Tibet, China, Nehru and Pannikar

Anyways, to the meat of my question, I have come across 2 independent sources that imply Mr. K. M. Pannikar, Nehru's Ambassador to both Nationalist and Communist China (or "ambassador of China" as he was commonly referred to behind his back) had some, shall we say, less than honorable dealings with en-Lai.

Now Pannikar is now known to be an overt Chinese/Communist sympathizer, and was a self-proclaimed "far-leftist", who, among other things, misled and distorted, to China's advantage, diplomatic information sent by the PRC to India.

I am not doubting Pannikar was a sleezeball of a politician, but both the March 1988 edition of the Tibetan Review (referred to me by a member of the group "Citizens Against Communist Chinese Propaganda") and an second-hand piece of information given to me by a member of the group "India Friends of Tibet") independently refers to two rather unscrupulous (even for Pannikar) incidents that supposedly took place, viz. Both made remarks off-hand and cannot actually confirm it, but wrote to me that it was common knowledge.

1. On Aug 26, 1950 Pannikar told the PRC in an aide memoire that India's Tibetan policy is one of "autonomy within framework of Chinese sovereignty." This reference to "sovereignty" is absolutely not the policy that GoI wanted stated. For years since the first British adventure in Tibet, China has been referred to as having "suzerainty" over Tibet. Now, even back in the day, Lord Curzon(sp?) repeatedly admitted that this vague identity of 'suzerainty' that China appropriated unto itself via Pannikar was a "constitutional fiction", since it was included in the first Anglo-Tibetan treaty only to make sure that Tibet wouldn't tilt toward Russia, who was expanding its territory in the area at that time. It was given that Tibet was nominally independent, etc., etc. in all respects, or, imho, if anything Tibet was closer to British subjugation than Chinese.)

Regardless, British and Independent India has till Aug 26, 1950, continued to state that China had "suzerainty" over Tibet. Everyone understood that, especially in this scenario, this was a purposely-vague term that showed just how unwilling everyone was to resolve the Tibetan issue. Now Pannikar, by unilaterally calling it "sovereignty", made it clear in China's mind that implicitly or explicitly, India was giving the go-ahead to China for "liberating Tibet" [from the Tibetans, it seems] and since that fateful message, China has been using the term "sovereignty" instead of "suzerainty" to describe its relationship with Tibet. After India won her independence, both America and UK made it known that they would support any stance of India's on Tibet. Because of this 'admission' of sovereignty, both basically ignored and fluctuated their stance on the Tibetan issue until she was invaded.

John Lall, a former Diwan of Sikkim and an ex-ICS officer wrote in his book "Aksai Chin and the Sino-Indian Conflict" (which I am unable to find/verify, btw
) that he had been told by a "senior member" of the Indian Embassy in Beijing that the word change to sovereignty had been deliberately put by Pannikar.

Anyways, Pannikar continually put off issuing the PRC a rectification for the "oversight" for two whole months, though Nehru told him immediately to do so. Of course, to the Chinese it was just evidence that Nehru didn't really care if China was to invade Tibet, and by belatedly sending this correction, Nehru was indeed showing himself to be a "capitalist lackey." This little 'slip up' cost Tibet its independence and made India an eunuch in the eyes of the PRC regime, leading to the 62 war. The seriousness of these ramifications cannot be stressed.

2. The second is the rumors that supposedly spread like wildfire in governmental circles (and not just Indian) in the 50s that Pannikar was bribed by the PRC and other "extremely good treatment" was offered to him by the same.

Now, basically I'm asking the BR members here if they have any confirmation on these two points: if Pannikar deliberately used the word "sovereignty" and if Pannikar accepted bribes. The rest of the stuff above is just my extrapolation of the ramifications of the same based on the facts I can confirm.

Needless to say, this was come across in research for the 1962 Sino-Indian War site, and for inclusion in the same. Oh yes, please note that next update to the web project will (again) completely revamp the website. It will not just be about the '62 war, but it will chronicle 'China's Himalayan Invasion', or something to that effect, from ancient times and with an analysis about the potential future of both(same) conflicts.

It's been our experience that most people are simply unaware about just how intertwined the Sino-Tibetan conflict and the Sino-Indian conflict are - that they are two sides of the same coin. We, Vikrant and I, have added to the stated goal of the website. Instead of just detailing the 1962 War, we humbly hope our website will help serve as a catalyst bringing enthusiasts (though, that seems too cheery of a word) of the two conflicts together, collaborating resources and aims.

Thank you very much (and also for reading this long post),
A webmaster of:
The 1962 Sino-Indian War - a Historical Perspective

PRIVATEThe Fate of Tibet
When big insects eat small insects
Claude Arpi
with a Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
New Delhi, Har-Anand, 1999
432 pgs, Rs.595 (HB)
Reviewed by Dr. N.S. Rajaram



New light on the India-Tibet-China triangle

National interest vs international glory

Claude Arpi is a French scholar with a deep and abiding interest in spirituality, especially Tibetan Buddhism. In 1971, on a visit to Manali in the Himalayas, he met his first Tibetans, an event that was to change his life. As he tells us, "They had lost everything: their country, their wealth, very often many members of their family and still they could stand on the road and smile. …How could someone educated in a Cartesian country with a modern utilitarian education understand this bizarre phenomenon?" This was the beginning of a nearly thirty-year quest to understand the Tibetans and their tragedy. He shares the result of that experience — along with its lessons — in the magnificent book reviewed here.

The author understands that Tibet is unique among the countries of the world in having a history shaped more by sprituality than political movements. Recognizing this, he begins with a history of Tibet always keeping its sprituality in focus. In a real sense, Tibet entered the ‘modern’ period with the Younghusband expedition of 1914 that formalized the relationship between India and Tibet. But what followed, especially after India’s independence in 1947 was a tragedy of epic proportions. As Mr. Arpi shows, what Nehru and his Government did was not only betray Tibet, but also severely undermine India’s national security interests in pursuit of personal glory — even to the extent of placing Chinese interests ahead of Indian interests. This is the untold story of recent history that comes to light upon studying The Fate of Tibet. To follow this, however, we must first visit the world after Indian independence in 1947, followed by the Communist takeover of China in 1949.

In the year 1950, two momentous events shook Asia and the world. One was the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and the other, Chinese intervention in the Korean War. The first was near, on India’s borders, the other, far away in the Korean Peninsula where India had little at stake. By all canons of logic, India should have devoted utmost attention to the immediate situation in Tibet, and let interested parties like China and the U.S. sort it out in Korea. But Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s Prime Minister, did exactly the opposite. He treated the Tibetan crisis in a haphazard fashion, while getting heavily involved in Korea. India today is paying for this folly by being the only country of its size in the world without an official boundary with its giant neighbor. Tibet soon disappeared from the map. It was a tragedy both in the Greek and the Shakespearean sense.

While they may seem different on the surface, the Kashmir problem and the border problem with China very have similar roots. In Kashmir, Nehru ignored the advice of his field commanders, General K.S. Thimayya and General L.P. Sen, and referred the case to the United Nations on Mountabtten’s advice. In the case of Tibet also, Nehru chose to be guided by Krishna Menon and K.M. Panikkar — both known communist sympathizers — while disregarding the advice of Sardar Vallabhai Patel. India gave up treaty rights and interests that she had inherited from the British, allowing China a free hand in Tibet. Simultaneously, he became preoccupied with Korea in an effort to project himself as a mediator between the Socialist world and the West. In both cases, Nehru sacrificed national interest at home in pursuit of international glory abroad.

Betrayal of Tibet

Part of the difficulty in unraveling the historical scene is lack of access to records relating to the period. Nehru’s heirs continue to exercise dictatorial control over these vital documents, including those in the National Archives![b] But by a curious turn of events, many of the same records are available at the India Office in London. And thereby hangs a tale. When India became independent, H.E. Richardson, the British representative in Lhasa, was asked by the Indian Government to continue as Indian representative. And Richardson sent copies of his correspondence with his new bosses in Delhi to his former superiors in London. It was an act of questionable loyalty, but fortunate for historians. Mr. Arpi has made extensive use of these India Office records in addition to hard to obtain Tibetan records. This makes his book indespensable for understanding the events leading to the disaster of 1962.[/b]

To return to Tibet, at the time of the Chinese invasion in 1950, Indo-Tibetan relationships had been governed by the Simla Agreement of 1914. According to this agreement, ‘Outer Tibet’, corresponding to present day Tibet, was to be entirely autonomous. China would not interfere in this region, and would not also convert it into a Chinese province. (Forty years later, China violated both.) Another important decision was the demarcation of the famous McMahon Line as the boundary between India and Tibet. It is of crucial importance to note that the Chinese representative was not invited for the negotiations leading to it; nor did China ask anything about the final demarcation. The decision was reached entirely between the Tibetan representative Lonchen Shatra and Sir Henry McMahon. This means that all the parties recognized that Tibet had full authority to negotiate its boundary with India. Disputes between China and Tibet were confined to the eastern and northern regions of Tibet that made up what was known as ‘Inner Tibet’.

India at the time maintained missions in Lhasa and Gyangtse. Due to the close relations that existed between India and Tibet going back centuries and also because of the unsettled conditions in China, Tibet’s transactions with the outside world were conducted mainly through India. Well into 1950, the Indian Government regarded Tibet as a free country. China also had a mission in Lhasa, but on July 8, 1949, following the defeat of Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Government in the civil war, the Tibetan Government asked the Chinese to leave. Tibetan records show that they had planned the expulsion of the Chinese for more than a year.

These Chinese officials, being representatives of the Nationalist Government, wanted to come through India. The Indian Government (of Nehru) expressed its delicate position, but did not question the authority of the Tibetans to expel them. The Communist Chinese also, now in control of the mainland, did not demand that they be handed over. Nehru wrote to Lhasa: "The Tibetan Government are the best judges of their own interests but to us it would seem unwise on their part to take any steps which, in effect mean the forced discontinuance of the Chinese mission in Lhasa." At the same time, the Indian Government offered help to make it as smooth as possible. This clearly shows that Nehru and his Government regarded the ‘Tibetan Government’ as an independent entity that was in no way subordinate to China.

The Chinese announced their invasion of Tibet on 25 October 1950. According to them, it was to ‘free Tibet from imperialist forces’, and consolidate its border with India. Nehru announced that he and the Indian Government were "extremely perplexed and disappointed with the Chinese Government’s action… ." Nehru also complained that he had been "led to believe by the Chinese Foreign Office that the Chinese would settle the future of Tibet in a peaceful manner by direct negotiation with the representatives of Tibet…"

Nehru was being less than truthful. In September 1949, more than a year before the Chinese invasion, Nehru himself had written: "Chinese communists are likely to invade Tibet." The point to note is that Nehru, by sending mixed signals, showing more interest in Korea than in Tibet, had encouraged the Chinese invasion; the Chinese had made no secret of their desire to invade Tibet. The day after the invasion, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph summed up the situation: "The Indian Government had ‘invited’ China to open military operation on Tibet by her attitude. …From the very beginning of the year and at frequent intervals the liberation of Tibet had been proclaimed over the radio as a task of the Chinese Communist Government… The Indian Government made it equally clear that it had no desire to intervene militarily. This was a clear invitation to the Communists to proceed and the only reason for surprise is that they left it so late in the year."

