Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chindia: An attempt of Chinese betrayal? Part One

By Tenzin Lekshay

In the early twenty first century, decades after the collapse of Soviet Union, India and China emerge dominantly in the world politics with their economic and diplomatic puissance. America, the lone super power is struggling to fix the balance of power in the south Asian continent where India and China projected to spread their influences near and far. Subsequently, after the terror attack on World Trade Centre in 2001, America and her allied were tragically absorbed in the bloody Afghanistan and Iraq wars that created an amble opportunity for China to strengthen and master her soft power. Within few years, China succeeded in stretching her arms in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and Middle East. Even India with the virtue of possessing Nuclear weapons, had advanced her diplomacy and economy which makes India a rising regional power. But in Asia, since both China and India are rising, it apprehends danger of creating regional competition and tensions. In order to deescalate the surreptitious tension and to create a bilateral engagement, some experts promote 'Chindia' where both the governments emphasize on diplomatic, cultural and economic ties. As Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India plainly confides, 'future India and China will necessarily come nearer to each other'.1 The question remains whether these two Asian Giants will ever come closer to sustain the new phase of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai.


India and China cherish their distinct and aged-old civilization for thousands of years, which helped significantly in their modernization. For many centuries, Buddhism culturally tied India and China. Apart from Buddhism, trade and commerce gained minimal significance as both the countries were distant neighbors separated by Tibet on the territorial spectrum. Just like Buddhism influenced China, China materially charmed India especially in Kerala,2 but many in India characterized Chinese as mere shoemakers and restaurateurs in Kolkata.3 Many of these Chinese settlers in India were the remnants of those Chinese who were expelled from Tibet via India during the reign of 13th Dalai Lama in 1913.4

During the 18th and 19th century, both China and India faced a critical era of challenges as China was under the feudalistic monarch system as a semi colonized nation whereas India was dominated by foreign imperialist. In early 20th century, many of the Indian political links with China was dictated by British India, which hitherto stands invalid with regarding to Tibet. On the social level, right from the time of boxer revolution till the awakening of Bourgeois revolution in China, many prominent Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Subhash Candra Bose and Gopal Krishna Gokhale and many others shared their deep concerns on China. Even within Chinese also, Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei shared the same sympathy on India during the British rule.5

After the communist China acceded to power in China, India under Pandit Nehru was first among the nations to accord diplomatic recognitions. Soon after in 1951, Communist China invaded Chamdo, the eastern provincial capital of the Tibetan Government. Tibetan delegations were sent to Beijing to negotiate with the Chinese leaders but were forced to sign an infamous Seventeen Point Agreement under duress.6 Indian leaders paid no heed to the political turmoil in Tibet that turned the geo-political scenario of Asian sub continent. Some prominent leaders like Sardar Patel raised the Tibet issues and warned a possible confrontations with China after the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China invaded Tibet.7 Regardless of such prophesied interventions, Nehru played a significant role as a guardian of nationalism and anti colonization, had accredited China with much affinity by reversing her foreign policy in accepting Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.

In 1954, Panchsheel agreement was signed between India and China which was considered a landmark in the history of Sino-Indian relations but was incongruously defined and incorrectly established as Acharya Kripalani and Jaya Prakash Narayan put it as 'Born in Sin'.8 Panchsheel, by meaning referred to Buddhist terminology, was agreed upon economic terms but utilized for political reasons which had favored China more than India. Nehru believed in rapprochement and friendliness with New China and helped secure China's membership in United Nations.9 India in obsession with the Asian stability, maintained cordial relationship with China, with an assumption that China will not engage in war. But unexpectedly, China's swift aggression on Tibet shocked Indian leadership, which led to the close proximity with China. The century old Indo-Tibetan borders, which was once considered a passage of knowledge and wisdom stretching along the Himalayan range from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh became Sino-Indian borders by overnight.

The expansionist Chinese's threat on Indian border security were and still overwhelming and the security issues were raised several times in the Indian parliament as early as 1950.10 Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sadar Patel, Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, Jaya Prakash Narayan, Acharya Kripalani and others stood to their cautious mind about the Chinese occupation of Tibet and its impacts on India. For China, occupying Tibet was not to liberate Tibet but to expand her territorial and political might. China, though a new nationalist independent state in 1950s relied heavily on her strong and oversized foot soldiers who went farthest to occupy in the name of reunification of Motherland. Soon after three weeks of 1954 agreement, Chinese incursion started on Indian frontiers but India bureaucrats were succumbed to their affinity with China and restrained military rebellion, even though Indian Army favored resistance.11 China violated the 1954 treaty since from its inception and launched military incursions on India in contrary to India, who judiciously abides by it even after experiencing betrayal in 1962.

For the past four decades, the ghost of 1962 haunted India, but India is maintaining its soft diplomacy with China on trade corporations, cultural exchanges and military diplomacy. Despite these forward looking and bilateral relations, Sino-Pakistan relations remain an agony for India. Establishment of Chinese ports in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal are troubling Indian security perspective on territorial as well as maritime basis.12 Newly established Sino-Nepal relations is disturbing and strategically a lapse on the Indian side. The border issue still remains disputed even after several rounds of talks and discussions but both the parties proclaim tranquility along the borders. It is disturbing to know about the factual data of Chinese incursions in Indian borders, which is ever increasing. In 2007, Indo-Tibetan Border Forces had reported over 170 Chinese incursions into Indian borders compared to 140 incursions in 2007.13

Economically, China is the number one business partner of India, but India stands behind when we look at China’s overall business transaction and partnership. Border trades were resumed in Nathu la lately but the markets are at the verge of collapsing without much trade, as the items for sales are restricted to few. Does it signify whether India is really focusing on economic relations or is it a part of soft diplomacy? India needs to observe whether their economic policy towards China works in favor of India taking into considerations of cheap Chinese goods dominating Indian market.

