Tibet, before the massive Chinese influx of the 1950s, was a self-sufficient society. The Chinese invasion of Tibet, which culminated in the 1962 war between India and China, has often been portrayed as the “Great Chinese Betrayal” and “a stab in the back”. But actually it was a “stab in the front” because the stab was invited by India’s own Prime Minster, Jawaharlal Nehru.
In the year 1950, two momentous events shook Asia and the world. One was the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and the other, the Chinese intervention in the Korean War. The Chinese announced their invasion of Tibet on 25 October 1950. But about a year before the Chinese invasion, Nehru had written: “Chinese communists are likely to invade Tibet.” Despite being aware about this invasion, Nehru was showing more interest in Korea than in Tibet and encouraged the Chinese invasion into Tibet. According to Claude Arpi, a French expert on Tibet and China, said, Without Delhi’s active support, the Chinese troops would not have been able to survive in Tibet.” At one point of time Nehru went to an extent of providing truck loads of rice to Chinese armed forces for four years. For some weird reason, Nehru was also taking interest to sponsor China as a member of the UN Security Council instead of safeguarding Indian interests in Tibet.
A warning by Sardar Patel
The First Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru actually helped the China to conquer Tibet. Sardar Patel had recognized that in 1950, China was in a vulnerable position, fully committed in Korea and by no means secure in its further land grabbing spree. But Nehru ignored Patel. Sardar Patel had also said later in a letter to then Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth, Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, that, “The Chinese advance into Tibet upsets all our security calculations. I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.” Sardar Patel passed away five weeks later.
But the mistake of hob-nobbing with Shaikh Abdullah in Kashmir was repeated in a similar way and this time with its Eastern neighbour. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) defeated the Tibetan army in a battle at Chamdo in 1950.
If India would have taken a aggressive stand, it was having an international support and the world opinion was strongly against Chinese aggression in Tibet. The world in fact was looking at India to take the lead. The English journal ‘The Economist’ had echoed the Western viewpoint when it wrote: “Having maintained complete independence of China since 1912, Tibet has a strong claim to be regarded as an independent state. But it is for India to take a lead in this matter. If India decides to support independence of Tibet as a buffer state between itself and China, Britain and U.S.A. will do well to extend formal diplomatic recognition to it.”
Even after the loss of Tibet, Nehru gave up opportunities to settle the border with China.
In 1954, China and India concluded with the Panchasheel – Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence under which India acknowledged Chinese sovereignty in Tibet. Nehru also foolishly promoted the slogan Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai (India and China are brothers).
A warning by Dr. Ambedkar
It has to be noted what Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had said in the Parliament in 1954. He said “By allowing the Chinese to take possession of Lhasa, the Prime Minister has practically helped them bring their border down to the Indian border… Aggression might well be committed by people who are always in the habit of committing aggression.”
Beginning in 1956, the CIA used Indian territory to recruit Tibetan guerrillas to fight Chinese troops, with a base in Kalimpong, India. The Indian public was also outraged when it learned in 1958 that China had built a road between Xinjiang and Tibet through Indian territory in Aksai Chin which is historically a part of Indian state of Ladakh.
These and some other related incidents triggered a India-China war in 1962.
A Golden Chance to announce ‘Free Tibet’
China not informing the world about CoVID-19 virus and going an aggressive way against the world at large, international and national focus should be very clear. China is going about flexing muscles all around and having new ‘National Security Law’ in Hong Kong too. This has to be taken notice of.
While writing this article, Chinese government mouthpiece, Global Times, on 3rd June, reported that Chinese military in Tibet conducted high altitude, night-time infiltration drills in Tanggula Mountains amid the ongoing border stand-off with India. “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Tibet Military Command recently sent troops to a high-altitude region at an elevation of 4,700 meters at night for infiltration exercises behind enemy lines and tested their combat capability under a harsh environment”.
Earlier in May 2020, Republican lawmaker Scott Perry introduced a bill in the Congress to authorize President Donald Trump to recognize Tibet as an independent nation. He has also introduced a similar bill for Hong Kong and these two bills were referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
With a overall International Public opinion against China, India needs to take a initiative and support ‘Free Tibet’ to rectify the mistake of Nehruvian Era.