Nehru sponsors China

Upon examining the records of the period one gets the uneasy sense that Nehru didn’t really mind Tibet falling to the Communists — or ‘socialists’ — as Nehru and Menon preferred to call them. There was also an element of arrogance on Nehru’s part that a ‘backward’ country like Tibet would benefit from a small dose of socialism from a ‘progressive’ country like China. When Mr. Arpi put the question to the Dalai Lama, he laughed and said: "Not a small dose, but a very large dose!"

Nehru chose to believe that China in control of Tibet posed no threat to India’s security. In this he seems to have been guided by a belief that a ‘socialist’ country like China can never be aggressive — an idea that he shared with Krishna Menon. In addition, while the Chinese were moving troops into Tibet, there was little concern in Indian official circles. Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador in Beijing, went so far as to pretend that there was ‘lack of confirmation’ of the presence of Chinese troops in Tibet and that to protest the Chinese invasion of Tibet would be an "interference to India’s efforts on behalf of China in the UN". So Panikkar was more interested in protecting Chinese interests in the UN than India’s own interests on the Tibetan border!

Amazingly Nehru concurred with his Ambassador. He wrote, "our primary consideration is maintenance of world peace… Recent developments in Korea have not strengthened China’s position, which will be further weakened by any aggressive action [by India] in Tibet." So Nehru was ready to sacrifice India’s national security interests in Tibet so as not to weaken China’s case in the UN! It is unclear how his "primary consideration" of maintaining world peace would be served by the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

It is nothing short of tragedy that the two greatest influences on Nehru at this crucial juncture in history were Krishna Menon and K.M. Panikkar, both communists. Panikkar, while nominally serving as Indian ambassador in China, became practically a spokesman for Chinese interests in Tibet. Sardar Patel remarked that Panikkar "has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions." This was to lead eventually to India repudiating its right to have a diplomatic mission in Lhasa on the ground that it was an ‘imperialist legacy’. Apparently it did not strike Nehru that his own position as Prime Minister was also an imperialist legacy, especially as he had been Prime Minister in the interim Government in 1946.

In all this there was a belief amounting to dogma that only European powers could be imperialist. This flies in the face of recent history — of Japan in the Second World War and China after it. This dogma was one the factors that contributed to Nehru’s discredited ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’. Mao of course had no reciprocal affection for India and never spoke of ‘Chini-Hindi Bhai Bhai’ — or its Chinese equivalent. Far from it, he had only contempt for India and its leaders. Mao respected only the strong who would oppose him, and not the weak who bent over backwards to please him.

Sardar Patel’s warning

Nehru’s sentiment was not shared by others. Sardar Patel for one observed: "Even though we regard ourselves as friends of China, the Chinese do not regard us as friends." He wrote a celebrated letter in which he expressed deep concern over developments in Tibet, raising several important points. In particular, he noted that a free and friendly Tibet was vital for India’s security, and everything including military measures should be considered to ensure it. He made two telling points: (1) A reconsideration of retrenchment plans for the army (following World War II) in light of the new threats posed by China’s aggressive designs in Tibet. (2) A long-term assessment of defense needs to assure adequate supplies of arms, ammunition, armor and communication equipment.

On November 9, 1950, two days after he wrote the letter to Nehru, Patel announced in Delhi: "In Kali Yuga, we shall return ahimsa for ahimsa. If anybody resorts to force against us, we shall meet it with force." But Nehru ignored Patel’s letter. Patel, though not flamboyant like Nehru, clearly understood the ground rules of international affairs including timely and effective use of force. He recognized that in 1950, China was in a vulnerable position, fully committed in Korea and by no means secure in its hold over the mainland. For months General MacArthur had been urging President Truman to "unleash Chiang Kai Shek" lying in wait in Formosa (Taiwan) with full American support. China had not yet acquired the atom bomb, which was more than ten years in the future. India had little to lose and everything to gain by a determined show of force when China was struggling to consolidate its hold.

In addition, India had international support, with world opinion strongly against Chinese aggression in Tibet. The world in fact was looking to India to take the lead. The highly influential English publication The Economist echoed the Western viewpoint when it wrote: "Having maintained complete independence of China since 1912, Tibet has a strong claim to be regarded as an independent state. But it is for India to take a lead in this matter. If India decides to support independence of Tibet as a buffer state between itself and China, Britain and U.S.A. will do well to extend formal diplomatic recognition to it."

But this was not to be. Nehru ignored Patel’s letter as well as international opinion and gave up this golden opportunity to turn Tibet into a friendly buffer state. With such a principled stand, India would also have acquired the status of a great power while Pakistan would have disappeared from the radar screen of world attention. Much has been made of Nehru’s blunder in Kashmir, but it pales in comparison with his folly in Tibet. As a result of this monumental failure of vision — and nerve — India soon came to be treated as a third rate power, acquiring ‘parity’ with Pakistan. Two months later Patel was also dead. And for the next nearly half century, India’s fate was in the hands of small men and women of no vision. It demonstrated the truth of Edmund Burke’s observation: "Little minds and a great empire go ill together."

India recognizes China

India gained nothing from this conduct except hostility from the West. Even more than India’s later friendship with the Soviet Union, it was the squalid betrayal of Tibet and the sponsorship of Mao’s China that soured India’s relationship with America. Acharya Kripalani declared in the Parliament: "Soon, this nation [China] that was struggling for its own freedom, strangulated the freedom of a neighboring nation [Tibet], in whose freedom we are intimately connected." And the great historian K.D. Sethna, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo wrote:

"In recognizing Red China the Indian Government has committed a mistake whose gravity beggars description. We have made a New Year’s gesture, which would rank as one of the stupidest in our history if its stupidity were not surpassed by its perniciousness." It is worth noting that India got nothing in return from China or anyone else for the generosity. At the very least, India should have demanded settling the boundary between the two countries in return for recognizing China at a time when it was treated as an international pariah. Nothing like that was done. National interest apparently didn’t enter into Nehru’s calculations.

Pancha Sheela but no boundary

This brings us to another important contribution of Mr. Arpi’s book, the deception practiced by Nehru on the Indians themselves. On the heels of this twin blunder — abandonment of Tibet and sponsorship of China, with nothing to show in return — Nehru began a third march of folly and deception in which national interest became subordinate to his pursuit of international glory. This was called Pancha Sheela.

There was ample historical and contemporary evidence to show that China respected only strength and not pacific pronouncements based on utopian fantasy. If China were such an admirer of pacifism, it would not have brutally erased the peaceful state of Tibet. But Nehru wanted to see none of this. As Mr. Arpi observes, "nothing would stop Nehru from going ahead with his policy of friendship with China. Over the years, the myth of the Indo-Chinese friendship would grow larger and larger, becoming a ‘brotherhood’, until that day in October 1962 when Lin Biao and his PLA [People’s Liberation Army] on the Thagla Ridge in the West Kameng Division in NEFA [Arunachal Pradesh]."

The Pancha Sheela, which was the principal ‘policy’ of Nehru towards China from the betrayal of Tibet to the expulsion of Dalai Lama in 1959, is generally regarded as a demonstration of good faith by Nehru that was exploited by the Chinese who ‘stabbed him in the back’. This is not quite correct, for Nehru was himself guilty of both policy blunders and deception: Nehru (and Menon) knew about the Chinese incursions in Ladakh and Aksai Chin but kept it secret for years to keep the illusion of Pancha Sheela alive.

Indian public deceived

This brings us back to Mr. Arpi’s book. Pancha Sheela was not the only deception, as Mr. Arpi convincingly shows. What the Indian public does not know is that Nehru and Menon had been fully informed about the Chinese encroachment in Aksai Chin — years before it became public. Most Indians learnt of the Chinese encroachment in 1959, when the Dalai Lama was forced to come to India. General Thimayya had brought the Chinese activities in Aksai Chin to the notice of Nehru and Menon several years before that. Mr. Arpi produces evidence showing that in 1955, an English mountaineer by name Sydney Wignall was deputed by Thimayya to verify reports that the Chinese were building a road through Aksai Chin. He was captured by the Chinese but released and made his way back to India after incredible difficulties, surviving several snowstorms. Now Thimayya had proof of Chinese incursion.

When the Army presented this to the Government, Menon blew up. In Nehru’s presence, he told the senior officer making the presentation that he was "lapping up CIA agent provocateur propaganda." This is not the whole story. I can confirm that Wignall was not Thimayya’s only source. Shortly after the Chinese attack in 1962, General Thimayya, in a talk in Bangalore, mentioned that he had deputed a young officer of the Madras Sappers (MEG) to Aksai Chin to investigate reports of Chinese intrusion. The officer was captured by the Chinese who were there in strength, but released some weeks later, after he signed a few papers. I had the opportunity to see Thimayya the next day and discuss it in more detail. On neither occasion did Thimayya say anything about Wignall’s report but confirmed that he had informed the Government about the Chinese occupation of Aksai Chin several years before it was made public. In all this, the victims were the Tibetans and the Indian public.

In summary, The Fate of Tibet by Claude Arpi is a monumental contribution to the study of this important but poorly understood phase of Indian (and world) history and foreign policy. It sheds new light and raises important questions for the Indian political-military establishment — and the public. Unfortunately, the editorial work on this major work is not on the same level as the author’s diligence and scholarship. Panikkar’s name is often misspelt, and surely, a work as important and complex as The Fate of Tibet deserves an index. It is hoped that these will be corrected in a future edition. In the meantime, the author has produced a work of first importance that must be studied by every serious student of this history and every policymaker in India.


Dr. N.S. Rajaram is a mathematician, linguist and historian of science who was associated with several US Government agencies for twenty years.




May 19, 1998
Satyindra Singh (The writer is a former rear-admiral)

Thirty-four years ago this month (May 27, 1964) Nehru passed into history. For most of his life, if Nehru did favour one country above all others, it was China. During the dark days of 1942, Nehru said: "I see the future filled with hope because China and India are friends and comrades, in the great adventure of man".

And then, in the year 1950, the first shock was experienced: China invaded Tibet. The truth is that Nehru was hurt and ominously confused. His words were mild: "The Chinese have acted rather foolishly and done some injury to their cause...It is natural that our enthusiasm for supporting China wanes somewhat and we shall have to be careful about the steps we take-but our general policy towards China remains the same."

We need now recall extracts of a letter written by Nehru's right-hand man in his Cabinet on November 7, 1950. The pragmatic Sardar Vallabbhai Patel said: "I have been anxiously thinking over the problem of Tibet and I thought I should share with you what is passing through my mind. I have carefully gone through the correspondence between the External Affairs Ministry and our Ambassador in Peking (the Ambassador was Sardar K.M. Panikkar) and through him the Chinese Government. I have tried to pursue this correspondence as favourably to our Ambassador and the Chinese Government as possible,but I regret to say that neither of them comes out well as a result of this study. The Chinese Government has tried to delude us by professions of peaceful intentions. My own feeling is that at a crucial period they managed to instil into our Ambassador a false sense of confidence in their so-called desire to settle the Tibetan problem by peaceful means.

