Sino-Indian Border Dispute
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Issue Vol. 23.4 Oct-Dec 2008 | Date : 29 Aug , 2011

China launched full scale invasion on India in 1962. In fact, Chinese invasion had commenced way back in 1906 when it maneuvered and succeeded in concluding the 1906 Convention in Calcutta.

In this Convention, China was recognized as the suzerain of Tibet. By doing so, Britain virtually handed over Tibet to China .Thus China was no foreign power to Tibet; she was her suzerain instead. This heralded the foundation of Sinkiang Province with Tibet’s South Eastern and Eastern boundaries overrun by Manchus Army. By sheer providence Tibet survived. Manchus were overthrown in 1911 with Chinese troops rising in revolt against their officers. This led to Britain helping in repatriation of Chinese soldiers through India. Tibet declared her independence in 1912. Britain wanted to annul the provisions of 1906 treaty. They held the Shimla Convention in 1914. Prolonged deliberations between   Britain, China and Tibet took place prior to the holding of this Convention.

The 1962 debacle was a national shame that was avoidable had the Chiefs of Staff advised Nehru on the tactical, strategic and pragmatic dimensions of this tall order.

The trade interests of Britain hindered their desire to settle the Indo -Tibetan frontier. Chinese design to expand southwards and Tibet wanting to remain independent, were conflicting .While McMahon Line was demarcated on the map, ‘Outer-Inner’ Tibet boundaries were drawn .China wanted Tibet to be declared an integral part of China. China at this point and time did not want to annoy Britain, and Tibet but in consonance with her design, did not commit to any permanent solution of the national frontier. China consented to the agreements of Shimla Convention but did not ratify the same. The entire attitude of the British was half-hearted towards the Shimla Convention. In the mean time, Sun Yat-Sen had formed a strong political party on modern lines in 1917- known as the Kuomintang, “The National Peoples Party” or KMT in short. Chiang Kai-Shek took over KMT in 1925 and ruled china till he was overthrown by the communists in 1949. India became independent in1947 and she inherited the dispute from the British .If British had wanted, they, with a stroke of the pen could have easily settled the issue.

Mao replaced Chiang in 1949. He had a two point agenda. First to invade ,occupy, assimilate , and harmonize  Tibet,  and second , to dominate  the southern slopes  of the last highest range of the Himalayas from the Chinese side  and the first  from the Indian side. This was accomplished by Mao   with precision. Tibet was invaded in 1950. The Govt of India formally declared Tibet as a part of China. Nehru helped China in accomplishing and harmonizing Tibet. India acted not only naïve but remained a mute spectator to these happenings near her vitals. Why  was Nehru trying to make friends with a race with whom India has no similarity, and why this open trust and friendship was being exhibited to a neighbour we do not even understand till date, is beyond comprehension ! There is no commonality between India and China. While China was consolidating her gains all along the northern borders from 1947 till 1962, Indians were generally not aware about the Chinese activities. With a totally dismal intelligence network and a system coupled with apathy and indifference from ‘powers that be’, India was living in her own world under the Nehruvian mindset and in an utopian world of her own creation. To top it, Nehru with boyish alacrity went ahead to introduce Chou-en-Lai at the Bangdung Conference and forcefully advocated a berth for China in the United Nations. He went ahead with Panchsheel and the slogan ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’, little realizing that there was no brotherly element   between the two so called brothers. The shrewd Chinese were enjoying the fun and taking full advantage of the situation. Chou-en-Lai was invited to take salute at the Passing Out Parade at the National Defence Academy, Kharakvasla and was even taken to some defence establishments. Possibly, Nehru  was carving a niche for himself as an  international statesman fully  knowing  that his  initiative    in 1948 to go to the United Nations  seeking solution of the  J&K problem had yielded nothing except  generating adverse  criticism at home.

Let us not forget that Chinas nuclear deal with Pakistan was signed in the same year when Deng Xiaoping was shaking Rajiv Gandhis hand.  Lets also not forget that during President R Venkatramans visit to Beijing, China conducted its nuclear test, let us also not overlook the growing Sino-Pak nexus. As Chanakya said: “Watch thy neighbour and “˜my enemys enemy is my best friend”˜.”

Chinese continued to expand in Aksai Chin and elsewhere at will and Indian weak protests /representations were brushed aside as minor aberrations in interpretations of maps. Nehru ill-advised, aided and abetted by his foreign ministry diplomats, ‘Yes Ministers’, and a super ambitious General declared, on the floor of the Parliament that India should throw the Chinese out. The most ridiculous thing was that the then ‘ Yes Chief of Army Staff ‘ had no conviction and compunction to tell either the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister that the Indian Army was not prepared and equipped to take the so called ‘Forward Policy’ to its logical conclusion. The 1962 debacle was a national shame that was avoidable had the Chiefs of Staff advised Nehru on the tactical, strategic and pragmatic dimensions of this tall order! It was unfortunate that the geo-political and geo-strategic realities were not taken cognizance of. Unfortunately the situation is much the same even today. This was the second big national security blunder .We somehow have not come out of that  the ‘China Mindset ‘ even today. Our policies and strategies are not in keeping with the ground realities and future perspectives.

The Indian scenario is replete with such strategic blunders. After the 1965 Indo-Pak War, we again lost on the negotiating table at Tashkent, wherein we returned the strategic Haji Pir Pass and other territories of strategic importance and significance, captured by our brave soldiers at the cost of their precious lives .Our politicians signed on the agreement without realizing the long term effects or repercussions. Just imagine Line of Control was agreed upon which abruptly terminated  at NJ 9847 without defining on paper any  schedules of joint survey beyond this point, or putting in black and white the future course of action/sequence of action. Today if we talk of Saltoro Ridge as the watershed boundary, at least some mention of this ground reality even recognized by International Law could have been made in the agreement .The Pakistanis very conveniently drew a line on their map joining NJ 9847 with Karakoram Pass thus giving birth to the Siachen Dispute. It may be recalled that a sizeable portion of the Shaksgham Valley of J and K had been illegally gifted by Pakistan  to China in 1963.The height of all blunders was the Shimla Agreement when India returned 92,000 Prisoners of War to Pakistan without getting anything in return. We are Samaritans and ‘Good People’ who do not keep our national interests in mind and do-not learn from history. Today, India is surrounded by countries which are anti India and armed by China. Growing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean is a warning signal .Increasing sectarian violence and terrorist activities are a bye-product of failure of our foreign policy with neighbouring countries. All this growing animosity does not augur well.  Indian foreign policy is controversial, in that, it is not clear whether she is in pursuit of world peace all on her own, or, she is pursuing to help the expansionists and the political and commercial opportunists to economically dominate without keeping note of her vital national interests.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen (Dr) Mohan Bhandari, (Retd.)

was in the Military Operations Dte during the Kargil conflict. He is the author of Solving Kashmirand Kargil Vijay.

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