1914 Shimla Convention, Agreement and Consequences

 

 

Mr. Rajiv Vora, Mr. Ranjit Gupta, Mr. Anand Kumar, Mr. K. Raghunath, Mr. Naresh Mathur


Madhuri Santanam Sondhi, Director, MLSIAPA
:

 

On behalf of the ML Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs I extend a warm welcome to all friends and guests, especially to Shri Kiren Rijiju, Lok Sabha Member from Arunachal who has gone out of his way to fit this programme into a hectic schedule. He arrived from Shimla last night and is leaving for Kolkata this afternoon! I am also extremely grateful to Shri K. Raghunath, former Foreign Secretary, who will be joining us this afternoon despite the unavoidably short notice and his very busy schedule. I am also happy to welcome our speakers for the day, Supreme Court Senior Advocate Rajeev Dhavan and retired diplomat Ranjit Gupta. Major-General Vinod Saigal, also retired, is present but a very sore throat will prevent his active participation. I also welcome Mr. Naresh Mathur, Advocate Supreme Court, Dr. Anand Kumar of JNU, Dr Rajiv Vora, Chairman of Swarajpeeth, A Gandhian Centre for Non-Violence and Peace, and Dr. Niru Vora Director of the Swarajpeeth. Regrettably Professor Purshottam Mehra of Chandigarh University, acknowledged authority on the MacMahon Line, was unable to travel to Delhi for the occasion due to reasons of health,, and that is a big loss for this seminar. 

 

 Well, friends, as many of you may be aware, this seminar on The Shimla Convention and its Consequences was originally meant to be held, as is only proper, in Shimla, in the History Department, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it was, at the last minute, transferred, lock, stock and barrel, so to speak, to Delhi. The ML Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs on being approached by the Tibetan People’s Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre promptly agreed to provide the local forum, as the theme is integral to the concerns of the Institute: Tibet provides the fulcrum of power coordinates in the Asia Pacific region, for China, India, Russia and Central Asia, and with its high plateau and water sources, serves as an eco-environmental regulator for the eastern, south-east Asian and South Asian land mass. Moreover the founder of this Institute, Professor ML Sondhi, had a lifelong concern with Tibet, with India’s northern frontier, with communist regimes and with the power balances in the Asia-Pacific. 

 

We also owe thanks to the India International Centre for their constant cooperation in allowing us the use of their facilities: just last month on June 4th,   anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, we held a Roundtable to discuss The Prospects for Democracy in China here in this very hall. Thanks are also owed to the Friedrich Neumann Stiftung for their support to this function.

 

Contemporary debate about the MacMahon Line focuses on disputes between India and China, but when the Line was being discussed and delineated at Shimla in 1914 there were three parties to the debate, India, China and a self-declared independent Tibet – indeed Tibet was the fulcrum of the whole exercise. Two Lines were under discussion, one to the north of Tibet concerning the territories bordering China: at the time China and Tibet were at war with each other and the British were partly mediating between the two. The other Line was in the south, between Tibet and British India. The Line concerning Tibet’s northern borders and her relationship with China, territorial and political, was perhaps the most hotly contested during the negotiations.  Regarding the Himalayan border the British and Tibetans were able to negotiate more amicably, sign an agreement, though not without some heartburn, especially with regard to Tawang. The occupation of Tibet by China three and a half decades later made the first Line redundant, although I understand that in current Tibetan negotiations with Beijing some of the issues connected with it remain, for example as to what constitutes greater Tibet or what is the status of the entire Tibetan community as a cultural and religious entity.  However so far as contemporary Indian debate is concerned, the MacMahon Line only refers to the northeastern Himalayan border, and it remains an unsolved territorial dispute between India and China as occupier of Tibet. 

 

It is sometimes said by commentators in India and China, that the two countries enjoyed a peaceful border for two millennia, and that the current dispute is just a modern hiccup. This is an erroneous statement: it is Tibet and India which enjoyed the largely peaceful border after Tibet became a Buddhist country, tying  to India through strong cultural bonds.

 

It is only when China and India came face to face for the first time in the 20th century in the Himalayas that the long-standing northern peace was broken. Now the two countries are trying to work out some border solution. Unfortunately Tibet is no longer party to the confabulations. At the Shimla parleys in the early twentieth century the British were striving for an architecture which partially anticipated ideas of what we would today call a zone of independence and neutrality: I say ‘partially’ because they were not completely honest brokers, and significantly after the conference whereas both the Tibetan and Chinese envoys returned home in disgrace, McMahon was rewarded by his government! But at least his declared intention was to arrive at an arrangement that would keep the competing neighbours, Russia, British India and post-Manchu China as distant as possible from Tibet so as to avoid direct conflict with one another. However as events turned out, this arrangement was upturned due to China’s military pursuit of her perceived interests and independent India’s abdication of interest in the region.

 

At the risk of repeating the obvious I may say that had our Himalayan disputes been conducted with an independent Tibet it would have been a far less traumatic exercise, and we could have with justification invoked a long history of peaceful relations. Instead we are negotiating with an inimical power whose military, communications and demographic muscle in the plateau grows day by day.  We may argue over a few scraps and maps that remain of the Convention, to which we have added some new guidelines concerning settled populations etc., whereas the spirit in which the Convention was conceived, for the good in so far as it aimed to create a stable peaceful environment on the roof of the world, but faulty, in that it did not, perhaps could not, satisfactorily address all the concerns of the involved parties – this larger spirit or shall we say the big picture has been abandoned. Now with new facts on the ground we are caught in a purely one to one strategic game. Perhaps what we are facing are the consequences of the failure of the Shimla Convention to achieve its own objects, and perhaps the challenge is to re-conceive those objects to achieve a regional rather than just a border settlement – a settlement that involves satisfaction of Tibetan concerns along with China’s and our own. 

 

What the Chinese occupation of Tibet has shown is that military might can override legal rights, for the Tibetans reached Shimla with several mules laden with documents to substantiate their legal claims. As one often hears in High Court property disputes, occupation is nine-tenths of the law. However, that one-tenth right does not disappear, and in certain cases it can act as the thin edge of the wedge which, with strength and determination, can delegitimise the occupation, if not prize open the steel jaw of the occupier.  Hence the almost hysterical insistence of the Chinese in getting their falsification of history accepted, especially by the Tibetans.

 

We look forward to our learned and experienced speakers enlightening us on new initiatives in these areas.

May I now call upon our Chairman, Shri Kiren Rijiju, to take over the proceedings.

 

Shri Kiren Rijiju, MP: Thank you Mrs. Sondhi. I am happy to be here at this very important seminar. As an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, I may say we are constantly harassed by the claims of the Chinese to our territory, they continuously remind us about the issue, and I trust the eminent persons at this table will with their expertise, apprise us of the correct history and legal aspects. I am somewhat depressed by the attitudes of the younger so-called modern generation of Indians and the national media which tend to ignore the national importance of the Himalayan region and the McMahon Line, and I trust this seminar will throw light on this topic. I now call upon Mr. Rajeev Dhavan, Senior Advocate, to give us his views. 

 

 

Dr. Rajeev Dhawan (Senior Advocate)

 

            Let me start on a somewhat trivial note. This table is full of experts who know the subject, who are looking for nuances, and I am not certainly the right person to explain the nuances to you.  I feel like the Sardarji lawyer who went to the Tis Hazari Court to argue a case and said to the judge, “Sir, gal yeh hai, ki facts tho twadi brief vich hai, law thwanoo aandha hai, the mein ki bolan?  (Frankly Sir, the facts are in your brief, the issue is something with which you are familiar, so what is there for me to say?)   But I came to listen and to learn.

 

There are two fundamental issues so far as the McMahon Line is concerned.  There is the sovereignty issue which greatly concerns the Tibetans and which somewhere along the line has been lost sight of.  And of course there is the border issue.  Ms. Sondhi is absolutely right in saying this is not a matter of scraps and maps. Something fundamental happened over the last hundred years, some things got eclipsed, certain rights got lost in the course of the power play.  We are left with an international situation which is of considerable consequence.  I have just come back from Fiji from some constitutional discussions, and I asked the people of Fiji, Who about really cares about you?  You don’t have the natural resources that interest America, you cannot generate enough politics as you have only eight thousand people, and as far as your consumer economy is concerned you don’t have a huge market.  So who would really be concerned about you?  In a somewhat parallel manner Tibet has now become a matter only for Tibetans, and for some lonely voices that may be raised as part of the power play.  I have Arunachal very much in my heart as I represented Arunachal in the forest cases, to be given a shawl by the Chief Minister when I went there.  But the Chinese lay claim to Arunachal. 

 

Since this conference has been co-organised by Tibetans, let us deal with the sovereignty issue first, because that is an issue of considerable importance.  I wrote an article on the issue in the Mail, but it is more important to listen than to read, since education now-a-days occurs more by osmosis than by reading.  But let us begin with this political entity called Tibet.  What interests led to the delineation of the McMahon Line?  Let me give you six propositions as a guide along the way.

 

The first proposition is that till the 19th century Tibet negotiated as an independent sovereign state.  This is exemplified in certain treaties like that of Tibet with Kashmir in 1642, with Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1842, and in 1852 with Ladakh.  Tibet as a complete sovereign nation signed those treaties, and negotiated independently with Kashmir.

 

The second is the proclamation of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1913 by which he made it absolutely clear that China has no claim on the sovereignty of Tibet.

 

The third is that immediately after the 1913 agreement between Tibet and Mongolia where both met as sovereign independent states, the Shimla negotiations followed a year later in 1914.  What was China’s status at the negotiations? The Manchu Empire came to a halt in 1911 and Wai Shi-kai had taken over.  The Chinese were actually playing with pebbles, but they were sufficiently disciplined because of their training in the mandarin civil service.

 

Now what exactly happened when one year later all of a sudden the suzerainty got lost? How did this come about?  The interest of the British originally lay in trade.  This brings me to my fourth proposition it is the trade agreements that form the backbone of the McMahon Line.  The chief agreements of 1876 and 1888 were the most important and were the foundation of the Calcutta agreements of 1890 and 1893, revised again in 1906.  It is these agreements that reflected British interests.  The boundary became of interest because the British were interested in Tawang.  Tawang was over the crest, the other side of what eventually became the McMahon Line, and the British wanted it for their trading interests.

 

The fifth point is that in 1904 Younghusband led a force to Tibet and that finally led to the 1904 Lhasa Agreement.  Under Article Nine of the Lhasa Agreement the Government of Tibet engaged that without the previous consent of the British Government no portion of Tibet’s territory can be ceded, sold, leased, mortgaged or otherwise given in occupation to any foreign power.  Therefore no other foreign power had any dominion over Tibet in 1904.  Now something funny has been done here because so far as the British were concerned they had worked out an arrangement as they had done with so many British princely states in India, but Tibet became the subject matter of negotiation between three imperial powers that sought to rewrite the status of Tibet. Great Britain entered into the Beijing Agreement with China in 1906 and with Russia in 1907.  The import of these agreements was in both cases to grant suzerainty to China.  Not one whisper was heard at the time of any loss to Tibet as far as sovereignty was concerned. Lhasa recognised that the British had dictated the treaty.  Great Britain did not want to quarrel with Russia immediately because it had already got its frontier dispute in the north-west which was infinitely more important to them than the north-east. And so they worked out with China all rights leading to their suzerainty over Tibet. Here we find an interpretation of Article Nine of the Lhasa Agreement which comes across as a precursor to the Shimla Agreement

 

Sixthly, Tibet and China entered into virtually a war situation.  A series of treaties and agreements were entered into by Tibet and China to call a cessation to hostilities. Tibet was sovereign, and so there was no question of conceding any sovereignty to China. This is looking at the post-Manchu Period.  The Lhasa agreement is absolutely clear.

 

We have Article 9 that gives sovereignty.  We have two imperial agreements between China, Great Britain and Russia.  We have a war taking place with between China and Tibet which Tibet has actually won. We have a clear declaration of independence by both Mongolia and Tibet.  We have a declaration of independence from the Dalai Lama in 1913.  Now we come to this business of the Shimla Agreement.  There are three representatives there.  You know how Longchen Shatra and Ivan Chen negotiated all this.  The folklore is that the Tibetan negotiators arrived with their donkeys laden with papers upon papers.  They were able to account for every territory they claimed was theirs.  They had proofs from revenue records, records of the law and order situation, and appointments of their officers, their trading records and the types of trading.  They believed they had a near perfect case.  The only chicanery the British then indulged in was to say that in the instances of Kham and Amdo perhaps the Chinese may have a case.  Now this led to a distinction and the creation of a boundary.  The distinction was that as far as Inner Tibet was concerned the Chinese were there but so was the spiritual authority of the Dalai Lama. Outer Tibet, which is what we understand as Tibet today, totally belonged to Tibetans, but the suzerainty of China was generally recognised over it.  This led to the third dispute concerning Arunachal.  The claim of the Tibetans has been that Arunachal is south Tibet.  The Chinese say because the south and indeed the whole of Tibet is theirs, therefore so is Arunachal.  This is how the structure of the agreement went. 

 

But basically when the Chinese negotiators went back, China was in total and complete turmoil:  a dictator had come in place of the liberal changes that had occurred.  The Chinese bureaucrats, who are absolutely excellent and have run China for thousands of years, had to make an assessment of the situation themselves. According to their assessment China has been slighted.  How could anything possibly have been conceded on Inner Tibet?  How could any claims be conceded to the Tibetans?  This was not even a case of imperial division of territories.  So they did not sign that particular agreement and that is where we are at.  This was not left to chance.  On the 3rd July 1914 there was a clear understanding that if China did not sign the Agreement all the privileges of the treaty would disappear.  There were several agreements in tow one after the other, but this particular agreement is absolutely crystal clear.  China did not in fact sign.  Therefore do we dismantle the treaty?  Now we come across a certain degree of diplomatic treachery.  My family comes from the North West Frontier and so the name of the Sir Olaf Caroe is well known to us.  He did a lot of mischief in Afghanistan and no doubt some mischief here as well.  The British came to the conclusion that the treaty was in fact not binding.  Sir Olaf said that it was binding between Tibet and Britain. In your circulated papers there is one that shows how the collections of the treaty were completely withdrawn from every single public library in the British Empire.  We know that what was withdrawn said that the treaty is not binding.  But in 1937 it became binding.  This is the situation we face. 

