India-China Relations by Charan Shandilya-Foreword


In August 1997,1 visited Tibet as a member of the Uttar Pradesh delegation, first ever Indian delegation to have visited the region on invitation from Lhasa. What I saw there was in sharp contrast to the utterances of Indian media making blind use of the Tibetan stories planted by the US news agencies from Hong Kong and Bering. I came to realise, on such encounter, that I knew pretty little how the people of Tibet were responding to the challenges of history. So, on return, I decided to write the book entitled ‘Tibet On March’. It was released in April, 1998.

In April 1998, BJP-led Government denied the Chinese delegation from Tibet to visit India on reciprocal invitation by us. This, again, reinforced tougher design of understanding reached on India’s new options on India-China relations, and suggested drifting from India’s set national policy of reconciliation and closer ties with neighbours.

After Pokharan-II and III, which witnessed a series of nuclear tests by India, the question of India-China relations has resumed extraordinary importance. Whether it is a question of nuclear free South Asia or the question of signing CTBT and NPT, it has become need of the hour that India understands China and China understands India. The question of international boundary between India and China or McMahon Line—as it was called once upon a time and much have been sieved over and again for over four decades—and the historical status of Tibet, besides a host of bilateral issues impinge upon India-China relations in all walk of life.

Now, what has been the genesis of misunderstanding between India and China? The British made India their launching pad to make forays into a number of Asian Countries including China with the result that we do not distinguish between imperialistic interests and our own national interests.

What are our present day threat or security perceptions? None, but our Defence Minister George Fernandes, the local spokesman of ‘Confront China’ and ‘Tibetan independence’ lobby of the West on 10May 1998, we furnished a charge sheet (reproduced in author’s book titles ‘India-China War of 1962’ published in June 1998) against George who has been touting nothing but sheer hostility towards China for over three decades, is born out by his successive adventures while not in office. Later, his conduct has proved time again. A news item with a photograph of George appeared on first page of The Hindustan Times on 16 January this year (“Wink at gun-runners, service chiefs told” by Shishir Gupta), that says: “IN WHAT seems bizarre, the Defence Ministry has directed the three service chiefs not to take action on intelligence reports on gun-running and other illegal activities in Andman seas without the prior permission of the Government. The service Headquarters received the instruction on July 27,1998 from the Defence Secretary and Defence Minister George Fernandes is in the know of it. This directive impinges directly on India’s internal and external security considerations. According to sources, at least three shipments of illegal arms and ammunition, including two shiploads meant for NSCN(I-M), PLA and NLFT, have crossed the Andman seas after the inexplicable order. A host of terrorists, secessionist and sub-nationalist outfits active in the North-Eastern States, Bangladesh, and Myanmar and Sri Lanka get their supply of illegal arms through international syndicates based in the Golden Triangle….” It’s revealing ! Can we feel safe in the hands of our Suraksha Mantri’? Can we trust our Minister who had been running ‘spy nest’ and the terrorist activities over three decades?

However, India has its problems—in eastern region and in Kashmir. If China government interferes in our affairs, there can be no friendship or normal relations. On Tibet, it is a similar scenario. To talk of ‘autonomous region’ (with reference to Tibet as part of China), this kind of issue, should be left to the Chinese government to decide, that is, about the rights to be given to the Tibetan people. India needs to ensure that no element within Tibetan refugee community in the country gets trained in violence or prepares an attempt at armed rebellion within Tibet. Regarding Taiwan, there needs to be a reiteration of One China Policy, and also that future unification should be peaceful. India should stop interfering in internal matters of China. The Tibetans in self-exile should understand the fact that the world respects power. Tibet may hurt some consciences but China’s hostility can hurt the other countries’ interests. The Dalai Lama did not act sensibly or decisively in the past. He did not negotiate while there was still time. Time is fast running Out. Indian advice, as that of British and the Americans, has been self-serving. The personage like George can not be their friend.