"There can be no doubt that, during the period covered by this correspondence, the Chinese must have been concentrating for an onslaught on Tibet. The final action of the Chinese, in my judgment, is little short of perfidy. From the latest position, it appears that we shall not be able to rescue the Dalai Lama. Our Ambassador has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification for Chinese policy and actions. I doubt if we can go any further than we have have done already to convince China of our good intentions, Friendliness and goodwill."

But events were moving from bad to worse. Inside Tibet the Chinese were waving Mao's 'little red book' and they were systematically destroying Tibet's ancient culture. And then quietly came over India's borders the smiling Dalai Lama, and a great trail of suffering, patient Tibetans.

When the Chinese Army began to pour over India's borders, Nehru was put to the stark test. "There is no alternative for us Indians but to defend our borders and our integrity. What is happening in China today... is the pride and arrogance of power...But I hope our nation...will never be brutalised...I hope that India which is essentially a gentle and peace-loving country will be able to retain that state of mind"

The Chinese invasion had broken Nehru physically and this grave national crisis that he faced since he took over as Prime Minister fifteen years earlier, had left him completely shattered in every way. He did not survive for more than eighteen months after that.

Today China continues to illegally occupy 38,000 sq. km of Ladakh's Aksai Chin region; 4000 sq km of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir located west of the Karakoram that has been seeded by Pakistan; 30 sq km of Wang Dong in Arunchal Pradesh. In addition to holding these large portions, China's territorial claims include over 90,000 sq. km of Arunchal Pradesh and 40 sq.km of the Barahoti grazing grounds that is currently observed as a demilitarised zone; and perhaps more! And when we move into the new millennium the same large chunks of our territory will be under Chinese occupation.

China is on its way to becoming a very major military power. Its planned growth of the navy, for example, for which the PLA (Navy) has been allotted 24 percent of the Chinese defence budget, should be indicative of its undeclared intention of making forays in the Arabian Sea and more. This has to be viewed in the latest strategic linkages China has developed and is developing with Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.




P. Kamath’s account of the decision making process of India’s unilateral recognition of China’s sovereignty over Tibet provides a suitable example:

[A]ccording to the former Principal Private Secretary of Nehru, M.O. Mathai, it was Ambassador K.M. Panikkar who by a change of crucial word in the cable changed India’s policy on Tibet. Nehru’s telegram to Panikkar in Peking authorized him to communicate India’s recognition of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, which Ambassador is alleg[ing} to have changed to sovereignty. If this is true, then Nehru did not make India’s policy towards Tibet in 1950 but Ambassador Panikkar in fact made it. It is also said that Nehru was persuaded by Pannikar not to insist on a simultaneous Chinese recognition of McMahon line when India recognized Chinese claim over Tibet.[66]

India’s decision to recognize China’s suzerainty over Tibet without insisting on a reciprocal recognition, seems, in Kamath’s account, the result of interaction of the central actors in India’s foreign policy making: the Prime Minister and his ambassador to Peking. India’s recognition of China’s sovereignty over Tibet, seems to have been a decision of the ambassador alone, who used his position, a bargaining advantage, to change the key wording, thus overruling the Prime Minister’s objections. Hence, India’s action, and its foreign policy and legal stand on this issue, can accurately be described as a the sum of the inputs of several actors that were able to act, interact, and prevail in the decision making process at its different levels.



The Hindu (sp) 21-3-2000

FIFTY YEARS after independence, India is still without recognised borders
with China. While it is easy to blame China for intransigence, new
information has come to light suggesting that Indian leaders also missed
opportunities when favourable conditions presented themselves. They pursued
a course of idealism for world peace while what the national interest
demanded was flexibility and pragmatism. As a result, India today is the
only country of its size without a recognised boundary. This is the picture
that emerges from some new evidence that has just become known, notably in
the remarkable book The Fate of Tibet by the French scholar, Mr. Claude
Arpi (Har-Anand, New Delhi).

India's border problem is an inseparable part of the India-China- Tibet
triangle. In 1950, two momentous events shook Asia and the rest of the
world: one was the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the other, their
intervention in the Korean war. By all canons of logic, India should have
devoted the utmost attention to the immediate situation in Tibet and let
interested parties, China and the U.S., sort it out in Korea. But the
Indian leaders - Nehru in particular - got heavily involved in Korea, while
paying insufficient attention to the Tibetan crisis. This lies at the root
of the problem plaguing India today.

Part of the difficulty in unravelling the details is lack of access to
records. The Nehru family heirs continue to exercise control over these
vital documents, including those in the National Archives. But by a
fortunate turn of events, many of the same records are available at the
India Office in London. When India became independent, H. E. Richardson,
British representative in Lhasa, was asked by the Nehru Government to
continue as Indian representative. And Richardson sent copies of his
correspondence with his new bosses in Delhi to his former superiors in
London. Mr. Arpi has made extensive use of them in addition to trying to
obtain Tibetan records. This makes it possible to appreciate better the
chain of events which led to the 1962 war.

In the years which followed the takeover of Tibet, China made several
attempts to negotiate a stable border with India beginning with the
northeast. Embroiled in both Tibet and Korea, with a real or perceived
threat from the U.S.-supported Chiang- Kai-Shek who lay in wait in Farmosa
(Taiwan), China was anxious to have a peaceful border with India. The
Indian Army then had an outstanding reputation following its brilliant
record in World War II, Kashmir and Korea. So the time was propitious for
settling the border. But in the 1950s Nehru's interests were focussed on
Korea and the Pancha Sheel. As the decade went by, China became militarily
much stronger, while the Indian Army was allowed to deteriorate - in both
material and morale. As a result, the opportunity to settle the boundary
dispute was lost.

Misplaced generosity

While India's interests in Tibet were allowed to suffer, the Nehru
Government made a strenuous effort to gain international recognition for
Mao's China. As Tibet was crumbling before the Chinese advance, bringing
the great power to the borders of India, Nehru's his main concern was
getting China admitted to the United Nations as a permanent member of the
Security Council. This was an unrealistic goal, for China was then engaged
in a war against the U.N. forces in Korea. But Nehru saw himself as an
intermediary between the West and the socialist world - China and the
Soviet Union.

>From all this India gained little except the West's hostility. More than
its later friendship with the Soviet Union, it is India's abandonment of
Tibet and the sponsorship of Mao's China that soured its relationship with

At this crucial time in history, India's ambassador in Beijing, Mr. K. M.
Panikkar, a communist sympathiser, went so far as to claim in 1950 that
there was `lack of confirmation' of the presence of Chinese troops in Tibet
and that protesting the Chinese invasion would be an ``interference to
India's efforts on behalf of China in the U.N.''. Nehru also wrote, ``our
primary consideration is maintenance of world peace... Recent developments
in Korea have not strengthened China's position, which will be further
weakened by any aggressive action (by India) in Tibet.''So the Government's
highest priority apparently was not to weaken China's case in the U.N.
Deeply disturbed by the development, Sardar Patel complained to Nehru that
Panikkar ``has been at great pains to find an explanation or justification
for Chinese policy and actions.'' India got nothing in return for its
generosity. At the very least, India could have demanded settling its
border with China in return.

There was ample historical and contemporary evidence to show that China
respected only strength and not pacific pronouncements based on a utopian
vision like the Pancha Sheel, but India failed to recognise this fact. As
Mr. Arpi found, ``nothing would stop Nehru from going ahead with his policy
of friendship with China. Over the years, the myth of the Indo-Chinese
friendship would grow larger and larger, becoming a `brotherhood', until
that a day in October 1962 when Lin Biao and his PLA (People's Liberation
Army) were on the Thagla Ridge in the West Kameng Division in NEFA
(Arunachal Pradesh).''

The Pancha Sheel collapsed even earlier, that day in 1959 when the Dalai
Lama left Tibet for exile in India. It is still seen by most Indians as a
case of China exploiting Nehru's good faith by `stabbing him in the back'.
But new information shows that Nehru and Krishna Menon were informed of the
Chinese incursions in Ladakh and Aksai Chin long before the public learnt
of them. One can only surmise that the matter was kept secret to keep the
Panch Sheel alive.

Zhou visits

To understand this, it is necessary to appreciate the fact that what China
desired most was a stable border with India. With this in view, the
Premier, Zhou-en-Lai, visited India several times to fix the boundary. In
short, the Chinese were prepared to accept the McMahon Line as the boundary
in the east - with possibly some minor adjustments and a new name - and
then negotiate the unmarked boundary in the west between Ladakh and Tibet.
In effect, what Zhou-en-Lai proposed was a phased settlement, beginning
with the eastern boundary. Nehru, however, wanted the whole thing settled
at once. The practical minded Zhou-en-Lai found this politically
impossible. And on each visit the Premier, in search of a boundary
settlement, heard more about the Pancha Sheel than India's stand on the
boundary. He interpreted this as intransigence on India's part.

China in fact went on to settle its boundary with Myanmar roughly along the
McMahon Line following similar principles. Contrary to what the Indian
public was told, the border between Ladakh (in the princely State of
Kashmir) and Tibet was never clearly demarcated. As late as 1960, the
Indian Government had to send survey teams to Ladakh to locate the boundary
and prepare maps. But the Government kept telling the people that there was
a clearly defined boundary, which the Chinese refused to accept.

What the situation demanded was a creative approach, especially from the
Indian side. There were several practical issues on which negotiations
could have been conducted - especially in the 1950s when India was in a
relatively strong position. China needed Aksai Chin because it had plans to
lay an access road from Tibet to the Xinjiang province (Sinkiang) in the
west. Aksai Chin was of far greater strategic significance to China than to
India. (It may be a strategic liability for India - being more expensive to
maintain and harder to supply than even the Siachen Glacier). Had Nehru
recognised this fact, he might have proposed a creative solution like
asking for access to Mount Kailash and Manasarovar in return for our
providing access to the Chinese to Aksai Chin. The issue is not whether
such an agreement was possible but no solutions were proposed. The upshot
was that China ignored India - including the Pancha Sheel - and went ahead
with its plan to build the road through Aksai Chin.

More mistakes

This was compounded by other errors. What the Indian public does not know
is that Nehru and Krishna Menon had been fully informed of the Chinese
encroachment in Aksai Chin years before it became public in 1959. Mr. Arpi
produces evidence showing that in 1955, an English mountaineer, Sydney
Wignall, was deputed by General Thimayya to verify reports that the Chinese
were laying the road through Aksai Chin. Wignall was not his only source.
Shortly after the Chinese attack in 1962, this writer heard from General
Thimayya that he had also sent a young officer of the MEG to Aksai Chin to
confirm reports of the intrusion. When the Army brought this information to
his notice, Krishna Menon, in Nehru's presence, sharply told the senior
officer, who made the presentation, that he was ``lapping up CIA agent
provocateur propaganda.'' The rest in history.

Thus at a time when China was vulnerable - committed in both Korea and
Tibet and with possible threats from Chiang on the mainland itself - the
Indian leadership failed to take advantage of the situation to settle the
boundary. Next, when the Chinese made repeated efforts to settle the border
in phases beginning with the eastern boundary, the leadership again failed
to respond creatively. Finally, when their intentions in Aksai Chin became
clear, the Government failed to take the public into confidence and evolve
a coherent policy. The years that should have been devoted to demarcating
the boundary were squandered on promoting the Pancha Sheel. It is time
perhaps for the country and its leaders to make a new beginning.





