For Private Circulation only


M.L. Sondhi

Published by Tibet Swaraj Committee

“Let India be and remain the hope of all the exploited races of the earth, whether in Asia, Africa or in any part of the world”

Mahatma Gandhi (Delhi Diary: P.31)

“If I want that freedom for my country, I would not be deserving of that freedom if I did not cherish and treasure the equal right of every other race, weak of strong, or the same freedom”

Mahatma Gandhi (Young India 1.10.31)

In defining our “national purpose” generally and in particular our orientation towards the Chinese people and their Government, we must remember that the roots of our political purpose and hence our guide to action are to be found in a long range purpose which is superior to the –isms which are engaged in the interplay of power in the world today.  While we should respond actively to moves on the political chessboard, yet we must not evaluate moves and counter-moves in a manner which may lay us bare to the accusation that we are subject to the same doctrinal or ideological compulsions as are the Chinese.  In our struggle against them we must not become shaped in their image, we must not lose our own view of the historical process.  There must not be any total commitment to violence, or to retaliation or to witch-hunting or to inviolability of sovereignty, for the simple reason that none of these is the “image of our future”.  There should be a constant search for efficacious methods which would combine protection of national interests but which would also keep in view a world-perspective.  It is doubtful if a purely “nationalist” solution can lead us anywhere.  We will be placing ourselves in great jeopardy.  Our opponents will exploit our “nationalistically oriented policies” by accusing us of “empire building”.

It is not difficult to argue that the present stage of socio-economic development of the world gives us assurance of the following: reduction of reliance on naked force; loosening of ideological ties between the members of the two world blocs; the dichotomy between the political-isms and the problem of human survival; technological developments which are leading to the erosion of ideology in the 19th Century and first-half-of the-20th Century sense.

If by our action we can carry conviction to the governing elite of China and to the rest of the world that the collective will of 450 million Indians will be united in unmasking the crude camouflauge under which an out-of-date and technologically backward 14th Century type militant nationalist doctrine is claiming the Tibetan people as a victim, then although it may take a very long time, each passing day would carry growing danger to the Chinese power.  We would then make it worthwhile for new ruling elite in China to reverse the present Chinese policy.  The argument therefore is a simple one:  We must make every effort not to enter into a COLD WAR with China on the pattern of the US–USSR conflict. Our national purpose as defined earlier has a powerful potential appeal.  We must take care not to dissipate it by adopting policies which talk only in terms of strategic interests, geography and bloc-building.

We must frankly ask ourselves the question.  Why have the Chinese behaved in this manner towards us?  What is the cause of the effect which is the most unfortunate experience in our short history of foreign relations?  Any evaluation must take into consideration the fact of the unnecessary sacrifice of Tibet which we now realise was the fruit of a mistaken view of expediency.  The crucial point in the turn into aggressiveness of Chinese policy was our action in subordinating international relations to “narrow national interests” during 1949-54.  Instead of being paralysed by the fear of China and its military strength, we should face the dilemma squarely by constructing a new policy which frankly recognises the defect in our old position, and makes it worthwhile, by promoting “international relations” which would be symbolised by recognising a government in exile, for the Chinese to modify the attitude of finality with which they have faced the Tibetan problem.

Regarding Soviet interests, it could be determined by a careful and logical study of their action in agreeing to the neutralisation of Austria and their preparedness to negotiate over “German Democratic Republic” upto 1956, that the operative criterion in their construction of policy is not the finality of territorial acquisition.  The USSR does not make any secret of the fact that it would welcome the downfall of the regimes in non-Communist countries but political events do not show that the Soviet leaders have authoritatively laid down what part of the world should be coloured red.  The important lesson to learn from the Hungarian revolution is not that the Soviets intervened militarily but that they were prepared to reject old concepts of their own domination over Hungary.  In any case one could have been fairly optimistic about Soviet reactions in the event that the British and the French had not embarked on the Suez operations.

It seems fair to note that in case (1) the Russians are assured about the long range prospects for a neutral Tibet (2) the governmental structure of the government in exile provides for eventual separation of “Church” and “State” and (3) the USSR herself is assured of the opportunity of a legitimate relationship, diplomatic and ideological with Tibet (which is denied by China at present inspite of historical Russian ties with the Tibetan people); there is every reason to hope that USSR will be prepared to take upon itself the strain which would occur in its relationship with China, if it acquiesced in India’s recognition of Tibetan independence.  To put it quite bluntly, our analysis leads us to the point that it is worthwhile exploiting the “polycentrism” of the Communist bloc by securing a certain measure of regulated so-called satellite-isation of Tibet at the hands of the USSR, if that can get it out of the Chinese grip.  It will not be a case of “out of the Chinese saucepan into the Russian fire or the Indian fire” for the simple reason that this would be accompanied by continuing efforts to develop international opinion against any and every sort of primitive militant nationalism.

Our proper response today should be one of evolving an imaginative policy which will accomplish a new strategy.  The most important steps towards such an advance from our present unsatisfactory position are indicated below:

1.                   Indian Foreign Policy is confronted with a crisis of unprecedented magnitude.  The public has responded by recognising first of all that the habit of smooth platitudinous and sentimental talk must be ended as far as the sphere of foreign relations is concerned.  

