The author begins by paying her respects to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for “perhaps even more than the enlightened insights on Tibetan history and the issue of Tibet which he has given during several interviews. I am grateful to ‘Kundun’ simply for his ‘presence’ in this often adharmic world.”
The book introduces the main character in the tragedy that overtook the Roof of the World -Tibet – in 1950, which turned the destinies of India, Tibet and China. The three nations had the choice of going towards peace and collaboration or tension or confrontation, but each one chose its fate with all the consequences that followed. The end of the 40s saw the entry of a new player in the great game of free Asia and that was China. A new emperor, Mao Zedong ascended the throne of the Middle Kingdom. His counterpart was a British-educated Jawaharlal Nehru. On the one side of the chessboard was Mao, the great helmsman who believed in real world only; on the other side was the idealist Nehru who was a dreamer. In 1947, when General Sir Robert Lokhart took the paper containing the recommendations for building up a defence policy for India to Nehru, the latter ignored the suggestion saying that the police was good enough “to meet our security needs”. Mao knew his Indian interlocutor, the champion of non-violence well enough and feared no danger from him.
In Tibet, 15-year old Dalai Lama was enthroned as Tenzin Gyatso, who by religion and temperament showed many convictions dear to Nehru but supported Mao’s view that his country needed ‘socialist’ reforms. However, he was never to be allowed to implement them.
In India, two other characters, apart from Nehru, were KM Panikkar and VK Krishna Menon who played a negative role in the tragedy that unfolded. Panikkar believed that Mao was “the chosen leader of the resurgent people” and wholly supported China.
The book says that Beijing believed that Nehru wanted to be the leader of Asia and that the Chinese goal was to bring the communist revolution to Asia and at a later stage, to the entire world. In the struggle between capitalism and socialism, the Chinese leaders considered Nehru an obstacle. In October 1949, Mao Zedong had even disclosed, “Like free China, free India will one day emerge in the socialist and people’s democratic family. That day will end the imperialist reactionary era in the history of mankind.”
Mao had said after the 1962 Chinese attack in NEFA that people may ask if China had any intention to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle, but “does it mean that the heroic fighters shed their blood in vain and to no purpose?” For him and his comrades, imperialist tendencies mattered. Historian Dr RC Majumdar has shed light on this by saying, “It is characteristic of China that if a region once acknowledged her nominal suzerainty even for a short period, she would regard it as a part of her empire forever and would automatically revive her claim over it even after a thousand years, whenever there was a chance of enforcing it.”
While Nehru and the Dalai Lama, both “adept in the philosophy of non-violence, were ready to accept many compromises to avoid struggle or conflict, the Chinese did not find anything wrong in war and upheaval.” The author points out that the Indian leaders fooled themselves in believing in the ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’ doctrine when the Chinese aims “were always clear, loud and publicly assumed; nowhere did these plans ever move towards a friendship with India.”
George Ginsburg, who wrote Communist China and Tibet, had said, “He who holds Tibet dominates the Himalayan piedmont; he who dominates the Himalayan piedmont, threatens the Indian subcontinent; and he who threatens the Indian subcontinent may well have all south-east Asia within his reach, and all of Asia.” Mao Zedong, the strategist, knew this well as did the British who had always manoeuvred to keep Tibet as an ‘autonomous’ buffer zone between their Indian colony and the Chinese and Russian empires. The author says that the Government of India, upon inheriting the past treaties of the British, should have kept the British mantle with its advantages for Indian security and its sense of responsibility vis-à-vis Tibet; “unfortunately fearing to be labelled a neo-colonialist state, they failed lamentably, giving no thought to the consequences which would follow.”
The author of this book makes a very pertinent point regarding China’s claims on Arunachal and Aksai Chin. The Chinese have been claiming both the disputed areas of Aksai Chin and Arunachal because “it costs them (the Chinese) nothing to exchange their claim on Arunachal against the ‘legalisation’ of their occupation of Aksai Chin.” The recent incursion in Arunachal Pradesh is probably a Chinese bluff to “replace their illegal occupation of Aksai Chin.” She suggests that if India wants peace with China, “it would certainly be in India’s interest if Delhi decides to help the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people to find a negotiated solution with Beijing.”
(Lancer Publishers, 2/42 (B) Sarvapirya Vihar, New Delhi-110 016.)