Tibetan Bulletin

Volume 4, Issue 2, May-June, 2000


The blunder of Nehru's Tibet policy

No other figure had more influence in India's acceptance of Chinese occupation in Tibet than Nehru, writes Claude Arpi

India became independent in 1947- at a time when most Asian nations saw the fruition of their struggle for freedom from the yoke of colonialism. They could finally stand on their own feet and look into the future as self-determined nations able to manage their own affairs. One such country was China, whose leadership was soon to be replaced by the revolutionary Communists. There was jubilation everywhere, but not on the high plateau of Tibet that remained as isolated as ever of all the great world movements.

While Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, remained the ardent defender of freedom elsewhere in Asia, his attitude towards Tibet would be markedly different. This despite the fact that when most Asian states were under a foreign yoke Tibet was the only nation enjoying de facto independence. Nehru's policy on Tibet evolved from the days of the Interim Government to the time of the signing of the Panch Sheel Agreement in April 1954. During these seven crucial years the Nehruvian policy saw Tibet passing from an "autonomous state verging on independence" to a province of Communist China.

A plunge into ambiguity: 1947-'50

In March 1947, a few months before India won its independence, Nehru's Interim Government organised an Asian Relations Conference. One of the purpose of the conference, as stated by an official document published during the conference, was for the Asian nations to see "How to terminate foreign dominion, direct or indirect, and to achieve freedom to direct their affairs in accordance with the will of the people concerned."

For the first time ever Tibet had been invited to an international conference, a unique event in history as Nehru called it. Though the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek tried to raise objection to Tibetan participation, it was clear that Tibet was a separate nation at that time.

In his inaugural speech, Nehru said that he was welcoming the delegates and representatives from "distant Asian countries and from our neighbours, Afghanistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Ceylon, to whom we look especially for co-operation and close and friendly intercourse". The Asian Relations Conference, to a certain degree, marked the endorsement by Nehru and the Indian leaders of their recognition of Tibet as a separate political entity.

A few months later, Nehru responded to a telegram of congratulations from the Tibetan Government on the occasion of the formation of the Interim Government by saying: "My colleagues and I are most grateful for your kind message. We look forward with confidence to the continuance and strengthening of the close and cordial relations which have existed between our two countries since ancient times".

From Raj to independence

At the time of India's independence, Tibet was considered a more or less independent state by the British government. The position of the British government was made clear in a note from Anthony Eden to Dr. T.V. Soong in August 1943. "Since the Chinese Revolution of 1911, when Chinese forces were withdrawn from Tibet, Tibet has enjoyed de facto independence. She has ever since regarded herself as in practice completely autonomous and has opposed Chinese attempts to reassert control. Since 1911, repeated attempts have been made to bring about an accord between China and Tibet. It seemed likely that agreement could be found on the basis that Tibet should be autonomous under the nominal suzerainty of China, and this was the basis of the draft tripartite (Chinese-Tibetan-British) convention of 1914 which initialled by the Chinese representative but was not ratified by the Chinese Government".

The new Indian Government followed the same policy for some time. The first communication from the government of independent India to the Foreign Office of the Tibetan Government was a request for the latter to ratify the Shimla Convention. This formal request from the Government of India to the Foreign Office of Tibet is itself the best proof of Tibet's independent status in 1947. "The Government of India would be glad to have an assurance that it is the intention of the Government of Tibet to continue relations on the existing basis until new arrangements are reached on matters that either party may wish to take up. This is the procedure adopted by all other countries with which India has inherited treaty relations from Hid Majesty's Government".

Here the Tibetans committed one of the greatest blunders in their history: They refused to ratify the Convention and, instead, began claiming the "lost" territories of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Arunachal Pradesh and certain parts of Ladakh before ratifying any treaty.

This blunder would have incalculable consequences for Tibet and for India. The Chinese would later use this Tibetan request to legitimise their claim on all these areas as being part of the People's Republic. The conflict of 1962 was born out of these claims, an offshoot in fact of the most preposterous actions by the Tibetan Government. Displeased as Jawaharlal Nehru and other Indian officials were by this Tibetan stand, this was also to mark a decisive turn in Nehru's view on Tibet.

Had Tibet replied positively to the Indian Government's request, India would automatically have assumed the legal rights and obligations of the British. It appears that in 1947-'48, Nehru was still willing to assume the "imperial" mantle of British. Richardson wrote about the Indian rights inherited from the Shimla convention: '…it appeared at that time [in 1947] that the rights were of value to the Indian government to the same extent as they had been to its predecessor and that the Indian Government was anxious to secure Tibetan consent to the transfer of the whole of the British heritage."

On August 15, the British Mission in Lhasa officially became the Indian Mission. Hugh Richardson, the last British Representative, was nominated the first Indian Head of Mission.

Soon the Tibetans discovered that tremendous changes were shaking Asia and they could not remain forever in their isolation. The first to discover this was Tsepon Shakebpa who was heading a trade Mission to Delhi in January 1948. The Government of India and the Prime Minister gave them to understand that the immediate need was for "Tibetan and Indian relations to be put on some official basis". The Indian Government was "legal inheritor of the treaties, rights and obligations of British India".

Things had gone too fast for the Tibetans. The Trade Mission informed Lhasa about the stalemate, but since no decision was forthcoming from Lhasa, Shakabpa had no alternative but to continue on their journey to China. B.N.Mallick, the Director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau, summed up Nehru's feeling when he wrote, "this ill-advised claim [to lost Tibetan terrorist], made by the Tibetan Government resulted in the temporary loss of a certain amount of Indian sympathy for Tibet".

It would take another six months for Lhasa to announce that Tibet had accepted India as the successor of British India. In the meantime a lot of harm had been done. A few years later, Nehru would refuse the same rights and term them as "imperialist" rights inherited from a colonial empire.

In July 1949, the Tibetan Government expelled all the Chinese from Lhasa. The cable Nehru sent to the political Officer in Sikkim on this occasion shows the position of the Government of India vis--vis Tibet in 1949 and makes interesting reading. Nehru told the Political Officer in Sikkim that "there are many difficulties in the way of the Government of India receiving and looking after these suspects. Nevertheless, in view of our friendly relations with the Tibetan Government, we are considering the possibility of giving them passage. We would be gravely embarrassed if they stayed in India". He concluded by suggesting: "The Tibetan Government are the best judges of their own interest but to take any steps which in effect mean the forced discontinuance of the Chinese Mission in Lhasa".

It is clear that a few months before the Chinese invasion, the Government of India, was ready to help Lhasa with its security concerns. Not only did Delhi treat Tibet as an independent entity, but also the Government of India accepted that the Tibetan Government was the best judge of their problems. Even Panikkar (India's ambassador to China), who was the posted in Nanking, wrote to his government in 1948 terming the Chinese suzerainty over Tibet as "hazy" and advocated a recognition of Tibet's independence by the Government of India.

Year of transition: 1949

1949 can be considered as a year of transition. We shall see that during this year Indian policy would become vaguer. With the progression of the communists in China, things began to deteriorate for the Tibetans. In one of his letters to the Premiers of the Indian province, Nehru wrote that he felt that within a few months the Chinese would occupy the whole of China. He felt that India should keep in close touch with Chinese actions in Tibet and the government should think of the policy they wanted to pursue in Tibet.

In the first months of 1949 Nehru's position can be summed up by a letter he wrote to a chief minister: " Recent developments in china and Tibet indicate that Chinese Communists are likely to invade Tibet sometime or other. This will not be very soon. But it may well take place within a year. The government structure of Tibet is feeble. A lama hierarchy controls the whole country, the majority of whose population is very poor. Any effective attempt by the Chinese Communists can hardly be resisted, more especially as the greater part of the population is likely to remain passive and some may even help the Communists. The result of all this is that we may have the Chinese or Tibetan Communists right up on our Assam, Bhutan and Sikkim border. That fact by itself does not frighten me".

Three important points have to be noted here that would remain the cornerstone of the Indian Government's policy on Tibet. First, Nehru had accepted that Tibet would be invaded; second, for Nehru and his advisors Tibet was a rather primitive country and social reforms were long overdue. The third point is that Nehru "was not frightened" at the idea of having a new neighbour on his northern border. It would be a major point of difference with Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister.

While the British were clear about their position that the Government of India was "the heir British policy of preserving the integrity of Tibet", they were likely to take any initiative. The policy of Nehru, on the other hand, was slowly changing; it became vaguer. On 16 November, the Indian Prime Minister was asked in a press conference about the position of Tibet in relation to India. He declared: "About the position of Tibet, I may say that for the last 40 years or so, that is to say, during the regime of the British in India, a certain autonomy of Tibet was recognised by the then Government of India and there were direct relations between Tibet and India. As regards China's position in Tibet, a vague in that way. We have a representative in Lhasa. We trade with them directly but in a vague sense we have accepted the fact of China's suzerainty. How far it goes, one does not know".

The word "vague" was used four times in a few sentence- how to better define the position of Nehru's government vis--vis Tibet at the end of 1949? The Government of India wanted as much as possible to keep the status quo: they wanted to continue to recognise Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, provided that the autonomous status of Tibet was recognised.

However, some Indian leaders had a clearer idea of the danger. For example Sardar Patel wrote to Nehru in June: "Tibet has long been detached from China. I anticipate that as soon as the Communists have established themselves in the rest of China, they will try to destroy its autonomous existence. You have to consider carefully your policy towards Tibet in such a circumstance and prepare from now for that eventuality.

The Harishwar Dayal Mission

Harishwar Dayal, the Political Officer in Sikkim, visited Tibet for two months in September-October 1949. He returned to Delhi early in December. During his stay in the Tibetan capital he had a wide range of discussions with the Tibetan Kashag. The talks centred mainly on the supply of arms and ammunition to the Tibetan Army and the revival of a Regiment known as the "Better Family" Regiment. The main role that Dayal saw for the Indian Government was to give training to Tibetan troops. The Kashag gave Dayal a list of required arms and ammunition. Eventually an agreement was reached and the entire supply was delivered during the next couple of months. Only the request for anti-aircraft guns was turned down. Dayal also discussed the recruitment problems of the Tibetan army. It is clear that the Government of India or at least the Ministry of External Affairs was in favour of a real autonomy for Tibet.

Nehru's government was also quite clear about the military help for Tibet: they would continue to supply arms and ammunition to the Tibetan Government, but they would not render active military troops to Lhasa. This is confirmed by B.N. Mallik, the IB Director, who has recorded in his book My Years with Nehru: The Chinese Betrayal an account of a meeting with K.P.S. Menon, Panikkar and General Cariappa, the Indian Chief of Army Staff.

Tibet sacrificed to China: 1950-'54

At the end of 1950, two factors provoked the change in India's Tibet policy. First and foremost, the invasion of Tibet in October 1950 when the Chinese troops crossed the Upper Yangtze and took over Chamdo and the Kham province of Eastern Tibet. The other factor was the disappearance of Sardal Patel from the Indian political stage. After having written a prophetic letter to the Prime Minister on 7 November about the strategic implications of the native Gujarat and passed away on December 15.