 

Where does India stand in this situation?  Where do Tibet or China stand?  India is a successor state - there cannot be much dispute about that.  I say this  not  simply on the basis of territory or that the entire negotiation was done on behalf of the Viceroy of India.  The relevant clauses of the Indian Independence Act would apply and make it a successor state.  Thus it can be said that India virtually negotiated that particular treaty.  India’s position in 1947, such as it was, should have been to make it absolutely clear that we are the successor state. We have drawn the McMahon Line; we stand by the agreement that we have entered into with Tibet. The agreement was that if China fails to sign, her suzerainty goes out of the window.  Every thing else goes out of the window.  It is important that India’s position in law must be absolutely clear.  As a successor state she was not in a position to turn round to the Tibetans at any point of time to say that China has suzerainty over you:  that is not a possible proposition.  The facts of politics as Ms. Sondhi rightly pointed out may tell different stories, but we are concerned now with the legal story.  A little scuffle took place within the Ministry of External Affairs in 1947 and then basically China conquered Tibet, in exercise of what suzerainty is difficult to place in international law. 

 

The fact is that all agreements from the Chipu agreement onwards till 1914 were negotiated by Tibet as a plenipotentiary state.  The only people who threw a little colour into all this were Great Britain, Russia and China through the treaties of 1906 and 1907.  Of course Tibet made a big mistake in 1914 for even agreeing to Article One of the Shimla Agreement:  it should never been on the table.  But by that time the imperial powers had moved in and essentially Britain took the view that they have no quarrel with China, they have no quarrel with Russia:  Tibet is a small place, and it is British trading rights with which they have really been concerned from the 1890s onwards.  Remember the phrase in the treaty in the 1890s which they have revised and revised again.  They said so long as we get our trading rights we are not concerned about anything else. 

 

Now let us see what India does after that. In what could be called regional joie de vivre or clear mistakes of policy from 1954 onwards, India seems to concede the case to China.  Once that concession was made despite what India may have done for the Tibetan people, it took the wind out of the sails of Tibet’s claims to independence and sovereignty. This was done by Pandit Nehru’s government.  It was done by Rajiv Gandhi’s government and again by Vajpayee’s government.  Therefore we have this continuity of accepting the suzerainty of China over Tibet.  But where on earth does it come from?  Eventually China can only say that Great Britain, Russia and China between them through the agreements of 1906 and 1907 implied that she had sovereignty.  What about the Tibetans?  The Tibetans were willing to concede suzerainty in that somehow the word suzerainty could be used to stand for the peculiar priest-client relationship between China and Tibet.  Sovereignty is a Grotian word drawn from the international law of sovereign nations.  Suzerainty means something entirely different, and just as we accept shades of autonomy in the status of Indian states today as different from say, union territories or from the states governed by Article 371, taking all this into account, the idea that there can be gradations in the notion of sovereignty should not elude us in this controversy.  But what did Tibet agree to and under what conditionalities?  Conditionality number one was that China must accept the Agreement.  Part of the acceptance of the conditionality was the distinction between Inner and Outer Tibet and the continuing influence of Tibet in Inner and total autonomy in Outer Tibet.  Now these conditionalities cannot be removed from the Shimla Agreement.  If those conditionalities had never been met by the Chinese, then it doesn’t matter whether Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954 claimed to recognise the suzerainty of China over Tibet.  It is like any other contract when something is given in exchange for three or four conditions.  None of the conditions have been met.  This is part of Tibet’s case.  But what to do with it?  What to do with the case of the Palestinians?  Who is going to support the Tibetan case for sovereignty?  How is it going to be worked out? 

 

I come to the boundary question in a moment because it is interlinked with the former. There have been seven rounds of talks with the Chinese.  The seventh round is taking place today.  How is this to be argued?  Is the international community going to do a Kosovo?  I remember once when studying Yugoslav affairs, wondering what the Christians of Europe would be prepared to do for Christians in the Slav region. The whole equation is entirely different with Tibet.  Who is going to do something for Tibet? Ultimately it is the Tibetans and us and nobody else. 

Somehow the Union of India goes quite cold on issues connected with Tibet.  That is matter of great worry.  I remember last summer I was confronted with two communities of Tibet in Delhi under great pressure from the Delhi High Court which wanted to throw them out. I advised them not to go to Court.  Once there is a court order against you it is all over.  So for Majnu ka Tila the best course would be masterly inactivity, and that for the moment worked.

 

But ultimately there are certain harsh realities.  China has no moral case,  no legal case with regard to Tibet.  As Madam Chairman said it is a question of might and power play.  It is not the kind of power play as in cricket where you bowl a few overs and the rest is up for grabs - it doesn’t quite happen like that.  Therefore in this geo-political situation who is going to support Tibet?.  At present I don’t know what is in His Holiness’ mind.  There must be some path in his mind about moving step by step to get certain concessions.  His Holiness is a wise man and it is not really for us to question His strategy.  One can only offer one’s advice. 

 

But this leaves one big issue, the boundary issue.  What is the boundary between Tibet and India?  I deliberately use the words Tibet and India.  If China has no sovereignty over Tibet then it is a matter between the Tibetans and us.  It is not a matter for the Chinese to dictate to us.  What is at stake is the state that you (Mr. Rijuju) come from - the wonderful state of Arunachal.  When I went there I was brought in by helicopter.  I found it rather exciting at the cabinet meeting I attended where I got the impression that every MLA was a cabinet minister.  (After the amendment that is no longer possible). Of course there was a great variety in dress:  somebody wore a fez cap, someone had green trousers, others red, and altogether it was very exciting. Of course it is a part of India and certainly not part of China.  Let us look now at that little obfuscation the British did in 1937.  The obfuscation is that the treaty is binding between Tibet and India.  Let us assume that this is so.  The McMahon Line is therefore binding.  The mistakes that we have made lie in Pt. Nehru’s aggressive policy between 1954 and 1959.  It was a policy of putting or positioning Indian presences beyond the McMahon Line.  This seemed to have considerably enraged China as her defence minister Lin Piao put it at that time.  Of course Mao Zedong’s Hundred Flowers bloomed and then came the disastrous Great Leap Forward so Mao needed a war to offset his failures.  Despite the fact that we look back on that incident in horror, India gave him sufficient copy to come down which the Chinese eventually did. 

 

At present the Line of Actual Control give or take a little bit; is actually the McMahon Line.  That is where we are.  India’s endeavour right now is to de-link the boundary question from the sovereignty question in such a way that so as far China is concerned the question is at least worked through.  When these discussions took place a couple of years ago, I wrote a column in the Hindu, which I had done every fortnight for about eight to nine years.  I found N. Ram rejected this article of mine on grounds of incompetence.  Then I gave it to Fali Nariman to get his opinion about the alleged incompetence.  He said it was a good article.  The point I made was, can India’s territory be bargained away in law, can the executive bargain it away?  We have two very important cases that are relevant.  One is the Beru Baru case, where the Supreme Court of India held that where the territory of India is already defined, it can only be redefined through an amendment in the Constitution of India.  It cannot be gifted away by some executive agency.  Second, in the Gujarat case there was a genuine dispute, and so of course it could be worked out through executive action - that was the Gujarat case of the Rann of Kutch in 1969.  In which typology does the Tibet border dispute fall?  I like to believe the McMahon Line as far as India is concerned is not a disputed line.  The Tibetans don’t dispute it.  The Shimla agreement does not dispute it.  Just because the Chinese did not sign something does not mean that the international boundary did not get drawn.  The people concerned drew the international boundary.  You don’t sign it and say because I did not sign it the boundary is disputed.  I don’t see how this can happen.  I think the overtures made by the Indian government to the Chinese in the last two years, the talks are going on and talks are failing one after the other – I think these overtures have actually narrowed the scope of the Shimla agreement to a level where one wonders where the age of Jawaharlal Nehru disappeared.  Were we not actors in the region or were we simply drawing maps there?  India’s concern right now seems to be that our map with China must be sorted out. If we can get the Line of Actual Control and keep Arunachal, our business will be over. 

 

Therefore I would like to end by adding that India is making a fatal mistake because the legality of the McMahon Line depends on it recognising the sovereignty of Tibet.  This is a double bind that India finds itself in.  If it recognises the McMahon Line, it is a Line drawn with the sovereign nation called Tibet, the suzerainty of which has to be acknowledged.  Here is the contradiction.  If we accept the McMahon Line we must accept the case of Tibet.  Can we disaggregate these two?  If we accept the case of Tibet the McMahon Line follows because in our negotiations on the McMahon Line, the line was drawn between Tibet, China and the British and that particular Line is the international line subscribed to by the sovereign nation of Tibet whose sovereignty was not given to the Chinese because China did not sign the Agreement.  Never in the history of diplomatic negotiation has a non-signature been the basis of so many rights of a nation.  I think you know the view I take of constitutional law generally is that it is a framework, and it is in this framework that activists like Mr. Vora, locate their struggle.  Now we ask ourselves, are we narrow-minded Indians concerned only with our border dispute or are we somewhere along the line going to examine the great and important Shimla Agreement in the light of its background and subsequent events and say that India cannot back off, its claim depends on the Shimla treaty, and its claim is inextricably bound up with the claim of Tibet.  Finding an answer to this is what people will do in the next session.  I do not have the answers.

 

Dr. Niru Vora (Director,  Swarajpeeth)

 

            My greetings to everybody.  I am not a legal expert.  I had also long ago given up my Chinese studies and that brings me to what I am doing at present.  Dr. Vora and I are running the Gandhian Centre for Non-violence and Peace.  Twenty years ago we made a moral and spiritual pledge in Dharamsala to devote ourselves to this action.

 

            Actually I wanted to start with a historical and political perspective but it will overlap because the facts are the same for those who accept the facts with honesty, who can see reality without blinkers.  Thus, I would like to go back a little bit, to look at Tibet from the 6th to the 10th centuries.  Tibet flourished and reached the heights of its achievement as a Buddhist country.  Tibetans have the greatest and most unique gift for the attainment of spirituality, which is necessary for all human beings as H.H. the Dalai Lama says, and this should be taken into consideration.  Tibet did not come into existence just because of a strong imperial China, but along the way Tibet has had its ups and downs. 

 

I have a list of all the treaties that Dr. Dhawan mentioned: the Tibetan nephew and Chinese uncle signed a beautiful treaty to support each other in peace, love and assist each other, avoid disputes and respect each other’s independence and sovereignty.  So where do we trace China’s sovereignty, power, control or any thing of that nature?

 

            I will not repeat those things which Dr. Dhawan has already mentioned. It is also my view that in the 18th century Tibet closed herself.  Foreigners and missionaries were not allowed in.  Tibet ran its state affairs.  It signed treaties with Ladakh, Sikkim and Nepal as an independent sovereign country.  We should bear in mind that in all this time Tibet never lost her sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Tibet was not a part or a province of China, although she is now being shown as a Chinese province.  We come across the expansionist policies of British imperialism, the expansionist policy of imperial China and the expansionist policy of Russia, all of which surround and sandwich Tibet. It is very important to understand that they are concerned with Tibet because of Tibet’s unique location.  All these three powers wished to avoid the worst scenario, that any one of them should exercise full control of this country.  It is strategically located, was self-sufficient and was being ruled through the institution of the Dalai Lama which gave it a unique spiritual power. 

 

British expansionist policy was transparently expressed through the conspiracy of the Younghusband expedition.  They first sent some demands by letter to the Tibetan authorities.  Tibet had been an independent sovereign country and did not bother to reply, which provoked Younghusband to enter Tibet. Younghusband’s first exchanges were polite; he offered tea to the Tibetan representatives after which he butchered seven hundred Tibetan soldiers. They forced Tibet to sign the 1904 treaty.  In this treaty what strikes me is that their initial economic interest led them on to exercise full control on the political authority.  For example they were virtually saying that Tibet must provide marching facilities for their troops and maintain well-repaired roads so that they could easily reach their targets.  Tibet must also have the latest communication facilities, to enable Britain to operate therein successfully.  I raise these matters partly because although Tibet was free it was pressurised by Younghusband into signing that treaty.  We know that might is right.  Such things have happened in the past, as India well knows.  Without going into further detail I want to come to 1914. 

 

            The problem then was not with Tibet but with the British who wanted to make sure that Russia did not sign any bilateral treaty with Tibet, which would directly hamper its interests.  Similarly they did not want Tibet to sign any treaty directly with China. Thus there was pressure building on Tibet from British India to safeguard her interests.  Britain wanted her own influence to prevail and to prevent Russia and China from coming in.  

 

            So far as the Shimla agreement is concerned, I have gone through it though not as a legal expert. There is something crafty about it. Right in the beginning China created a problem. She did not want to be party to the treaty but wanted to ensure that Tibet be accepted as an integral part of China.  China’s domestic situation was not good at that time because of the destabilised conditions following the 1911 revolution.  But the British side did not accept the Chinese conditions and Tibet also had her own condition that she would not be party to anything that challenged her independence.  They actually used the word ‘independence’.  At this time although the British Empire had consolidated itself it was still sensitive to potential challenges and exhibited its power by threatening Tibet. 

 

When I read that agreement I came to know that Tibet’s was the only representative who had come thoroughly prepared to participate in the negotiations so far as supporting documents were concerned relating to her independence and sovereignty. Whole records, voluminous information, were available on houses, on cattle, and on administration. Information is available in the London archives but not unfortunately in the archives of British India.  But in the Shimla Agreement the British played a mischievous game by introducing for the first time words like ‘suzerainty’, Inner Tibet and Outer Tibet, and saying that the institution of the Dalai Lama operates and administers Tibet from Lhasa, and of course they have the right to choose the Dalai Lama.  All this got accepted in the treaty.  I would like to emphasise that this was a design of the three expansionist powers.

