On 13 January 1958, in a Note to Subimal Dutt, the Indian Foreign Secretary, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India gave an ‘Advice to the Tibetans'.
Though it is not mentioned in Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (Volume 41), the meeting probably took place between Nehru and Lukhangwa who was Prime Minister till 1952.
Nehru wrote: “The ex-Prime Minister of Tibet came to see me this evening. He read out a long story of the sufferings of the Tibetans and their wanting independence and India's help to obtain it. This itself took a long time and I had no more time to spare. I told him briefly that it was folly to think of defeating China by armed force, that India could not supply any arms, that Tibet had become so backward that change had become imperative. If the Tibetans did not change themselves, the change would come from outside. There was no possibility of putting the clock back and reverting to the previous State of Tibet remaining there. Briefly my advice was that the Tibetans should keep united and claim full autonomy. They should not challenge China's overall sovereignty. If they stood for autonomy and were united, they would be able to retain their way of life and at the same time they should try to introduce reforms. I told him that he could speak at greater length to the Foreign Secretary. I understand he is seeing you tomorrow.”
It is shocking that Nehru accepted the invasion of Tibet under the pretext that “Tibet had become so backward that change had become imperative. If the Tibetans did not change themselves, the change would come from outside”.
It has also worth pointed out that India has not done anything to preserve the ‘autonomy’ mentioned by the Prime Minister in 1958.
It is interesting to quote from Apa Pant who was Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim at the time. As a PO, Pant was responsible for Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet.
Pant wrote in book titled Mandala: “With all its shortcomings and discomforts, its inefficiencies and unconquered physical dangers, here was a civilization with at least the intention of maintaining a pattern of life in which the individual could achieve liberation. Without the material conveniences that others have come to expect, the Tibetan as I found him was a cultured, highly developed, intelligent person whose vision, supported by the constant example of the monastic order, was fixed upon the objective of reaching Nirvana. It was a perspective that must make a Tibetan pause and think before accepting communist solutions as the right and only ones for the problems of an ancient society on its way into the modern age.”
“It was also, for myself, the main attraction that Tibet exerted upon me in my fortunate years on the roof of the world: gloriously fortunate in my personal experience, but unfortunate in the sense that my attitude was misunderstood in many quarters. I have always felt, and I continue to feel, a great admiration for China's culture and civilization, for its long history and indeed for its new revolution. In my travels in Tibet I observed how disciplined the Chinese were. All their activities were directed towards the building of a new culture, a society of ‘new men’. What saddened me so much was their failure to see the value of any serious attempt to understand either Buddhism itself or the effort of the Dalai Lama and some of his colleagues to improve Tibetan society while maintaining a tradition that for thousands of years has added a satisfying dimension to human existence. The Chinese mind, having fashioned a new myth, operated vigorously and dynamically, or ruthlessly and cruelly; but always within the confines of that myth. The Chinese could not accept or tolerate an approach that aimed to free the mind of all myth-making, all conceptualization, so as to reach a state of harmony and compassion: They were, not interested in harmony and compassion but in power and material benefit.”
Without thinking twice (or even once), Nehru accepted the “communist solutions as the right and only ones for the problems of an ancient society on its way into the modern age”.
This is the tragedy of Tibet. Can it be undone?