On November 18, 1950, Nehru dictated a note, which would become the cornerstone of the China Policy until the Prime Minister's death. What prompted the drafting of a new Tibet Policy was the Tibetan Appeal to the UN. Nehru felt that the China Policy had to be decided keeping in mind the short- term as well the longer- term view of the problem. For him a fait accompli that "China is going to be our neighbour for a long time to come. We are going to have a tremendously long common frontier."

This was a surprising statement as the Chinese troops had not gone further than Chamdo at that time and were still several weeks away from Lhasa, and several months away from the McMohan Line. But he admitted that for the Tibetan people the "autonomy can obviously not be anything like the autonomy, verging on independence, which Tibet has enjoyed during the last 40 years or so". "We cannot save Tibet", was the final conclusion.

Concerning the Tibetan Appeal to the UN, Nehru said: "it will not take us or Tibet very far. It will only hasten the downfall of Tibet. "Though it was India's moral duty to defend a smaller nation, under the pretext that it would "take us very far", the moral stand was dropped. His conclusion was: "therefore, it will be better not to discuss Tibet's appeal in the UN." The fact remains that 10 months before Chinese troops entered Lhasa, Nehru had already accepted that Tibet could not be saved and that what was formerly the Indo-Tibetan border had already become the Indo-Chinese border.

The debate in Parliament

On November 1, Nehru announced for the first time in Parliament that Chinese troops had entered Tibet and captured Chamdo, the capital of Kham. The next debate on Tibet occurred in mid November, after the presidential address. The debate opened with a apologetic statement by the Prime Minister who stated that India "had no territorial or political ambitions in regard to Tibet and that our relations were cultural and commercial." He added India did not challenge or deny the suzerainty of China over Tibet, but it was anxious that "Tibet should maintain the autonomy it has had for at least the last 40 years" and later pronounced the famous sentence: "From whom they were going to liberate Tibet is, however, not quite clear." He concluded that he believed that the matter could be settled by peaceful negotiations.

The debate that followed was heated. Congressmen as well as Opposition leaders, except the Communists, expressed their anguish at the happenings on the Roof of the World. Nehru closed that debate with reassuring words: "…since Tibet is not the same as China, it should ultimately be the wishes of the people of Tibet that should prevail and not any legal or constitutional arguments. That, I think is a valid point. Whether the people of Tibet are strong enough or any other country is strong enough to see that this is done is also another matter. But it is a right and proper thing to say and I see no difficulty in saying to the Chinese Government that whether they have suzerainty over Tibet sovereignty over Tibet, surely, according to any principles they proclaim and the principles I uphold, the last voice of the Tibet should be the voice of the people of Tibet and of nobody else."

Two weeks earlier he had written in an internal note: "We cannot save Tibet". When he spoke in the parliament, he already knew that the Tibetans would never have the 'last voice' any more with regard to Tibet. With the invasion of Tibet and the refusal of India to stand by her weak neighbour, a new phase had started. It would a phase of compromise dominated by the great influence of Panikkar on the Prime Minister.

Downgrading the Lhasa Mission

A few months after the signing of the 17-point Agreement in Beijing in May 1951, Panikkar came to the India in October for consultation with his government. By that time he was already fully in alliance with the Communist regime. Nehru was keen to know more about the new China and he would start relying more and more on his Ambassador. A few months later on 28 February 1952 at a press conference, when asked about the Indian Mission in Lhasa, Nehru said that technically it never had any diplomatic status. This was not completely true as the British and then Indian Representative definitively had a diplomatic status in 1950/'51.

Though Nehru had declared that the Mission in Tibet had never had a diplomatic status, he later prudently admitted, "the fact of the matter is that the status of the Representative in Lhasa has never been defined for the last 30 years". In June 1952,the clever Zhou Enlai told the Indian Ambassador that "he presumed that India had no intention of claiming special rights arising from the unequal treaties of the past and was prepared to negotiate a new and permanent relationship safeguarding legitimate interests". Panikkar informed Nehru that Zhou Enlai clearly wanted to convey the impression that the only issue was the one related to the "transformation of the Indian Mission in Lhasa" into a Consulate-General.

Nehru replied the following day to Panniker that he had no objection to converting the Mission in Lhasa into a Consulate-General or a opening a Chinese consulate in Bombay. The next month Zhou Enlai wrote to Nehru officially requesting the "regularisation" of the Indian Mission in Lhasa. In a cable the Indian Mission in Lhasa on 6 September 1952, Nehru clarified the policy of the Government of India vis--vis the Mission in Lhasa. At that time, the Indian Representative had thought of giving a loan of two lakhs rupees to help the forces which wanted to continue the fight for Tibetan independence: "We have already agreed to convert our representative in Tibet into a Consul General. That itself indicates what future position is going to be. It would be improper and unwise for our representative to get involved in Tibetan domestic affairs or intrigues. We are naturally friendly towards Tibetans, as we have been in the past, but we must not give them any impression of possibility of interference or help...We have to judge these matters from larger world point of view which probably our Tibetan friends have no means of appreciating.

In September, the Indian Political Officer was demoted to Consul General. Pannikar was soon to be transferred to Cairo; his job was done. In changing the status of the Mission in Lhasa, the status of Tibet as an autonomous nation was changed- it was now merely a province of China. In direct contravention of the Simla Convention, which had been ratified by the governments of the India and independent Tibet, Tibetans were completely ignored in this negotiation over their fate between China and India.

The fiction of Pannikar's Doctrine

Here again, as in the case of the Indian Mission in Lhasa, things took a new turn soon after the signing the 17-point Agreement. On September 21, exactly two weeks after the PLA had entered the Tibetan capital, Pannikar had a meeting with Zhou Enlai who told the Indian Ambassador that "there was no difference of point of view in regard to Tibet between India and China". Pannikar later reported that Zhou "was particularly anxious to safeguard in every way Indian interests in Tibet".

When Zhou Enlai spoke of stabilisation of the Ino-Tibetan border, Pannikar understood that there was no difference of opinion on the border and both india and china agreed to the McMahon Line and the western sector in UP and Ladakh. Nehru too was no yet over worried with the subject of Tibet's boundary, in contrast with other officials from the Ministry of External Affairs who less than agreed with Panikkar's optimistic views.

The China-Tibet policy was discussed at a high level meeting and late Bajpai gave a written brief to Pannikar for future talks with the Chinese Government. The instructions were clear: the recognition of the border had to be part of a general settlement. There was no question of surrendering the advantages accrued from Shimla Convention without getting a firm assurance from the Chinese on the McMohan Line and the other sectors. There was also no question of withdrawing the garrisons in Gyantse and Yatung without securing such an assurance. Instructions signed by the Prime Minister were given to Pannikar.

Indian awareness about the border situation at the time was rudimentary. When a journalist pointed out to Nehru that there were certain tracts in the north-west which were shown undefined on maps, Nehru admitted ignorance before adding, "All these are high mountains. Nobody lives there. It is not very necessary to define these things."

Pannikar on his part failed to take up the border issue during his next meeting with Zhou Enlai, feeling that the Chinese Premier was not inclined to speak about "larger issues". Despite his failure to carry out instructions from the Prime Minister, Pannikar still remained Nehru's favourite. John Lall, a former Diwan of Sikkim who was serving at that time in Gangtok wrote: " Very few people in Delhi other than Nehru had any illusions about Pannikar. N.P.Pillai, Bajpai's successor, told someone in Delhi that Pannikar 'had the reputation as an historian mixing fiction and fact and in his reporting from Peking he had the tendency to believe what he wanted to believe'".

On 14 June 1952, Panikkar met again with Zhou [this time on the Korea settlement]. All attempts by Panikkar to raise the border question with Tibet were met with silence from Zhou Enlai. An upset Nehru wrote to Panikkar, "We think it is rather odd that, in discussing Tibet with you, Chou En-lai did not refer at all to our frontier. For our part, we attach more importance to this than to any other matters. I do not quite like Chou-En-Lai's silence about it when discussing even minor matters." Nehru articulated his doubts to the foreign secretary a few days later. "But I am beginning to feel that our attempt at being clever might overreach it self. I think it is better to be absolutely straight and frank."

The irony of Panch Sheel

The same policy continued throughout 1954 and later years. Finally, India took the initiative and proposed negotiations in Beijing to resolve all outstanding issues, but the border problems was not to be discussed. The discussion mainly revolved around problems of Trade and Pilgrimage in Tibet. The Panch Sheel Agreement was signed in April 1954 without any reference to the border.

In a speech at Kalimpong on 12 Aprill 1952, Nehru first explained his ideology of 'non-interference'. The first element of the Panch Sheel Agreement was slowly taking shape in his vision of an ideal world order. "There will be no war in the world if every nation followed a policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sister countries". He added, "Nobody need get upset over the recent developments in Tibet. I would like to repeat that one of the foremost interests of India is cultivation of friendly relations with her neighbours, especially China and Tibet." But soon there would be only one neighbour.

In September 1952 when S. Shinha, the Indian Representative in Lhasa, wrote him a long report, Nehru was very upset and immediately answered his Representative in Tibet: "Your telegram is rather disturbing as it indicates that our policy is not fully understood. That policy is to recognize that Tibet is under Chinese suzerainty and, subject to that, to protect our own interest in Tibet. Otherwise, we do not wish to interfere in internal affairs of Tibet and we can certainly be no party to any secret or other activities against the Chinese. That would be both practically and morally wrong. It is for Tibetans and Chinese to settle their problems." Nehru added: "We are naturally friendly towards Tibetans, as we have been in the past." Nehru believed that he could be of greater assistance to Tibet if he could be of greater assistance of Tibet if he could manage to maintain friendly relations with China.

In internal correspondence and notes, the Government of India always showed a great determination and firmness, but when it came to discussion with Zhou Enlai, the 'Panikar Doctrine' ultimately prevailed and the firmness evaporated. The occasion for Nehru to formulate his new Tibet (and China) policy came when in March 1953, S.Sinha wrote a note on the North-Eastern Frontier Situation. The note drew attention to various possible dangers on the border areas. It greatly upset Nehru who concluded: "It appears that Mr. Sinha does not appreciate our policy fully. He should be enlightened." Nehru further said, "We live in a revolutionary period when the whole of Asia is in a sate of turmoil and change and not merely regret the days of pre-change."

It was true that Tibet had not been able to keep up with the sudden revolutionary changes, which were shaking the world. In many ways, Tibet was an island, not yet contaminated by the revolutionary fervour of the people of Asia and Africa. Nehru and his colleagues, who had lived through the years of the freedom struggle against the British colonists, were dreaming of the emancipation of the Asian people. Asia could again express its own genius. But there was a serious contradiction in Nehru's policy; while he encouraged the progressive forces in many countries such as Indonesia or Algeria to seek independence, he used different standards for India's closest neighbour, Tibet, an autonomous nation 'verging on independence' in his own words. The logical conclusion of Nehru's ideology would have been for India to help her younger brother and neighbour. India had a treaty agreement with Tibet. India could have sponsored Tibet's entry onto the stage of the newly-free nations: but on the contrary Nehru prefered to sacrifice this peace-loving country for a friendship that would never be. In the process, India lost its preponderant place in world affairs.

The "Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India" was signed on 29 April 1954 in Beijing by the Indian Ambassador N. Raghavan and the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister. Nehru remarked that, "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 Asian and for the world."

