Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tawang: a Chinese afterthought

Received by PN Menon of the External Affairs Ministry
I already mentioned on this blog that on January 9, 1959 (just 2 months before the uprising in Lhasa and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama), Subimal Dutt, the Indian Foreign Secretary sent a note to the Prime Minister saying: "The Chinese have not yet raised a dispute with us about Tawang, but I am not sure that they will not do so some time in future."
I also wrote that on March 31, 1959, when the Dalai Lama and his entourage entered India at Chuthangmu, in the Tawang sector, the Chinese government did not protest about the location of the border or even claim that Tawang was 'Southern Tibet' (the term used today by Beijing to define Tawang).
They knew perfectly well that the Tibetan leader had taken refuge on Indian territory. Strangely, Beijing is now insisting that Tawang district is part of the People's Republic of China. It is clearly an afterthought. 

If Beijing had really believed that Tawang area was part of the Chinese territory, the Chinese troops should have followed the Dalai Lama and his entourage into this area in 1959, isn't?
It appears that Beijing would today be satisfied to settle the border issue, would India agree to 'offer' them Tawang area.
But it is clearly an afterthought. 
The Dalai Lama soon after crossing the border
China only started claiming Tawang during the border talks held in 1960. At that time it was more a form of bargain to 'exchange' the Aksai Chin against the NEFA.
The Chinese side has recently claimed that the Dalai Lama was ready to return 'Tawang to China' in 1959. It is obviously not true.
On April 17, 1959, the Dalai Lama made a statement in front of the world press assembled in Tezpur, Assam. Speaking at the third person, he said:

It was due to the loyalty and affectionate support of his people that the Dalai Lama was able to find his way through a route which is quite arduous. The route which the Dalai Lama took involved the Kyichu and the Tsangpo rivers and making his way through Lhoka area, Yarlung Valley and Tsona Dzong before reaching the Indian Frontier at Kanzey Mane (Khemzimane) near Chuthangmu.
He clearly mentions that Chuthangmu/Khemzimane is the border where he was received by a detachment of the Assam Riffles.
The Dalai Lama added:
Ever since the Dalai Lama entered India at Kanzey Mane near Chuthangmu, he has experienced in full measure the respect and hospitality extended to him by the people of the Kameng Frontier Division of the North East Frontier Agency and the Dalai Lama would like to state how the Government of India's officers posted there had spared no efforts in making his stay and journey through this extremely well administered part of India as comfort-able as possible.
Accompanied by the Assam Rifles
There is no question of the Dalai Lama denying the legality of the McMahon Line and claiming Tawang as part of Tibet.
On April 3, 1959, the Prime Minister informed the Lok Sabha about the Dalai Lama's arrival in India and the decision of the Indian Government to grant  him asylum. Nehru explained:
The facts are that on April 1, that is, the day before yesterday morning, we received a message via Shillong dated March 31 evening that an emissary with a message from the Dalai Lama had arrived at our border check-post at Chutangmu in the North-East Frontier Agency. The emissary had arrived there on March 29 stating that the Dalai Lama requested us for political asylum and that he expected to reach the border on March 30, that is, soon after he himself had come. We received the message on April 1. The same evening a message was received by us again via Shillong dated April 1 which informed us that the Dalai Lama with a small party of eight had crossed into our territory on the evening of March 31.
Expecting that some such development might occur, we had instructed the various check-posts there what to do. So, when the Dalai Lama crossed over into our territory, he was received by our Assistant Political Officer of the Tawang Sub-Division, which is a part of the Kameng Frontier Division of the North-East Frontier Agency. A little later, the rest of his party, the entourage, came in. The total numbers who have come with him or after him is 80. From the evening of yesterday, we learn that this party in two groups is moving towards Tawang, which is the headquarters of that sub-division, and that he is expected to reach Tawang the day after tomorrow, Sunday, April 5, in the evening.
Received in Bomdila
If Tawang had been always part of China (or Tibet), why did the Chinese government remained mum.
Not only this, but on May 6, 1959, the Chinese Ambassador in India sent a longish note to the Foreign Secretary of India. Nowhere he mentioned Tawang. He wrote:
Since March 10, 1959 when the former Tibet Local Government and the Tibetan upper class reactionary clique unleashed armed rebellion, there have appeared deplorable abnormalities in the relations between China and India. This situation was caused by the Indian side, yet in his conversation on April 26, 1959 Mr. Dutt, Foreign Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, shifted responsibility onto the Chinese side. This is what the Chinese Government absolutely cannot accept. The Tibet Region is an inalienable part of China's territory. The quelling of the rebellion in the Tibet Region by the Chinese Government and following that, the conducting by it of democratic reforms which the Tibetan people have longed for, are entirely China's internal affairs, in which no foreign country has any right to interfere under whatever pretext or in whatever form.
In Tibet, just as in other national minority areas in China, regional national autonomy shall be implemented as stipulated in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. In this matter which is purely China's internal affairs, the Chinese Government has no obligation to give assurances to any foreign country, nor can it tolerate others under the pretext of a so-called different interpretation of autonomy, to obstruct the Chinese Government's exercise of its state sovereignty in the Tibet Region to-make Tibet semi-independent or even to turn it into a sphere of influence of a foreign country or buffer zone. The above-said is self-evident and undeniable. Nevertheless,  there appeared in India, before and after the outbreak of the rebellion in Tibet, large quantities of words and deeds slandering China and interfering in China's internal affairs. Responsible persons of many Indian political parties, including the National 'Congress, and not a few Indian publications openly called Tibet a 'country', slandered the Chinese Government's putting down the rebellion in Tibet as 'practising banditry and imperialism', demanded that the Tibet question be submitted to the United Nations and even proposed the holding of a tripartite conference of India, China and Tibet to settle the Tibet question which can only be handled by the Chinese Government. Most of the political parties in India went so far as to form organisations in support of the Tibetan rebels. Groups of ruffians were allowed to make provocations and disturbances in front of the Chinese Embassy and Consulates-General in India, and there even occurred the grave incident of insulting the head of state of China. These words and deeds were in the nature of serious interference in China's internal affairs and sabotage of, Sino-Indian friendship, and this cannot be altered by recourse to any pretext, whether 'freedom of speech' or any other 'freedoms', even less can the 'feeling of kinship derived from long-established religious and cultural contacts with the Tibetan people' be a pretext for these words and deeds It is obvious that the Chinese people likewise have a 'feeling of kinship derived from long-established religious and cultural contacts', towards the Indian people, but China has never used this as a pretext to interfere in India's internal affairs, and will never do so.
The Indian Government has recognised the Tibet region as a part of China's territory and has repeatedly dec1ared that it has no desire to interfere in China's internal affairs. This was worthy of welcome. Nevertheless, responsible members of the Indian Government, though they could not possibly be better acquainted with the situation in Tibet than the Chinese Government openly expressed doubts about documents published by China officially, refused to accept the Chinese Government's account of the facts, and asserted that the basis of the rebellion in Tibet 'must have been a strong feeling of nationalism' and that the upper strata reactionaries in Tibet were not solely responsible for the rebellion. They even charged that 'agreement between Tibet and China on the autonomous status of Tibet and the assurances given to India had not been kept' by the Chinese Government, and described the Chinese Government's putting down the rebellion in Tibet as 'armed intervention' and as 'oppressing and suppressing' the Tibetan people. The Indian Government announced that it had granted political asylum to the Dalai Lama in accordance with international practice and stated that the Dalai Lama was "not expected" to engage in any political activities in India.
This would not have caused any dispute. But on April 18 and 22, two statements advocating 'independence of Tibet' and directing wanton attacks on the Chinese Government were issued respectively in Tezpur and Mussoorie in the name of the Dalai Lama. What was particularly surprising, the so-called "statement of the Dalai Lama" of April 18 was not only distributed by an official of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs but also carried on official bulletins of Indian Embassies abroad. Such a line of action on the part of the Indian Government could hardly be considered conformable to well-known international practice. The Indian Government insisted that the Dalai Lama was entirely responsible for the two traitorous statements issued in his name. In that case, did not the impressive welcome extended to the Dalai Lama by the Indian Government and the talks Prime Minister Nehru himself held with him mean giving a welcome to a Chinese rebel and holding a meeting with him? All these statements and actions of the Indian Government, no matter what the subjective intentions might be, undoubtedly played an objective role of encouraging the Tibetan rebels. The facts themselves have completely overthrown the allegation that there is no Indian interference in China's internal affairs. The Chinese Government and people, having regard for the overall Sino-Indian friendship, for quite a longtime exercised utmost forbearance in the hope that the words and deeds occurring in India interfering in China's internal affairs and detrimental to Sino-Indian friendship would end. To the contrary, however, the words and deeds against China and interfering in China's internal affairs coming from the Indian side went from bad to worse and developed to an intolerable extent. Only then did the Chinese people give the reply that was due, in order to safe guard their state sovereignty and oppose outside interference, and also to uphold the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and Sino-Indian friendship, The Chinese people's reply is in the nature of reasoning and is well grounded on fact. All those who have the opportunity of reading a full report of the opinions of the Chinese people will arrive at this conclusion. It is unjustifiable that the Indian Government should have tried in various ways to defend the words and deeds of the Indian side interfering in China's internal affairs and impairing Sino-Indian friendship, while making charges against the proper reply of the Chinese people. The Dalai Lama was abducted to India by the Tibetan rebels. A most strong proof of this is the three letters he wrote to General Tan Kuan-san, Acting Representative of the Central People's Government in Tibet, before he was abducted out of Lhasa. The so-called 'statement of the Dalai Lama', which is full of loopholes, instead of being capable of making one believe