The crux of the problem is, the successive Congress and non- Congress regimes in our country have been basically one when it comes to their attitude towards the Dalai Lama. They have been sheltering him in the country by providing him all facilities to run a Tibetan Government-in-exile in India and carry on with activities directed against the People’s Republic of China aimed at splitting China and carving out Independent Tibet. Everyone knows that CIA joined with the Nehru’s Government by harbouring of the Dalai Lama and fomenting a rebellion of feudals and serf-owners in Tibet against the People’s Republic of China. This rebellion failed and the Dalai Lama escaped to India and ever since stays here at the cost of Indian exchequer (and the clandestine US’s dollar aid). The US has always been patronising his reactionary cause. The present BJP- led government continued the same policy of patronising the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile. As the successive Governments of India have been an instrument of American interference in Tibet by virtue of hosting the Dalai Lama and his clique. The BJP-led government, too, has its hand in glove with the US against China. When this is the case how can it improve relations with China?

As we look back and try to make sense of the India-China crisis, right from the early fifties, we cannot but put it in its historical context and assess the compulsions which in no small measure might have contributed to the 1962 explosion. However, to trace the compulsions through variegated convulsions of history is not easy facile job. To date, crude example if any chance George Fernandes well to take over as Prime Minister of India today chances are, the people will be roused to new frenzy to take on “the principal external threat” is not to resolving the border question atleast for rehabilitating the Dalai Lama in free Tibet. For as we all know George’s socialism has been in no way different from frenzied anti-communist and more so because the. Dalai Lama has emerged over the decades as the best bet of anti-communism ever in the post-cold war times. George’s red baiting suits his aspiration nationally and internationally. It appears that George enjoys a good international company on his perception that China posed the principal threat to India.

Recently in the media a statement attributed to a senior US Congressman Garry L. Akerman that China posed principal threat to India. One wonders whether there is any linkage between the Indians and the US leader in this novel perception. The statement of this nature is meant to describe facts as one finds on the ground. In fact statements like this are calculated to prepare mankind for new division in the near future. As the statement argues the recent Indian Bus-Diplomacy has brought about deep understanding with Pakistan. In fact the US strategists seemed to be longing for state like India to confront China in a war whether conventional or nuclear so that the outcome thus a great service to the US interests. Once they wanted to make use of Pakistan for the same purpose and now they seemed to be determined to bring about confrontation between India and China. But already the US is getting isolated internationally and possibility is that the isolated US will find few friends to oblige in its international ambitions. We have some leaders in our own country, who will like go by the wishes of their masters in the US. But overwhelming Indian opinion finds no reason why Pakistan and China pe considered threats to India.

And, then what is international validity of the much touted McMahon Line? The concepts of buffer zone is a legacy of imperialistic division of markets and so how far we can subscribe to imperialistic strategy foisted upon free India? It is evident that no boundary or territory dispute has ever been involved in Sino-Indian conflict except certain compulsions faced by the ruling classes of India. “Our relations with China are not a territory matter. They are central to the conduct and management of our foreign policy”. K Natwar Singh had written this in the Hindustan Times, Sunday Magazine, on 10 May 1998.

In the context of India-China border dispute, the views expressed by senior commentators like A. G. Noorani, Praful Bidwai, Shekhar Gupta, M. D.Nalapat and former diplomats like K. P. S. Menon, T. N. Kaul V V Paranjpe K Natwar Singh seem to be, relevant. China-India border has remained quiet since long, and care needs to be taken by both sides to prevent incursions across the Line of Actual Control. The deployment of troops on both sides needs to be of a defensive nature and must be reduced to insignificant numbers in due course, with frontier police replacing soldiers. The goal should be an equitable settlement of the border conflict on existing ground realities, analogous to the one informally suggested to Pakistan over Kasmir; ‘we keep what we control, you retain the rest’. The process should begin on priority basis. All Parties should retrain from short term political gains out it.

