Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tibetan Blunder

I had posted an article on Tibet in October. I now refer to Brigadier J.P. Dalvi, "Himalayan Blunder: The Angry Truth About India's Most Crushing Military Disaster". Orient Paperbacks: New Delhi. I refer to his paragraphs on Tibet and Krishna Menon.

In 1904, British India under Lord Curzon organized a military expedition to Tibet. The largely Indian troops under Colonel Younghusband entered Lhasa and forced Tibet to accede to the Anglo-Tibetan Treaty. Britain thereafter controlled Tibetan foreign policy. The Anglo-Chinese Treaty of 1906 confirmed the 1904 Treaty. Lord Curzon urged that London provide de-jure international recognition to Tibet as an independent state. The Home Government remained non-committal.

In 1910, Qing dynasty China invaded Tibet and forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India. The Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa in 1912 and drove out the Chinese garrisons. Tibet proclaimed its independence in 1913. In 1914, Britain entered into an understanding with China to divide Tibet into two regions i.e. Outer Tibet and Inner Tibet. Outer Tibet had an area of 471,700 square miles. China agreed not to send troops into Outer Tibet. Inner Tibet meanwhile was incorporated into neighboring Chinese provinces. In 1914, Britain entered into an agreement with Tibet not to recognize Chinese suzerainty over Tibet. In 1921, New Delhi informed China that it intended to deal directly with Tibet bypassing China.

During World War 2, Tibet opened its own Foreign Affairs Bureau. It declared its neutrality when Japan invaded China. In 1947, a Tibetan trade delegation traveled overseas on Tibetan passports. Brigadier Dalvi quoted Jayaprakash Narayanan to mention "China has not exercised suzerainty, sovereignty or any other form of control over Tibet at any time from 1912 to 1950 when Chinese Communist Forces invaded the country." Jayaprakash Narayanan had attacked Nehru "The worldly-wise, who by their lack of courage and faith, block the progress of the human race not towards the moon but towards humanity itself. These persons have a myopic view and forget that nothing stands or can stand still in history - not even the Chinese Empire".

On October 7, 1950, the Red Army entered Tibet. K.M. Panikkar, the Indian ambassador to China and a left-wing ideologue, advised Nehru not to oppose the annexation of Tibet. Sardar Vallabhai Patel opposed this recommendation sending a letter to Nehru on November 7, 1950 urging that Nehru not recognize Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. Brigadier Dalvi reproduces the letter which makes for painful reading giving the remarkable percipience of Patel. I quote Patel "Chinese irredentism and Communist imperialism are different from the expansionism or imperialism of the Western powers. The former has a cloak of ideology which makes it ten times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national and historical claims".

Tibet appealed to the United Nations on November 23, 1950 for international assistance to oppose Chinese annexation. The Indian delegate to the United Nations opposed the inclusion of the question on the agenda. The issue was dropped on India's insistence. Sardar Vallabhai Patel died in December, 1950. The Red Army entered Lhasa only on September 9, 1951. The Tibetans revolted in 1959. The Chinese crushed the revolt and the Dalai Lama fled to India.

This assumed strategic significance. Tibet had exercised ecclesiastical authority over the North East Frontier Agency, Bhutan, Sikkim, parts of Nepal, Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia. China used this to lay claims to large tracts of land on India's northern frontiers and Mongolia's southern borders.

Brigadier Dalvi quoted Commandant General W.D.A Lentaigne, a distinguished British General with an impressive war record, that India could have forestalled the Chinese sequenced annexation of Tibet in 1950 and 1950. The General had predicted that China's next step would be to annex large tracks of land in Ladakh and the North East Frontier Agency. History proved him correct!

Brigadier Dalvi then describes Krishna Menon. Menon had studied at the London School of Economics. He obtained his Ph.D. in Glasgow. He was linked to influential British socialists such as Harold Laski and Bertrand Russell. Menon was closely associated with the far left of the Labor Party. In 1938 he toured Spain, then in the throes of civil war between the leftist Republicans and rightist Nationalists, arguing the case for the left.

Brigadier Dalvi mentions sources that described Menon as a Fabian Socialist or outright Communist. Menon had repeatedly advocated the case for the People's Republic of China at the United Nations in the late 1950s in the face of strenuous opposition from the Eisenhower administration. Indo-American relations plummeted to a new low.


Anonymous said...

Your comments about Krishna Menon have to be tempered. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth. The maternal side of his family was very wealthy, owning considerable tracts of land. His father was a lawyer with a flourishing legal practise. He studied at the London School of Economics under Harold Laski, the Dean of Fabian Socialism. During those days he was to the extreme left of the Labour Party but consistently propogated India's Independance. His marathon speech in the UN General Assembly is still one of the longest ever. It is he, as India's Defense Minister, who inserted steel into Nehru's spine to send the Indian Army to liberate Goa.
Let me try to make a case for him on the China issue. He staunchly defended China in the UN. Was he not prophetic? China was the elephant in the room, the US had to recognise it. Finally, 20 years too late, Nixon went to China to use it as his leverage against the Soviet Union. The irony, however, is that KM may not support or even recognise the China of today.
On his role as DM during the China War KM cannot be defended.

