that China had ‘invented absurd pretexts for threatening and intimidating India’ that ‘China wants to start a world war over some sheep and a few yaks’, and so on and so forth.
This ugly farce was wholly instigated and staged by the Indian Government. The Chinese Government hereby lodges a strong protest with the Indian Government.
The Indian Government will definitely not succeed in its attempt, by staging this ugly anti-Chinese farce, to cover up its crimes of aggression against China and the wretched picture of its troops fleeing in panic from the Chinese side of the China-Sikkim boundary.
For a number of years you have flatly denied that Indian troops had intruded into Chinese territory across the China-Sikkim boundary and built military works for aggression there.
Yet within a few days of our demand for the dismantling of the military works for aggression within a specified time-limit, the Indian troops who had intruded into the Chinese side of the China-Sikkim boundary could not but flee helter-skelter under the surveillance of Chinese troops, leaving behind numerous evidence of their crime, thus suddenly exploding the falsehood which you had so painstakingly concocted over these years.
How can you succeed in hiding your shame?
It was clearly because you knew yourselves to be in the wrong that you could not but hastily withdraw all your troops who had intruded to the Chinese side of the China-Sikkim boundary and demolish some of your aggressive military works there.
But then you felt it to be too great a loss of face, so you cast aspersions on China alleging that China wanted to start a war merely for some sheep and a few yaks. Actually, you knew full well that this was a deliberate lie. Otherwise, why did you withdraw all your intruding troops before the time-limit set by us was up?
You must return every single one of the border inhabitants and livestock you kidnapped and seized from Chinese territory across the China-Sikkim border.
But the issue between China and India is absolutely not limited to a matter of some sheep and yaks. Are your subversive activities in Tibet only a matter of some sheep and yaks?
Is your occupation of 92,000 and more square kms of Chinese territory [mainly NEFA, today’s Arunachal Pradesh] along the three sectors of the Sino-Indian border a matter of some sheep and yaks?
No. All Indian intrusions, harassments and armed provocations against China are major questions involving China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and these accounts will have to be settled.
The distinction between aggression and anti-aggression can never be blotted out. The whole world now sees that it was India which launched a war of aggression against Pakistan, thus endangering peace in Asia and the world, and that it was China and other justice-upholding countries which by their firm anti-aggressive stand punctured your aggressive arrogance. It is understandable that you are feeling very much ill at ease.
But you will never succeed in your attempt to coerce China into abandoning her just stand by concocting the lie about China wanting to start a world war. The Indian Government should know that it cannot do what it likes to its neighbouring countries even with the backing of the U.S. imperialists and the modern revisionists. In staging a few forlorn and unseemly anti-Chinese demonstrations you have your undivulgeable motive – to seek reward from the imperialist and modern revisionists. But the Chinese Government must remind the Indian Government that there is a limit to everything, and that the exceeding of such a limit will not be tolerated.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Indian Embassy the assurances of its highest consideration.
On October 1, the Indian Government answered the allegations by sending Note to the Embassy of China in India.
It is a reply to two Chinese communications; one dated September 24 about Tibetans taking refuge with their yaks in India and the above.
It also mentions China’s ‘ultimatum’ to India.
The ministry says:
In the two notes under reply the Chinese Government has again belaboured the trumped-up and farcical allegations which have formed the terms of its impertinent ultimatum to India. The Government of India have already repudiated each and every one of these allegations. As regards the so-called military structures, which the Chinese had made into a casus belli, the Government of India and the entire world are amused by the Chinese Government’s statement that these have since been demolished by Indian troops while ‘withdrawing’ within the time-limit set by the Chinese Government. The fact was that there were no Indian troops in Tibetan territory to be withdrawn and that there were no Indian military structures in Tibet to be destroyed. The Chinese Government had, indeed, admitted this indirectly by its refusal to allow an independent observer to go to the border and also by rejecting its own proposal for joint inspection when the Government of India accepted it.
Both the ‘construction’ and the ‘demolition’ of military structures by Indian troops were a Chinese myth-a myth which has now exploded in the face of its own authors.
The Note continues:
About the four Tibetan inhabitants allegedly kidnapped by Indian troops, an adequate reply has been given in the Indian notes of September 17 and 21. Like other Tibetan refugees these four people had come into India on their own volition and without our permission and taken refuge in India. They are free to go back to Tibet at any time if they desire to do so. A propos the 800 sheep and 59 yaks the Government of India have already given a reply in the clearest terms possible. We know nothing of the yaks and as regards the sheep it is up to the two herdsmen concerned to take them to Tibet if and when they choose to go back to their homeland.
Then it comes to the incident in front of the Chinese Embassy in Delhi.
The Indian Note remarks:
In its note of September 26, China has protested against the peaceful demonstration which was held near the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on September 24 when some of the citizens of Delhi took in procession about 800 sheeps. The Government of India had nothing to do with this demonstration. It was a spontaneous, peaceful and good-humoured expression of the resentment of the citizens of Delhi against the Chinese ultimatum and the threat of war against India on trumped-up and trivial issues. In India, as the Chinese Government is, no doubt, aware, citizens have the right of peaceful assembly and of peaceful demonstration. There is no reason for the Government of China to protest against this. The demonstration was not only peaceful but the demonstrators kept themselves more than 50 yards away from the gate of the Embassy building.
It further adds that full security protection was provided to the Chinese Embassy:
This peaceful demonstration by a number of private citizens of Delhi was entirely in conformity with the laws of India and with the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Indian citizens under the Constitution. The Chinese Government has absolutely no right to interfere in the internal affairs of India. The protest is, therefore, rejected as completely unwarranted.
The rest of the Note deals with the inflow of Tibetan refugees in India, a topic very sensitive for Beijing in the 1960s … and today too.
South Block says:
The Chinese Government appears to have been embarrassed by the statement in the Indian note that there are not four but thousands of Tibetans who have left their homeland and taken refuge in India. But that is a fact, though not a creditable one for the Chinese regime in Tibet. The Chinese note has stated that these thousands of Tibetan refugees are a debt which India owes to China. On the contrary, it is a debt which China owes to the people of Tibet for making it impossible for them to live in freedom and dignity in their own motherland. It is interesting that a mention has been made in the Chinese note to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
These remarks were bound to upset China further.
However, Delhi continues to give its views on the matter:
In March, 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled from Lhasa, following the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and took asylum in India, the Chinese Government had stated that His Holiness was ‘abducted to India by Tibetan rebels’ and kept under duress by the Indian authorities.
At that time, India still speaks about an ‘invasion’, a term which is not used anymore today.
The Note recounts the sequence of events:
However, on December 17, 1964, the State Council of China, while dismissing the Dalai Lama from his posts as the Chairman and member of the Preparatory Committee for the autonomous region of Tibet, described His Holiness as having ‘staged a traitorous armed counter revolutionary rebellion against the country in 1959’ and to have fled abroad. Now the Chinese Government has changed its tune once again and has alleged that the Dalai Lama and others were enticed or coerced to go to India.
Using strong words, Delhi points out: “The falsehoods propagated by the Chinese Government do not even possess the virtue of consistency. The Chinese Government ought to be aware that rebellions do not take place under enticement or coercion.”
And says: “Where there is oppression, there is rebellion. It is futile to blame India for the troubles in Tibet and for large number of Tibetans being forced to leave their hearths and homes for refuge in other countries.”
The entire White Paper is available on my website.