Friday, May 6, 2011

India-China War and the Tibet Factor

The 1962 War has deeply traumatized India, while the Chinese leader have never been much bothered about the slap that they gave to Nehru.
However, the Tibetan uprising of 1959 and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama to India seems to have left profound scars in the Chinese psyche. 
In an excellent paper on China's Decision for War with India in 1962, John Garver, an American scholar mentions the 'Tibet' factor as the one of main reasons for Mao to go with India. 
He quotes Chinese sources to prove that the Communist leadership believed that India wanted to make Tibet an independent nation or at least of 'buffer zone'. 
A study of Nehru's papers shows that Beijing was completely wrong. It was never the intention of the first Prime Minister of India to provide support to the Tibetans refugees to regain their independence.
Apparently, 52 years after the Dalai Lama took refuge in India, China continues to worry about this. 

(Extracts from China's Decision for War with India in 1962 by John W. Garver)
Tibet and the 1962 War: The Chinese View of the Root Cause
There is unanimous agreement among Chinese scholars that the root cause of the 1962 war was an Indian attempt to undermine Chinese rule and seize Tibet. The official PLA history of the 1962 war argues that India sought to turn Tibet into a "buffer zone" (huanzhongguo). Creation of such a buffer zone had been the objective of British imperial strategy, and Nehru was a ‘complete successor’ to Britain in this regard. Nehru's objective was creation of a ‘great Indian empire’ in South Asia by ‘filling the vacuum’ left by British exit from that region. Control over Tibet was, Nehru felt, essential for ‘mastery over South Asia, and the most economical method for guaranteeing India's security’.
A study by Xu Yan, professor at the PLA's National Defense University and one of China's foremost military historians, follows the same line of argument: Nehru aspired and worked consistently throughout the 1950s to turn Tibet into a ‘buffer zone’. According to Xu, Nehru imbibed British imperialist ideology, and believed that India should dominate neighboring countries. He quotes Nehru and other early Congress Party leaders about their aspirations that India should lead and organize the Indian Ocean region. The Indian independence struggle was also marred by an emphasis on ‘pure nationalism’ — communist-jargon for non-Marxist nationalism not underpinned by a ‘class analysis’. Regarding Tibet, Nehru aspired to turn that region into a ‘buffer zone’ between China and India. This was Nehru's consistent objective throughout the 1950s. The ‘decisive factor’ in the deterioration of Sino-Indian relations, according to Xu Yan, was Nehru's policy of ‘protecting’ the Tibetan ‘splittists’ after the Lhasa rebellion of March 1959.
An article by Wang Hongwei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and one of China's senior India hands, presents a similar view. Prior to 1947, Britain's objective, Wang argues, was to bring Tibet within its ‘sphere of influence’. Britain sought ‘Tibetan independence’, and continually attempted to instigate Tibet to ‘leave China’ (touli zhongguo). Nehru was deeply influenced by this British thinking, Wang argued, through education in Britain and by assimilation of the mentality of the British ruling class. In 1959, the Indian government ‘supported the Tibetan rebels’, permitted them to carry out ‘anti-China activities’ on Indian territory, and even gave some Tibetan rebels military training. Simultaneous with this, India advanced claims on Chinese territory. Implicitly but clearly, the purpose of India doing this was to achieve Tibetan ‘independence’ by instigating Tibet to ‘leave China’.
One of the most extensive and nuanced Chinese accounts of events leading up to the 1962 war is by Zhao Weiwen, long time South Asian analyst of the Ministry of State Security. Zhao's account of the road to war also begins with Tibet and attribution of aggressive motives to Indian policy moves. From 1947 to 1952, Zhao writes, "India ardently hoped to continue England's legacy in Tibet." The ‘essence’ of English policy had been to "tamper with China's sovereignty in Tibet to change it to 'suzerainty' thereby throwing off the jurisdiction of China's central government over Tibet under the name of Tibetan autonomy." (shishi shang shi yao ba zhongguo zai xizang de zhuquan cuangai wei 'zongzhuquan', shi xizang zai 'zizhi' de mingyi xia, touli zhongyang zhengfu de guanxia).
By 1952, however, the PLA's victories in Korea, in Xikang province, the conclusion of the 17 Point Agreement of May 1951, the PLA's occupation of Tibet, and Beijing’s forceful rejection of Indian efforts to check the PLA's move into Tibet, forced Nehru to change course. Nehru now began direct talks with Beijing over Tibet. There were, however, ‘right wing forces’ in India who ‘refused to abandon the English legacy’ in Tibet and who pressured Nehru in 1959. Moreover, Nehru himself ‘harbored a sort of dark mentality’ (huaiyou moxie yinan xinli), the exact nature of which is not specified but which presumably included aggressive designs on Tibet. These factors led Nehru to demonstrate an ‘irresolute attitude’ (taidu bu jinyue) in 1959. On the one hand he said that Tibet was a part of China and that he did not want to interfere in China's internal affairs. On the other hand, he permitted all sorts of ‘anti-China activities and words’ aimed against China's exercise of sovereignty over Tibet. Zhao is more sensitive than other Chinese analysts to the domestic political pressures weighing on Nehru in 1959. Yet even she suggests that Nehru's ‘dark mentality’ led him to give free reign to ‘anti China forces’ in an attempt to cause Tibet to "throw off the jurisdiction of China's central government."
The attribution to India by contemporary Chinese scholars of a desire to seize Tibet mirrors — as we shall see below — the thinking of Chinese leaders who decided to launch that war. This is probably due to the fact that published scholarship in China is still expected to explain and justify, not to criticize the decisions of the Chinese Communist Party, at least on such sensitive matters as war and peace.


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