 

            The second question that comes to mind is that since China did not sign or ratify or even accept the treaty later on,  what would this treaty signify in terms of Tibet’s status, or their calling Tibet part of China or claiming a long exercise of suzerainty over Tibet?. This treaty to my mind has to let India since her independence in 1947, become a successor state to the Raj, and I only wish that not only our government but all diplomats or ambassadors of India should have discussed the issue with China together with Tibet, removed all those offensive terms and then renegotiated with Tibet directly.  They should have sent an independent envoy to Tibet: since the treaty was not signed or ratified by China, it signifies nothing to the Chinese.  To repeat, in 1947 we could have sent envoys immediately to Tibet and completely disowned Chinese hegemony by removing the word suzerainty from both inner and outer Tibet and signed a bilateral treaty between ourselves.  We could have sat together and worked out the Line of Control because we do not share any border with China, but we do share a border with Tibet.  Why do we shy away from spelling this out in the UN and all over the world?  This is my comment.  This is the mistake that has been made.  Right in 1947 we needed to disown this treaty and should have sent our representatives directly to Tibet at the official level or consular level.

 

            After the British left, sad to say, India continued their imperialist policies This Shimla Agreement does not hold any ground today because it is not binding on China.  So why should we accept it in any way?  Three of our Prime Ministers made the same mistake.  Why cannot we open another gate and another avenue?  When there is a factual, moral case and legal case why cannot we argue on that basis? I can say Tibet is forcefully occupied by China through her imperialistic designs.  There were provisions in the Shimla Agreement that China would not incorporate Tibetan areas into her provinces, but China is consistently doing just that.  You can see from the recent census how many Tibetan people there are in those provinces and how many Hans.  It is an absolute violation of everything that China was supposed to do.  It is my contention and we have to take it into serious consideration, that since China does not have any locus standi as a third party then the border is a matter between India and Tibet.  Certainly we should adopt an appropriate method.  As you said we do not have the solution but we do have some space for political and social action.  Some thing has to be done on this Shimla Agreement. Dr. Dhavan raised the question as to who is with the Tibetans. I would say he is one, I am another, Mrs Sondhi is a third and so on into thousands who can all aid in bringing these facts to light. Maybe I am illiterate or ignorant but to me the Treaty has no real hold because China had nothing to do with it.  India should have re-signed it sitting with the Tibetans:  since this was not done it should be disowned and Tibet should get its absolute rights.

 

  

General JFR Jacob (retd).

 

Ladies and Gentlemen and Ms. Sondhi: I miss Professor Sondhi quite a lot. We used to have discussions about Tibet and the McMahon Line.  I am afraid I cannot match the brilliance of the previous two speakers, but I speak as a soldier.  What are my credentials? I was Operations Officer in Western Command before the Chinese war when the forward policy was being pushed and I resisted it.  Later I was posted  as  Chief of  Staff  Eastern Command and I  was familiar with the McMahon Line from one end to the other,  from  Bhutan right  up to the Trijunction  with Burma --to the two Dhakrus  known as Hadighar and Ghlei  Dhakru.  .

 

There is an old saying that politicians make wars - we soldiers fight them.  Then the same politicians go and make the peace. 

 

I am going to start with Henry McMahon and the Shimla conference.  He failed in it because he was pursuing Curzon's policy.  Lord Curzon was a great believer in buffers.   The British wanted to create buffers and drew Lines such as Durand etc.  He believed that there should be a buffer i.e., an Inner and Outer Tibet.  That was one of the reasons why the Shimla Conference failed.

 

 Secondly, Ivan Chen, the Chinese plenipotentiary, was there at the conference.  He refused to sign the Agreement but initialled it.  There is a lot of misinformation about the McMahon Map.  McMahon drew his map at the scale of one inch to eight miles.  I have a copy of that map. Quite clearly it is annotated as a rough approximation and was not an accurate map.  He based the map on surveys like those of Captain Bailey and others.  It was fairly accurate near the Bhutanese border and inaccurate in some areas in the extreme northeast.

 

People have a misconception about watersheds - there is no question of the McMahon Line running along the watershed - it runs on the highest crest line.  So he drew his Map to his best of his ability based on available surveys.  A large part of the survey in the extreme Northeast was based on the Tribal survey, 'Watershed not known’ was annotated in the extreme northeast on maps of that area right up to 1969.  Ivan Chen did not sign but just initialled it.  The Survey of  India map of 1917 showed  the boundary as  the Inner Line in Arunachal. That is a significant fact.  Olaf Caroe was the first man to dig out the forgotten Shimla Agreement and started the studied process of moving into Arunachal.  The first map showing the McMahon Line as the boundary of India was published in 1937.   Significant points - the 1917 map showed the inner line as the boundary. In 1937 the first Survey of India map showed the McMahon Line as the boundary. In 1938 Olaf Caroe got the McMahon papers and published them for the first time - till then the Agreement was just lying in some box .

I must also mention that probably in 1878 a Chinese patrol moved into Walong and put a wooden post here.  It was not until February 1951 that Major Bob Khating, a Thangkul  Naga officer, a colleague of mine, moved in with an escort and took over  the administration of Tawang.

             About the same time, according to my sources, KM Pannikar was told to convey to the Chinese government that India recognised China's suzerainty over Tibet.  He conveyed sovereignty, and he is alleged to have said that he did not know the difference. The less said about Pannikar and Krishna Menon the better.  I want to talk about the White Papers. I don't know how many of you had the time to read the White Papers of 1961.  The Chinese came well prepared.  They were asked: Where is your boundary?  And they answered confidently, look at your Survey of India map of 1917.  That is our boundary.

 

We started giving spherical coordinates on a map of the north-east that clearly says 'Tribal Survey, watershed not known'.  We gave latitude and longitudes in some areas that were completely erroneous.  In the extreme north-east where a river is marked, there is no river, where mountain ranges are indicated there are no mountain ranges.  Unfortunately that map of the extreme northeast is still being published incorrectly today despite my protests.  In 1969 when the first Survey of India Map came out, I noticed the differences.  Unfortunately they have not been rectified. As of today the Chinese claim the whole of Arunachal.  I don't think they expect us to give it.  But I think what they want us to concede is the Tawang tract right up to Senge and Walong.  We should never agree to this.    The Chinese should be kept on the other side of the Himalaya.

           

            The Chinese claimed suzerainty over Bhutan and threatened to move into Bhutan in 1949.  They are inconsistent.  They have recognised the McMahon Line in Myanmar.  The Chinese also have claims on certain areas in Bhutan.  So the situation today is not conducive to peace. Unfortunately not only China but also Taiwan did not recognise McMahon Line.  What is the answer?   On no account should we ever allow the Chinese on this side of the Himalaya. The McMahon Line is there and is initialled by them, but not recognised by them - as far as the world is concerned and we are concerned it is an international boundary.  As far as the Chinese are concerned it is not the boundary.  We should never agree to that. The McMahon Line though inaccurately drawn in the extreme northeast should be delineated. The demarcation of the Line can take place later on the basis of the highest crest line which McMahon intended to be the boundary.  

           

 

Chairperson:  Kiren Rijiju, MP

 

General Jacob, you are part of history and continually inspire us all. It is very important to have people like you with us today.  All three speakers have given a correct perspective of the history on the basis of which we need to go forward.  As I said initially I am not expert in the subject but I am involved in all these affairs.  I would like to take off from the historical point of view which you have given and give my political view point on the subjects in just a few minutes.

 

Yesterday, we had a very important gathering at Shimla to observe 94th year of the Shimla Convention.  The Shimla Agreement was signed on the 3rd July 1914.  The representative plenipotentiaries of three nations sat together and signed the Agreement.  We published a photograph also, and if you look at it, you see representatives of Tibet, China and British India.  You do not need to agree on a subject when you sit together.  But the fact is that when you sit together you recognise each other.  In 1914 when this agreement was signed Tibet was a sovereign nation whereas India was not.  She was a dependent country.  The irony today is that we are an independent country and Tibet is no more. 

 

What we can do today stems from how this 1914 Shimla agreement affects us.  I thought about it in 2004, that Members of Parliament from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh whose parliamentary constituencies touch the India-China border should together form a forum and we proposed that the forum should be named the Trans Himalayan Parliamentary Forum, so that all our NGOs and organizations that work in the field can have a voice in the parliament also.  So we have set up this forum together with the Himalayan Parivar, an active organisation working in the Himalayan belt with support from the Himachal government and the Tibetan government-in-exile.  We had a successful gathering with thousands of participants from Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Himachal.  We gathered in Shimla in the Peterhof and had a very successful anniversary over there.

 

My interest in that gathering was how to get the people’s support because ultimately it is the people who have to come forward and make a difference.  In 1962 the Chinese ran over Arunachal Pradesh. An army officer is reported to have said that the Chinese have already taken over Bomdila on 19th November and crossed Chakur. The senior officer said that it is very sad that NEFA has been taken over and is now under Chinese occupation, but what are the people of the Arunachal Pradesh thinking? The answer was that they say they are one hundred percent Indian.  This means we do not need to worry because it is the people who are going to decide everything ultimately, and not any artificial occupation or annexation.  That is one of the major reasons why today Arunachal Pradesh continues to be part of India and it will remain so because we don’t recognise China.  We don’t have even have a word for China in any local or tribal language.  Some do have a word for Tibet.  When people don’t encounter the existence of any opposite party, they have no word for it.  So we actually don’t know the Chinese.  That is why we don’t know about the so-called India-China border.  But we definitely know we have a border with Tibet. 

 

Based on that we have to understand whether China claims Arunachal or does not recognize the McMahon Line and we have to rectify it.  That is why we gathered in Shimla yesterday, so that the people of the Himalayan region can endorse and recognize and support the McMahon Line.  This might be slightly different from Niru Voraji’s opinion.  But I feel as far as we are concerned we have to endorse the McMahon Line.  That is ultimately in our interest.  Unfortunately in India though people talk about the Himalayan region as ‘hamara surtaj hai, hamara mukut hai’, generally you find in the streets of Delhi and Bombay people have no actual concern about it.  They do not understand the importance of the Himalayan region.  That is why the Himalaya has been neglected.  The immediate threat we are experiencing now from the Maoist movement or whatever comes from the Himalayan region, but we don’t understand the importance of the Himalayas for our national security.

 

Tibet has been an issue which concerns India, and I have stated in many forums that Tibet cannot be considered an internal matter of China, like human rights issues are universal and nobody can limit them inside a boundary.  So India has a say there, India needs to enter into the affairs of Tibet.  By the way we have already lost the Tibet card a long time back.  But we have to understand there are more than 1.5 lakh Tibetans living in India under refugee status.  The Tibetan government-in-exile is here in India and HH Dalai Lama is also living in India and we are directly concerned.  So how can the Chinese government say that Tibet is an internal matter of China?  I have tried to put my views in Parliament and also outside: my colleague the MP from Manipur is here and can bear me out.  In 2004 I raised certain issues in the parliament session.  I was pressurized from many quarters not to raise this issue, even the Indians argued that whatever the MP claims is not correct.  The Chinese have not intruded into nor occupied any part of India.  The national media also tried to brush this aside by saying that the MP is trying to raise an issue that is not at all factual. I persisted and finally the government had to come out with a statement saying there have been incursions not once, twice or three times but hundreds of times.  But they defended it by saying that this is because of differences in perception of the Line of Actual Control.  I asked if China claims Arunachal and tomorrow will march into Itanagar, will you say that it is OK because that is their perception?  Will you abandon it like that?  Are we concerned about our territories?  What was the resolution passed in 1962 concerning protection of our territory:  It said whatever territory the Chinese have occupied illegally we vote to get back every inch of it.  What happened to the resolution?  What is the Indian parliament doing?  What is the Indian government doing?  And most important of all, what are the people of India doing?  What danger is lying ahead in our future?

 

 I was disturbed when the Chinese Ambassador claimed that not only Tawang, but the whole of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory.  Our Chief Minister, Speaker and IAS Officers of Arunachal Pradesh have not been issued visas by the Chinese embassy because China claims that every Arunachalese is a Chinese citizen and does not need a visa to come to China.  There was no protest and no persuasion from the Government of India.  I told the government that we do not need to be excessively subdued by Chinese pressure: when they ask us to bend, we start crawling.  India is not a small power - it is a huge country.  We have to understand our position.  When we forced the foreign minister to make a statement he said that the McMahon Line is not in the sky but on the ground:  we all know that we cannot draw a boundary in the sky and there will have to be some adjustment here and there.  I protested at this point: what did he mean by adjustment?  Vajpayee made one important agreement when he visited China in 2003.  By this agreement the problems on this Line of Control on the map would not be converted into territorial disputes.  The whole of Arunachal Pradesh is a territorial state which cannot be tampered with. I do believe there are problems in demarcation.  But in that important landmark agreement it is stated that while we are determining the Line of Actual Control or the international boundary, populated areas where human beings are actually living will not be disturbed.  We will not disturb each other’s settlements.  Anyone who is on our side is an Indian citizen, and anyone on the other is their citizen. Thus that was a very important agreement accepting that on both sides citizens would not be disturbed.  But the blind comment made by the Chinese ambassador has moved away from and violated that important agreement.  In a similar way they violated the Panch Sheel agreement.  I feel at this point of the time, important intellectuals like you and indeed the entire country need to rise up to defend our territory.

      

In the wake of the recent protests in Tibet the brutal killing and torture of so many Tibetans is still going on.  This needs more attention not only from India but also from across the world.  We need to put pressure on China to desist if it wants to be counted as a global power.  We all know China is militarily and economically very powerful now.  But to be an important member of the global community she has to understand and respect each and every country’s territorial integrity and the human rights of every individual, be he Chinese or Tibetan.  We are a little encouraged by the recent Chinese invitation extended to the representatives of HH the Dalai Lama.  We hear that the representatives are in Beijing but the talk is not progressing positively.  However, the initiation has started.  The whole country needs to know that this kind of important gathering is very significant for our nation.  We tend to forget our own issues.  That is why the media and people in general are more concerned about who is going to be the US president. We have an obsession with the West and all our focus is in that direction.  It is very unfortunate for me to say in front of you all, there are very few in this country who know about China, her intentions and designs?  What are they going to do? What is the third perception?  How it is going to affect our country?  It is unfortunate that the country does not seem to be bothered.  All our Tibetan friends are continuously struggling for their own identity and making efforts to create a platform where we can come together and share our opinions and views.  Yesterday’s big success in Shimla was partly because of the contribution made by the Tibetan government-in-exile.  I am particularly very grateful to them.  With eminent personalities like you all I feel that we cannot be completely disappointed in our own future.  We have a way to go forward.  A country will be safe and secure because of humanists like you all.  I am thankful to Ms. Sondhi for inviting me here and feel lucky to have heard the three speakers who have updated my knowledge with data and facts.