Let us remember and cite one instance of erstwhile past, a decade before Nehru was sworn in power, on 14 April 1937, Gurudev Rabindranath inaugurated the Cheena Bhavan as research department of the Vishva Bharti at Shantiniketan. Apart from the Chinese Learning the specific aims and objects of the Cheena Bhavan, set forth: to cultivate friendship and fraternity between the two nations of India and China- to join and unite the two peoples of India and China; to promote, jointly universal peace and harmony of Humanity; and lastly, to help building up “The Great Unity” of the world. Congress President Jawaharlal Nehru was invited to preside over the inaugural function. Nehru, sent his 20 years old daughter Indira Nehru with a special message for Tagore. Some excerpts of Nehru’s message are: “…great in the memories of the long past that it invokes, great also in the promise of future comradeship and forging of new links to bring China and India nearer to each other. What a long past that has been a friendly contact and mutual influences, untroubled by political conflict and aggression! We have traded in ideas, in art, in culture, and grown richer in our own inheritance by other’s offering. The political subjection came to both of us in varying forms, and stagnation and decay, and at the same time new forces and ideas from the West to wake us out of our torpor. We have been struggling to find a new equilibrium, to rid ourselves of the forces that throttle us, to give expression to the new life that already pulsates through our veins. The whole world seeks that new equilibrium, but the forces of darkness are strong and in the name of Fascism and Imperialism and their allies seek to crush the spirit of man and all the art and culture that flow from it. But that spirit of man is not easily crushed. It has survived many a barbarous onslaught. It will triumph afresh. China and India, sister nations from the dawn of history, with their long tradition of culture and peaceful development of ideas, have to play a leading part in this world drama, in which they themselves are so deeply involved.”

In his stirring opening address of about 2,500 words, poet Rabindranath Tagore expressed the hope that the Cheena Bhavan would help India “to retrace that ancient path obliterated by the inertia of forgetful centuries”.

Gurudev visited China in April-May 1924 along with his colleagues of Vishva Bharti on a 48-day visit. In 1934, India-China Cultural Society was formed in Shantiniketan with Rabindmath himself as its first president.

Dr. Tan Yunshan who joined Vishva Bharti in 1934 and was the founder Principal of Cheena Bhavan expressed his feelings: ‘”The Cheena Bhavan was originally a gift of the Chinese people to Gurudev in response to his appeal and in appreciation of his ideals for reviving the ancient Sino-Indian cultural relationship on the one hand and to create new relations between the two countries on the other, and lastly, to work together for the world peace and fraternity mainly through cultural exchange, mutual love proper understanding and appreciation. Therefore, donation for the establishment of this Institute came mainly from China and Chinese people and friends. Perhaps we should not call it a donation but a homage to Gurudev as well as India .

In this context it is also interesting to note that despite Rabindranath’s very exciting appreciation of the new civilization of the Soviet Union, which he visited in 1930, he did not set up any special institute for its study.

We need to preserve, not the mere customs and conventions but more moral force that has given quality to our civilization and made it worthy of being honoured. To recall the profound words of Chinese sage, Lao Ze: “Those who have virtue attend to their obligations; those who have no virtue attend to their claims “. Progress which is not related to an inner ideal, but to an attraction which is external, seeks to satisfy endless claims. But civilization, which is an ideal, gives us power and joy to fulfil our obligations. I do not know what distintive merit we have which our Chinese friends and others may wish to share. Once indeed our sages dedicated themselves to the ideal of perfect sympathy and intellect, in order to win absolute freedom through wisdom absolute love and compassion.

Today, we cannot boast of either such wisdom or such magnanimity of heart. But I hope we are not yet reduced to such absolute penury of, both as not to be able to offer at least a genuine atmosphere of hospitality, of an earnestness to cross over our limitations and move nearer to the hearts of other peoples and understand somewhat of the significance of the endless variety of man’s creative effort.

The sole purpose of this study is to tell the facts about the background of 1962 and thereafter a need of fresh insight. The book contains, though, nothing new but revealing facts mostly from horse’s mouth. The facts have been collated from the speeches made by the successive Prime Ministers on the floor of Parliament, from diplomats who handled India-China relations for a long time and military top brass which reflected on these relations in the calm of their retirement. This has also addressed itself to the jingoist statements made from time to time to exploit the India-China crisis for their sectarian ends.

This book has appeared not a day too soon for the sky was cast with dark clouds last year demanding every statesman to have a firm control over the facts and argue the case in full knowledge of its imperialistic heritage. India cannot afford jingoism. A known understanding of the facts of the case will certainly push us into the camp of fascists.

