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India-China Panchsheel Agreement: Hanging on to a moth-eaten rag:

Paper No. 5735                              Dated 30-Jun-2014

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Prime Minister Modi would be well-advised  to reconsider the visit China to this year- the 60th anniversary of signing the Panchsheel Agreement. Implicitly, India would be perceived as endorsing a moth-eaten rag rendered irrelevant by China’s perfidies.

China in the last 60 years stands more often in breach of each and every principle so loftily enshrined in this much heralded Panchsheel Agreement. It is therefore ironic that India sent its Vice President to Beijing to participate in the anniversary celebrations.

Further, it is outrageous, but in conformity with Chin’s established pattern of the past, that while the Indian Vice President was in Beijing, a new map showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of China was coincidently released along with Chinese Army incursions in Ladakh. .

India’s 60 years of China-diplomacy and use of Special Envoys has not made the slightest dent in China’s entrenched imperial mind-sets in dealing with India in a condescending manner. This primarily arises from China’s perceptions of Indian supinity and strategic timidity.

So how does Indian perpetuation of the moth-eaten rag of Panchsheel Agreement and extolling it in deference to China’s own image- building exercise bring any political or strategic gains for India?

China at every stage has sought to strategically diminish India in Asian eyes and it is time to call a halt to the China-appeasement policies.

Much quoted in the past was veteran political leader Acharya Kriplani’s statement then that the Panchsheel Agreement was ‘born in sin’. Events and China’s continued demonstrated pattern of aggressive behaviour on our borders and in our neighbourhood reinforces this assertion.

The Panchsheel Agreement was a strategic sell out  by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and even his favourite acolyte Krishna Menon is quoted as having stated that it was a poorly drafted document. Nehru’s give away of India’s national security interests to China was sought to be given high moral tones by labelling it as an extraordinary and principled new template in inter-state relations.

In a very hard hitting indictment, but true in every word, were these two strategic nuggets that I came across in an article entitled “60 Years On: Unforgiving Legacy of Panchsheel Agreement” by R. N. Ravi, a former Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau with 20 years of experience of China –watching to his credit, and he forcefully asserts that:

  • “The Panchsheel Agreement is ‘damnosa heredatas’, a dark legacy bequeathed by Nehru to India. In its DNA lies the subconscious fount of India’s schizophrenic geopolitics that forsook in one sweep all its historically entrenched strategic interests in Tibet in favour of China.”
  • “The Panchsheel Agreement is India’s acquiescent endorsement of militarily altered, China-centric geopolitical and geostrategic balance of power on India’s northern frontiers.”

So what is India celebrating about 60 years of Panchsheel Agreement signing when it turned out to be a total betrayal of India’s trust that was reposed in China? The Indian Vice President need not have gone even if the previous Government had so ordained.

In any case it would be a strategic disaster if Prime Minister Modi elects to go to China this year. If the new Prime Minister is in “connect” with real Indian public opinion and not that of Indian China-apologists or the disconnected Indian so-called intellectual glitterati he should opt out of a China visit this year. The Chinese are most welcome to visit India and sing paeans to Panchsheel.

Now let us turn to a brief examination of the five principles of Panchsheel and how China has consciously violated each one of them.

Mutual Respect for Each Other’s Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty

China has brazenly braved out its forcible occupation of India’s Aksai Chin in Ladakh, continues to insist even as of now that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh is part of China, and occupied parts of Kashmir gifted to it by Pakistan.

China  carries out intrusions into Indian Territory across the Indian Line of Control in all sectors of our Northern Borders with Tibet

China has jettisoned this vital first Panchsheel principle incessantly throughout the last 60 years and yet pretends that all is hunky dory in India-China relations.

Has India been rendered so supine that it cannot even politically disassociate in perpetuating China’s perfidies against India?

Mutual Non-Agression

China’s 1962 War against India, the armed clashes in 1967 at Nathu La in Sikkim and the 1987 Chinese military major intrusions in Sumodorong in Arunachal Pradesh are they not major acts of Chinese aggression? Or was it as China would like India to believe it is part of China's display of good relations with Chinese characteristics?

Mutual Non-Interference in Each Other’s Internal Affairs

China’s support of various insurgencies in India’s North East.

India gets dictated by China even to the extent of brutally suppressing Tibetan demonstrators protesting during Chinese dignitaries visits to India which is their democratic right especially Tibetans born in India.

Peaceful Co-existence

What sort of peaceful co-existence is China practising in its dealings with India? Without repeating China’s perfidies listed above what needs to be stressed is that at every conceivable step where India has attempted to practise unilaterally peaceful coexistence with China, it is China that has constantly trampled roughshod on India’s efforts.

China despite its rhetorical flourishes on expounding the virtues of Panchsheel has spared no efforts to indulge in strategic diminution of India,

Has India forgotten China’s harsh responses when India under a BJP Government carried out India’s nuclear weapons tests in 1998 and cited that they were prompted by fears of the China Threat? What made China believe that India would yield to China’s dictates?

Has India forgotten that China is vehemently opposed to India’s inclusion as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council? Who is blocking India's membership to the Nuclear Supply Group?

India sincerely hopes that Prime Minister Modi would not succumb to continued appeasement of China in some mistaken distorted interpretation of the Panchsheel Agreement. India’s tragedy has been that its policy-hands dealing with China have been mostly Sinophiles in the great Nehruvian tradition.

Concluding one would once again revert to R N Ravi’s piece quoted above and he says that “Such schizophrenic geopolitics will ensure that India remains a country of ‘unfulfilled greatness’. India’s redemption lies in resolutely confronting this schizophrenia”.

Internationally, and particularly in Asian capitals, India under Prime Minister Modi is going to be judged by as to how robustly it resets its China policy formulations befitting its potential as one of the leading powers in Asia and an India that aspires to be a major global player.