 

 

Comments & Questions:

 

General Jacob: The first thing is delimitation on the map.  The delimitation has not taken place.  We do not agree with the boundary on the map.  We cannot mark it on the ground.  Demarcation is marking on the ground after delimitation has taken place on the map.  The delimitation has not taken place because the Chinese don’t recognize the McMahon Line.  So there is no question of demarcation by putting boundary pillars.

 

 

Dr. Rajeev Dhavan: I have three questions to place before you.  A divergence of views emerged out of the contributions of the three speakers. Dr. Niru Vora has taken the Shimla Agreement as being a product of chalaki.  This is a very serious concept in international law as to whether a treaty can be set aside and treated as non est  being either (A) an imperial unequal treaty or (B) obtained by fraud.  I personally think that Niru’s position is totally and completely untenable and the treaty has to be assessed on some other ground, on the ground of non-signature and on the ground of inseparability.  Certain things can’t be severed because the Chinese did not sign.

 

Second question: I wanted to know from my Tibetan friend.  What is your position on the McMahon Line?  I ask this pointedly because in 1947 you submitted a communiqué to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in which you claimed everything south of the McMahon Line as yours.  So your position on the McMahon Line must be made absolutely clear.  That is why I brought Sir Olaf Caroe into the picture because he made several changes. The Chinese base their position on the 1917 map and according to an earlier British position the Shimla treaty was not binding. But Caroe rewrote many things and said the McMahon Line is the line and the treaty is binding.  So I have a very pointed question to the Tibetans:  Is the treaty binding for you minus the Chinese part?  Is it binding on the question of the boundary?  The boundary question is separable from the sovereignty question.  Now I really want to know your position, because as my friend said just now much depends on what position you take.  Were the British right in saying that Shimla is not binding, or did Sir Olaf  reverse this by making it binding in the interest of truth and justice of the British Empire.  India’s position is that it is binding but China’s position is that it is not binding. If Tibet’s position was that it was not binding, what is the position today?

 

My third question is on negotiation and renegotiation.  I don’t think it is a question of renegotiating the Shimla Agreement.  Therefore, whether it is delimitation or delineation is a technical matter.  The proposal put forward by General Jacob in a sense appears to be, when in doubt, use the crest line because with the scale of one to eight as it were there were many inaccuracies. I go back to the questions arising out of Beri Baru and the Kutch cases. Therefore the Indian side is concerned with the whereabouts of the boundary.  Remember India’s major interest is not Tibet but the boundary.  The question is - are we resolving a boundary or writing the boundary anew?  The danger in Niru’s position is that we might write the boundary anew.  As General Jacob says we accept the McMahon Line.  We accept its incongruity.  We accepted it as binding as the international boundary, the non-signature notwithstanding: non-signatures do not make history.  They exclude things from historyTherefore my third question is what exactly are we renegotiating?

 

My fourth question, raised by Kirenji is the question of will.  I am really very enthused by this idea of the parliamentary forum, because things tend to go by default.  Perhaps this can be transferred to the next session – also the question of India’s role regarding Tibet, human rights etc. But now I ask the Tibetans, do you agree with the crest theory?

 

Answers by Tibetans

Chokyon Wangchuk (Tibetan representative)

 

Thanks for giving me this opportunity.  A few days back we read a Hindi newspaper which clearly wrote and headlined the fact that HH Dalai Lama accepts the McMahon Line. The Tibetan government-in-exile represents the Tibetans inside and outside Tibet, and it stands by the 1914 Shimla agreement.  That means it is binding on Tibet.  This is not new for the Tibetan community.  As far as my memory goes, back in the late 1990s we had a couple of conferences and demonstrations when some Chinese delegations came over here for boundary talks.  We printed a leaflet which clearly stated that the border is known as the Indo-Tibet border.  From way back in 1959 the Tibetan government has accepted the agreement of the Shimla Conference.  So it is binding on Tibet.

 

Dhavan: If you accept there are two parts in the McMahon Agreement, what about the inner and outer Line?

 

Chokyon Wangchuk: Today the Shimla Agreement may be placed in a different political scenario.  Right now, as pointed out by Rajiv Voraji, the Tibetan Exile Government particularly HH Dalai Lama have been asking for genuine autonomy for three provinces of Tibet, so they talk about Tibet’s association with China under the constitutional framework of the PRC.  According to my own perception that issue is addressed when the Tibetan government says that it is willing to live within the PRC provided it is given all the rights that are guaranteed to regionally autonomous minorities as enshrined in article 11 of PRC constitution. These areas as you have said lie within the inner line which is near to China.  Now this may be a subject for debate but practically the Tibetan government-in-exile is agreeing to live within the PRC.  The outer McMahon Line demarcates the Indo-Tibet border.  So, the Tibetan government endorses that.

 

Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok:

 

The question regarding the inner and outer line was created by the Chinese representatives and not accepted by the Tibetan representative.  Therefore it was not a three-party agreement because China did not sign it.  The Shimla Agreement is described as the watershed agreement between Tibet and India.  There are two main subjects in the Shimla agreement.  One is the Sino-Tibet border and other is the Indo-Tibet border.  But China did not accept it. Eight meetings were held in both Delhi and Shimla:  we did not accept the inner line, and therefore China rejected this agreement and did not sign it.

 

Mr. Kiren Rijiju

 

The talks were tripartite but the agreement bilateral. The Shimla Agreement is a bilateral agreement and the Chinese do not recognize it.  HH Dalai Lama is asking for an autonomy which is a genuine autonomy with regard to political, social and cultural freedom.  HH Dalai Lama shared with us that one of the most divergent issues is that of historical interpretation.  China insists that Tibet is historically part of China.  His Holiness says the past is past, and  we should look to the future.  We are ready to be an autonomous region of the PRC and let us talk about that.  But China persists with the historical line.  So that is a very important point.  One piece of information I want to share with you is that Mr. Advani was the first political leader when the Chinese president visited here to raise this issue with that dignitary.  It is in the interest of the PRC and also India’s that they negotiate with Dalai Lama and come to a settlement for the sake of friendship and peace.

 

When China recently claimed Tibet as historically part of China, a very important clarification was made by Tibetan leadership saying that Tibet is part of the PRC.  Even Vajpayee went to China and made a statement clarifying that he did not say Tibet is part of China but part of the PRC. The PRC only came into existence in 1949.

 

Ms. Niru Vora :

 

I am really amazed that my brother has picked on and misunderstood just one point.  I again want to emphasise that when any treaty between two countries is unequally negotiated between strong and weak partners, there is always a problem.  The treaty with Tibet was negotiated at a time when weak Tibet was pushed into a corner.  Thus I do not use the word imperialistic design in an international law perspective and so I stand by my statement.  That is what happened in 1951 again with regard to the 17-point agreement when Tibet was forced to accept all 17 points imposed by China.  That is why I am saying that it was an enforced treaty. 

 

Secondly I do not touch on the boundary line as to whether we should recognize the McMahon Line or not.  I said historically we should not shy away from stating over and over that we never shared a border with China.  If that is OK with the PRC there is no problem.

 

Thirdly, what is Tibet’s position today?  I only want to emphasise three things.  I went to one press conference with HH Dalai Lama.  He said three things which were very satisfying.  The first point he made was that Tibetans are seeking a meaningful dialogue.  Second they are asking for genuine autonomy, by which they seek the legitimate right to administer their region. As for the border, Arunachal has already been de-linked, so I am not going by what the Map says and does not say.  I want to share with this audience a piece of information regarding Forman’s Nations Encyclopaedia.  I wanted to look for Tibet.  But there is no mention of Tibet as a separate entity, not even up to 10th century.  Under PRC they have given Republic of China and two lines about Tibet.  It is very important that Tibet appear on the map, which can then be demarcated and effectuated.

 

Lobsang Tenpa: I am from Tawang. I want to share my view on this 1914 Shimla Agreement as well as my perception on the Tibetan viewpoint on that agreement.  What I know is there are three parts in this agreement.  The first is the Tibet question itself.  Second is the McMahon Line and the third is the trade agreement.  The third is related to the Panchsheel Agreement of 1954, for that trade agreement had to be renewed every ten years.  So, since in 1954 Tibet was no longer there, India had to renew the agreement with China.  That is one perspective.

 

Regarding the Tibetan government-in-exile’s recognition of the Shimla agreement, that was very clear in 1959 itself.  When in 1959 HH Dalai Lama reached Pangchen valley in the western part of Tawang, he did not cross it.  At that time there were two CIA messengers with him and he sent a message to Washington which forwarded it on to New Delhi.  This is clear from the CIA archives. By that message HH Dalai Lama got legal permission to cross into India.  It is also very clear from the video clips that four Indian army officers from the border received him.  It shows that His Holiness respected and recognized the McMahon Line.  The same question was raised when HH Dalai Lama went to Teri Burat for a Buddhist seminar in 2005 where he said that the Shimla Agreement binds us.  Recently, last June (2008) the Times of India interviewed him and he is on record as saying that Tibet is fully bound by the agreement.  But the Times of India mentioned that this was the first time the Dalai Lama made such a statement on this issue.  This was not first time –

 

Kiren Rijiju  - He has mentioned it many times.

 

Lobsang Tempa: There is confusion regarding whether this treaty is binding of.  As a matter of history the mistake was made by the British side.  After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Britain’s attention shifted and she did not think about that agreement.  A mistake made was also made by the Tibetan side when Lonchen Shatra signed the treaty without consulting other Lhasa elites.  As for the Tawang people themselves, till 1951, when Gen. Jacob and Khating arrived, they were under the authority of the Lhasa government.

 

Finally I would like to know why the Government of India took till 1951 to recapture the Tawang area, because right from 1947 India had a plan to go there: why did it take around four years to reclaim Tawang?  About that time the Tibetan people were ‘liberated’ by the PRC and the Himalayan people by British India. The Himalayans are living in a free country, the Tibetans in a closed society.

 

Naresh Mathur:  There is a supplementary protocol or agreement signed on 3rd July 1914 between Great Britain and Tibet which acknowledges that the Convention of 1913, (which is referred to it eight or nine times) will be binding on the governments of Great Britain and Tibet. They agreed that as long as the Government of China withholds signature to the aforesaid Convention, she will be debarred from the enjoyment of all privileges accruing therefrom. These privileges are one, the demarcation on the Map regarding inner Tibet, two, control over inner Tibet and three, nominal suzerainty over outer Tibet. These privileges would have come to China as a consequence of the First Part of the Convention. The second part says that all privileges are debarred if they do not sign. The direct consequence of China’s not signing is that the distinction between inner and outer Tibet goes, control over inner Tibet goes, suzerainty over Outer Tibet goes. 

So when the Tibetans affirm their acceptance of the McMahon Line, they are being somewhat nebulous, for the position that emerges is that they are not bound to accept that Line which was not initialled or signed by Ivan Chen. And as Rajeev says, there are two distinctions, one territorial and one concerning sovereignty. Actually, at the end of the Shimla talks, neither Great Britain nor Tibet accepted anything other than absolute sovereignty of Tibet – if there is no nominal suzerainty there is only sovereignty. Thus at the conclusion Great Britain accepted Tibet to be fully sovereign – they cannot walk out of it. At that time the term used might have been autonomous – terms vary over time.

 

Kiren Rijiju: A very pertinent point.

 

Rajeev Dhavan: To clarify, I made that point because of the aide-memoire sent to India by the Tibetan government in 1947.  We’ve got a very clear answer: when we talk of Shimla there are two agreements, and in law one would say they are severable. Even on the question of the boundary, on inner and outer Tibet, or on suzerainty, they are severable. So you are left with the Indo-Tibetan agreement on the border.

 

Kiren Rijiju: This interesting morning session is now over – it has raised many queries and brought out divergent views. But we converge in our intentions.

 

 

 

AFTERNOON SESSION

 

Dr. Anand Kumar

 

            It is a great opportunity for all of us to join in the second session of this unique seminar on behalf of the ML Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs.  We are doing double duty by paying our respects to the inspiring memory of ML Sondhi who was one of the best friends of Tibet.  He was passionate about Tibet not only emotionally but also because of his deep knowledge of the history of the continent.  He was for us at same time a teacher, friend and guide for many years.  His leaving us was untimely.  Today he would be one of the most satisfied experts because his prophecy about the response of the Tibetan people to injustice has come true in so many ways, particularly during the last three months in Tibet and around the world.  We pay our tribute to him and thank Madame Sondhi for keep the flame alive in spite of his passing away.

 

            Secondly, this session is going to engage all of us in the implications of the present scenario of half-truths being perpetuated by the Chinese authorities and the studied silence or stammering responses of the Government of India and United Nations about the regime of half-truth on the Tibetan question.  We are lucky to have an enlightened panel in this session.  On the one hand we have a person who has spent his working life in international affairs and diplomacy - Shri Ranjit Gupta.  He has been an articulate spokesperson of the people who think that our China and Tibet policy is in need of immediate and urgent corrections.  We are thankful to you.  We have Shri K. Raghunath who is a well known person as a diplomat and is also a prolific writer.  He has put together several books based on his understanding and experiences as ambassador of India in so many countries.  He is followed by Mr. Rajiv Vora, Gandhian activist and a person who has educated people, particularly activists, through his pen and voice about the Tibetan question.  Ten years ago he edited a special number, the most celebrated number of Gandhi Marg which became a very popular book in Hindi and one of the best compilations of the Tibetan question in Hindi.  Shri Rajivji is committed to non-violence and truth as the two principles of conflict resolution.  Shri Naresh Mathur concludes the session: he is also a practising Buddhist and brings his deep understanding of the implications of varieties of documents, treaties and statements on the Tibetan question.  I join with all of you as a humble volunteer of the Tibetan cause.  I am as a sociologist worried about history and need clarity with dates and facts.  But at the same time I am trying to understand the Tibetan question as a proud and patriotic Indian as well as a humble human being.  I think on both counts it is our duty today to engage in this dialogue which is backed by facts and truthful action by Tibetans around the world under the leadership of HH the Dalai Lama.

