Monday, October 19, 2009

Special Series - Indo China border Dispute - II

As promised earlier, here is the second in the series of articles that discusses the Indo China Border dispute. The first part discussed about Aksai Chin - The northern border problem with China. This article talks about the Eastern border issue - Arunachal Pradesh (formerly known as North East Frontier Agency - NEFA).


Where is Arunachal?
In the map below is the eastern most state of India - Arunachal(marked in red), bordering Bhutan on one end and Burma on the other.

This end of the dispute is as complex as the western one.

let's go back in time

The first Burmese war and Great Britain got Assam as per Treaty of Yandaboo. The map below shows the eastern end of Indian boundaries at this time. The Ahoms - who were ruling that region came under British rule. You can see in the map, there was no Arunachal in the picture yet. The British for the first time called areas north of Assam as North East Frontier Tract(NEFT- called by this time till Nehru renamed as NEFA).

Later, the British agen Jenkins discovered that the western end of NEFA known as Tawang (now part of India) was ruled by a king/raja and was feudatory of Tibet.

Keen to delineate borders, the British signed an agreement with Tibet agreeing that Tawang was Tibet's and it was a bilateral agreement. Note: TIBET COULD SIGN THIS AND WAS DEEMED LEGAL. Borne this point in mind because this will serve as an evidence for the later part of the flow.
Britain passed Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation by which they created an Inner Line - purely for administrative purposes and Outer Line that marked the official boundary of India. Basically, Britian did not want to deal with the tribes who were staying beyond Inner line and strict instructions were given to officials not to cross this border.
The dawn of 20th century brought Britain and Russia into the great game of ASIA. At this time, China and Tibet which existed as neighbors became areas of conflict for the 2 powers. Britain used to always consider that in order to check Russian influence or attack on India, it is necessary to make Tibet come under Britain i.e. a protectorate or sub-ordinate.

With this intention, Colonel Younghusband set on an expedition to conquer Tibet. China claims (till today) that Tibet neglected its advice else Britian would not have conquered Tibet. However, Tibetans don't agree. Younghusband without facing any resistance conquered Tibet and signed a treaty with it. Note: China didn't object to this nor questioned Tibet's independence.
Britain and China sign a bilateral treaty confirming 1904 treaty and declaring Chinese suzeraintiy over Tibet. TIBET's SIGNATURE/ACCEPTANCE was not taken.
According to the treaty, 1904 treaty was cancelled and it was agreed that Britian will not annex Tibet and China would not allow any foreign interference in Tibet's foreign affairs or administration.

Could China do this? Without getting the consent of Tibet, how could China decide this? For centuries, Tibet was treated as an independent state. And Tibet never sent any approval or signature or seal to China allowing it to control it. This is confirmed by the letter sent by Tibetan government to Mc Mohan (British general) in 1914. Pasted below is excerpt from that letter (taken from "History of Modern Tibet" by Goldstein)

Russia sign treaty with Britain agreeing to the fact that any issue of Tibet would have to be discussed only through China. This was done to ensure neither Russia nor Britian would influence Tibet.

First of all, 1907 was an extension of 1906. If 1906 itself has no validity because Tibet was not consulted how could this treaty be legitimate? China till today claims 1907 treaty as the basis on which Tibet could not be declared independent and hence could not sign any treaty with anyone without its consent.

An Indian map is published showing Tawang as a part of Tibet and Indian border extended from bhtuan to baroi River (32 miles) eastward and the whole of NEFA. Observe the map and see TIBET is named as a different territory and not as a province of China. The Outer line was the boundary and till now China never claimed this area nor ever occupied(Refer to map on wiki on sino-Indian War).

Repeatedly, the British officers tried to cross Outer line despite the warnings got from London.
The situation in Tibet has been best described by Swedish explorer Sven Hedin -(wiki on History of Tibet)

Currently, Tibet is in the cramp-like hands of China´s government. The Chinese realize that if they leave Tibet for the Europeans, it will end its isolation in the East. That is why the Chinese prevent those who wish to enter Tibet. Dala Lama in is currently also in the hands of the Chinese Government"..."Mongols are fanatics. They adore Dala Lama and obey him blindly. If he tomorrow ordering them go to war against the Chinese, if he urges them to a bloody revolution, will all like one man follow him as their ruler. China's government, which fear the Mongols, hooks on to Dala Lama."..."There is calm in Tibet. No fermentation of any kind is perceptible."(translated from Swedish) Sven Hedin had as a European in parts of his travels in Tibet been forced to camouflage himself to a Tibetan shepherd and he also visited the 9th Panchen Lama

Chinese for the first time cross NEFA and post flags around Walong (eastern Arunachal). Walong is the eastern most town in India and is where the bloodiest battle took place in 1962.