The historical Dr. Gopal describes it in more realistic terms: "This was clutching at straws after the main opportunity had been deliberately discarded. The only real gain India could show was a listing of six borders passes in the middle sector, thereby defining, even indirectly, this stretch of the boundary. On the other hand the Chinese had secured all they wanted and given away little."

The prime minister was in his revolutionary mood when he presented the agreement in the Parliament: "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 abut Panch Sheel: "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."

But it was in fact the burial of old independent Tibet, and it is ironic that the famous preamble, Tibet's post-mortem sermon, was couched in Buddhist words of non-violence, peace, mutual understanding and non-aggression.

The only saving grace was that it was an eight-year agreement. It expired on 28 April 1962. Since then it has been never been extended. It legally means that it is no more binding on India and the only valid treaty existing today between India and Tibet is the Simla Convention ratified by the Government of India and Tibet in 1948. In June 1954, Zhou Enlai the Chinese Premier paid the first of a long series of visits to India. The friendship was at its zenith. The first 'official' Chinese incursion on Indian soil occurred during the same year in Bara Hoti.

1. The British 'legal' position vis--vis Tibet will be the same in 1950 when the Chinese invaded Tibet.
2. Notes, Memoranda and Letters Exchanged and Agreements Signed by the Government of India and China (Delhi: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vol.2,1959),p.39.
3. Richardson, op.cit., p. 176.
4. Mullick, op. Cit., p. 54.
5. On June 11,1948.
6. Later known as Chief Ministers.
7. SWJN,Series II, Vol. 13, p. 260, Letter to John Matthai.
8. SWJN, Series II, Vol. 14, p. 191.
9. Mallik, op. Cit., p. 80.
10. Press conference. New Delhi, 28 February 1952. Press Information Bureau.
11. Note of G.S.Bajpai 21 November 1951 and K.P.S.Menon, 22 November 1951.
12. Instructions drawn up by K.P.S. Menon, 21 January 1952, shown to Pannikar and approved the next day by the Prime Minister.
13. Pannikar's Cable to Nehru, 13 February 1952.
14. Nehru's cable to Pannikar, 16 June 1952.
15. S. Gopal, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vol. 2, p.180.

Claude Arpi is author of The Fate of Tibet: When Big Insects Eat Small Insects. He is with The Pavillion of Tibetan Culture, an ongoing project at Auroville, India, designed to foster interaction between Tibetan culture and the rest of the world. This article is constructed from a speech he delivered at a panel discussion on Tibet and Sino- Indian Relations at a panel discussion on Tibet and Sino- Indian Relations at the Tibet Festival in Delhi.





An Annotated Chronology of Relations in the 20th Century
By Ken Herold

Second Edition, February 1994, International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet

The following is a chronology of selected events in the 20th century bearing on the relationship between the nations of Tibet and the United States of America, beginning with the year 1900 and ending in 1994. This research guide tells what events are said to have happened according to a variety of historical sources and is not, therefore, a logically-consistent, factual narrative. Some entries in the first edition have been consolidated with the addition of annotated events from the following sources:

        Richardson, Hugh E. Tibet and its History. 2nd edition, revised and updated. Boston: Shambhala, 1984.

        Petra K. Kelly, Gert Bastian, and Pat Aiello editors. The Anguish of Tibet. Berkeley: Parallax, 1991.

        Dhondup, K. The Water-Bird and Other Years : A History of the 13th Dalai Lama and After. New Delhi: Rangwang, 1986.

OCT 27 Tibetans in India confirm invasion. Peking-Nehru ties damaged. Indian army skeptical of reports. [NY]

OCT 28 Indian representative in Lhasa confirms invasion to Nehru. [LT, 91]

OCT 28 Nehru protests invasion to Peking, threatening 'action'. Peking downplays military moves. [NY]

OCT 29 Indian Ambassador Panikkar confirms invasion. India-China relations strained. India may concede Tibet to China but hope for autonomy. Tibet appeals to India to raise issue in U.N. Pakistan says Chinese moves internal affair. [NY]

OCT 30 PLA troops advance on Lhasa on four fronts. Tibetan mission leaves Calcutta. Peking surprised at Indian protest. [NY]

OCT 31 U.S. ambassador in India thinks China will continue its conquest of Tibet regardless of Indian sensibilities. India has instructed its mission to remain open in Lhasa and its military training mission to stay in Gyantse. India has also advised Tibetans not to send delegation to Peking at time of military invasion. [FR, VI, 548]

OCT 31 PLA troops 200 miles from Lhasa. 'People's forces' rising against Lhasa. Ambassador comments on invasion. [NY]

NOV Dalai Lama's brother Taktser Rinpoche (Thupten Jigme Norbu) arrives in Lhasa after being held under duress in Amdo. He witnessed destruction of Kumbum Monastery and reports that Sining Governor wanted him to betray Tibet so that it could be annexed to China. [D3, 53-54]

NOV 1 Sec. of State Acheson says at news conference that very little information was available about situation in Tibet, but the U.S. would view seriously any new evidence of Communist aggression there. [FR, VI, 551]

NOV 1 50,000 PLA troops 100 miles from Lhasa. Peking says invasion is internal affair and rejects Indian protest. China offers to negotiate with Tibetan delegation in India. [NY]

NOV 2 U.S. ambassador in India discusses Chinese invasion of Tibet with Nehru, who urges U.S. to do nothing. [FR, VI, 550]

NOV 2 Second diplomatic note from India opposes China. India Cabinet Minister Patel praises Tibet as peaceful country. India will not withdraw troops from trade route and Gyantse. China pushing indoctrinated border Tibetans into Tibet. Tibetan Government stymied. Dalai Lama may flee. Peking Radio says Chamdo captured along with two Britons and two Indians. China claims war campaign began October 7th with Gen. Liu Po-cheng's 2d field army taking Markham Dzong with no opposition. China says garrison and its leader defected. Secretary of State Acheson declines comment but says U.S. is concerned. [NY]

NOV 3 India asks Tibetan mission to Peking to wait for cease-fire, condemns invasion and says Sino-Indian relations damaged. China says India influenced by U.S. and U.K. attempt to control Tibet. Moscow press article supports China. India-China diplomatic exchange published. [NY]


‘China Becomes Red’ (Part 1)
by Claude Arpi (Author of The Fate of Tibet)


Before entering into the events of 1950, ‘the Fateful Year’ and the upheavals which followed that changed the map of Asia, it is interesting to look at the players, their motivations, their characters and the cards in their hands. The end of the forties saw the entry of a new player in the Great Game of Free Asia: Red China. To set the tone of the year to come, a commentator in the World Culture of Shanghai wrote in September 1949: ‘The India of Nehru attained dominion status only two years ago and it is not even formally independent in the fullest sense of the word. But Nehru, riding behind the imperialists whose stooge he is, actually considers himself as the leader of the Asian peoples. Into his slavish and bourgeois reactionary character has now been instilled the beastly ambition for aggression, and he thinks that his role as a hireling of imperialism makes him an imperialist himself. He has announced that Bhutan is an Indian protectorate, and now proceeds to declare that ‘Tibet has never acknowledged China’s suzerainty in order to carry out his plot to create an incident in Tibet.’

Under the long standing influence of British imperialism, the bourgeoisie of India, of whom Nehru is the representative, have learned the ways of imperialists and are harbouring intentions against Tibet and Sikkim as well as Bhutan. Furthermore Nehru, to carry favour with his masters, the Anglo-American imperialists, is placing himself at their disposal, and shamelessly holds himself as the pillar of the anti-Communist movement in Asia.

He concludes that: ‘Nehru has already been made the substitute of Chiang Kai-shek by the imperialist.’
The above article summarised in communist terms some of the beliefs and convictions of the Chinese Communist leaders. First, Nehru wanted to be the leader of Asia, and his actions in the following years would show that Nehru did everything to play this role. Second the Chinese goal was to bring Communism to Asia and at a later stage to the whole world in accordance with the Marxist theory of spreading the Revolution. The ‘struggle’ was between Capitalism and Socialism, and the Chinese leaders were convinced that to attain their goal, Nehru was an obstacle. Thirdly, it was clear that Tibet was strategically and ideologically a very important base to achieve Mao’s ideal socialist world.

October 1, 1949 the Chinese Communists proclaimed the new People’s Republic of China (PRC). Under the chairmanship of Mao Zedong and with Zhou Enlai as the first Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of the new Republic, the Communists had taken over the most populous country in the world. ‘The Chinese people have stood up, long life the Chinese Communist Party’ Mao told the million Chinese assembled on the Tiananmen Square. Dr Li, his future doctor who had just come back after completing his studies abroad later wrote: ‘I was so full of joy my heart nearly burst out of my throat, and tears welled up in my eyes. I was so proud of China, so full of hope, so happy that the exploitation and suffering, the aggression from foreigners, would be gone forever.’

In months following the take over, the new regime never missed an opportunity to tell the world through Radio Beijing and the Chinese Press, that they were going to be the liberators of Asia. Mao Zedong himself in a message to the Indian Communist Party stated in October 1949: ‘I firmly believe that relying on the brave Communist Party of India and the unity and the struggle of all Indian patriots, India will certainly not remain long under the yoke of imperialism and its collaborators. Like free China, free India will one day emerge in the socialist and People’s Democratic family; that day will end the imperialist reactionary era in the history of mankind.’

After the 1962 war, many Indian leaders spoke of the ‘Chinese Betrayal’, but we shall see in the following pages that in fact the Chinese Communists never ‘betrayed’ anything: right from the moment they came to power they announced clearly their goals and objectives and they were always determined to take all necessary actions including when needed to bluff, to appease, to use blatant lies and if necessary the barrel of the gun to achieve their objectives.

In the fifties, Zhou Enlai played the game of ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’ perfectly with India. It was part of the gamble: the Chinese Government had to prepare its military actions (in particular build the necessary infrastructure in Tibet) to materialise their declared mission. Regarding Tibet, there is no doubt that the Government of India knew about the Chinese plans, because as early as August 1950, while the Tibetan delegation was waiting for the newly appointed Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi to start negotiating the fate of Tibet, Zhou Enlai told Panikkar that the liberation of Tibet was a ‘sacred duty’.

Though he promised that the Chinese would ‘secure their ends by negotiations and not by military action,’ troops were massed in Sichuan on the other side of the Yangtse river. On one side of the chessboard was the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru who was an idealist, not to say a dreamer or a romantic and for him the means more than the goal to achieve were of supreme importance. Zhou and Mao viewed the world differently: only their goal was important and the ways and means to reach their final destination were not relevant. Two opposite world views were confronting each other!

Unfortunately for India, one of the few pragmatic leaders, Sardar Patel, would soon pass away. It was a great misfortune for India. Nehru, thereafter alone on the Indian political stage was not able (or wanting) to grasp the Chinese mind. His advisor, Panikkar, the so-called ‘Asian’ expert was a mere loud speaker for the Chinese regime. He was too enamoured of the new regime in Beijing and his own idea of the ‘resurgence of Asia’, to be able to clearly analyse the developing situation. Frank Moraes wrote: ‘Watching Panikkar, I could not help feeling that his sense of history had overwhelmed him. He saw himself projected into the drama of a great revolution, and his excitement had infected him.’