 

            Now, let us make the best use of our time. Each presenter will be given around twenty minutes.  Ten minutes are available for him to interact with his friends around the table.  For the speakers this is a well recognized and unique audience.  One the one hand we have General Jacob who has done our country proud by leading and keeping our security intact.  There are also officers from the offices of governors and members of Parliament.  There are also young students who aspire to do something great but do not know in which way to turn on the basis of fact.

 

            Let me request Ambassador Shri Ranjit Gupta to make us aware of the present thinking of men like him who believe that there is no actual policy or treaty between India and China since 1962.  He wants us to pay attention to the challenge given by the present chaos and vacuum in India-China relations.

 

Shri Ranjit Gupta (Former Ambassador)

 

 

            Thank you Dr. Anand Kumar.  I also would like to thank Ms. Sondhi and organizers for inviting me to this very important interaction.  But I must clarify particularly in the context of the glowing words said about me that I am merely a friend to the Tibetans and not an expert on Tibet.  My interest in Tibet is strictly a personal hobby.  We have heard in the morning session’s brilliant presentations.  Dr. Rajeev Dhawan whom I have known for over 50 years and a very distinguished soldier General Jacob, Dr. Niru Vora and of course the MP from Arunachal Pradesh.  I entirely agree with the sentiments informing those presentations.  But for me the main thing is, how do we proceed in the context of existing reality?  The historical background is exceedingly interesting and has been to a very large extent the result of the policies of Jawaharlal Nehru, policies in which we took great pride.  I will make a general statement which I will read out, but before I do that I would like to mention that the Tibetans made one major mistake.  I am talking in the present context and not in the historical context.  Knowing the mind-set of a person like Nehru who wrote about anti-imperialism from the 1930s, I recall that when shortly after Independence the Government of India sent a letter to the Government of Tibet asking for confirmation of the 1914 agreement, the Government of Tibet unfortunately took a very long time to reply.  When it did reply it demanded the return of Darjeeling, Sikkim etc.  There was at that time some inclination somewhere of India acting as successor to the 1914 agreement signed by Great Britain, because of people like Girija Shankar Bajpai who was Secretary-General in the Ministry of External Affairs, and people like Hugh Richardson, India’s consul in Lhasa, but that opportunity was lost.  Pannikar took over as the guiding hand of Nehru’s Tibet policy. I think that the mistake the Tibetan government made then is something from which they continue to suffer, and incidentally so do we. 

 

            The second thing I would like to say is that here we all are friends of Tibet.  We are talking to the converted and there is not a single person who opposes the cause of Tibet.  So we are just backslapping each other, and all criticise China.  But before we do that I think first and foremost we need to create awareness in this country about the wrong policy not only of Mr. Nehru but the continuing policy of surrender and capitulation that successive governments have followed.  The BJP has shown that the Congress has no monopoly in its incurable attitude to China.  Vajpayee went to China in 1979 when the parliament was condemning the invasion of Vietnam by China.  Vajpayee said that that it had nothing to do with India.  This was the man who had earlier spoken in favour of Tibet, and then went and signed those 2003 agreements.  None of the Indian prime ministers or any visiting advisor saw the map of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.   I cannot see how the Prime Minister of India signs a document saying that the Tibet Autonomous Region is a part of China’s territory without looking at the map which included Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and so on.  This is the kind of leadership we have.  It does not matter whether it is BJP or Congress and for that matter my former colleagues in the Ministry of External Affairs.  The only institution here in India that is keeping up India’s security to a certain extent is the Indian army.  Unfortunately even their official statement says the intrusions are based on misperceptions – which is utter rubbish.  An intrusion is an intrusion.  That is the end of the matter. 

            I will read out the prepared statement.  I am doing this because we can try to develop some kind of approach for the future.  The objective of the British policy since 1904 was to sideline Tibet’s independence existence, and to  weaken China’s position on Tibet.  The Shimla conference was neither about China and India nor about India and Tibet but it was all about Tibet and China.  The main purpose of organizing the Shimla conference was to formally make Tibet a buffer between China and the British Himalaya.  Over 98% of the conference time was related to discussing provisions relating to Sino-Tibetan relations and not to Indo-Tibetan relations.  Those were discussed entirely separately and bilaterally with the Tibetan government.  Now China did not sign the Shimla Convention.  The post 1914 interaction of China with Tibet has been dictated by the power equation on the ground and not by legal or formal constitutional relations.  In 1914 on practical grounds the British treated Tibet as an independent country.  But today Tibet is merely a geographical area under Chinese military occupation.  Any amelioration of the situation in Tibet can unfortunately only be brought about through voluntary action by China or in response to such political and moral pressure that the international community can exert on Beijing, and if India were to suddenly sprout some spine, we could be part of this process too. The considerations put forward by the Tibetans at Shimla could be raised by the Tibetans for future negotiations such as the ongoing ones between representatives of HH Dalai Lama and Chinese.

 

            The result of the Shimla Conference will not be relevant to the process of obtaining any of the Tibetan objectives.  Therefore the question arises whether the Shimla Convention has any relevance for the future.  The only three practical consequences of Shimla convention were: first, the demarcation of the boundary between India and Tibet; second, Britain’s obtaining several extra-territorial rights in Tibet and agreement about the modalities of exercising those rights and third, understanding the modalities governing Indo-Tibetan trade.  The first issue remains a live issue even today but now it has become an issue between India and China.  The second issue has ceased to exist as independent India voluntarily surrendered those rights in 1954.  Nehru dubbed them as vestiges of imperialism, but it can be seen as the surrender of India’s rights by an Indian Prime Minister.  The third issue is now governed by other understandings between India and China.  The boundary issue between India and Tibet resolved on at the Shimla convention remains relevant to the ultimate settlement of the problem.  The exchange of notes regarding the agreement on the India-Tibet border was done on March 14 by McMahon and on March 25 with the Tibetan plenipotentiary after he obtained approval from his government.  China refused to sign the agreement but the Tibetans and British signed the convention on July 3 by stating that whereas the Shimla convention itself was later initialled by the Chinese plenipotentiary it was not signed and ratified by the Chinese government.  It was accepted as binding by the two other parties as between themselves.

 

            Article 9 of the convention states for the purposes of present conventions that the borders of Tibet and the boundary between outer and inner Tibet shall be shown in red and blue respectively on the map.  The red line we have come to know as the McMahon Line.  China was not invited to the discussion on the Indo-Tibetan border.  Their acceptance or otherwise of the result was never sought.  However China was informed of the results because the maps attached to Article 9 were given to the Chinese side.  Throughout the Shimla Convention at no stage did the Chinese representative Ivan Chen raise any objections.  The sole objection given by the Chinese then and repeated later was the unacceptability of the provisions regarding the Sino-Tibetan frontier and other issues relating to the jurisdiction in inner Tibet.  Even immediately after the conference China conveyed to the head of the British mission in Beijing that the other items of the Convention were acceptable provided the boundary between inner and outer Tibet could be renegotiated.  This went on for several months. Except for minor changes that were unacceptable to the British, the Tibetans unfortunately completely refused to resile from their position of 1914.  The Chinese kept insisting on and pleading for acceptance of their viewpoint. They would have been willing to sign, perhaps because of pressure from the Japanese or for whatever other reasons. Numerous communications took place between the Chinese government and the British mission. In not a single one of those conversations was the issue of the Indo-Tibetan border raised. That was something which worked to our advantage not in a legal but in a factual sense.  Even though the Chinese did not sign the Convention, nor formally endorse the India-Tibet border, neither did they object to it 

 

Now let us be clear on one point: the final resolution of the Sino-Indian boundary issue should be based on political considerations rather than on obscure and contentious historical documentation and interpretation of history.  In this context whether the Shimla convention is valid or not, and whether the British repudiated it or not as many scholars and analysts contend, is less relevant then the fact that the Chinese had not objected to the border as broadly delineated at Shimla.  Similarly when considering the status of Tibet both in 1914 and when the Chinese annexed it in the 1950s, the broader issues become relevant.  Modern Italy and contemporary UK cannot claim territory that once came as part of Britain in the Roman and British Empires.  So with all other empires. The current political map of the world is different from what it was in modern colonial times.  In recent decades new countries have come into existence and others have disintegrated.  However, it is a characteristic of China that a region which once acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a short period is regarded as part of her empire forever and China will automatically revive her claims over it even after a thousand years, whenever there is a chance of enforcing them.  China claims exceptional treatment. 

 

But, China’s claim over Tibet is questionable historically and dubious legally.  Even at the height of the Yuan and Chin dynasties the regimes had nothing remotely approaching direct administrative control over Tibet, nor did a pervasive military occupation of Tibet ever take place.  In fact it has been mentioned in the morning session that Tibet had specifically declared independence and signed a treaty with Mongolia.  The preamble of that treaty says that Tibet and Mongolia have freed themselves from the Manchu Dynasty and separated themselves from China to become independent states.  Mongolia has maintained her independence since then. 

After some vacillation and changes the British position has remained that in 1914 Tibet was independent.  Since the 1911 revolution the Chinese were expelled from Tibet, and Tibet became de facto independent.  In 1943 T.V. Soong, the Foreign Minister of Nationalist China stated that since 1914 Tibet has remained de facto independent. When the issue was raised in the United Nations in 1950 the legal position of the British Foreign Office was that Tibet is a separate state.  China’s definition of Tibet’s territorial domain as part of China is the basis of her claiming extensive tracts of Indian territory as her own in spite of the fact that these areas generally speaking have been depicted on world maps and have been under the jurisdiction of India for the most part since 1914.  We are talking of a period of almost a hundred years: that is what should count and not the changing mosaic of political dispensations centuries ago which has no relevance in the context of the contemporary era. 

 

A final mistake made by the Tibetans is something they should give importance to. Even a person as committed to the Tibetan cause and as well-informed as Dr. Rajeev Dhavan, this morning asked the Tibetan representatives about the Tibetan position on the McMahon Line.  Why should somebody have to ask that?  You have been here since 1959.  The fact of the matter is that the Tibetan government-in-exile issued a statement some years ago.  On June 5, HH the Dalai Lama gave an interview to the Nav Bharat Times saying that Tawang is part of India and he accepts McMahon Line. Speakers here have said this was clarified even earlier.  Why is this not well known?  It should be made well known.  It is the responsibility and the duty of the Tibetan government-in-exile and also all the Tibetans who take part in these seminars to spread the word.  So, I hope that all the Tibetans will take note. 

 

Shri K. Raghunath, Chairperson.

I was supposed to chair this session but got a little late. However the session seems to be running on its own. We had a very powerful presentation from my friend and colleague, Ambassador Ranjit Gupta, so there is not much to add. I think my function as a Chair is to continue to let the ball roll, and the next speaker listed is Dr. Rajiv Vora. 

 

Shri Rajiv Vora (Chairman of Swarajpeeth)

 

Looking at the Shimla Agreement and the pre-agreement scenario in relation to China, Russia, Tibet, Britain, India and even Japan, Mongolia and the Himalayan states etc. over a period of certain centuries, we got some idea from the morning session about the relationships of strength, independence and sovereignty that Tibet had with all its neighbours.  If you look at that, the whole history is encouraging in the light of what we feel today about Tibet.  Tibet has been a very strong nation.  It had the strength, power and energy to repel anybody who cast an evil eye on it.  Similarly we recall that China got its strength only in recent times.  Even up to 1918 or 1919 Tibet fought a battle with the Chinese and drove them out.  Only with the communist regime did China develop strength and power.  We have to understand the role of communism in international relations  The British were driven to make a treaty with Russia in 1906 or 1907 and again in 1918 basically motivated by the fear of Russian expansion which also  gave a message to Russia that  Great Britain was not interested in any expansionist policy.  In this morning’s session Rajeevji clarified the main implications on the question of the sovereignty, the border issue and also the implication for Tibet by the Shimla Agreement.  We see in India a tremendous lack of awareness about both issues.  I am speaking so because I am Indian.  I feel extremely concerned that there is a tremendous lack of general national awareness of the threat to Indian security from China and also lack of awareness about the Tibetan question within the larger perspective of Indian security, the stability of our neighbours which is our responsibility, and India’s relationship with China.

 

Regarding India’s relationship with China the power equations have changed quite a bit.  Power doesn’t lie with the truth, which we have clearly seen from this morning’s presentation.  Dr. Rajeevji made it clear that although, there are international laws, legality and facts which may have been in favour of Tibet, recent history shows that though up to a certain period truth and fact mattered, later they did not and power shifted away from truth and got translated into   militarism. Here I would make some distinction, because we have distinguished people present from the military.  I am thankful to Ranjitji who commented that today the only institution of India that has the national interest at heart is the Indian military.  I extend this by saying that the Indian army is the only national institution.  The pursuit of nationalism, culture and civilization is questionable in all other institutions, but when it comes to the Indian army, the pursuit of national interest is very clear and well accepted. 