For the first time in centuries, China sent troops to Tibet to capture. All the goodwill that existed ceased now (as narrated in The Cambridge History of Tibet). This clearly indicated that China had not direct control over Tibet till then.

The British General Major Hamilton led an expedition trying to cross Outer Line was killed by Abhor tribes in NEFA. The British Government wanted to avenge the murder and hence started an expedition. As they proceeded they saw Chinese markers at Walong and placed British markers (flag) there.

Now, simultaneously, Chinese Xinhai Revolution - that ended Ching/Qing dynasty rule - erupted in China and China weakened. Its influence over Tibet, Assam etc, all weakened making several provinces independent.

China for the first time became REPUBLIC OF CHINA. The new king sent troops to annex Tibet.

For the time, Tibetans felt they were bretrayed, cheated by the Chinese. Now, the 13th Dalai Lama along with all Tibetan soldiers threw the Chinese out and proclaimed independence. Even Mongolia at that time was an independent province.

The sending of troops was against the previous king Sun Yat-sen orders who stated that "All non-han (non-chinese) provinces would be free to join China or if not be independent". This was backtracked by the new king Yuan-shik-hai who proclaimed

in January 1912: "The foundation of the state lies in the people's power to incorporate the areas inhabited by the Hans, Manchus, Mongolians, Huis and Tibetans into one country and to unite the Han, Manchu, Mongolian, Hui and Tibetan nationalities into one nation. That is called the national unification." (As taken from Chinese embassy website).
In Jan 1913, Tibet under the 13th Dalai Lama passed the proclamation of independence which stated amongst many things that

"Relationship between China and Tibet had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other. We are a small, religious and independent nation."
This was sealed and signed and distributed to every office in Tibet and to every resident of Tibet. Tibet also signed a mutual agreement with Mongolia. The text can be found here or here

The signing of this raised the suspicion in the eyes of the British that Russia might be influencing Tibet (because of Russian presence in the treaty). Thus, The British Government began to now involve Tibet with China over boundary issue and most importantly to ensure formally that China becomes suzerain of Tibet. This was Britain's game plan to check Russian influence.

1st meeting - Oct 13, 1913 - Shimla conference called in and Tibet accepts, China rejects to come but forced to come under 1907 treaty. Tibet sends a letter to the British Govt about the fact that it is still independent.

On October 30, 1913, China presented its “counter-proposals”. Its seventh point read: “The frontier boundary between China Proper and Tibet is now roughly indicated in the accompanying map.” That line ran far to the north of Tawang

2nd meeting - Nov 18, 1913 - Inner and Outer tibet was drawn and maps given to China and Tibet. China outrightly rejected it.

3rd meeting - Maps are exchanged between Tibet and China for consulation. Tibet's opinion was expected and Chinese too.

------------------1914 - Shima -Trouble began---------------------------------------

In the 4th meeting on Feb 17, 1914 -

Mc Mohan presents a draft to the Chinese and Tibetan representatives Ivan Chen and Lonchen Shatra respectively. For the first time, the correct borders of Outer and Inner Tibet are mentioned. Inner Tibet constituted Qinghai, Ganshu, Sichuan and Yunnan while Outer tibet consitute the present Tibet Autonomous Region. Inner Tibet was to be completely under Chinese while Outer Tibet would come under Chinese suzerainity but would be autonomous. (i.e Foreign policy, defence would be under the Chinese and everything else independent). There was a blue line demarcating Inner and Outer Tibet while RED LINE became the boundary of entire Tibet. The RED LINE ON THE EAST CAME TO BE LATER KNOWN AS MC MOHAN LINE.

March 11 -
Britain's governor general Mc Mohan formally gives the draft after approval from Britain Govt in London.
March 24-25th
Tibet agrees and Lonchen Shatra sent in a written response agreeing to it -

"As it was feared that there might be friction in future, unless the boundary between Tibet and India is clearly defined, I submitted the map, which you sent to me in February last, to the Tibetan government in Lhasa and I accordingly agreed to the boundary as marked in red in the two copies of the maps signed by you, subject to the conditions mentioned in your letter dated March 24, sent to me through Mr. Bell. I have signed and sealed the two copies of the maps. I have kept one copy here and return herewith the other. Sent on the 29th day of the 1st month of the Wood-Tiger year (March 25, 1914) by Lonchen Shatra, the Tibetan Plenipotentiary"

On April 3, 1914, China presented a five-point proposal (The McMahon Line and After, Parshotam Mehra; page 216; a masterly work). There was no reference to the border with India.

