Independent India’s government’s lack of strategic thinking with respect to communist China is depressing. It costs India dearly. It also strengthens the Chinese communist tyranny over the oppressed Tibetan people.
Indian people feel warmth and compassion towards Tibetan people. Some in fact argue that India should work actively towards freedom for the sorely tried Tibetan people. Indian people are right. Since 1950, 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by communist China. 6 million Tibetans have now been made a minority in their own country due to China’s settling of 7.5 million Han Chinese in Tibet. During cultural revolution alone, over 6,000 Tibetan monasteries were destroyed. There were reports of PLA soldiers urinating in Lhasa’s holy Jokhang temple. China’s plunder of Tibet’s environment will cost not only Tibet, but entire Asia. China’s dam building over rivers originating in Tibet is fraught with danger, 85% of Asia’s population and hence 50% of the worlds population will be impacted. China’s indiscriminate mining in Tibet, rampant deforestation and rapid militarization of Tibet are dangers to the entire mankind.Torture, brutalization, murder, beating, raping and maiming of Tibetan people by the brutal Chinese PAPF is daily routine in Tibet.
However, Indian government’s strategic blunders have not only betrayed the Tibetan people, but also the deep feelings of love Indian people have towards Tibet. Perhaps nothing illustrates this strategic blunder better than the bizarre act of India feeding Chinese PLA in Tibet, during the early 1950’s!
For this article, I am indebted to Shri Claude Arpi and his memorable book “Born In Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement – The sacrifice of Tibet”. I am also indebted to “Friends of Tibet” organization (http://www.friendsoftibet.org). I quote from these sources extensively.
Communist China had started invasion of Tibet in 1950, and after they made the Tibetan sign the infamous ’17-Point Agreement’ in gunpoint, several thousands PLA troops entered Lhasa in September 1951. During the next months, they were followed by 20,000 PLA soldiers who started occupying strategic points on the Tibetan plateau. With this, started the first real test of the ’17-Point Agreement’ and its promise of peaceful co-existence of the Chinese occupation forces and the Tibetan government. It was the availability of food, because induction of large PLA troops caused an unprecedented breakdown of Tibetan economy.
This is when Indian government started supplying rice to the Chinese troops stationed in Tibet! Readers will remember that before Chinese PLA entered Tibet, very few Tibetans had ever eaten rice, Tsampa (roast barley) being their staple food for centuries. Surely Indian government could have no doubt that the rice they were supplying was for the Chinese PLA?
For centuries Tibet had practiced sustainable development and had been self-sufficient in food grain. Famine was unheard of in Tibet. But the large occupation forces food-grain requisition created a complete breakdown. The Tibetan prime minister of that time, Lukhangwa, an upright person, had strongly protested this severe stress on Tibetan agriculture. Following his resistance, Chinese PLA’s pressure had forced his sacking. However, the unbearable pressure on Tibetan agriculture had to be relieved. Transporting rice from Chinese mainland to Tibet was a tremendously tall ask, considering the transportation problems prevailing in Tibet.
At this point China requested food from India. At that time, India had very serious problems of food grain supply and Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru’s government had to import food grain. China agreed to supply food grain to India. However, in return, India was required to supply to Chinese PLA in Tibet.
In 1952, India’s ambassador to China, Panikkar, agreed to Zhou Enlai’s request of transportation of food supplies to Tibet via Calcutta (now Kolkata). On May 24th, 1952, Pt Nehru specifically agreed to India supplying 2,500 tons of rice to PLA, and communicated his decision to India’s ambassador to China, Panikkar. Indian government, keen on cementing friendship with communist China, had completely ignored principles and common sense, in agreeing to supply rice to an invading army. So much for Pt. Nehru’s resistance to imperialism and message of peace!
The rice had to be supplied via Sikkim. When the deal was finally concluded, a senior Chinese officer had to be posted in Gangtok to oversee the trans-shipment through the Chumbi valley. This was a strategically important place, and intelligence collection became much easier for the Chinese PLA!
Neither was this arrangement one-time. India started supplying rice to Chinese PLA in 1952. This continued through 1953 and 1954. This is in spite of Pt. Nehru explaining his policy a press conference in 1952, and announcing this as an Ad Hoc arrangement only. In 1953, India supplied 1,000 tons of rice to Chinese PLA in Tibet. At the height of this lunacy, India announced on 20th October 1954 that although China had enough rice, Indian had decided to supply rice again to the PLA stationed in Tibet.
This same PLA had brutally crushed the Tibetans. This same PLA had built the infamous road connecting Tibet and Xinjiang, through Aksai Chin, which was opened in 1957. This same PLA had built roads up to Indian borders, which was later used by them to invade India in 1962. Indian government was feeding enemy, that was busy crushing India’s friends and preparing to invade India!
Indian people want a strong nationalist government that stands up to China, demonstrates strategic smartness, and helps India’s sorely tested Tibetan friends. Only time will tell whether India will have such government that truly reflects people’s concerns in their policies and governance.