The ‘Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India’ was signed April 29, 1954 in Beijing.
It has remained (in) famous for its preamble, containing the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence; the Agreement became known as the Panchsheel Treaty (from Pali, panch: five, sheel: virtues)
Soon after the signature one could hear the refrain: “The Government of India found its old advantages in Tibet (military escorts, trade agencies, trade mats, dak bungalows, telegraph lines, etc..) of little use and in any case the Chinese exercised full control in Tibet.”
For P.N. Kaul, who was one of the Indian negotiators, India was just getting rid of her colonial past: “But, more important was the fact that they were vestiges of imperialist domination and violated the principle of equality, Nehru’s policy was not a replica of British policy and he did not want any irritants of no practical value.”
Tibet had been an independent nation for nearly 2000 years; in one stroke India was given away the Land of Snows’ independence under the pretext that India’s presence in Tibet was an imperialist remnant.
However for Nehru, it represented for “an attempt, the first in post-World War II history, to put bilateral relations between the two big countries of Asia on a principled basis. Its success would depend on the intentions and motives, the national aspirations and interests, the leadership and implementing machinery on each side.”
When the Prime Minister presented the ‘Agreement’ in the Parliament he was in his revolutionary mood; he proclaimed: “Now we must realise that this revolution that came to China is the biggest thing that has taken place in the world at present, whether you like it or not.”
In the same speech Nehru spoke described the content of the Agreement Panchsheel: “Live and let live, no one should invade the other, no one should fight the other… this is the basic principle which we have put in our treaty.”
He had forgotten that China had invaded Tibet three years earlier.
He later summed up the Parliamentary debate by saying: “in my opinion, we have done no better thing than this since we became independent. I have no doubt about this… I think it is right for our country, for Asia and for the world.”
A few years later, he felt ‘betrayed’ by Zhou Enlai and Communist China.
But was he really betrayed?
I recently came across an interesting document which shows that Nehru had been warned about China, even before signing the Agreement.
On March 18, 1954, five weeks before the signature, N. Raghavan, the Indian Ambassador to China, wrote a personal note to the Prime Minister: “It was drawn up on the basis of my own observations and experience as also of my study of Chinese relations with us since the advent of New China. I have tried to take as objective a view as possible.”
The Ambassador tells the Prime Minister: “The Chinese unlike our warm-hearted people, are not emotional by nature, and while the Indian people often display an emotional approach towards China, the Chinese themselves have none such towards India. …Any friendship [in China] is evaluated from the standpoint of its usefulness to China.”
Raghavan explains: “For security reasons, I have not dealt with this aspect in my Annual Report for 1953.”
I am posting here the Ambassador’s ‘Top Secret’ Note to the Prime Minister.
It is worth reading this note as it shows that Nehru had been warned several years before the situation on the border became tense, which eventually ended up in a short War in October 1962.
The Panchsheel Agreement had lapsed 6 months earlier.
Note on Sino-Indian Relations
by N. Raghavan
What is the attitude of the Government of New China towards India? This is a vital question, the answer to which it is the duty of India’s accredited representative at Peking to find out if possible. After a careful examination and objective analysis of the various trends, express and implied, observed for about 18 months, one cannot but help coming to certain conclusions. That there is a definite policy towards India is certain. Whether it is a settled one or subject to changes, it is yet difficult to say. The period, November 1952 to December 1953, the period of India’s active participation in the settlement of the Korean question, was not only an extremely trying time in Sino-Indian relations, but was, to some extent, a period of revelations. China’s attitude towards India was occasionally discernible without the usual trimmings or diplomatic window-dressings. However, in the examination of Chinese policy as such towards India and her Government, one has to discount statements and expressions of opinion made by Chinese Government spokesman and official journals in the heat of controversy due to dissatisfaction.
As far as observations go, the answer to the question as to what really is the attitude of the Chinese Government towards India is briefly as follows:
- To remain correct and friendly, without being warm and cordial, in their relations with the Government of India.
- To prepare the way for the cultivation of warm and cordial relations with the ‘People of India’, as distinct from the Government of India. (The publicity line is such as to lead one to think that the Chinese Government enjoy the confidence and admiration of the Indian people to a greater extent than even the Indian Government!)
- To wait for the emergence (in which the Chinese are Led to believe) of a “People’s Government” of India and to do what they can to advance and accelerate such emergence.
- Until then, to ‘play down’ India and belittle the achievements of her present Government (including their contribution to world peace and progress) or at least to keep the Chinese nation in ignorance of them.
- To the extent possible, without offending India or her Embassy at Peking, to project India as a capitalist country, suffering from all the economic and political ills of capitalism, colonialism and feudalism; and as such, still not free, but awaiting ultimate liberation by her people (meaning the Communist Party).
- To make use of India and her independent role in international affairs, but to see as far as possible that by doing so, India does not increase her stature in the international fields so that China’s ultimate role as the leading Asian Power will in no manner be affected or threatened.