 

The point is how does this Shimla Convention help to leverage a rise in India’s wareness about security perceptions, national interest, duty towards her neighbours and threat perceptions from China?  The threat of China is not only military but also economic.  In all seminars we used to hear that China is very powerful.  When we say that China is powerful we obviously conclude that China is powerful because of her military and economic strength. I feel that China’s power flows from its readiness to use its muscle strength to any degree.  That motivation comes from somewhere else and not simply from whatever military strength or economic clout it has.  It did not have this clout before the last couple of decades.  Yet China has earlier displayed the temerity to twist the truth. By twisting the truth at various points in history, and through negotiations with various powers particularly with the British, China has shown no qualms about being untruthful and has freely indulged in what Mahatma Gandhi called ‘mischievousness with truth’.  If China has gained the upper hand I would say it has done so not because of military and economic strength but because of its naked presentation of untruths.  There is no such thing as half-truth because a half-truth does not mean truth.  I don’t know where this term comes from.  There can only be either truth or untruth.  How this question of China’s suzerainty over Tibet has been introduced into relations between Tibet and China is total untruth. If you look through all the treaties, not only the most recent but right from the 1846 onwards, you can see this.  China has no qualms over presenting untruth as fact.  Therefore let India’s mind not be prejudiced and conditioned by this fear that China is very powerful because of her economic clout and military strength.  I have no doubt, and I am sure my pride is not misplaced, when I say that the Indian army is not lacking in strength.  I don’t consider the Indian army is weaker than the any army in the world, also because it observes certain norms that no other army does anywhere in the world. 

Therefore, I think this point should be considered by such forums like the parliamentary forum suggested by our friend this morning and set up by him.  This is a very appropriate mechanism to consider Shimla Agreement as leverage for raising Indian awareness about its neighbours, about its responsibility towards Tibet and about security threats and perceptions facing India.  I will not go into the details because I am not a student of international law or international relations, but I generally read around these subjects to try to understand what is the truth.  When I look at the trend it seems to be a shifting of power from law and legality to ideology, from morality and justice to untruthfulness.  Therefore in the last such meeting in the India International Centre I asked Professor Samdong Rinpoche where he thought that power lies today.  If it is a game of comparative power than what do you think?  His answer was very clear and right in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi.  He said that power lies with truth.  But truth must have teeth.  That is also equally important. Mahatma Gandhi provided teeth to truth.  So far as Tibetans have truth with them, India must come to their aid. India has this legacy and responsibility because Tibet has always put its trust in India’s hands and relies on India not only as a neighbour but also as a Guru as His Holiness says.  Although larger in size, we are all part of the same civilization.  This is the call of duty towards which the Shimla Agreement points.

 

The Shimla Agreement has a third dimension.  Two dimensions were pointed out in the morning, sovereignty versus suzerainty, and the border at the McMahon Line. The third dimension is the shifting of power from morality and truth into untruth and the treacherous games of the powerful.  Though I personally agree with Rajeev Dhawan, do not see any difference regarding the morning presentations of both Rajeev Dhawan and Niru Vora in the light of Shimla Agreement.  The Shimla Agreement is something that has been inherited by us from the British government because we are their successors.  Whatever is incumbent upon India and whatever the rights and obligations, must be fulfilled.  Tibet provides an opportunity to India to revisit this whole issue.  Otherwise what would happen?  We may be led to shed the blood of our brothers in the armed forces by imperilling India’s security and the security of our neighbours.  

 

Shri K. Raghunath: Thank you for your insightful remarks. I have one quick comment. It is very appropriate that you have drawn attention to the whole episode of the Shimla convention and its outcome, and the notion of creating awareness about it. If I may make a concrete suggestion, which in a way is already in the course of implementation. In our universities or wherever foreign policy is taught, there should be a separate module course devoted to this episode, from the Indian point of view.  The whole Shimla affair is a capsule, a codeword for a lot of things that happened. It’s a great object lesson in diplomatic history in a very objective sense, for anyone who looks at it should first divest himself of any Indian, Chinese or Tibetan label and just see how two imperial powers conducted themselves. Although it also has a very close bearing on the history and evolution of Tibet’s relations with the rest of the world, it is a case-study or object lesson in how big powers can behave.

 

There are many other episodes in our brief encounter with the rest of the world since we became independent which also have to be studied, but this particular episode is extremely important because as you said, it tends to be forgotten and put away in history books on a remote shelf. In fact the British called the north-eastern frontier the ‘forgotten frontier’ which is really a disaster because it has a very close bearing on much that has happened since then. There’s a lot of history in that on which I hope to later comment.

 

 Shri Naresh Mathur (Advocate of the Supreme Court)

 

My thanks to the organisers for inviting me here. I would like to deal with the subject in two parts, one with the Convention itself and secondly with its consequences. The Convention cannot be understood without some knowledge of history, some parts of which have been adverted to by Rajiv and Ranjit. Certainly there was a great game being played out. Britain’s dominant concern was the law of diminishing returns which afflicts any empire: she did not want to colonise Tibet which she could easily have done if she wanted. There was a little history with the Tsar, with somebody from Buriyat called Dorjieff who became a student of the 13th Dalai Lama and taught him some languages: they became close friends.  Britain always looks upon this relationship with enormous distrust because Dorjieff had access to the Tsar.  So Britain feared a Russian advance towards the warm waters through Tibet, and indeed eventually the USSR came into Afghanistan.  But Britain didn’t want to defend Tibet.  In 1904 Younghusband invaded it.  As his company spent 75 lakh rupees in the war he had to pay it back: one lakh rupees per year would take 75 years and till then he would occupy the Chumbi Valley.  Later the debt was reduced to 25 lakhs.  But this was the great game.  Younghusband was coming back from the Boer Wars and he used this term suzerainty which was no longer in currency and had become obsolete even in international law.  It was a term dating from the time of feudalism.  So the British invented this myth of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet so that China would defend Tibet against the Russian advance. 

 

Another angle was that because China had closed all its ports and only Shanghai was operational, Britain desperately wanted access to China through Tibet.  Hence Britain wanted to know who was really controlling Tibet.  You can see this from the 1890 Convention between Great Britain and China relating to Tibet where they defined the border between Sikkim and Tibet. And in the 1893 regulation they went into great detail to secure all kinds of rights for British traders and British subjects.  They wanted China to secure all this for them!  There was a brief period from 1792 to 1856 when China did have some measure of control over Tibet, but it was over by 1856.  We have the evidence of that from the 1856 treaty between Nepal and Tibet.  Article five of that treaty recognises the sovereignty of Tibet when it says that the Gurkha is permitted to station an envoy in Tibet instead of a nayak as done previously. Where is an envoy stationed?  Not in a subject state – so this was an implicit recognition of Tibetan sovereignty.

 

In 1890 China had no effective control over Tibet.  But contemporary China wants to stretch this period backwards to 1792, and even further to 1248 which marked the beginnings of the Mongol dynasty and the other way, from 1856 onwards! As Ranjit said if the Chinese controlled you even for a day, they would use this as proof that they had always subjugated you, because of what I would like to call Chinese unilateralism – which seems to become everyone’s multilateralism! Everybody subsequently accepts this unilateralism, this Chinese myth or fantasy, for reasons which I cannot understand. But to return to my subject, China had no effective control over Tibet from 1856 onwards.  But in 1893 Britain believed China could secure the trade regulations, trade rights and access etc. that she wanted.  That China was utterly incapable of doing so, that she could not enforce any of the regulations of 1893, Britain subsequently admitted in 1904. Britain was distrustful of Russia and China was weakened.  Rajiv spoke of one but actually there were three military defeats by the Tibetans of the Chinese. In 1908 Chao er-Feng did enter and establish sizeable control over some major territory of Tibet. but he was driven out by the Tibetan forces.  The ensuing treaty states that the Chinese troops surrendered and their guns, entrusted to the Tibetans, were sealed and the troops sent back to China.  It was again a complete military defeat in 1912 and 1918 of China by Tibetan troops.  They were so ferociously driven back, they ran to the British and begged for intervention.  So the British intervened by creating a provisional boundary between Tibet and China.  In 1932 the Tibetan army now armed with British rifles inflicted a huge defeat on the Chinese forces.  Still China has the gall to say she was always controlling Tibet. 

 

            Now, coming back to the Shimla Convention.  Shimla was preceded by Younghusband’s expedition in 1904 which defeated the Tibetan army.  The convention between Great Britain and Tibet said we must respect the boundary drawn between Sikkim and Tibet in 1890.  Manchu China also recognised the 1890 convention, which had drawn the boundary between Tibet and Sikkim.  It wanted opening of trade marts at Gyangtse and Gangtok.  A very interesting regulation of 1904 says that Tibet will cede no territory, will not permit any other power to intervene, and no representative of any foreign power will be admitted and no concessions will be granted by Tibet to any power.  What is implicit here is the recognition of Tibet’s sovereignty.  If Tibet were not a sovereign nation it would not be possible for her to comply with these stipulations.  The fact of entering into a treaty confirms sovereignty. Now in the 1906 agreement there is a confirmation of the legal status of Tibet by Great Britain and China.  Much of Shimla is contained in 1906. Its first article says that the treaty in 1904 is confirmed (which is a confirmation of the sovereignty and legal status of Tibet), that Great Britain will not annexe and not interfere in the administration of Tibet.  Likewise China will not permit any other foreign state to interfere in Tibet.  Let me here repeat again that by the wars of 1908 and 1912 the Chinese military was completely defeated by Tibetan force and driven out from Tibet.  Many soldiers were afraid, as a defeated force, of returning to Republican China and came to Calcatta where they stayed on to form the settlement of Chinatown.

 

            Tibet-China relations were actually based on the Choe-yon (priest and benefactor) relationship, and this was repudiated by the 13th Dalai Lama with a declaration of independence.  This relationship, like many Asian relationships, was very complicated and complex with typical Asian subtleties and nuances.  The relationship was of Rajguru and Raja, where the Lamas were Rajgurus and their disciples were Rajas which included Mongolian emperors like Kublai Khan, and Ming and Manchu emperoros like Chen-lung, whose empire extended from Turkey to Korea, and which the modern Chinese would no doubt like to recover. Shimla is preceded by all this history - that by the treaty of 1904 Britain recognised Tibet’s sovereignty and China did the same by the 1906 treaty. 

 

            The Tibetans implicitly trusted the British because at the time of 13th Dalai Lama Charles Bell and he were good friends. But as we know the British are nobody’s friend. However the Tibetans thought that Bell. Archibald Rose and this McMahon were their friends and  they could trust the British, who themselves were very quick to assume this role and McMahon immediately appointed himself  Chairman of the Shimla Convention.  For these particular negotiations Ivan Chen came very poorly prepared, unlike Longchen Shatra.   McMahon begins to arbitrate this dispute but the British had their own secret agenda as emerged in 1914.  They divided Tibet into Inner and Outer.  Inner was contiguous to China over which she would have effective control.  Outer would be autonomous as said in the pre-lunch session, and act as buffer.  Archibald Rose is on record as saying that when he started this negotiation his job was to drive the borders of British India from the plains into the Himalayas - and he succeeded.  As we know Ivan Chen initialled this.  But in China  Sun Yat-sen’s republic was coming into being between 10th October 1913 and 3rd July 1914 and the Chinese representatives did not return to Shimla though, Ivan Chen was more or less in British India.  Thus Britain was faced with the prospect that having started out with tripartite talks, and having put in so much energy starting with McMahon who since 1909 had studied and drawn the appropriate lessons from the Durand Line – i.e., had been working for four years towards the new envisaged border - they did not want to lose the opportunity to benefit from this spadework.

So they decided to draw the McMahon Line and the basic fact critical to and the fulcrum of the assertion was, that Tibet was legally independent and sovereign. There is no legal argument to the contrary. All their efforts culminated in a treaty which they then they made into an appendix.  They said if China signed this appendix they would get such benefits as effective control over inner Tibet and nominal suzerainty over outer Tibet.  The Chinese side did not show up: as a matter of fact one day after on 4th of July they sent a telegram rejecting the agreement.  Of course Britain was playing games.  The Chinese objection to Shimla stemmed from the 1906 convention between Britain and China which they understood as saying that Great Britain will not annexe any territories, will not interfere in any internal matters relating to Tibet - neither will China,   hence they do not accept the McMahon line. This did not get sealed like this.  Looked at from the Tibetan point of view, was it Acharya who said that 90 thousand square kilometres came to British India?  Why did the Tibetans give it?  Because the Tibetans were trading 90 thousand square kilometres for sovereignty.  In law if I act to my prejudice I bind you with whatever action has been promised by you. 

 

            The second part, the consequence of being the successor state to British India, there is the Indian independence Act, the schedule, and all these treaties that were entered into etc. As Prime Minister, Nehru wrote letters to Chief Ministers and international heads of state that the Indian government will honour its treaty obligations.  It is a simple thing: if the successor state will succeed to a certain treaty it will get the benefit of 9500 square kilometres.  If it does not accept that treaty, it will have to return those 9500 sq. km.  India has a very difficult position with regard to the Shimla Convention.  Actually from 1947 to 1954 India did accept the Shimla Agreement.  There are a thousand evidences, statements in parliament and letters and in the Indian Independence Act etc.  As a successor of state we were bound to accept Tibet as a sovereign state.  We did it till 1954 but in the Panchsheel trade agreement there occurred for the first time the phrase that Tibet is a’ region of China’. If I am not wrong only hours after that China staked a claim to Arunachal Pradesh. 

 

But as Ranjit said earlier, the 1954 pact had a duration of eight years. In 1962 there was an outbreak of hostilities as a result of which India reverted back to the Shimla Agreement, where Britain had recognised Tibet as independent and sovereign. If there is no suzerainty to be recognised as conceded by the earlier convention of 1913, then Tibet retains her sovereignty. So we have this unbroken thread.

  I have one more question.  We said in 1954 that our perception was guided by the 1951 seventeen-point agreement for the liberation of Tibet.  We know very well that when the Dalai Lama walked into Tezpur in 1959 he immediately repudiated the 17-pt Agreement.  That was his first act in India as a free man.  Now all of us who said that the 1954 agreement was based on the perception of 1951  were placed under an obligation by this repudiation.  This is important. The other reason for which the Shimla agreement is important in relation to 1951 is that if the Shimla agreement is bad then the 1951 agreement is good.  But if Shimla is good then 1951 has to be bad because 1951 is only going back to the further line.  The 1951 agreement was bad for a few other reasons.  One was that the power conferred upon the plenipotentiary Ngabo and others was to negotiate a withdrawal of Chinese forces.  They had no power to enter into any agreement of this nature.  So for this agreement there was an absence of plenipotentiary powers. Moreover the seals were forged.  We know that none of the Tibetans were carrying seals, so the Chinese conveniently manufactured Tibetan seals.  We know that a German professor named Schell has studied in detail those Chinese and Tibetan seals and found very clearly that the seal was forged.  

