#Indian nationalist SP Mookerjee was a friend of #Tibet

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Like every true Indian nationalist of last 64 years of Indian history, late Indian nationalist leader Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, too, was a friend of Tibet and the Tibetan people.

I express my gratitude to Shri Claude Arpi, for I will quote extensively from his book ‘Tibet: The Lost Frontier’. Similarly, I express my gratitude to Shri Arun Shourie, for I will also quote extensively from his book ‘Self-deception: India’s China Policies – Origins, Premises, Lessons’.

Indian people are aware of late Shri Dr. SP Mookerjee’s contribution to Indian nationalism.  After he had resigned from the government of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru  (due to disagreement over Delhi Pact that Pandit Nehru had with Pakistan prime minister Liaqat Ali Khan), he, after consulting Guru Golwalkar of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded Bharatiya Jana Sangh. This party was opposed to the politics of minority appeasement in India, and is widely considered to the first Hindu nationalist party, with an Indian nationalist outlook, of independent India. Late Dr. Mookerjee’s strident opposition to Article 370 and special status for Kashmir was prophetic – successive generations of Indians view with immense pain the lack of integration of Kashmir that these poor policies have spawned. His mysterious death in Kashmir, after being arrested by Sheikh Abdullah’s government, in 1953, remains shrouded in mystery, especially because Pandit Nehru never allowed setting up an enquiry commission.

Indian people may be less aware of his deep and abiding friendship towards the Tibetan people. At the time of Chinese PLA’s invasion of Tibet in 1950, and the consolidation of this invasion in the subsequent years, Pandit Nehru had a towering presence in India, and he had conducted the foreign policy of the Indian government entirely based on his own judgement. Very few Indian political leaders had the ability to criticize Pandit Nehru’s inaction when Tibet was ‘eaten up’ by communist China. Late Dr. Mookerjee had, and he protested against the short-sighted Indian policy on Tibet vehemently, on the floor of Indian parliament (Lok Shabha).

Dr. Mookerjee, during debate in Lok Shabha, had recalled the doggedness with which Pandit Nehru as the prime minister had been advocating China’s case in the United Nations. He cited the government of India had been ‘shocked and surprised’ with the reply that the Chinese government had sent India, in response to the messages that Indian government had sent to China. He then asked the most important question – ‘What is our definite policy regarding Tibet?’. He expressed his concern that the ‘Prime Minister just glossed over’ this important matter. He criticized Indian government’s inadequate response to the crisis unfolding in Tibet – ‘We have sent another request asking them to be peaceful, but has that made any difference?..We sent frantic appeals to China asking her not to be violent but did China listen?’ Dr. Mookerjee had also prophetically pointed out the imminent danger to India, because, while Indian prime minister kept saying that Indian government stands by McMahon line as boundary between India and Tibet, China continues to publish maps that show significant Indian territory as part of China (Ignoring such sage warning caused India humiliation in 1962 over the heights of Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, and India continues to pay the price till today). Dr. Mookerjee charged Pandit Nehru with following ‘a surrendering policy’ in regard to Tibet (Tibetan people know the effect of this surrender, with 1.2 million Tibetans killed, thousands of monasteries razed flat and severely degraded environment potentially impacting much of Asia, because Tibet has the headwaters of many major Asian rivers).

People of India and Tibet continue to suffer, because incompetent Nehru-government had ignored well-founded critique and sane advise. It is hoped India’s governments formulate appropriate policy to help the sorely tried Tibetan people. There is not another choice – Tibet is India’s civilizational sister.