A telegram of April 20, 1914, from the Waichiapu (the Chinese Foreign Office) to Ivan Chen (intercepted by the British) mentioned seven points “on which we will never give in”. Again, the same omission of the external boundary. Its telegram of April 25 hinted that except for the internal boundary the rest was acceptable

APRIL 25, 1914 - China’s Memorandum of April 25, 1914, handed to the British Ambassador also ignored Tibet’s (external) boundary with India.


On this day, all 3 representatives put their initials. Ivan Chen was not too keen but put his initials. Tibet and Britain had no issues. Remember, INITIALS and NOT SIGNATURE. If initials are put, then that particular country's seal must be there for the initials to be valid. However, this was a draft and the initials were put without seals of the respective governments. Hence, the deal was invalid. Chinese and Tibetans reply was waited.

During the same time, China formally issued the Constitution declaring Tibet as one of those which will be unified and brought into Chinese Republic.

MAY 1, 1914 - The President of China sent a Secretary to meet the British Ambassador Sir John Jordan on May 1, 1914. He said after and a propos disavowal of Ivan Chen’s initialling that “the question of boundary was the only article not generally acceptable”.

MAY 11, 1914 - The President objected to “the inclusion in Outer Tibet of Chiamdo and of complete portion of Kokonor territory”. A memo of May 11, 1914, proposed further negotiations.

JUNE 13, 1914 - A Memorandum of June 13, 1914, with a map annexed, centred again on the Inner-Outer Tibet boundary.

JUNE 29, 1914 - So did another of June 29, 1914. D.P. Choudhury points out that the line drawn in the map of June 13 “lay far away from the north-east frontier of India” (The North-East Frontier of India 1865-1914; page 157).

JULY 3, 1914

When China never responded and rejected the proposal, India signed a bilateral treaty with Tibet and finalized the boundaries. The boundaries included NEFA (not Tawang) as part of India. The initials and the seal of the govt was taken from both parties. Further,

Now, China even today says 1907 treaty and states without Chinese approval the treaty between Tibet and India is invalid. So, now any reader must question - Why didnt Tibet signature/intials taken when Tibet was to be declared a suzerain of China? Secondly, Tibet declared independence. There was no formal agreement anytime between Tibet and China to prove China controlled Tibet and hence when Tibet declared itself independent did not require Chinese ratification.

The complete agreement is here. Article 9 mentions BLUE AND RED LINE. Articles 2, 3 and 4 clearly indicate that Tibet accepts Outer and Inner Tibet partition and that China should not send any troops to Outer Tibet nor attempt to convert Tibet into a Chinese province. The Treaty cancelled 1893, 1906 treaties.

Tibet was fully legitamately independent when it signed the treaty. Note in the map below - attached to the Shimla conference even during April meeting when initials were put by all 3 parties. Observe the BLUE LINE AND RED LINE.

Note: In the map, NEFA is a part of India, but not TAWANG.

Further developments post 1914:

C. U. Atchison's Collection of Treaties was published later indicating that the treaty was not binding as it was incompatible with 1907 agreement with China.

Britain and Russia sign another treaty cancelled 1907 agreement.
Olaf Core (British officer) decides to publish Mc Mohan Line map officially as it was a binding agreement.
Britain finds out that Tawang which is being controlled by Tibet (quite naturally). In 1938, Britian occupies Tawang and Tibet protested.


It is to be noted that TAWANG is an illegal occupation of INDIA.

An official map is published by Survey of India and this was the map India published in 1947 too.


TIBET was independent enough to sign a treaty with India. And therefore Tibet that gave up NEFA to India is India's. So, no question of dispute over Arunachal except TAWANG. Se La PASS (picture below) is the last point before Tawang where a bloody battle took place in 1962.

Also, for all the above reasons mentioned, also read what International Jurists concluded about status of Tibet. they concluded that TIBET WAS INDEPENDENT between 1913- 49. It had every qualification to be declared as an Independent nation until China forcibly occupied it and signed an agreement with Tibet in 1951.

Why did China sign formally in 1951 if all the while it treated Tibet as its part?

This article stops here. The next and the last series will cover events post 1947 that led to the war.


devi said...

amazing article.

Sanjay said...

An eye opener !! Wonder why these facts are not informed to every Indian.