Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Indian Mission in Lhasa?

Dekyi Lingka, the Indian Mission in Lhasa
According to The Hindustan Times, India would like to reopen its consulate General in Lhasa: "India has sprung a surprise on China by seeking to re-open its consulate in Lhasa, Tibet that was closed after the 1962 war between the two countries. India’s demand came after a Chinese request to open a third consulate in Chennai. Beijing has consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata and embassy in Delhi".
One of the greatest blunders of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian Prime Minister was to have downgraded the full-fledged Indian mission (equivalent to an embassy) to a Consulate General in 1952.
I quote here from my book Born in Sin: the Panchsheel Agreement 

The Downgrading of the Mission in Lhasa
One of the most astonishing aspects in the exchange of Letters and Notes between the Indian and Chinese governments after the latter’s troops entered Tibet [October 1950], is that India never insisted on the rights she had inherited from the Simla Convention.
In 1950 India still enjoyed several privileges in Tibet; apart from the full-fledged Mission in Lhasa, there were three Indian Trade Marts managed by Agents posted in Gyantse, Gartok and in Yatung. These Agents were entitled to a military escort. The Post and Telegraph Service, a chain of rest-houses and the principality of Minsar (near Mt Kailash) were also under the Indian Government’s control.
Ideologically, Nehru was not comfortable with these ‘imperialist’ sequels, though he admitted that they were useful for trade. However after the arrival of the Chinese troops, the Indian government found it increasingly difficult to retain these benefits on the ground. Even though Delhi could have protested when visitors and traders from India were harassed or put to hardship, they hardly did so.
Soon after the signing of the 17-Point Agreement, Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador to China, came to India for consultation with his government. By this time he was already fully in love with the Communist regime. Nehru, too was convinced that the future of India lay with the East. In one of his letters to the Chief Ministers, he described the situation thus: “it is important to know what the new China is and in what direction it is going… For the first time, China possesses a strong Central Government whose decrees run even to Sinkiang and Tibet. Our own relations with China are definitively friendly.”
But a few weeks after the above letter, the Indian Prime Minister admitted for the first time that there were some differences of perceptions with the Chinese government. At a press conference on 3 November 1951, when someone pointed to certain differences between India and China especially about the Indian Mission at Lhasa , he remarked that the Indian mission would continue to remain there.
A few months later, at another press conference when questioned again about the position of the Indian Mission in Lhasa, Nehru vaguely answered that the Mission was dealing “with certain trade and cultural matters more or less [sic!]”.  He added that technically the Mission never had any diplomatic status. 
During the same press conference the Indian Prime Minister declared that he was not aware of “any infiltration of Chinese troops in India.” Rumours had begun about Chinese incursions through the U.P.-Tibet  border as well as through the Ladakh-Tibet border. The first Chinese surveys for the Sinkiang-Tibet highway cutting through the Aksai Chin probably occurred during these years. Unfortunately, as we shall see later the Indo-Tibetan border in the western sector was still shown as ‘undefined’ on the Indian maps.
At this point in time, the Government of India decided to renegotiate some of the arrangements it had with Tibet.
By June 1952, the situation had further evolved. The Chinese had physical control of most parts of Tibet and the Tibetans were discovering the hardships caused by an invading army.  During another press conference in June 1952, when asked about the negotiations with China on Tibet, Nehru’s hinted at changes:
Nothing very definite has taken place yet... Obviously once it is accepted and admitted that the Chinese Government is not only the suzerain power in Tibet but is exercising the suzerainty, then something will flow from it. Then you cannot treat Tibet as an independent country with an independent representation from us. Though our Representative remains, this changes his character somewhat, and the trade mission and other things also follow.
During the following months, in direct contradiction of the Simla Convention which had been ratified by the Government of India and the Tibetan Government, the question of involving the Tibetans in negotiations would be completely ignored. In the worst colonial tradition begun by the British at the beginning of the century, India was ready to negotiate an agreement with China on Tibet without any reference to the Tibetan authorities.
Although a few months earlier Nehru had ambiguously declared that the Mission in Tibet never had a diplomatic status, in June 1952 he declared more prudently that “the status of the representative in Lhasa has never been defined for the last thirty years.”
The Prime Minister admitted that the circumstances had changed and from an independent country, Tibet had become a country under the effective suzerainty of China: “China is now exercising its suzerainty”.
Nehru announced that as Tibet was no longer an independent country, the Indian Representative in Lhasa would soon be re-designated as a Consul-General. There will be no “difficulty in fixing these and like matters up.” 
The decision had been taken to demote the diplomatic relations between Tibet and India.
In the same month, the clever Zhou Enlai told the gullible Indian Ambassador in China that he “presumed that India had no intention of claiming special rights arising from the unequal treaties of the past and was prepared to negotiate a new and permanent relationship safeguarding legitimate interests.”
It would be good to have an Indian Consulate General in Lhasa, after all India had for centuries very close cultural and trade contacts with the Land of Snows. It was a tragedy that this connection was discontinued after the 1962 War.
Whether the Chinese are happy with this 'connection' is another matter.

India wants to reopen Lhasa consulate, China not game
Jayanth Jacob,
Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 28, 2012
India has sprung a surprise on China by seeking to re-open its consulate in Lhasa, Tibet that was closed after the 1962 war between the two countries. India’s demand came after a Chinese request to open a third consulate in Chennai. Beijing has consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata and embassy in Delhi.
Although Nepal has a consulate in Lhasa, China of late has been more wary than ever about opening up Tibet because of a series of self-immolations, which Beijing claims were done at the behest of the Dalai Lama.
China’s initial reaction wasn’t so encouraging and it preferred a consulate somewhere else. But official sources said New Delhi would like to push for Lhasa.
India holds Tibet as an integral part of China. It maintains that the Dalai Lama is its “honoured guest” and follows a stated policy of not allowing Indian soil to be used for anti-China activities. China’s dislike for the Dalai Lama is well-known.
Beijing is New Delhi's largest trade partner in goods. Officials say a consulate in Tibet would only help bilateral trade and pilgrimage, such as the Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
The consulates that come under the Indian embassy in Beijing include Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Incidentally, Shivshankar Menon, India’s national security adviser and special envoy for India-China boundary talks, spent some of his childhood days in Tibet while his father was posted as India’s consul general in Lhasa in the 1950s.

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