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14 thoughts on “#Indian nationalist SP Mookerjee was a friend of #Tibet

  1. I appreciate this concern about the problem of Tibet and I am indeed pleased to note that Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee had raised questions about India’s foreign policy in respect of China’s occupation of Tibet. In retrospect, it may appear easy and convenient to blame Prime Minister Nehru. I am not truly inclined to blame Nehru for he was a Nationalist with an idealistic vision. Firstly, the problem is that of China’s military invasion of Tibet. I cannot blame Nehru for that China’s act of aggression. At that time, India was not in a position to send Indian Army to defend Tibet from Chinese attack. It may surprise you, we did not have a large, equipped force to operate in Tibetan plateau across the Himalayan frontier. In any case, Tibet did not ask for India’s military intervention. The United States was interested to contain the threat of Communism and the US President sent some gifts to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Tibet did not seek formal diplomatic relationship with the USA. At that time, Tibet pursued a foreign policy called ‘Isolationism’. I do not blame them for that reason. Tibet is indeed isolated from the rest of the world and it developed its unique Culture because of this geographical isolation. Tibet had a very small armed force or army. The Tibetan Army general who was dispatched to resist China’s invading force did not choose to fight with China and he had peacefully surrendered. I would not blame him. His Holiness had actually forgiven this conduct in the face of the enemy. Tibet wanted to resolve this problem by appeasing China and by assuring China that Tibet will not fall into the hands of China’s enemy and is no threat to China’s power. Tibetans had used their historical experience and wanted to accept nominal protection from China with the belief that China would not interfere in their internal matters. Both Tibet, and India believed that China would agree for retaining the traditional governance of Tibet by their institution called the Dalai Lama. India had signed the Panch Sheel Agreement as presented by China’s Prime Minister Chou En-Lai and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was in New Delhi during the visit by Chinese Prime Minister. China’s true intentions became clear in 1957 and both Tibet and India found out that China wants to completely abolish the traditional governance of Tibet by The Dalai Lama. Tibet and India were left with no choice and had decided to resist the military occupation. Both had agreed for some help from the United States. Unfortunately, all of them underestimated China’s military and intelligence capabilities. Just like the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba, the Tibetan Uprising of 1959 had failed for lack of deployment of adequate number of troops. Both the United States and India must have participated and had a chance to evict China from Tibet. But, to launch such a major attack, India would have to join the US in a military partnership. India pursued an independent foreign policy called Non-Aligned Movement. India did not want to join a military pact and aggravate the tensions of the Cold War era. By joining such a pact, India would have become an enemy of the Soviet Union. I thank Nehru for keeping the friendship with Soviet Union and it is Soviet Union which came to India’s rescue to defend our position on Kashmir.

    • I deeply appreciate your feedback. I do request you to read Claude Arpi and Arun Shourie’s books, the ones I have mentioned in the blog. A few things will become clear. (1) India at least had the ability to intervene militarily, even if not a decisive manner. Plans of this nature were drawn up even in British era. It is GOI’s (Nehru’s) fault that Indian army was not strengthened. (2) Tibetan leadership did request help (comprehensive). (3) Nehru had displayed idealism, but selectively, with respect to Tibet he had surrendered. (4) Flaw of Nehru government was to push themselves into a make-believe world of Chinese benevolence. (5) India’s NAM policy was very selective – sided more with the communist world than the western – not a non-alignment really. (6) Sardar Patel, SP Mookerjee, Minoo Masani, Acharya Kripalani, AB Vajpayee – many parliamentarians had warned Nehru or China’s designs, and that too, from 1950. In view this, it is inaccurate to say Nehru did not know what China was up to, in Tibet.