New India is considered an anachronism, a half-way house at best, in the transition from capitalism and semi-colonialism to Communism and “Popular Democracy”.
As a corollary to the Chinese attitude it was observed that China gave publicly no credit to the Indian Government for its impartial assistance in the solution of the Korean problem because, to the Chinese mind, no credit was due. It was thought that the Indian Government could not have pursued any policy other than one of utmost assistance to China as the Indian people would not have allowed anything else to be done. While the Chinese let no occasion pass without singing peans of praise of the Soviets and their contribution to Peace, and while no opportunity was missed to acknowledge the deep gratitude of the Chinese people and Government to the fraternal Soviet people and Government, not a line was publicly uttered or published in praise of India and no word of acknowledgement or thanks has so far appeared in the Chinese Press for the great and universally acclaimed contributions of India and her Government t o a Korean Armistice. India had more than her fair share of blame, criticism and condemnation in the Press and at Party meetings whenever she did not adopt the Chinese line, but little or no approbation or appreciation even when India did something palatable to the Chinese.
The only public reference to India’s great role in the Korean Armistice negotiations was a reference by Prime Minister Chou En-lai at a reception to a team of visiting Indian Artists in July, 1953, when he acknowledged with thanks the assistance given by the Indian Ambassador at Peking; but even this was blacked out from the Press Reports of the speech. Since the friendly policy of the Indian Government is not placed to its credit but is ascribed to public pressure which it cannot possibly withstand, it is not surprising that the Chinese Government did not – as even President Eisenhower did – send any formal letter of appreciation on the work of the Indian Custodian Force or of the Indian Chairman of the NNRC, to the Government of India.
Even during the days of ‘the illegal Indian Resolution’ as well as the ‘illegal handing over of the Prisoners to the detaining sides’ the Chinese line was to show that the objectionable steps taken by India were against Indian opinion.
The view of the Chinese Government that while the Government of India endeavours to remain neutral, it is not a free Government but is subjected to direct influences of Britain, and indirectly of U.S., is also occasionally visible. It was significant that according to a report that reached the Embassy of a speech delivered by one of the leading Chinese statesmen at a Secret Session of the Government Council in February 1953, the Chinese view was, more or less, as follows:-
Indian Government, as it is today, is a capitalist Government and to that extent, not reliable; India, as she is today, cannot be considered a friend, but is useful, as she is more or less certain to remain neutral in any conflict. As such, friendly relations are to be carefully maintained.
If China has a policy or programme of immediate or long-term friendship with India, one would naturally expect to see some signs of it. At least the people of the country would have been prepared. The tendrils of the gigantic Publicity Octopus of the Government of China would have tried to reach all parts of the country in a programme of kindling friendly interest in India and her people.
It is true that for centuries China remained self-centered. No other country seemed to exist for China. The same tradition might, to some extent, be persisting even today. But people are taught about Soviet Russia and Sino-Soviet relations with meticulous finesse, day in and day out.
For all the protestations of Asian patriotism by Chinese leaders in private conversations, there is absolutely nothing done to stimulate the interest of the Chinese people in other countries of Asia or to educate them on China’s affinity, or at least friendliness towards them. India is no exception. At best, she might be occupying a special position in Chinese policy – neither friend, nor foe.
At times, one is led to wonder whether there exists a lurking feeling in some Chinese circles or rivalry – even of jealousy – a fear that India may be a threat to Chinese leadership of Asia, a role which China aspires one day to play. It is curious to observe that even references to ancient connections between India and China or to India’s past contributions to Chinese culture are studiously avoided (except in unreported speeches at banquets to visiting Indian delegations).
Not only nothing is done to popularise India, but anything that might enhance her prestige is not very happily received. The anniversary of India’s Republic Day usually passes unnoticed. No news paper or other journal ever mentions names like Gandhi or Tagore.
No Indian happening appears to be of the slightest interest, unless it be a C.P.I. Congress or election victory, a Lucknow students strike or a ‘Peace’ Committee Resolution. India, apart from pro-Chinese extracts from Indian newspapers and especially from the Communist journals, remains practically blacked out in the Press of this country.
None of the thousands of bookshops in China sells any book on India – whether cultural, political or economic. While delegations of a particular colour are invited from India, invitations by the Government of India or public bodies for Conferences held in India are not welcomed or accepted. Uninvited Indian tourists do not appear to be welcome. Exchanges of students and scholars between the two countries are discouraged. Indian film publicity (Indian Information Service documentaries) has never been in demand as in other friendly countries.
Though there was little or no adverse publicity against India for the last year or so, except in so far as India had failed to toe the Chinese line concerning Korea, no information was vouchsafed to the public concerning the great strides that the Indian people under the leadership and guidance of their Government had been making in various fields. Perhaps it is felt that any publicity concerning Indian achievements would not be helpful to the new regime in China in its propaganda to establish Chinese superiority in all fields.
The Chinese people should be made to feel superior. The only country that can do better than China is the Soviet Union. The studied silence on major happenings in India and visible indifference to India’s domestic and international achievements were, therefore, understandable.