A hundred years ago a young British Colonel, Francis Younghusband entered the holy city of Lhasa and forced upon the Tibetans their first Agreement with the mighty British empire. In signing this treaty with the Crown, Tibet was acknowledged as a separate nation by the British.
Ten years later, London called for a tripartite Conference in Simla to settle the issue: British India, Tibet and China sat together at a negotiation table for the first time.
The Simla convention, born out of the Conference was still in force when India became independent in August 1947. However, an event changed the destiny of the land of Snows. In October 1950, Mao Zedong’s troops invaded Tibet.
With this background, the present research looks at the genesis of the Panchsheel Agreement between India and China which converted the Land of snow into merely Tibet’s Region of China. A natural and cultural buffer zone between India and China disappeared.
The preamble of the Agreement contained the Five Principles which formed the main pillar of India’s foreign policy for the next fifty years. It was the beginning of the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai policy and India’s non-aligned position. This policy still haunts an India unable to sort out her border tangle with China.
The study concludes with some tentative but constructive proposals to come out of the current impasse. In India, one often hears of Panchsheel, but few know that it only was an Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed between China and India on April 29, 1954.
Since the preamble of this Agreement contained the famous Five Principles, it was dubbed the Panchsheel Agreement. Though it lapsed in 1962 and was never renewed, it has kept its aura as the ideal solution for foreign relations. But its first consequence was that Tibet, a 2000 years-old nation, was erased from the map of Asia.
During a debate in Parliament in 1958, the Socialist leader Acharya Kripalani stated: “This great doctrine was born in sin, because it was enunciated to put the seal of our approval upon the destruction of an ancient national which was associated with us spiritually and culturally… It was a nation which wanted to lives its own life and it sought to have been allowed to live its own life.”
The 1962 Sino-Indian conflict was another consequence of the Panchsheel Policy.
Author: Claude Arpi