      • I thank you for your reply. I have known and understood Prime Minister Nehru for I had served in a military organization or military alliance, or military pact called Special Frontier Force. The authors you quote have not served in that Organization. They are formulating their views by studying the public statements and documents that are available to them. It is totally incorrect to observe that India’s “NAM” policy is more inclined towards the Soviet Union as compared to its tilt towards the West. India’s tilt towards the West and its military cooperation with the United States started in 1956 as a consequence of the military threat posed by China’s invasion of Tibet. Prime Minister Nehru, accompanied by his daughter Ms. Indira Gandhi met with the US President Harry Truman on October 11, 1949 and with President Eisenhower on December 16, 1956. Later, Indian Vice President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan visited Washington D.C. during 1957. Both India, Tibet, and the US came to an agreement to support the Tibetan Resistance Movement using the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA as their military partner as Tibet still wanted to defend its image of Isolationism, and India wanted to retain its image of Political Neutralism. This CIA’s Secret War in Tibet failed to deliver the goods it had promised. This was due to the poor Intelligence capabilities of CIA. All these three partners, India, Tibet, and the US were dependent upon the intelligence assessments made by the CIA. Compared to China, both India, and Tibet had minimal intelligence capabilities and had no good sources within China or Tibet. After the failed Tibetan Uprising of March 1959, India, Tibet, and the US had agreed to establish a Tibetan Government-in-Exile with funding provided by the US Congress. Prime Minister Nehru and his daughter Ms. Indira Gandhi had visited Washington D.C. and met with the US President John F. Kennedy during November 1961. This military partnership and military cooperation between Tibet, India, and the US had enraged China and China had released documents that reveal the sense of personal anger experienced by its Leader. Prime Minister Nehru while confronting the threat of China’s military occupation of Tibet had the responsibility to uplift millions of Indians who lived in poverty. He gave his first priority to national rebuilding through Five-Year Plans and made heavy financial investments in the Public Sector. The money that was invested in Defence was abused by the military and plotical leaders who manage defence spending. If there is failure, I clearly see the faces of other people and not of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Even now, the same problem persists in Indian governance. We need Character and Integrity at every level of our national administration. I am sorry, I cannot blame the visionary for the inadequacies of people he had tried to uplift.

      • Sir, I am fortunate to interact with a person who has served in SFF, I thank god almighty. My respect to you. As PM of India, wasn’t Nehru accountable to the principles of governance? If he had incompetent subordinates, wasn’t it his responsibility to remove them?

  2. Had India tried ,atleast through political diplomacy even if not through military intervention, the Tibetan tragedy could have been possibly resolved. But it will be not correct to blame entirely on Nehru,although he was not aware of the ground reality. He was wrong for he applied his macroscopic general world view to the unique situation and issue of Tibet. Due to grave miscalculations Tibet had to lose it’s independence and India, the dragon roaring on her doorstep , ready to spit fire anytime. And of course, India has been burnt once already.

    • Sir,
      India had followed a course of action after ascertaining the views of Tibet. The problem of China’s plan to invade Tibet was known and Tibet did not rush to seek foreign intervention. It was even hesitant to use its own military force to stop its enemy. At a fundamental level, there was a Tibetan miscalculation but, I do not blame His Holiness for this type of miscalculation. I would only blame Tibet’s Enemy and the Enemy alone must accept the responsibility for his own actions. The attack on India during 1962 was an act of retaliation by China which was enraged by India’s support for the Tibetan Resistance Movement. But, China paid a heavy price. China was forced to withdraw its forces unilaterally and declared a ceasefire on November 21, 1962 about a month after launching its military strike. Even today, China does not admit its losses in this 1962 War. Their loss is the Top Secret of the India-China 1962 War.

      • Sir, while I do not have any serious objection to the line of argument you have advanced about China having the entire responsibility, I also want to state that the tyrants are emboldened when the good people are silent.

      • While appreciating your concern and participation, I am sorry to say that you have been misled when you said Tibet did not oppose china’s invasion or that China attacked India due to India’s support to Tibetan resistant movement. Both are factually incorrect. Over sixty to eighty thousand Tibetans had been massacred by Chinese military forces before PLA completely captured Lhasa, the capital city of Lhasa in 1959! This figure was found recorded in official Chinese military records dealing with final invasion of Tibet! It has been revealed now that China attacked Indian in 1962 because of India’s Defense Ministry’s ‘Forward Policy’. India never supported Tibetan resistance movement against China in nay manner!

      • True, although many Indians in their individual capacity supported, but the government did not, that is, until the fateful 1962. After 1962, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri had supported Tibet’s cause.

  3. In the wake of Chinese invasion, Tibet’s Lhasa government sought military support from India but was refused. In 1956, during His Holiness’s pilgrimage to India as the Chief Guest of 2500th Buddha Jayanti Celebration, His Holiness had expressed His intention to stay put in India so He could rise Tibet issue in the UN General Assembly but was advised against doing so His Holiness had to return into occupied Tibet only to escape to India three years later and Tibetan government was not allowed to raise China’s illegal occupation of Tibet in the UN.

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