 

            Secondly, we know the Agreement was procured under force and coercion.  The Chinese threat against non-signature was that the PLA would advance further into Tibet. Lastly, the Dalai Lama also repudiated it.  So, for all these reasons the agreement of 1951 was bad.  A similar example happened in the case of the three Baltic States, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.  By the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact these three Baltic States became part of the USSR.  And when they invoked Article 236 of the USSR constitution to secede, then examination of the treaty showed it to be similar to the 1951 agreement.  If ever the 1951 agreement is to be examined internationally, it’s going to be bad.

  

General JFR Jacob:

 

I spoke this morning on the McMahon Line and the Shimla Agreement. There  are some other points that may be of interest. 

 

Let's start with what Napoleon said:   'let China sleep, for when she wakes the world will tremble.'  We are seeing that happening now. My first encounter with the communist Chinese was in 1957.  We had a visiting Chinese military delegation and I was asked to give a firepower demonstration.  After the demonstration the Chinese general told me that 'we Chinese will never forget that Indian troops took part in burning and looting the summer palace in Beijing'     this was during the Opium Wars of 1868. At the time under the British we had three infantry battalions and one cavalry regiment taking part.  The other thing he mentioned to me is something people may have forgotten – Zorawar Singh’s (commander of Gulab Singh's army) invasion of Tibet.  He went right up to Taklakot, got defeated there, and the correspondence of the Chinese representative in Lhasa with the Chinese emperor, Chen-lung during these operations refers to people with the name Singh as Shen-pa – or aborigines. 

 

  Recall what happened in 1962. In 1963 I was posted to Ladakh. I walked up to the Karakorum Pass.  I found a Chinese flag on our side, and removed it.  In 1965, in support of Pakistan, the Chinese exerted pressure along our border, particularly at the Jelap-la forcing our troops to withdraw from there. They have always been aggressive on that border.  There is no question as mentioned by some of the demarcation of the border. Demarcation can only be done after delimitation on the map which is yet to be done.   When I was army commander   Eastern Command there were many incursions.  The Chinese have always been aggressive. 

 

Why are they building up an infrastructure to such an extent in Tibet?  The railway in Lhasa is to be extended into the Chumbi Valley.  When I was a boy of fifteen years I met the British agent Sir Basil Gould who gave me a permit to enter the heavily wooded Chumbi Valley.  Now there has been large scale logging. They have built roads, airfields and railways.  Why?  My assessment is that if they so desire, in a matter of weeks, with their improved infrastructure of roads, railways and airfields the Chinese can mobilise up to 30 divisions along our border.  Also disturbing is their damming of the Sutlej.  The same people who have built the Three Gorges Dam also propose to divert the water from Brahmaputra and other rivers.  What will happen to Bangladesh and Assam?

 

             In 1949 the Chinese threatened to invade Bhutan over which they claimed suzerainty.  In 1949 we declared that we were responsible for the defence of Bhutan. The defence of Bhutan is integrally linked with the defence of India.   The Chinese claim about 390 sq. miles of Bhutanese territory, mainly the  Chumbi Valley. They are pressing for the Tawang Tract and Walong. On no account should any government agree to cede any territory. Possession is nine-tenths of the law.  We are in possession of Arunachal and are there to stay for all time.

 

S. Raghunath, Chairperson:  I may say without fear of contradiction that there is no particular inclination on the part of any government of India except to stand firm on the border. The issues are very specific, including the issue of Tawang. About the environment and issues concerning the Brahmaputra and Sutlej, we have to watch and see what happens.

 

Dr. Anand Kumar (JNU)

            I begin with an interview given by Mr. Mao Suwei, the Consul General of China in Kolkata to contextualise the significance of what we are talking about here. The confusion of the Shimla Agreement is the bedrock of Chinese aggression with regard to the size of Tibet, the location of borders between India and Tibet and the suggestions of the Dalai Lama about the future of Tibet.  Therefore, we have to have some patience with historical facts and get back to some meaningful responses from the culprit who is trying to respond to the new situation created by Tibetan mobilization around the world in the context of Olympic Torch.  The Chinese have not been speaking to the world on Tibet so often and so frequently as in last three months.  We must salute the martyrs in Tibet and the activists outside Tibet for this situation.  Now I start with Mr. Mao’s answer.

 

            The first question put to him was, why do the Chinese people doubt the sincerity of the Dalai Lama’s suggestion for genuine autonomy of Tibet within China? This interview appeared on the 4th June in the Hindu.  He answered one of the main reasons is that the Dalai Lama refuses to recognize that Tibet has been part of China for several hundred years.  The issue of Tibetan independence began emerging in the beginning of the 20th century.  But in the last one hundred years no sovereign state recognized Tibet as independent country.  This was not because China was influential but because of strong historical evidence. This is the key question, because if Tibet is not recognized as part of China before 1951 then the logical consequences would be like the following:  the action of PLA in 1951 was an illegal aggression and Tibet is now an occupied country.  The Dalai Lama has been forced to agree that Tibet will be within China and finally Tibetans have a definite right to declare Tibetan independence whenever opportunity comes their way.  This is the importance of the issue, even for the Chinese, never mind our politicians. 

 

I know our diplomats have a much deeper grip over historical facts, even though they may not have a grip over policy making and joint declarations.  Our politicians may not have an idea about why Chinese are so worried in going back to immediate history.  When you speak about the three defeats you also speak of the copy of the treaty signed on 14th December 1912 between the Tibetans and the Chinese.  Some of the lines were so funny, implying that the Tibetans were really a ferocious and powerful all-commanding force.  The Chinese were begging to be left their utensils, and pleading for safe passage that their retreating armies not be looted.  Article three of this 1912 treaty says that Tibetans shall arrange to supply riding ponies and transport to the Chinese officials and soldiers during their march.  According to the list Tibetans shall supply riding ponies and transport to Chinese traders and subjects on payment of ten thankas for each riding pony and six thankas for each transport animal at the changing places for the animals. Until the Chinese leave Lhasa, the Tibetans shall daily send Tibetan merchants with sufficient food for the Chinese troops. Should any Chinese be required to go towards Tibetan side he should receive a letter from Tongling.  Should any articles be left behind with Tibetan owners, either the Tibetan or Chinese can take them.  We have an image that the Chinese have always commanded the obedience of the Tibetans., but here we see them in the role of supplicants.  

 

            The second significant question addressed to Mr. Mao Suwei is number five which asks why Greater Tibet is not acceptable to China.  The answer lies in the hall of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala where there is a large map showing Greater Tibet  which covers the Tibet Autonomous Region, the whole of Kunlai province,  half of Sichuan province, one-third of Gansu province, one-fourth of Yunnan province, and one-fifth of Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region.  It expands over about 2.4 sq. km., nearly one quarter of Chinese territories.  This is the reality.  This is also an indication for the Tibetan Youth Congress and others who talk about ineffective mobilization by the Tibetan administration in exile.  Even your map matters for them, and do not think that Dharamsala activities are just prayer and begging by the Dalai Lama and monks, nuns and other diplomats.  The voices made by the Tibetan representatives in the global theatre are producing echo effects.  For us it is important that the Chinese are taking the Dalai Lama very seriously and he is on record as saying that this greater Tibet dream is one-fourth of the territory of China.  The territory of China is really the result of world aggression undertaken by the Chinese after their revolution in 1949.

 

I want to come to my second point.  The first is about the seriousness of the Chinese regarding the 1914 and other documents.  They take advantage of our hotchpotch understanding.  If we remain consistent as the General said or ambassador Gupta, or Nareshji or Rajivji said, we could make our case very clear and strong.    

 

Secondly, we have five phases of India-Tibet-China relations.  We must try to narrate them in our discourse about Tibet.  We only talk about 1949, 1959 and then we come to the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Peace Prize.  As the world has been changing so have India-Tibet-China relations.  The first major picture emerged in 1914; I endorse Nareshji’s description with one further point for that period. Pre W. W. I, most of the world was under British hegemony.  The British Empire was determining and drawing and redrawing the boundaries of nations and civilizations around the world.  Britain as an imperial power was hegemon, and China, Tibet and every country sought Britain’s umbrella for their protection, security and togetherness.

 

Then came the second phase, as Rajiv Vora mentioned, the phase of communist China. From 1949 to 1954 all the treaties signed by neighbours of China including Tibet and India are reflections of that ferocious phase of China under communist control.  Ambassador T.N. Kaul has written a book about what we signed in 1954 which is unfortunately now out of print.  It must be reprinted in thousands of copies particularly in Hindi: Kaul was a follower of Nehru, a trusted lieutenant not only of Nehru but also of Indira Gandhi.  He wrote details of the daily developments of that Panchsheel Agreement which was a total humiliation for India.  Towards the end of the negotiations when the Agreement was about to be signed, Mr. Kaul asked Mr. Nehru: Generally treaties are signed for ten years, twenty years or thirty years.  Why this eight-year period from 1954 to 1962?  What is the logic?  With hindsight he writes that eight years terminated in the 1962 aggression.  Mr. Kaul’s book tells of the humiliation of India not only in 1962 but on the diplomatic table of the 1954 Panchsheel Agreement.  So that is the second phase of India-Tibet-China relationship in 1949 to 1954.  That also includes Seventeen-point Agreement of 1951 and the Panchsheel agreement of India and China in 1954 which made Tibet so vulnerable.

 

There is a third phase in 2003 and beyond which establishes that Indians have no clarity of thought because there was a discontinuity between the era of Nehru and Indira Gandhi and post-Congress India.  There is a clear cut political departure when the Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee arrived in Beijing and signed a declaration that TAR is an integral part of PRC.  He used these technical acronyms and when my friend Bashis Narain asked about this usage from the floor of the House in parliament, he was answered by saying this meant getting into further debate.  TAR means Tibet Autonomous Region and PRC is People’s Republic of China.  We are not talking about pre-1949 and 1951 realities.  We are only limiting the issue and freezing the time for the future.  We do not go back into the past.  But that shows in the third phase whether the governments of India change or not, our understanding and misunderstanding will continue.  That must alert the Tibetans.  If Tibetans trust in Nehru was mistaken, trusting our policy makers of today who only think about ten or twenty parliamentary constituencies or three or four political allies is also a mistake.  Instead you must get deeper into developing your partnership with the people of India, Indian experts like generals, lawyers and diplomats and not a few parliamentarians who really will not be accountable to anybody, including themselves if they are capable of committing blunders as happened in Beijing under the leadership of Vajpayee.   

 

            The fifth phase is emerging since March 2008, since the Tibetan revolt, and the world is looking at the construction of events presented by China with the silent connivance of India.  That picture is no longer acceptable to the world.  Everybody is asking and putting pressure for dialogue, therefore the invitation to dialogue.   This is where I want to stop by suggesting that these documents, whether of 1904 or 1906 are not active documents in the memory of my Tibetan friends - who must do a little better homework so that Indians are helped by you.  As earlier said by the Dalai Lama, we Indians are Gurus and Tibetans our disciples.  At least on the question of Himalayan Asia you are the Guru and have been much more active, have many more treaties.  We were under colonial control.  You had the advantage of freedom and sovereignty, the 13th Dalai Lama had declared independence, he could come into exile.  We have nobody to do that.  Bahadur Shah Zafar died in a jail in Mandalay.  So you must help us in engaging with our immediate history of the last hundred years.  Otherwise our petitions and prayers are not making much sense. Our friends in parliament submitted two petitions and both of them had a million-plus signatures from the whole country.  One petition was submitted to Shivraj Patil as Speaker of the Lok Sabha and other to Jaswant Singh as foreign minister of India.  They were by an all-party delegation.  But both times the response was only a promise to study it.  They asked: do you really want to create more animosity in this difficult time with a country like China?  They think that legally we are on a weak wicket even though  morally we are may be strong and if we are on a weak legal wicket let us engage China economically,  humour her culturally:  let us dance in Beijing, send our Bhangra troops, send our intellectuals, and send our Marxists. Once they become well humoured then like a benign emperor they may grant us something.  This is a wrong attitude.  Our mass mobilization is off the mark because the media is not aware of the delicate twists and turns in our relationship.  This is the backdrop one must create for such as our ambassador Raghunath to move in and teach us about where we are focusing and whether we are barking up the wrong tree, or are there some delicate points that should be further nuanced in our campaign for a better relationship between Tibet, India and China. 

 

Questions & Comments

           

Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok : As respected Ranjit Gupta has mentioned that we Tibetans should do more with regard to getting the 1914 Shimla Agreement better known, it is of course  a very important responsibility for the Tibetans but I believe the same is also the case for India, especially as China has laid claims to Arunachal Pradesh.  Regarding Shimla right from our leader to the grass-roots level all Tibetans have accepted that as a legal agreement signed by sovereign Tibet with the British India.  And HH Dalai Lama has also mentioned several times that Arunachal Pradesh is part of India.  It is really important for both Tibetan and Indian historians to speak up on this particular agreement.  After 94 years we are organizing seminars and panel debates on this Shimla Agreement.  China has claimed Arunachal and Sikkim as part of China, and now they are ready to claim Dhamshok which is near to western Tibet.  Of course, this is our duty and we have not done too badly – as Dr. Anand Kumar said, today the issue of Tibet becomes has become internationalised. 

 

Niru Vora:  I am quite concerned about what Mr. Gupta said because action is very important.  He said that we sit with the converted and do not reach out to larger groups. 

I have been a Chinese studies student and have studied these treaties and know them in sequence.  That is the why I argue that at no point of time, even for a very short period was Tibet ever under Chinese control.  It was acting and responding and working as an independent country.  Can we say some thing about that how to proceed so that this also becomes the subject of more debate? Can we identify those groups to which this treaty in its original form could be made available? The third thing is that right from the morning we have discussed the 1914 Shimla Convention in detail.  Do we come to the conclusion that in terms of suzerainty, sovereignty or any sort of control Tibet’s stand is retained completely because China never signed nor ratified it? Because we interact with young Tibetans and other youngsters, such questions need to be answered accurately and not creating any confusion. 

