A manual of Indian blunders in India-China relations

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This monumental four-volume analytical document deserves to be adopted as a compulsory text book in the training programmess for every MEA entrant and Member Parliament on “How not to conduct External Affairs of India.” This review deals with the fourth volume, The End of an Era—India Exits Tibet: India-Tibet Relations 1947-1962

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The End of an Era India Exits Tibet Part IV, Claude Arpi, Publisher: Vij Books India Pvt Ltd pp 608,Rs 1950.00
A big handicap in the business of book publishing on current affairs in India, especially on major issues related to India’s international relations, is the shortage of books by genuine and passionate researchers. A large section of books available in the market is by former bureaucrats and political leaders who invest most of the space and efforts in justifying and highlighting their personal role and looking good. There are quite a few other serious books which are mere reproduction of PhD or other research works of individual scholars for whom it was a formal exercise in completing a project or an assignment. Very few among such works are the result of a passionate hunger for digging out facts, developments and trends related to events which made history and affected India’s fate in a big way.
Claude Arpi’s set of four books under the series “India Tibet Relations (1947-1962)” belongs to the last category. It is a monumental work as an honest and detailed ‘post mortem’ of developments during 1947-1962 era within the India-China-Tibet triangle. It was that period of history which first marked the Chinese attack on the Eastern part of Tibet, followed by its formal occupation and then India’s final withdrawal and snapping of centuries old relations with Tibet to leave the ground open for China to fortify and perpetuate its colonial rule over Tibet. Interestingly, all this colonial drama happened under the watch of a ‘free’ world which had just emerged out of the Second World War and had started taking pride in witnessing the beginning of the end of colonialism from the face of earth. The focus of our discussion is the fourth and concluding volume of this series which is titled “The End of an Era: India Exits Tibet”.
This book is monumental in more than one ways. As Maj. General BK Sharma the Director of United Service Institution of India (USI), puts it in his foreword....
This historic research project will not only dispel many myths but also unravel the truth about the events that were to shape India-Tibet-China relations during those crucial years.” It is under USI’s ‘Field Marshal KM Cariappa Chair of Excellence’ that Claude Arpi conducted this research. These books offers a deep insight and an honest and dispassionate analysis of the way Indian government ‘mishandled’, the invasion of Tibet by China in October 1950; subsequent complete assimilation of Tibet into PRC; and then issues created by China on Indian borders as a consequence of this sudden overnight metamorphism of many millennias old ‘India-Tibet border’ into an ‘India-China border’. It explores and exposes the unending chain of blunders committed by the then Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and his army of diplomats and policy makers in the MEA. It also analyses how these blunders pushed India into miserable and hopeless situation where India finds itself today vis-à-vis China seven decades later.
It explores and exposes the unending chain of blunders committed by the then Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and his army of diplomats and policy makers in the MEA. It also analyses how these blunders pushed India into miserable and hopeless situation where India finds itself today vis-à-vis China seven decades later
The forth volume (1958-1962) deals with developments leading to India-China war in 1962. It presents the stark contrast between the approaches of Mao’s China and Nehru’s India in dealing with their respective national interests and ambitions. While China was feverishly busy in establishing a motorable network of roads in Tibet, the ‘Hindi Cheeni Bhai Bhai’ fever of PM Nehru had taken the dimensions of such a cerebral fever that the PM office and the MEA mandarins in New Delhi practically assigned all such warning reports to files without even reading them – leave aside taking any action or counter measures to correct the situation.
Claude Arpi presents many glaring examples of how Nehru mishandled his relations with China. One example is of Aksai Chin of India’s Ladakh which China quietly occupied by just walking in. In early 1958 Nehru’s Foreign Secretary Subimal Dutt submitted to him report on China’s 1200 km long road connecting Gartok in Western Tibet with Yeh (Yeheng) in Sinkiang (now ‘Xinjiang’) through India’s Aksai Chin area five months after its ‘official’ opening by China. With this report he advised the PM to send a reconnoitering party ‘in the coming spring’ to verify if the road had ‘really been built’ on Indian territory. In response, an indifferent Nehru rejected even the idea of an air reconnaissance saying: “I do not think it is desirable… In fact I do not see what good this can do us….”. And finally Nehru suggested to his Foreign Secretary: “our maps should be sent to the Chinese….. But I think it would be better to do this rather informally.” It simply shows that Nehru did not have any desire, or guts, to confront China even in a blatant case of usurping Indian territory. The book reveals how New Delhi happily went on exporting tons of rice through Nathu La to feed the Chinese road workers who were busy connecting their army posts on border with Lhasa through a motorable road.
This set of book fortifies popular perception that a sizeable section among Indian bureaucrats, especially those serving MEA, are brilliant in parts but most of them use their brilliance more for ensuring and fortifying their personal comforts and interests rather than for serving the national interests. Prior to signing of the so called “Panchsheel Agreement” with China in 1954, Indian Ambassador KM Panikaar to Peking (know ‘Beijing’) had advised Nehru not to speak of a border which is settled with China because “if it were not settled China would have brought the issue to the negotiating table”. He failed to understand the meaning behind Chinese PM Zhou Enlai’s words, “we are prepared to settle all such problems as are ripe for settlement,” which actually meant that China would prepare for or wait for situations to become favourable enough to raise claims on any Indian areas.
Author Clalude Arpi has put in hard work in studying official documents to expose such anomalies in the performance of India’s diplomatic force. He refers to PM Zhou’s letter of January 23, 1959 to Indian PM Nehru in which he had clearly explained why China did not discuss border issues in the 1954 agreement. The letter said, “…The border question was not raised in 1954 when negotiations were being held between the Chinese and Indian sides for the ‘Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet Region of China and India’ (popularised by Pt. Nehru as the ‘Panchsheel Agreement). This was because conditions were not yet ripe for its settlement.”
The book is a monumental work as it is loaded with logical analysis of Indian government’s blatant failure in reading the Chinese mind and its inability to take timely steps to protect Indian interests. One only wonders why India’s foreign policy leaders and their army of MEA bureaucrats could not learn basic lessons even from written documents like Zhou’s above letter which gives a transparent peep into the real Chinese mind and their intentions about borders with India. Had India’s China policy makers ever read Zhou’s letter seriously they would have saved India from the deep pitfall they have landed Indian on the border issues vis-à-vis China. On the one hand such incidents explain why China has never allowed the border issue to be settled with India and how inefficient, incompetent and indifferent Indian policy makers have remained oblivious to it for over six decades after Zhou revealed his government’s policy on border disputes with India. This failure reflects even from a well-known fact while China has been feverishly busy in fortifying their defence infrastructure on the Tibetan side of our borders, India has been postponing providing even a single reasonable road link to our Army personnel along nearly 4000 km long border.
This set of books is result of a long painstaking research by the author. He has given hundreds of real examples of how India’s leaders and bureaucrats mishandled their responsibilities in the most delicate and demanding moments of national history. That is why Claud’s racy and lucid writing style makes reading of this monumental work an exercise in self-inflicted torture for any reader who has some love or sympathy for India.
All this makes this set of books an invaluable document for all those scholars, media persons and students of international affairs who wants to understand the true characteristics and history of India-China relations. It is a must read for India’s policy makers who need to understand the significance of a free Tibet for ensuring India’s territorial integrity and national security from China’s future plans and machinations. Thanks to the author’s in depth research and sharp analysis, this four-volume analytical document deserves to be adopted as a compulsory text book for every MEA entrant and each Member of Indian Parliament on “How not to conduct external affairs of India.”