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1- The End of an Era; India Exits Tibet (India-Tibet Relations 1947-1962 - Part 4)
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Claude Arpi deserves to be complimented for the commitment and hard work that have gone into this production.
The frustrations of seeking reliable documentation from the catacombs of the Indian bureaucracy did not deter him from going after the best information available, and the result is one that he can take much satisfaction in.
Ambassador Prabhat P Shukla, Member Advisory Council, Vivekananda International Foundation, reviews Claude Arpi's The End of an Era: India Exits Tibet.
by Ambassador Krishnan Srinivasan, former Foreign Secretary in The Statesman
Nehru saw China as a partner to create a new post-colonial world, and his aspirations for a global role linked to a big power neglected India’s national and security priorities at great cost. This should be an enduring lesson for our present and future governments.
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by Maj Gen Vinaya Chandran (Retd) in Open Magazine
Historian Claude Arpi goes beyond the British and Chinese narratives to examine older ties between India and the region
by Utpal Kumar in The Daily Guardian
Before waging a war, Dragon often invokes peace. It used the same tactic to convince Nehru to send food for the invading PLA troops in Tibet who, as new evidences suggest, used their presence there to prepare for the 1962 war against India.
An Interview with Surya Gangadharan for StratNews Global
Sixty years of China's occupation has not diminished the Tibetan desire for freedom,says renowned author and scholar on Tibet affairs Claude Arpi. In a skype chat with on Books Corner, Arpi talked about the fourth volume of his Tibet series titled The End of An Era: India Exits Tibet. It covers the crucial period from 1947 to 1962,when China forced the closure of India's consulate in Lhasa and the trade agencies in Yatung, Gyantse and Gartok. It ended the centuries old relationship between Tibet and India,putting an end to bonding that enriched the two peoples.
Arpi notes that coercion is China's way and it may prefer to avoid armed conflict. But China may have lost face in this standoff,more to the point, Xi Jinping may have, with unpredictable consequences for the future.
by Prof Mayank Singh, Benares Hindu University, in Swarajya
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The End of an Era: India Exits Tibet is as extensive a work as any scholar would find on the subject. Arpi’s strength, apart from his vast knowledge, is his love for the subject which makes the book racy, almost fiction-like.
by Sneha Bhura in The Week
For Tibetologist Claude Arpi, border issues can go hand in hand with a spiritual life.
by Ananth Krishnan in The Hindu
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Reasons for the closure of the Indian Consulate in Lhasa in December 1962 remain unclear.
For a development as significant as the end of India’s presence in Tibet, the events surrounding the closure of India’s Consulate General in Lhasa in December 1962 still remain a small footnote in the history of that period, forgotten in the immediate aftermath of the war earlier that year.
Tibet: The Last Months of a Free Nation (1947-1951)
The period covered in the last volume (1958-1962) witnessed the most dramatic events of the bilateral relations between India and Tibet; first, the consolidation of the military presence on the plateau, then the Uprising of the Tibetan masses in March 1959, which prompted the Dalai Lama to flee to India, where the Tibetan leader and tens of thousands of his followers became refugees. Though the Chinese propaganda projected the March 1959 events as the ‘emancipation of the serfs’, the reality was very different.
Even today, the Chinese propaganda claims the opposite of the historical truths.
The reports from the Indian Trade Agents in Gartok, Gyantse and Yatung, as well as the Consul General of India in Lhasa are looked into in detail. An era was coming to an end; Mao’s China did not want any Indian presence in ‘their’ new colony. A sense of jealousy towards India prevailed; Beijing clearly resented the existence of an age-old civilizational relation between India and Tibet. In these circumstances, it became clear that the 1954 Panchsheel Agreement would not be renewed and the Trade Agencies in Yatung, Gyanste and Gartok would have to be closed; it happened in the Spring of 1962.
|The Indian Trade Agency in Yatung till 1962|
It was a property of the Government of India
|The site of the Agency, which has been destroyed by China|
A government building has been built on the spot
The two years before the closure of the Indian diplomatic missions, saw a constant harassment of the Indian diplomatic personnel in Tibet who had to deal with thorny issues such as the fate of the Indian traders, the vicissitude of the pilgrims to Mt Kailash, the status of the Kashmiri Muslims, known as Kachis, or the nationality of the Ladakhi monks in the Tibetan monasteries.
On the diplomatic front, one can only regret that the 1960 talks between Premier Zhou Enlai and the Indian government did not bear fruit; this volume does not deal at length with this issue, as it is out of the scope of this research; however the less known talks between the Indian Chargé d’Affaires and a senior Chinese diplomat in Beijing have been covered.
The PLA’s preparations for a war were evident, except for Delhi who was living in a dream world; the reports from Lhasa should at least have opened the eyes of the Indian intelligence agencies; it was not to be the case.
Another tragedy was the closure of the Indian Consulate in Lhasa around mid-December 1962, three weeks after the unilateral declaration of ceasefire by the Chinese.
Trying to reconstitute what happened from the few sources available has been a hard job; unfortunately the Ministry of External Affairs still jealously keeps classified all documents related to 1961-62.
Does it help India’s interests? Certainly not.
And it leaves more questions than answers.
During all these events, a sense of
|The Deputy Indian Trade Agent and his party on their way to Tibet |
(courtesy: Ipshita Rawat)
Using new sources, the volumes ends with by a couple of not-too-well known aspects of the 1962 China-India war, in particular, the five-year ‘training’ of the PLA during the Tibetan insurgency which greatly helped the Chinese forces becoming familiar with the terrain and other logistic difficulties on the plateau. Our personal research on the fate of the PoWs kept in Tibet, reveals another tragedy within the greater tragedy, which was the 1962 War.
In Volume 3, we quoted Apa Pant, the Political Officer in Sikkim, saying that the Chinese officers were not interested “in harmony and compassion but in power and material benefit”; Pant spoke of the confrontation of two different worlds: “The one so apparently inefficient, so humane and even timid, yet kind and compassionate and aspiring to something more gloriously satisfying in human life; the other determined and effective, ruthless, power-hungry and finally intolerant. I wondered how this conflict could resolve itself, and what was India’s place in it.”
An ancient world disapp
eared in 1962 and in the process, India lost a friend, a kind neighbour and a peaceful border.
To end, we shall cite the personal experience of a senior Indian officer who spent some six months in a PoW camp in Tibet.
The officer recounted: “One other episode of our stay in the PoW camp is worth recording. After we were allowed to sit on top of our house in the Sun, we would often see an old lama in the monastery above and if he caught our eye, he would take out his hand from under his robes for a split second and make a sign of blessings, as it were. After a few times we felt convinced that he was conveying goodwill to us. So, we would also make a quick sign of salutation with folded hands in return. He would never stay long in our sight.”
The narrative continues: “One day, towards the end of our stay, at our request we were taken to see the palace and the monastery. It was a shock to see the palace with all the beautiful Buddha statues of all sizes and fabulous scrolls (thankas) lying broken, defiled and torn and trampled on the ground. In the monastery, a couple of lamas were still staying including the one we ‘knew’ by sight. When we were walking through the usual dark corridors on the conducted tour, this lama was just ahead of me with a guard in front. He sought my hand in the darkness and pressed it. I quickly responded with both my hands. This episode is mentioned just to illustrate the true feelings of Tibetans towards us Indians.”
When Beijing speaks of reopening Old Silk Roads, it should be reminded that the roads between India and Tibet were based on centuries of kinship and shared values. No doubt, the Peoples’ Republic of China has been able to annex Tibet by force of arms; whether they will be able to assimilate Tibetans into their system is a moot question, the answer to which only the future holds.