Having said this let me comment on current day Marxists. I have utter contempt for the Marxist ilk who have nothing postive to say about their country. They are hypocrites of the first order, limousine liberals, who talk about workers rights yet treat their servants without respect and dignity, who talk about the poor and yet live in the finest houses. Enough of my rambling comments.

Jaffna said...


Thank you for sharing your views.

I agree with your first paragraph on his education. He was a brilliant student and speaker. No two words about it.

I agree with you on Goa but disagree with you on China. China is destined for greatness and no one can doubt that. But is also happens to be India's only real rival. The Chinese recognized that from the very start. India never did. And that was a mistake.

The annexation of Tibet was followed by the annexation of Aksai Chin and the brief capture of the North East Frontier Agency. Unfortunately, China and India are structurally positioned to oppose each other - as Kautilya had theorized in the 3rd century BCE.

Best regards

Pragmatic said...

I don't understand why many equate marathon speeches to excellent oratory skills. Like Mark Twain supposedly said at the end of a long letter, "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter", similarly I think marathon speeches are indicative of an inability to articulate clearly and concisely.

cynical nerd said...

I concur with Pragmatic. there is a saying "if you cannot say something in two phrases, it is not worth saying".

Jaffna: Excellent again. I think you should combine this and the earlier post on Marxists into one with all the references. One should then think about publishing it somewhere for wider dissemination.


sanatan said...

Here is the opening sentence of the historic telegraphic message that the Indian Representative in Lhasa sent to the Indian government: "The Chinese have entered Tibet; the Himalayas have ceased to exist." Read more..."What a prophetic assessment of a situation!"

froginthewell said...

In 1914, Britain entered into an agreement with Tibet not to recognize Chinese suzerainty over Tibet.

Wikipedia seems to tell otherwise : ...the British...while recognizing Chinese suzerainty, but not sovereignty, over Tibet.. A similar recognition is talked about as having made in 1907.

Also could you elaborate on why China's claims on Tibet can be disputed under international law? Thanks and regards.

Jaffna said...

Hi Frog

In my post, I provide a link to an earlier post in October that describes the issue in some detail. The earlier post reproduces the arguments both for and against Tibetan independence.

Best regards

froginthewell said...

I had seen that article. I did not know those arguments referred to clauses in the law.

Do you know after how many years of"illegal occupation" the annexation becomes "legitimate"? Either Chinese occupation of Tibet or Israeli occupation of Palestine?

Thanks, as always.

Jaffna said...

Hi Frog,

You are asking me questions that I do not have the answer to :-)

Frankly, I do not think that the occupation of the West Bank or of Tibet is legitimate. But then, one can raise the issue of Kashmir. These are tricky questions.

It appears that Israel is set to unilaterally redemarcate borders. I can not foresee a Chinese withdrawal from Tibet unless the Chinese heartland i.e. the East Coast suffers an economic setback of sorts.

N.Ram who I do not particularly care for makes the link between Tibet and Kashmir. He supports the Chinese position on Tibet and argues that any advocacy of Tibetan independence could introduce principles that apply to Kashmir. All in all a difficult issue indeed.

We will try to get an international law expert on board the next time :-)

Best regards

Anonymous said...

The difference is that Israel has tight control over Palestine and China over Tibet. India still does not fully control Kashmir. India failed where Israel and China did not.

Chandra said...

Jaffna: You forget another player. The last two paragraphs apply to Nehru also to the last full stop. If Menon wasn't there, I am sure the outcome would have been no different.

Anonymous said...

In the history of humanity no country could ever hold an occuied nation for ever. The tiny East Timor was freed. The spirit of freedom cannot be quenched even by the power of Atomic Bomb. Take the case of the tiny nations of erstwhile Jugoslaviya .It is a question of time.
'Tibetan Blunder' was first made by Indian PM then, as he did with Kashmir. The country paid with 3000 + casualties in 1962 on account of 1962 debacle. Both the PM and the DM then had not understood the real imact of Sovereignty of a Nation. In the case of Kashmir our PM then, went to UN in the face of clear victory in 1948. Because of that blunder we are continuing to bleed. Why can't we compare the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. If that is considered legitimate, Tibet shoud also be liberated at any cost.
China's leagl points of soverereignty and Suzeranity etc., are nuthing but pure bumph.
Who ever equates Tibet with Kashmir must be totally ignorant of History or they have extra territorial loyalties.
It is the sacred duty of all freedom loving people of the world to to ecourage the Tibetans aspirations of Free Tibet.
This Generation and the Nations of this millenium will have to be blamed if the unque tradition and culture of Tibetans is allowed to be decimatdd by the Chinese.

Ajay Singh said...

A free Tibet remains a fantasy. And the reason is not so much that Tibetan protests haven't been forceful enough but because the Dalai Lama's government in exile is weak, ineffectual and hopelessly adrift. The Dalai Lama has failed miserably to find a way forward from the impasse that he himself created when he unilaterally declared in 1988 that he favored partial autonomy for Tibet rather then outright independence, becoming the world's first leading spokesman against Tibetan independence. To read in inside story about how the Dalai Lama's own people in Dharamsala view him, go to:

Ajay Singh
editor, AsiaScoop


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