A resolution on the boundary question would require the public mood to be prepared for a settlement. The events of the 1962 are still shrouded in veil of myths and misperceptions. Let alone releasing Henderson Brooks’ Report on reverses of 1962. The Government can begin by releasing the Army report for clearer picture of the events of those days and it will help to build public mood to prepare a settlement and to normalise the relations with China. Settling the vexed India-China border dispute as early as possible on equitable basis must be our national agenda and the corner-stone of the India’s foreign policy towards China.

Maj-Gen Vinod Saihgal (Retd.) sought to unravel the complexities of India-China relations and urgues: “The local ‘strategic community’ continues to struggle to work out a framework within which Sino-Indian relations could progress. …It should b6 in the India’s larger interests, that China develops as a counter-balance to the USA until genuine multi¬polar global order is obtained and the UNO ceases to remain in the grips of the victors of World War ll.”

As the noted Third World economist Samir Amin argues: “It is high time the Third World made a beginning and created space however nascent for appropriate models of development. The only ray of hope is the prospect of India and China coming together. If at all these two Asian giants jointly stand up against the US hegemonists, the long-awaited beginning, the only hope of the oppressed and emaciated Third World, would take a certain shape, and the entire Third World would feel motivated to strengthen this beginning, which, eventually, would pave the path for a just international order.”

Before starting the book, I would like to quote Miss Dorothy Woodman, (stands relevant, except a historic development that Russia- China conflicts have been resolved in May 1987) concluding her treatise ‘Himalayan Frontiers’ (1969) with the remarks—”India today seems to be victim of three traumas: Kashmir, the Aksai Chin, and poverty. To try to resolve the first two by vast military expenditure can only divert her funds and energies from struggle against poverty. India cannot afford to play Russia’s war game with China, nor her own war game with Pakistan. China, whatever the ruling power, will continue to make the same demands that Peking (now Beijing) is making today, since her national interests must remain the same and geographical background is permanent. She, too, cannot risk two. enemies on her frontier nor a series of Vietnams round her periphery. India is, in fact, faced with alternatives of Himalayas as one vast radar screen or the. initiation of an active foreign policy to re¬open talks with Pakistan and China. To settle for the present stalemate is to condone a militarily active frontier across Asia.”

—Charan Shandilya

Ghaziabad: 12 March 1999 ”

…It is great regret that I leave India wothout having secured the formal adherence of the Chinese Government to a tripartite Agreement”. —Sir (Arthur) Henry McMahon wrote to London in July 1914.

“The fact is that the negotiations convened in Simla last year broke down.” —British Government’s Records, a statement in 1915. ”

… So at ‘Simla Conference’ it is a story. It involves a show of diplomatic ploy, power politics, espionage and other complicated performances.” … “So at Simla the British were, in reality, negotiating with themselves”. —Neville Maxwell, a distinguished British commentator.

“But the McMahon Line, which sought to serve the main crest of the Himalayas as the frontier, does not exist and never existed.” —Henry Joseph Twynam, former Governor of Assam (in 1939) “

…The innumerable discrepancies on maps might lead the most naive student of cartography to the view that the devil can quote maps to serve his own purpose” —Miss Dorothy Woodman, Himalayan Frontiers. “

…Then there were all types of ‘incorrect maps’ available in Delhi. The report was that China was collecting them to controvert India’s case. Getting wind of this, the Cabinet decided to bring a Bill to proscribe all those books and maps which would question the integrity of the border. Their publication was regarded as an indirect help to China. The Government itslef withdrew several official maps and books which did not indicate meticulously a curve here or a band there or which left the boundary undefined. Many maps of the Survey of India and books of the Publication Division were withdrawn, and there was a circular sent to return all such materials.” —Kuldip Nayar, ‘Between The Lines’, p. 137-138.

The insertions were made in Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act (1961) Section (2): “Whoever by words written or spoken, or by signs, or otherwise, questions the territorial integrity of India in a manner which is, or is likely to be prejudiced to the interests of security of India, shall be punishable with imprisonment for term which may be extended to three years, or with fine or both,”

April 26, 2018