The Dalai Lama adolescent in Lhasa
Many years ago, during an interview with the Dalai Lama, I asked him about the Simla Convention, the McMahon Line and Tawang. He told me an amusing (and telling) story.
In a previous posting, I mentioned that Zhou Enlai told Nehru in 1957 that he was not sure if the Tibetans stood by the McMahon Line. Though some Tibetan officials were perhaps unaware in 1947-48 (as the Dalai Lama's recounts), but by mid-fifties, everybody in Tibet knew that Monyul (Tawang) was part of India. But the Chinese still keep playing on the ignorance of a few Tibetans in the 1930's or 1940's to claim the area. At the same time, some Indian 'experts' say "why not to make the Chinese happy, let us give them Tawang, all problems will then be solved'. It was what Panikkar thought when Zhou Enali told him 'all problems ready for settlement have been sorted out'. He conveyed to his boss in Delhi 'all problems have been sorted out', forgetting a small part of the sentence. Predictably fresh 'problems' soon arose (and a war).At that time [in 1947-1948], the Tibetan Government should have send a strong delegation to celebrate the Independence of India. Of course that was a big mistake.
About Mon [Tawang] in NEFA area, I remember that around 1948/49, (at that time I had no responsibility), I heard that a special session of Tibetan National Assembly was taking place and a 'British delegation' came to see the Kashag [Tibetan Cabinet] in the Potala. I remember some of the people of the British delegation who came (I think Richardson was one of them) [Richardson, a British was Head of the Indian Mission between 1947 and 1950]. Along with them, there were some people dressed in Sikkimese dress. From my window in Potala, I noticed them and I was told that Tibetan National Assembly was in session; [it had been called] because some troops of the Indian Army had entered through Tawang area. The Tibetan government wanted to protest. It was an indication that at that time because Tawang and these areas had [earlier been] in possession of the Tibetans, they wanted to hold on to these areas, although in 1914 at the Simla Convention the border was already demarcated and a [Convention] was signed. But perhaps most of the Tibetans did not know about Simla Convention (the Dalai Lama is laughing). On the spot when some Indian officials came [in Tawang], the [local] Tibetan officials told them: ‘This is our land’ (laughing)
They did not know that the Government had already decided in 1914 [about the McMahon Line]. Finally I do not know what they [the National Assembly] decided.
Such a wonderful Government [who did not know about the treaties they had signed]! (laughing).