Nobody better than Pannikar could carry the Chinese propaganda to the Indian leadership during the following years. To come back to the Communist Chinese motivations, we should listen to what Mao declared after the 1962 attack on the Indian garrison in NEFA and the subsequent withdrawal without apparent reasons. The Chairman said something which says a lot about the Chinese mentality: ‘People may ask if there is contradiction to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle. Does it mean that the heroic fighters shed their blood in vain and to no purpose? This is to put the wrong question. Does one eat to no purpose simply because he relieves himself later? Does one sleep in vain because one wakes up and goes about? I do not think the questions should be asked thus; rather one should keep on eating and sleeping or fighting. These are illusions born out of subjectivism and formalism and do not exist in real life.’

It was clear that illusions and subjectivism and formalism did not interest Mao, he dealt with ‘real life’ only. For him and his comrades, the only thing which mattered was their final goal. This was discovered too late by the Indian leaders. Many years later, the Intelligence Chief, BN Mullik, a Nehru loyalist wrote in his book the ‘Chinese Betrayal’: However, in everything that Mao Zedong does there is a purpose and a method, and, whilst keeping the main aim always before him, he often makes compromises in the details to prepare conditions for the next step forward. It is a pity that the Director of Intelligence Bureau did not understand this earlier.

A very practical example demonstrates the difference of attitude and mentality between the Indians and the Chinese on the question of maps. When they took over China, the Communists had ready maps showing large parts of Korea, Indochina, Inner Mongolia, Burma, Malaysia, Eastern Turkestan, India, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan as part of China. Nehru himself admitted in the Indian Parliament: ‘China in the past had added vast territories to her empire and her maps still showed that she included portions or the whole of many present-day independent countries to be within that empire. While China was engulfing half of Asia in her maps, in March 1950, the Government of India published a ‘White Paper on States.’ It was an authoritative document, which has been cited in the Supreme Court of India. In an annexe to this Paper was a map of India showing the boundary of the entire western sector of the Tibeto-Indian border as ‘UNDEFINED.’ In the ‘middle sector’ of the boundary, up to the trijunction of the Nepali-Indo-Tibetan border, the map was still marked as ‘UNDEFINED.’ However, on the same map, the McMahon Line (between NEFA and Tibet) was clearly defined.

This map published by the Ministry of States two months after the Indian Constitution was promulgated had been drawn by the Survey of India. It was only after Nehru’s visit to China in 1954 that a new map was printed by the Survey of India with the western and central Indo-Tibetan boundary clearly defined. At that time the Chinese were working at full steam on the Tibet-Sinkiang Highway through Indian territory (Aksai Chin). For India, it was already too late and she was in any case swimming in the euphoria of the Five Principles of Indo-Chinese ‘friendship.’ Zhou Enlai later cleverly used these maps (of 1950) in a Letter to the Leaders of Asian and African countries on the Sino-Indian Boundary Question in November 1962 to show how India was an expansionist country.

Recently, Lui Liang Guang, a Chinese scholar, reiterated the familiar Chinese thesis (at a seminar in Colombo) of Indian ‘expansionism’ and ‘hegemonism’ towards its smaller neighbours. He said ‘Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim denied even breathing spell, were placed under Indian umbrella overnight’ after the British left India.

Still today, the Chinese do not recognise Sikkim as a part of India and disregard India’s strategic interests and special bonds with Nepal and Bhutan. More farcical, Gegong Apang, the former Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh was recently refused a visa to visit China on the ground that as a resident of Arunachal, he was a Chinese national. Amusing Chinese logic! Communist China basically remained an expansionist empire and for India with her idealist and ‘friendly’ foreign policy doctrines, it was practically impossible to oppose her giant neighbour. What can happen when one player is bluffing with good cards, while the other one is shying away with no cards? In fact if one studies the history of India, one sees that India never had expansionist tendencies while China whatever the colour of the regime in Beijing always had very strong imperialist tendencies.

To take an example on the Indo-Tibetan border, once in 1943, the Tibetan Government claimed Walong a small estate in NEFA as theirs. Though the matter was later settled through discussions between Hopkinson, the Political Officer in Sikkim and the Tibetan Foreign Office in Lhasa, one of the first places attacked by the PLA in the late fifties was Walong. It had become a Chinese territory just because it had once been claimed by the Tibetan Government. Unfortunately, the new leaders of independent India were not able to see through the game. For India, the spirit of attachment to her territory and the need expansion has never existed traditionally. To quote Sri Aurobindo, the great sage and nationalist leader, in his Foundation of Indian Culture: At no time does India seem to have been moved towards an aggressive military and political expansion beyond her own borders, no epic of world dominion, no great tale of far-borne invasion or expanding colonial empire has ever been written in the tale of Indian achievement. The sole great endeavour of expansion, of conquest, of invasion she attempted was the expansion of her culture, the invasion and conquest of the eastern world by the Buddhistic idea and the penetration of her spirituality, art and thought-forces. And this was an invasion of peace and not of war, for to spread a spiritual civilisation by force and physical conquest, the vaunt or the excuse of modern imperialism, would have been uncongenial to the ancient cast of her mind and temperament and the idea underlying her Dharma.

To take an example on the Indo-Tibetan border, once in 1943, the Tibetan Government claimed Walong a small estate in NEFA as theirs. Though the matter was later settled through discussions between Hopkinson, the Political Officer in Sikkim and the Tibetan Foreign Office in Lhasa, one of the first places attacked by the PLA in the late fifties was Walong. It had become a Chinese territory just because it had once been claimed by the Tibetan Government. Unfortunately, the new leaders of independent India were not able to see through the game. For India, the spirit of attachment to her territory and the need expansion has never existed traditionally. To quote Sri Aurobindo, the great sage and nationalist leader, in his Foundation of Indian Culture: ‘At no time does India seem to have been moved towards an aggressive military and political expansion beyond her own borders, no epic of world dominion, no great tale of far-borne invasion or expanding colonial empire has ever been written in the tale of Indian achievement. The sole great endeavour of expansion, of conquest, of invasion she attempted was the expansion of her culture, the invasion and conquest of the eastern world by the Buddhistic idea and the penetration of her spirituality, art and thought-forces. And this was an invasion of peace and not of war, for to spread a spiritual civilisation by force and physical conquest, the vaunt or the excuse of modern imperialism, would have been uncongenial to the ancient cast of her mind and temperament and the idea underlying her Dharma.’

‘China Becomes Red’ (Part 2)


‘China Becomes Red’ (Part 2)
by Claude Arpi (Author of The Fate of Tibet)


Marxist Ideology: One of the main themes of Socialist ideology as expounded by Karl Marx in The Capital is that the workers of the world constitute ‘one community.’ The problem of exploitation of the proletarian class is the same the world over, therefore the ‘workers of the world should unite.’ This explains that in the mind of the Chinese leaders, Revolution was never limited to the Mainland but had to spread to the so-called 'barbarians' in Outer China (Tibetans, Mongols, Turks, Manchurians, etc...) and then to the whole Asia and finally to the rest of the world. Mao’s letter to the Indian Communists quoted earlier was clear on this point: India also had to be ‘liberated’.

The second feature of Marx’s theory is that there has to be a ‘class struggle.’ History has only progressed through fights, struggles, conflicts between the capitalist and the socialist forces. ‘Revolution is not a tea party’ Mao had warned.

While Nehru or the Dalai Lama, both adepts of the philosophy of non-violence were ready to accept many compromises to avoid struggle or conflict, the Chinese did not find anything wrong in war and struggle. Mao went as far as to tell Khrushchev that the Russians could kill half of the Chinese population, the other half would remain and would produce children again. The Russian atom bomb was therefore a mere paper tiger. Mao noted in Problems of War and Strategy: ‘Some people have ridiculed us as the advocates of Omnipotence of war, Yes, we are: we are the advocates of the omnipotence of the revolutionary war, which is not bad at all, but good and is Marxist.’ based on the materialist conception of the history, Marx explained further that the driving forces of history were the material relations between classes.

It is certain that a theocratic regime like in Tibet or a democracy like in India did not fit into the references of an ideal society for Mao. Another gap between China and India (and also Tibet) was created by the mentality of their leaders. Nehru, Pannikar and their followers were philosophers, ‘dreamers’, and idealists, but for Mao or Deng, only action and if necessary violent action could bring the change they were aiming at. ‘The philosophers have so far only interpreted the world, the point is to change it’ Mao had said. ‘It does not matter if a cat is black or white, as long it catches mice’, Deng declared once.

At the end of the Revolution, after a phase of dictatorship of the proletariat, Marx envisages a ‘stateless, classless society.’ The first phase to reach this stateless society was for Mao to engulf as many countries as possible into the Chinese Empire.

Certain Indian leaders had nevertheless clearly seen the danger. The Rishi and poet Sri Aurobindo in 1949, wrote in his Postscript to The ideal of Human Unity: In Asia a more perilous situation has arisen, standing sharply across the way to any possibility of a continental unity of the peoples of this part of the world, is the emergence of Communist China. This creates a gigantic bloc which could easily engulf the whole of Northern Asia in a combination between two enormous Communist Powers, Russia and China, and would overshadow with a threat of absorption south-western Asia and Tibet and might be pushed to overrun all up to the whole frontier of India, menacing her security and that of Western Asia with the possibility of an invasion and an over-running and subjection by penetration or even by overwhelming military force to an unwanted ideology, political and social institutions and dominance of this militant mass of Communism whose push might easily prove irresistible. We shall see in subsequent chapters that some politicians like Sardar Patel, Acharya Kripalani, Dr Lohia also had clear idea of what was happening, and saw the danger for the security of India; unfortunately it was not the case with the Indian Prime Minister.

Mao Zedong made his aim repeatedly clear: ‘There are two winds in the world, the east wind and the west wind’. There is a saying in China: ‘If the east wind does not prevail over the west wind, then the east wind will prevail over the east wind. I think the characteristic of the current situation is that the east wind prevails over the west wind; that is, the strength of socialism exceed the strength of imperialism.’

Though these words were pronounced in 1957, for the Great Helmsman ‘it was clear that for China there was no question to let the west wind prevail, it was the ‘sacred duty’ of the Chinese to look which side the wind blows.’ ‘Sacred duty’ to liberate Tibet, to make the East wind prevail! It was the greatest mistake of many Indian ‘intellectuals’ to believe that because India was located eastwards in relation to the West, she should go at all cost with the East wind to blow away the ‘Western Dominance’. From the above, it is clear that for Mao, the final goal was of supreme importance. War, struggle, death is only a part of life like eating or sleeping is. It could not by any means be a sin as for Nehru (or the Dalai Lama). General Li Chi-Min went to a similar extreme when he wrote: ‘Modern Revisionists have exaggerated the consequences of nuclear war, the results will not be the annihilation of mankind. Over the debris of a dead imperialism, the victorious people would create very swiftly a civilisation thousand time higher than the capitalist system and a truly beautiful future for themselves.’

Though many times Mao Zedong said that the ‘power comes from the barrel of the gun’, in fact, he was not too attached to the ‘barrel of the gun’; his main interest was the atom bomb. Most of his conflicts with the USSR in the fifties centred around the possession of the bomb. And where better than Tibet to locate sites for testing and storing nuclear missiles? Two characteristics have examplified the Chinese people during their five-thousand year history: one is their attachment to their land including what they perceive as their land and the second, obsession with power, their thirst to dominate other peoples, other nations. A third one can be added: the Chinese do not like to lose face. These characteristics explain most actions of the Chinese leadership from 1949 till today.

