Friday, April 25, 2014

When India had a consulate general in Lhasa

Indian Trade Agency in Yatung (Tibet)
Here is my article in

China has just turned down India's proposal for an Indian consulate in Lhasa, Tibet. Claude Arpi reveals how India once had a full-fledged consulate general office in Lhasa, which was shut down after the 1962 war.

The Nepalese newspaper The Republica recently reported: 'China has turned down India's proposal to establish its consulate general office in Lhasa, Tibet.'
The proposal was presented by Sujatha Singh, India's foreign secretary, during the 6th China-India strategic dialogue held in Beijing earlier this month.
According to The Republica, after meeting her Chinese counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, Singh told reporters that 'India will now plan a decisive talk with China in this regard.'
It probably signifies that the government is ready to drop the idea of reopening the Lhasa consulate. Nepal is today the only country to have a consulate general office in Lhasa.
Why? Simply, because the idea of having an Indian consulate general irritates the Chinese; it reminds them of the days when Tibet managed its own affairs.
Otherwise, the Sino-Indian bilateral situation is rosy. Liu affirmed that China is ready to work with India to advance the partnership to a new level, while Singh explained 'All political parties in India share a common ground on advancing India-China strategic cooperative partnership.'
Xinhua added: 'He (Sujatha Singh!!!) reiterated the Indian government's view of attaching high priority to its relations with China. He (!!!) said the Indian government is working to consolidate the strategic cooperative partnership that is oriented to peace and prosperity.'
Regarding the opening of a new consulate, it appears that Delhi would be satisfied with another consulate general in Chengdu (Sichuan) or Kunming (Yunnan province) instead of Lhasa.
This remains to be confirmed.
While Beijing is extremely keen to open an office in Chennai, Delhi thought it made sense to reopen the old mission in Tibet. India currently has two consulate general offices in Shanghai and Guangzou.
Let us not forget that India had a full-fledged mission in Lhasa between 1947 and 1952 when it was foolishly downgraded (under Chinese pressure) by then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru into a consulate general.
After the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the Indian consulate general in Lhasa (and the three trade agencies in Yatung, Gyantse and the 'seasonal' one in Gartok) were closed.
In this context, a letter from P N Kaul, the consul general in Lhasa between 1959 and 1961, gives an interesting historical perspective. It is addressed to Kaul's successor Arvind Deo.

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