Sino-Indian war and aftermath:

Pandit Nehru, undoubtedly a great political leader was informed about the developments in Tibet but he had not taken seriously as he held a view that China will pose no danger to India even if Tibet comes under the regime. He never contemplated Chinese aggressions on Tibet. The new government under Nehru was groomed under tremendous pressures from both inside and outside, which left him in catch 22 situations. As political head of the nation, he vested in much of his energy to promote peaceful approaches with China but in doing so, he sacrificed Tibet. Interestingly, soon after China invaded Tibet, Nehru told Ambassador Panikkar that, “The Chinese government’s action has jeopardized our interest in Tibet and our commitments to Tibet,”.14 It poses many questions about India’s interest and commitments to Tibet. To summarize it, India’s interest on Tibet was based on political and security reasons though Nehru claimed in reverse and its commitments based on cultural aspects.15 The Dalai Lama called Indo-Tibetan relations as a Guru-Shisya (Teacher-Student) relationship based on Buddhism.

After the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Indo-China pact of Panchsheel was signed and Chou En Lai beguiled Chini-Hindi Bhai Bhai. But to a contrary, in 1954, Acharya Kripalani was skeptical and said, “I feel even if we go on emphasizing our friendship with China and saying Chini-Hindi, Bhai Bhai (India and China are brothers) to the end of days, I tell you that this nation will never be friendly to us. Why? Because a friendly nation does not go and howl at another nation in the public market.”16 Even U. M. Trivedi stated that ‘All the time when this Bhai Bhai business was being carried on by us, the man (Chou En Lai) was maneuvering to stab us in the back. It was during that time (1962) that he did stab us in the back.’17

Since 1954, many discussions were held in the Indian Parliament, and it took some eight years for India to realize the Chinese treachery. After the humiliating defeat of the month long Sino-Indian war in 1962, Indian Parliament roused to adopt a resolution to contemn the Chinese incursion on Indian borders. Chou En Lai was a shrewd leader who knew that talking about Sino-Indian border during the early stage of Chinese occupation of Tibet creates problem in maintaining their position in Tibet. Instead, he diverted on covering border trade, India went receptive of the China proposal. As per the request made by the Chinese leaders, India accepted to transport and supply rice to Tibet. Despite knowing the fact that rice were meant to feed huge Chinese armies inside Tibet, India made yet another blunder by transporting rice from India to Tibet.

In Tibet, China vested all her energy in constructing roads and highways covering over the borders south to India and to connect directly with the Mainland China. In reciprocate, Indian government woke up late and started focusing on building roads along their borders but in much slower pace as compared to China. Tarun Khana, a writer wonders, why can China build cities overnight while Indians have trouble building roads?”18 India lately became vigilant and alert on the borders when China consistently engaged her control over the Himalayan belts. Initially, Mao’s China had ambitiously drawn Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh into their territories that needs to incorporate with China. In doing so, Tibet was like a palm and these five areas resemble five fingers for China. Initially, Chou En Lai stressed on reviving the Sino-Indian borders by rejecting the existing border, which he called a scar left by the Britain. India stands by Mcmohan line as the line of actual control, which was signed by the British and Tibetan delegations in 1914. China, though was part of the tripartite dialogue, but was not a signatory to the agreement. As of present, China considered a blunder if they agreed upon the existing line of control and that makes 4,000 km Sino-Indian border a disputed zone. It is understandably significant for the expansionist China to move forward into the Indian territories and claiming Tawang as a territorial part of PRC.

-Second Part will follow soon-


1) Jawarhalal Nehru's Address at the Sino-Indian Cultural Society General Body Meeting at Santiniketan on December 23, 1945

2) My Trust with India-China Friendship-A Talk at IGNCA, by K.P.S. Menon

3) How to understand China by V.V. Pranjpe

4) A History of Modern Tibet 1913-1951, Melvyn Goldstein, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd, reprinted 2007, pp. 59

5) Friendship in Need between Chinese and Indian People in Modern Times by Lin Chengjie

6) Tibet Under Communist China: 50 years, Department of Information and International Relations, 2001, pp. 5

7) India China Relations: The border issue and beyond, by Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawar Daulet Singh, Viva Books, 2009, pp. 52

8) Indian Leaders on Tibet, India Tibet Coordination Office, 2008, pp. 37 & 60

9) Are we deceiving ourselves Again? by Arun Shourie, ASA Publications, 2008, pp. 30

10) Indian Parliament in the Issue of Tibet, TPPRC, 2006, pp. 8

11) Letter from India: July 17, 1962 by Albert Wohlstetter

12) Dragon in our backyard, by Brahma Chellaney, Asian Age

13) Are we deceiving ourselves Again? by Arun Shourie, ASA Publications, 2008, pp. 24

14) Ibid, pp. 37

15) Ibid, pp. 52

16) Indian Leaders on Tibet, India Tibet Coordination Office, 2008, pp. 61

17) Indian Parliament in the Issue of Tibet, TPPRC, 2006, pp. 188

18) Billions of Entrepreneurs, Tarun Khana, Penguin Viking, 2007, pp. 7

No comments:

Post a Comment