 

MS Sondhi: I thoroughly agree with the importance of the Shimla Agreement for its legal implications for Tibet and how it has affected our relationship with China, especially through our wrong understanding of or inattention to it. History needs to be rectified and clarified particularly as China uses a distorted version of history to press her claims on Tibet, and through Tibet on our Himalayan areas.

 

But regardless of history China has created ‘new facts on the ground’ and so I would like to reiterate a dimension concerning the future which I hinted at in my opening remarks, since as has been emphasised ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law’ and history can challenge but not reverse Tibet’s situation as an occupied territory.  And I think one of the implicit reasons we are gathered here is not only to record the historical wrongs suffered by Tibet and its consequences both for Tibet and India, but to think of a way forward which would benefit both countries. Dr. Anand Kumar was kind enough to refer to Professor Sondhi’s prescience – his capacity to think ahead of his time or as might be said against the common sense of the time as when he spoke of disintegration of the Soviet empire in the sixties when it looked set to stay for almost ever. In this context I would like to introduce an out-of-the-box idea of Prof. Sondhi’s with regard to Tibet, India, China, and indeed the whole Central Asian region.

 

As I mentioned earlier, whatever the British motivations at the time, be they trade, power games or whatever so well elaborated by previous speakers, they were actually building an architecture in the region which would prevent the major powers from conflicting with each other then described as a ‘buffer’ state, which later became a bad word for its colonial associations. Today we might positively refer to such an area as a neutral zone, or zone of peace as suggested by His Holiness, in which no country’s interests are threatened. The situation on the ground has changed enormously since the Shimla Agreement when there were no Chinese settlers in Tibet, no PLA, no railways, no airfields etc. and today legalities notwithstanding, the situation looks grim. But yet there is the concept of possibility. And I put before you the example of the Austrian Count Coudenhove-Kalergi who at the turn of the last century floated the seemingly impossible project of a pan-Europe. Considered by most an outlandish idea, after the Second World War in 1945 it was elaborated and taken further by Jean Monet and his successors till the EU has become the reality we know

 

Before specifically coming to our own region I would also like to mention the Austrian State Treaty which was concluded after about 350 meetings between the victors of WW II, i.e., after endless patience and commitment to solve the problem. This resulted in a kind of demilitarization and guaranteeing of Austria’s freedom and neutrality by the major powers. It also secured Austria’s independence by a clause which brought the treaty powers to her defence in case of any attack by another.  Is it possible to envision such an arrangement for the plateau which takes into account the genuine concerns of Tibet and her neighbours? China realized Tibet’s importance as her ’vulnerable underbelly’ when during the War the Allied powers requested passage through Tibet to reach supplies to their allies, the Nationalist Chinese. Permission was refused but it brought home to them the possibility of a future use of Tibet by a hostile power.  China has strategic concerns, so does India and so do Tibet’s other neighbours, to which are now added environmental and ecological worries. The question is, is it possible to work towards a big picture solution isomorphic to the Austrian and not merely confine ourselves to the Himalayan border problem which leaves Tibet essentially where it is? As most speakers have emphasized, Tibet was an independent country: how to work towards a situation where she can be independent again? In other words, can we re-envision a kind of Shimla agreement which acknowledges Tibet’s independence within the interdependencies of the Central Asian region and its relationship to the outside world?

 

General Jacob: After the Shimla Treaty was signed, it was left in a box. Sir Olaf Caroe got it out, and the first map showing the McMahon Line was published in 1937. Even stranger, the proceedings of the Shimla conference were not published until Caroe got it done in 1938.

 

R.K. Jugnu:  Till 1936 the then Government of India had forgotten there was an agreement on the McMahon Line.  But even after independence it took six years for the Government of India to change the maps of the border area between Nepal and Tibet.  In 1936 it came to the notice of the Government of India that the maps were not changed:  they were changed only in 1954.  Why did India neglect this important aspect for so many years?

 

Question:  The McMahon Line has existed from 1914 but its validity extends only to India and Tibet, although the British meant it to fulfil her diplomatic and trade needs.  On the other hand China is not going to validate the red McMahon Line which is not mentioned in any official document signed at that time and she pointed out that the red line drawn was line between Tibet and India and admits the sovereignty of Tibet here.  The point is that China is playing a double game, one, to occupy new territories from India like Arunachal Pradesh, apart from her occupation of Tibet, for the resettlement of Han Chinese.  The second game is to use Tibet for dumping nuclear waste materials and also using it as a Chinese province.  China says there are three missile stations in Tibet.  So from the point of view of security India needs to finalize the red McMahon Line although it is not mentioned in any of the official documents.  What China is doing with Tibet is deeply condemnable and a cause of great sorrow, whether it relates to the rights of the Tibetan people, Tibet’s existence or her culture.  What will be India’s position in the future?  Who will be the responsible for implications of this issue and what should we do now?

 

 

K. Raghunath, Chairman: Thank you.  You have raised a fundamental question and nobody can answer that in short order and I will not attempt it. Let me just make a few remarks.  First of all I would like to thank you all for your participation and thanks to the speakers for their well prepared and thought-provoking comments and analysis. 

Briefly I would like to say that the British in the era of imperial power, if you look at what they were doing in 1840s, the moment anything called for a frontier settlement or an agreement, their response was very prompt.  In 1841 as mentioned, Zorawar Singh and his troops went into Tibet.  They lost no time in approaching the then government of Tibet, actually China, for an agreement relating to Ladakh, which they called North Ladakh and East Ladakh.  They tried hard but the Chinese did not comply because they had their own games to play. 

 

Now incidentally I looked at some of the documents signed between Tibet, Britain or Nepal and Britain.  At one point the Tibetan plenipotentiary says that is very important for us to reach an understanding on this border otherwise there will be friction.  The text is available. This mental approach is very interesting. I think India’s and even China’s approach to the border is equally fuzzy.  China took the approach that theirs is a great empire and everybody under the heavens is part of this empire so borders are not important.  But for us neglect of this principle has been very costly.  In hindsight, right from the moment we became independent in 1947 perhaps we should have moved the Chinese to have border delimitations.  The line taken by the then government was that as the borders are traditional there is no need to delimit.  This is not the correct line and put us in a wrong position.  Even if we have done that we would still have the same problems, so that balances but does not excuse the lack of mental alacrity which should have led us to ask for delimitation right away.  Finally, of course we agreed to talks on delimitation.

 

Secondly, on the question of McMahon Line, if we come down to the essentials of the subject of what this meeting is about, the boundary line is really formalising something that is already on the ground.  You can have a boundary, a border, a frontier line which is utterly inequitable, irrational, and unrelated to facts that is totally a product of skulduggery and dishonesty.  You can have a border Line which is drawn with some relationship to what is actually on the ground.  The red McMahon was not accidental, it was the simple recognition of the fact that there were populated areas going up to the Himalayan watershed in the Eastern sector where the  inhabitants, from the point of view of culture, ethnicity, religion,  were very much part of an Indian identity. This is a fact of history.  The British were not ignorant of history; they did not want to do some thing which was patently wrong.  They did not want to be accused of just drawing a line arbitrarily.  This is important.  Even without the McMahon Line, if the boundary had to be delimited at any point of the time, this is where it would have been. I say this because there are two or three important principles, and we talk about principle otherwise we would have the law of the jungle.  International law has to be based on some rationality and that rationality consists of certain geographical benchmarks which every body recognizes.  There is no country in the world which does not accept these benchmarks, neither China nor anyone else.   The watershed principle is absolutely crucial.  When you have a watershed you have a ridge - it is a natural division of peoples of different kinds.  If you follow this watershed from the western tip as from Afghanistan, China, India as it was then and Burma up to the tri-junction, you can see how the watershed runs.  Here and there there are complications.  The Himalayan watershed in the Eastern sector is bisected.  I mean there are three rivers, tributaries of the Brahmaputra that run through them.  But that does not affect the main principle.  That is very important.  You can see the legality of the McMahon Line does not rest only on the McMahon Line.  It is a formalization of something exists on the ground.  This was the case if a case had to be made which was presented by the Indian side when the boundary talks took place.  This was implicitly in the mind of the Indian government when the correspondence between the Prime Ministers of India and China took place starting from 1959.  It is something all of us should keep in mind.  There is no need to revisit this issue, unless we do so as a process of education.  While we are revisiting it we should not be under the illusion or delusion that the question is open.  There is a closure, and there has to be a closure on these matters.  The western sector is little more complicated.  If you organize a conference on the western sector although it does not much concern Tibet, you have more complications and a more interesting example of how the British government played that particular border which they considered strategically much more important than the eastern border.

 

            The second point is that of determining the border which can be done using the principles of good faith, common sense, rationality and equity.  The principle regarding which are the populations that live in the area inform some of the documentation that is being worked out between India and China.  These are basic principles and if you don’t follow them you will be completely at sea.  As far as that is concerned we are in a strong position.

 

            Then there is the question of what is determinant of that particular strategic position at the given time.  From the experiences of those of us who have dealt with matters of foreign policy, one thing is striking.  When you have an issue you may think it can be settled through discussions, and you can go on forever and ever.  But it is the larger strategic attitude that determines how a country is going to approach an issue.  If I am well disposed and feel I have good relations with you, I will look at the particular issue and solve it very quickly.  We had such instances over and over again.  With Bangladesh we have a Ganges water dispute, and some governments would just not agree and it was a waste of time talking to them.  They had decided in advance that they were not going to solve the issue.  Then I remember at the end of 1996 the Awami League Government came into power.  We may have had other problems with them but on this issue they were well disposed.  So a new agreement was signed in no time at all.  With the previous government you might just as well have banged your head against the wall; there was no way they would sign.  So this illustrates the point that between India and China also, it is all about the strategic view on either side. 

 

When we are talking with the Chinese we have to look out for what kind of strategic view China has.  Everything follows from that. The attitude taken by China during that whole decade from 1951 when the 17-point agreement was signed between the Chinese and Tibetans was very instructive, because of the simple point that the McMahon Line underlay the background and the foundation.  But the fact is that put very simply, India inherited the McMahon Line, inherited   a certain legal fact.  The simple principle in international law is ‘pacta sunt servanda’ - treaties must be observed.  It is a very simple basis otherwise you have the law of the jungle. 

The government of China at the time found no difficulty in accepting the legality of the McMahon Line in the case of Burma.  It was a very simple transaction. In no time the Chinese government said this line is only incidental since it was signed by the imperialists.  We do not accept it, but in this case we agree.  There is no problem.  So that whole thing was formalised in 1960.  After Burmese Prime Minister U Nu returned from his visit to Beijing Chou-en–lai paid three visits to India between November 1956 and January 1957.  It was very interesting at the time when the question of the McMahon Line was raised Prime Minister Nehru told Chou that you have accepted the whole idea in the case of Burma: whatever you might call it, illegal colonial is beside the point. In the case of Burma you have accepted it.  So what is your view on the Indian border?  Again here the reply was very instructive.  Chou said more or less that we do not take it seriously but it needs some consideration.  Give us time to think and we will work out something. That was also a bit curious because this process of thought and consideration was not applied to Burma.  The question of good faith is very important. What is it that vitiated relations between India and China? It was not a question of territory and boundary but the manner in which it was handled.  India did not raise the question of the boundary in 1951. The Chinese point of view as enunciated by then in 1959 as to why the whole matter not raised was
that the time was not ripe – it was the time they were building this clandestine road. Obviously, one of the reasons why there was lack of commitment from the Chinese side in 1956 to the McMahon Line was the calculation that the Eastern Sector could be used as a bargaining point for the Western Sector.  This kind of equation did not exist in the case of Burma.  There was also some kind of thinking that we are building the road, we are not ready so let’s put our house in order over there after which we can discuss with India and offer a swap, which is what was offered in 1960 when Chou-en-lai came. So this history is important: it shows that you must understand the motivation of your adversary or interlocutor.  

 

            Lastly the question of Tibet is discussed inevitably as part of the whole picture. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has taken a line, and we have to have some benchmark here.  It is for the people of Tibet to decide what kind of relationship they want with China.  That is absolutely unexceptionable.  What is the line they have taken?  The Dalai Lama, the acknowledged leader of the Tibetan people has talked about autonomy.  The word autonomy is subject to all kinds of interpretations.  You can have a legalistic and phoney autonomy which means nothing.  But he talks about genuine autonomy.  The Prime Minister of the exiled Tibetan government, Professor Samdong Rimpoche expounded this view about a week ago, and   I am taking this as the canonical standard statement, because it is all there. What the Tibetans want, the real criterion that any civilized society can demand, that the Tibetans demand and that the people of China should demand, is this autonomy as respect for the cultural sovereignty or independence and dignity of a particular people.  That is really the bottom line.  If a country does not respect this, then there is something wrong.  That is the kind of objective we should pitch for. This is what people of Tibet seem to be doing.  Lastly, every entity is unique; it turns out that Tibet has a very powerful culture.  I also remember there was a meeting here a year and a half ago when some of our people who had gone to Tibet had come back and they spoke about their experiences. There were Tibetans in the audience, Chinese as well, and I made the same statement that Tibet has a very strong and powerful culture.  This is something which is crucial.  There is a book written on this by a Japanese scholar, Hajime Nakamura on the four ways of eastern thought - India, China, Japan and Tibet.  Tibet ranks as equal with China and India and explains a lot of things as to why the Chinese have this inability come to a conclusion on the matter.  We have to give some thought to this aspect also. 

I thank all the speakers and audience for their participation.

 

Vote of Thanks - Sameer Patil (JNU): I take this opportunity on behalf of the ML Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs to express gratitude to all the people who have made this seminar a success.  First of all I would like to thank our chairs, the honourable MP from Arunachal Pradesh, Kiren Rijiju and Ambassador K. Ragunath who kindly spent time with us despite their busy schedules. Thanks again to the speakers who provided unique military, legal, political and diplomatic perspectives on this issue.  I also thank the staff of the Institute as well as the IIC and also my Tibetan friends who provided their support to this seminar.  Finally, thanks to all members of this august gathering who have enthusiastically participated in this seminar.