On one side of the Himalayas, the Indian leaders ‘dreamed.’ To quote, KM Pannikar when he assumed charge as the first Indian Ambassador in Beijing in early 1950: ‘The People’s Republic of China and the Republic of India, representing the oldest communities in the world, are now in a position to cooperate effectively for mutual advantage and for the welfare of their people. The two sister republics of Asia, which between them contain over a third of the world’s population, can through their co-operation become a great and invincible force.’

Pannikar was thus defining the policy the Government of India would follow blindly for years and even decades: ‘friendship at any cost’ with China, even at the cost of risking her own security; surrendering her buffer zone and losing large parts of her territory. Even then, Mao was planning the invasion of India.

A Planned Strategy: In February 1948, an Asian Communist Congress was held in Calcutta. It would have very important repercussions for the Asian Communist movement. Under cover of a South East Asian Youth Conference, this Congress decided a change in orientation of the revolutionary policy. The Asiatic Communist parties resolved to play a preponderant role in the struggle and ‘initiate and lead violent insurrections and civil wars in the South and South East countries.’ This Conference was followed by a Second Congress of the Communist Party of India. A newly elected Central Committee condemned the Draft Constitution of India and Ranadive, the General Secretary, felt that the time was ripe for the final solution. A programme of insurrectionary activities for installing a revolutionary government was adopted. While in West Bengal, the Communist Party was banned, VK Krishna Menon, the Indian High Commissioner in London was receiving a delegation of the British Communist Party who had come to plead for the release Indian comrades.

Nehru wrote apologetically to Menon that: ‘the West Bengal Government banned the Communist Party without informing us’, but he admitted that ‘deliberate violence was encouraged and sabotage of security services was feared.’ The insurrections, which occurred in many places in Asia the following year, were the results of the Youth Conference decisions. For the first time, Moscow recognised the right of Beijing to direct Communist action in Asia. A co-ordination Bureau was created in Beijing which would become the nodal centre for armed struggle for national independence movements of Asian countries. In the Conference Manifesto the aims of the struggle were clearly indicated: ‘the popular masses of all the south-east Asian nations will create zone of guerrilla and the liberated zones will be organised and in turn will spread the communist struggle.’ The struggle was later to spread to the cities. The case of Vietnam was given as an example. The history of Maoist’s China, is a tale of well-planned and well-executed moves. All the events from 1949 onwards, have been unfolded in a perfectly calculated sequence: the invasion of Tibet in 1950; after a very vague protest of the Indian Government and the adjournment of the Tibetan Appeal to the UN (at India’s instance), the 1951 Sino-Tibetan ‘Agreement’ (forced under duress on the Tibetans); then the 1954 ‘Panchshila’ Policy (neutralising India under the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai bluff); the first incursions on Indian soil at the end of the fifties; the crushing of the Tibetan revolt in 1959, and finally the ‘teaching of a lesson’ to India in October 1962. Mao was a great strategist and he never forgot what his final goal was; it was therefore wrong for Nehru and his advisors to talk about ‘surprise’ and ‘betrayal’. The Indian leaders only fooled themselves into believing the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai doctrine when the Chinese aims were always clear, loud and publicly announced.

Strategic Location: It is stated by Ginsburg in his study on Communist China and Tibet that ‘he who holds Tibet dominates the Himalayan piemond; he who dominates the Himalayan piemond, threatens the Indian sub-continent; and he who threatens the Indian sub-continent may well have all the Southeast Asia within its reach, and, all of Asia.’ Mao, the strategist knew it very well, the British also knew it and had always managed to manoeuvre to keep Tibet an ‘autonomous’ buffer zone between their Indian colony and the Chinese and Russian empires. The Government of India, inheriting of the past Treaties of the British, should have worn the British mantle with its advantages for Indian security and its sense of responsibility vis--vis Tibet, unfortunately in fear of looking a neo-colonialist state, they failed without thought to the consequences which would follow.

The strategic position of Tibet became even more visible when China joined the restricted circle of the nuclear nations. Is there a more ideal place than the Tibetan high plateau to station intercontinental missiles with nuclear heads, pointing towards India and Soviet Union?

Other Factors: Some other factors have to be taken into account to fully understand subsequent events. Apart from Marxist ideology, another point is the leadership of Asia. The Chinese believed that they had traditionally been a leader in Asia. The fact that Nehru also postulated to the leadership of Asia, antagonised the Chinese against him. The Asian Relations Conference in March 1947 in Delhi and again in 1949, a Conference on Indonesia, saw Nehru take the initiative for the leadership of Asia. The Chinese were not long to reply: In his assumption of the role of the vanguard in the international gamble against people of Asia, Nehru has committed a series of malicious intrigues, all following the victorious march of the liberation movement of the Chinese people. As early as the days prior to India’s independence, Nehru had called the Pan-Asian Conference....Early in 1949, Nehru called another Asian Conference in New Delhi, outwardly with the motive of mediating in the Indonesian dispute, but actually for undertaking a preliminary discussion of South-east Asian alliance. On February 28, 1949, Nehru nominally to mediate in the Burmese civil war, called a conference of the British dominions, the real purpose of which was to discuss the strengthening of measures for the Anti-Communist alliance in Southeast Asia.... and so up to the recent act of Nehru in serving as the hireling of Anglo-American imperialism in the attempt to invade Tibet.

For the Chinese Communists, India and her leader Nehru was first of all a rival for leadership of Asia; there is no doubt that most of the positions taken by Nehru and his subsequent actions were dictated by his ambition to lead Asia and the ‘non-aligned’ nations. He built an image as a modern-thinking leader with his frequent visits abroad. His offers of mediation in many conflicts such as Korea helped in promoting this image. Many newly free nations, especially from Asia, started looking to India as their advisor, their guide and protector. This role was not acceptable to the Chinese leaders.

We have seen that throughout history, the Chinese had always displayed a superiority complex; after all, the Middle Empire was the ‘centre of the world’ and the idea of India trying to play ‘their’ role was not tolerable for the Communists. What a weak and corrupt Nationalist regime could accept in the forties was not tolerable for the Communist leaders. The ‘coup’ of Tibetan ‘liberation’ was a master stroke. It demonstrated to the world who was the real leader of Asia, while showing that India was incapable of defending a smaller country, and thus Nehru was only a ‘paper tiger.’ Ideologically the ‘liberation’ of Tibet meant that the Marxist theory could spread to another ‘feudal’ country, it was a real ‘liberation’ in Marxist terms.

Furthermore, China was establishing her de facto suzerainty over Tibet, which had been lost many decades ago. It was the first step towards the South, the opening of the gate to India and to other countries that China was claiming as hers (Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, etc). It should not be forgotten that Mao had termed Tibet the palm of the hand and the five fingers were Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and NEFA. Accusing someone of a crime that you are going to commit is also very typical of the Chinese mentality and tactics. Attack being the best form of defence, a few months before the ‘liberation’, the Chinese propaganda was speaking of: ‘the recent act of Nehru in serving as the hireling of Anglo-American imperialism attempt to invade Tibet.’ The Government of India followed a strange policy of appeasement. The harder they were attacked or insulted, the harder they tried to appease the Chinese and become their friends. The Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai slogan was the consequence of this movement. Each time China made a step forward, India bent backward to appease Chinese susceptibilities. Another strange stand of the Government of India was the dual standards taken by Nehru; he backed the defence of Indonesia and Algeria and in similar circumstances, refused to do anything for the Tibetan case when his own borders were threatened. Another fact which explains the motivation of Communists leaders in invading Tibet, was the lebensraum needed by the fast-increasing Chinese population. A few figures explain the problem. The policy of the Chinese Government to send settlers in the ‘Provinces’ or ‘Autonomous Regions’ started very early. By 1987, 75 millions Han Chinese had settled in Manchuria. In Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) 7 millions Hans settled in an area where only 200 000 Hans lived in 1949.

In Inner Mongolia, the settlers have outnumbered the Mongols (8,5 millions for 2 millions) while in Tibet, the Han population is today estimated at 7 millions to which the 500,000 troops of the Liberation Army should be added, making the Tibetans a minority in their own country. In an article entitled A vast sea of Chinese settlers threatened Tibet, the Dalai Lama wrote: ‘The area where I was born, the Kokonor region of north-eastern Tibet, now already has a population of 2.5 million Chinese and only 700,000 Tibetans, according to recent Chinese newspaper reports. The Chinese claim to be giving special care and attention to the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, which comprises only the western and central parts of Tibet, but they are sending large numbers of young Chinese colonists into eastern and north-eastern parts of our country.’

We should also point out that the Communist Party in China has ‘grown up as an army and not a civilian organisation like any other communist party.’ Mao’s strength was in the People Liberation Army, ‘military virtues and military men have been elevated to a position of new prestige in the Chinese Society, and the population of the country has been fully mobilised to support the military establishment.’

Till recently, the army has been the main pillar of the Communist regime and it is only because of the conservative elements of the Liberation Army that in 1989, the hard-liners were able to win over and crush the student movement and keep alive the dictatorship of the proletariat. After the revolution, China had the largest army in the world and was it not in Mao’s interest to keep this army busy?

‘Liberation’ tasks had to be given to the army and Tibet was an ideal job. Strategically the next steps in the Marxist Revolution could be prepared and ideologically Mao and his colleagues were liberating a feudal ‘province’ poisoned by their beliefs in the ‘opium’ of religion and under servitude by ‘a clique of lamas’. Before the curtain rises on 1950, the ‘Fateful Year’, it can be said that India despite her good intentions, her non-violent and non-aligned policy, had not been able to prepare the country with the necessary strength to convert her ideals into a possible concrete reality.


In October  1950, New Delhi lodge a strong protest against China’s military action against Tibet. Beijing retorted by accusing India of being influenced by imperialists and reiterated China’s determination to ‘liberate’ Tibet by ‘peaceful’ means. KM Panikkar , the then Indian Ambassador to China, describes his reaction , in his memoirs (“In two Chinas:Memoirs of a Diplomat, London, Allen & Unwin,1955)


“Our rejoinder, though couched in equally strong words, recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and disclaimed all desire to intervene in its affairs, and emphasized once again our desire that the issue between the Tibetans and the Chinese should be decided peacefully nd not by force. Both sides made their point of view clear and were content to let it rest there…


I had expected a virulent campaign against India in the press. But for some reason, the Chinese , apart from publishing the correspondence, soft pedalled the whole affair. The controversy was seldom mentioned in the press. But on our side, matters were not so easy. The Indian press, egged on by sensational reports of the American correspondents and the blood curdling stories issued from Hong Kong by Taipei agents, kept on talking about Chinese agression”


Kaushal - There are several points to be made on this passage. Panikkar  blandly uses the word sovereignty instead of suzerainty, even when Nehru expressly asked himnot to use the word. Secondly he compares the free press of India with the muzzled mouthpiece of the Communist Party  in China, that can  only loosely be described as a press. Third he clearly believes the version put forward by Beijing  rather than that of Tibetan refugees streaming to India with the tales of the Chinese agression.