In its relations with India, China has consistently adhered to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and worked for the development of friendly co-operation between the two countries. China has always held that everything must be done to safeguard the friendly relations between the two great Asian countries, China and India, from being impaired. In spite of the fact that the Indian side brought about this unpleasant argument between the two countries, and the Indian Government has failed to give a satisfactory reply on the Bombay incident of insulting the head of State of China, the Chinese side is willing to stop its rebuff as soon as the Indian side stops its words and deeds against China and interfering in China's internal affairs. Prime Minister Nehru has now expressed the wish to end this argument and called on Indian newspapers to exercise restraint and wisdom, this is worthy of welcome. It is the hope of the Chinese Government that the dark clouds overcasting Sino-Indian relations for a time will speedily, disperse and that, through the current trial, Sino-Indian friendship, which is of long standing and based on the Five Principles, will develop even better. On the whole, India is a friend of China, this has been so in the past thousand and more years, and we believe will certainly continue to be so in one thousand, ten thousand years to come. The enemy of the Chinese people lies in the East-the U.S. imperialists have many military bases in Taiwan, in South Korea, Japan and in the Philippines which are all directed against China. China's main attention and policy of struggle are directed to the east, to the west Pacific region, to the vicious and aggressive U.S. imperialism, and not to India or any other country in the southeast Asia and south Asia. Although the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan have joined the SEATO which is designed to oppose China, we have not treated those three countries as our principal enemy; our principal enemy is U.S. imperialism. India has not taken part in the Southeast Asia Treaty; it is not an opponent, but a friend to our country".
China will not be so foolish as to antagonize the United States in the east and again to antagonize India in the West. The putting down of the rebellion and the carrying out of democratic reforms in Tibet will not in the least endanger India. You can wait and see. As the Chinese proverb goes 'the strength of a horse is borne out by the distance travelled, and the heart of a person is seen with the lapse of time.' You will ultimately see whether relations between the Tibet region of China and India are friendly or hostile by watching three, five, ten, twenty, a hundred …years. We cannot have two centres of attention, nor can we take friend for foe. This is our state policy. The quarrel between our two countries in the past few years, particularly in the last three months, is but an interlude in the course of thousands upon thousands of years of friendship between the two countries and does not warrant a big fuss on the part of the broad masses and the Government authorities of our countries. The principles, positions and distinctions between right and wrong as set forth in the foregoing paragraphs have to be set forth; otherwise the current difference between our countries cannot be resolved. But so far as the extent of the implication of those words is concerned, it is only temporary and local; that is to say, they refer only to a temporary difference between our two countries and concern solely the region of Tibet. Our Indian friends! What is your mind? Will you be agreeing to our thinking regarding the view that China can only concentrate its main attention eastward of China, but not south-westward of China, nor is it necessary for it to do so. Chairman Mao Tse-tung, the leader of our country, talked on many occasions with Mr. R.K. Nehru, former Indian Ambassador to China, who could well understand and appreciate it. We do not know whether the former Indian Ambassador conveyed this to the Indian authorities. Friends! It seems to us that you too cannot have two fronts. Is it not so? If it is, here then lies the meeting point of our two sides. Will you please think it over? Allow me to take this opportunity to extend my best regards to Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, the leader of India.
In his note to the Foreign Secretary, the Chinese ambassador never said that Tawang was Chinese (or Tibetan) territory. It clearly shows that the new 'just give us Tawang' policy is not based on any historical facts, but on afterthoughts to get the occupation of the Aksai Chin formally acknowledged and legalized.

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