Friday, June 25, 2010

The Korean Factor

Sixty years ago, the Korean War started. I post today an extract of my book "Tibet, the Lost Frontier" as well as a Message given by Sri Aurobindo to a disciple at the end of June 1950. It is probably one of the last messages of Sri Aurobindo who left his body in December 1950.
While Nehru was only interested by the role he could play on the world scene, Sri Aurobindo saw that the forthcoming invasion of Tibet and the consequences for India and Asia.

Message from Sri Aurobindo on the Korean War
I do not know why you want a line of thought to be indicated to you for your guidance in the affair of Korea. There is nothing to hesitate about there, the whole affair is as plain as a pike-staff. It is the first move in the Communist plan of campaign to dominate and take possession first of these northern parts and then of South East Asia as a preliminary to their manoeuvres with regard to the rest of the continent - in passing, Tibet as a gate opening to India. If they succeed, there is no reason why domination of the whole world should not follow by steps until they are ready to deal with America. That is, provided the war can be staved off with America until Stalin can choose his time. Truman seems to have understood the situation if we can judge from his moves in Korea, but it is to be seen whether he is strong enough and determined enough to carry the matter through. The measures he has taken are likely to be incomplete and unsuccessful, since they do not include any actual military intervention except on sea and in the air. That seems to be the situation; we have to see how it develops. One thing is certain that if there is too much shiIly-shallying and if America gives up now her defence of Korea, she may be driven to yield position after position until it is too late: at one point or another she will have to stand and face the necessity of drastic action even if it leads to war. Stalin also seems not to be ready to face at once the risk of a world war and, if so, Truman can turn the tables on him by constantly facing him with the onus of either taking that risk or yielding position after position to America. I think that is all that I can see at present; for the moment the situation is as grave as it can be.

The Korean Factor
It is not possible to understand the happenings of the Iron-Tiger year — the Fateful Year without having a closer look at another event of 1950.
On June 25, 1950 North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and invaded the South. Soon after, the Western nations got involved in Korea under the auspices of the UN. We shall see the serious consequences of the Korean crisis on the Tibetan issue as eventually the PLA attacked Korea and Tibet on the same day in October 1950. While the international community reacted strongly to the Korean attack they virtually turned a blind eye to Tibet’s predicament.
The attitude of the Government of India towards the Tibetan issue would largely be dictated by the role that Nehru wanted to play in the Korean affair. For the Western powers, their involvement in the Korean peninsula appeared to stop them from taking bolder initiatives in favour of Tibet. It is clear that the main strategic interest of President Truman and Dean Acheson, his Secretary of State, was the fate of Korea and Formosa.
As we saw earlier, the People’s Republic had announced that the two main fronts to be opened in 1950 were Taiwan and Tibet (and the island of Hainan). Korea was never mentioned.
At the beginning of the summer, everything was more and less ready to advance on the Tibetan front. In Delhi, everybody was awaiting for the arrival of the Chinese Ambassador. The Tibetan negotiators were busy running around for visas to Hong Kong while being assured by the Government of India that Communist China was serious about a negotiated settlement.
In India, the ‘liberation’ of Tibet and its incorporation into the ‘Motherland’ were often taken as nothing more than socialist slogans.
In Tibet, the aristocracy and the monks were busy with their picnics and their normal life. There was a widespread belief that in the end truth would prevail and Tibet would be spared. The predictions of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama were long since forgotten. At the worst, it was thought that the Government could order the big monasteries in Lhasa or Chamdo to perform extra prayers, to secure the help of the Gods to protect the Land of Snows and its culture.
This attitude is also apparent from the memoirs of Takser Rinpoche, the elder brother of the Dalai Lama who was the Abbot of the Kumbum monastery in Amdo province in 1949/1950. He was told in the spring of 1950, by the Political Commissioner in Xining, that it was not only Kumbum and the adjacent areas which were going to be ‘liberated’ but the whole of Tibet . At the same time, the elite Chinese troops were preparing for a landing in Formosa.
At 1 a.m. on October 1, to celebrate the first anniversary of the new Republic, Zhou Enlai called his ‘neutral’ friend K.M. Panikkar to request him to inform the United States that if the US forces continued to advance towards the border marked by the Yalu river, China would have no other choice but to intervene. The same day the North Korean leader sent a telegram to Mao to request his immediate help.
China had no armoured corps, no air force worth a name. In spite of these odds, Mao decided that China would go to the defence of North Korea. The pride of the Chinese nation was at stake and China never liked to lose face.
On October 7th, 1950, Order No. 1 in the name of the Central Military Committee was issued naming Marshal Peng Dehuai as the Commander-in-Chief of the operations.
Communist China’s entry into the Korean war has been described at length, because it must be the first and only time in the annals of military history that a country opened two fronts at two opposite ends of its ‘empire’, on the same day, with what could appear to be two totally unrelated motives.
Simultaneously, on that same October 7th, 1950, the Second Field Army led by Deng Xiaoping and One-eyed Liu crossed the Upper Yangtze and entered Tibet to ‘liberate’ the Land of Snows. Mao was so sure of his strength that he decided (probably on the assurance of Deng Xiaoping) that a second front could be simultaneously opened.
But perhaps, Zhou had received indirect (or direct) assurances from Panikkar that India would not intervene.

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