2.                   The challenge which our foreign policy faces is unmistakably from China whose government is at present pursuing a militant expansionist policy in which the “humanistic” content of Leninism-Marxism has been near completely submerged by the torrential flow of the muddy waters of Han Chauvinism.

3.                   An attitude of vigilance among our people must be cultivated.  This does not mean, however, that the definition of national purpose should be attempted in a mood of prejudice and fear.  In appealing to our people to come together to combat this crisis we must not appeal to motives which may lead to anxiety, panic and mass hysteria.

4.                   We should not try to demonstrate that in our anxiety to block the advance of Chinese aggression we have to jettison all the principles which the world has come to believe are basic to our foreign policy.  We must not start decrying all the achievements of our foreign policy to date.  But we must bring to bear our creative insight to develop a strategy which will be based less on improvisation and more on courage and determination to reawaken the faith of our people in the vitality of our historic struggle for freedom and anti-colonialism.

5.                   The main elements of a new strategy should be concerned with directing our attention to the weakest flank of the Chinese position.  What are our relations with Tibet?  Are we prepared to give effective support to a country fighting for its existence?  Do we realise that despite a partial defeat, Tibet still retains its entity and can win its freedom and independence?  Are we capable and tough-minded enough to utilise for our benefit the dynamic changes that are taking place in Soviet foreign policy?  Can we ask the Russians to take a new look at the Tibet issue, and to see its relevance towards a long term perspective in which Chinese territorial appetite may be whetted and directed against Outer Mongolia?

6.                   It is of course important that we realise what we are up against in implementing this new strategy.  Our adversary is not weak in terms of military powers and has resources of manpower and warheads.  There is no evidence, however, that China is prepared to resort to war on “a go it alone basis”.  The consequences of the strategy outlined above will be:  First, the USSR would continue to restrain China from resorting to full scale war even if Indian policy on Tibet were to undergone change (for the reason given in the next point).  Second, the USSR having prided itself all along in having combined dynamic economic growth with preservation of the national status of different nationality groups could not in its present anti-Stalin phase, allow China to invoke Soviet support to wage war against India for subjugating Tibet.  Nor would the Soviet Union be willing to take part in an arms-race to strengthen China against India, for these arms would not make sense in the context of the break down of confidence between China and USSR which has resulted in a political division which it will take several generations to heal, if at all; Third, we could provide a way towards a political settlement if we press forward for an agreement for guaranteeing the neutrality and disengagement of Tibet as part of a goal of coexistence of India, China and Tibet.

7.                   We behold a terrible spectacle in Tibet.  It is a spectacle of wanton destruction and endless violence.  To prevent the conflagration from spreading in which the entire Tibetan nation may perish, we must without delay which can provide a rational alternative to the annihilation a whole people.

8.                   There are grounds for optimism.  A single dramatic step like the recognition of a government in exile might well reverse the present dismal pattern of events.  Such an act could well cry halt to the unrestrained violence that is being enacted on the Tibetan homeland.  Our move may have a salutary reaction on our adversary.  The Chinese would not give up their hostility towards us or towards the Tibetans.  The Chinese have however a basic interest which they are unlikely to ignore.  They would not willingly agree to their engaging in a protracted war with the Tibetan people which would resemble the conflict which the Communist Chinese waged against the nationalists with the roles reversed.  Such a war would have disastrous effects on their plans for economic progress.

9.                   We can help the Chinese to discern their self-interest by encouraging the government in exile to express immediately its readiness to enter into negotiations with the Chinese and to safeguard by an international treaty the legitimate national interests of China.  We can also expect Soviet influence to be in favour of an internationally recognised neutral status for Tibet.

10.                We should take a stand in favour of an imaginative policy on the India-China border question and also impress on the government-in-exile when it is set up, the advisability of accepting the recognised procedures of negotiation.  We should keep the United Nations informed of developments.

11.                One of the crucial questions for Indian foreign policy will be whether we can give assistance to the government in exile and if so of what nature.  Would it include military aid?  It will not help in clear thinking on this vital question if we mechanically lump together all cases of military assistance and condemn them.  We must consider the different contexts in which military aid operates.

12.                We must declare from the highest possible level that our ultimate interest is in ensuring peaceful coexistence between India, Tibet and China.  The government in exile must declare authoritatively that it accepts a neutral status and is prepared to participate in an international conference to declare its neutral status as legally binding.  While expressing our preparedness to establish friendly relations with China of which our preparedness to negotiate a settlement between India, China and a free Tibet would be a clear proof we should offer economic and military help to the government in exile in order for it to have the minimum capacity necessary to establish relations with various members of the world community and undertake meaningful negotiations with the present adversary of the Tibetan people.

13.                India would have to take steps to denounce its 1954 treaty with China on the grounds that the real roots of Indo-Chinese and Sino-Tibetan conflict cannot be really settled on its basis.  The world community including USSR can be expected to support India in this action.


In the long run we shall avoid violence and bloodshed if we as a nation firmly and solemnly declare our brotherhood and comradely ties with the Tibetan people and act speedily to take their struggle for freedom to a victorious conclusion.
<< Back