An Australian journalist, Neville Maxwell, created turbulence by targeting Nehru’s China policy and its impact on the India-China war in 1962. But most of the shocking revelations reported by the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report are already in the book Foundations of Misery in the chapter “Himalayan Blunder” published months back by Rajnikant Puranik. We are giving stunning facts about the war given by the author in his book as a series:
Till the Panchsheel was signed in 1954, China was circumspect in not spoiling what they were getting through it by raising the thorny issue of border. Their major concern then was acceptance of Tibet as their territory. As India was not forced to sign Panchsheel, it should have acted as diplomatically as China and not give-away without getting anything in return.
The maps of the Survey of India were showing the northern borders till 1954 like the British had been showing: dashed/broken-line for the McMahon Line to indicate it was roughly defined but not yet demarcated, that is, marked on the ground consequent to a ground survey; and other portions of the northern borders as “Boundary Undefined”.
In his book, India-China Boundary Problem, 1846-1947, A.G. Noorani, a leading Constitutional expert and an advocate at the Supreme Court of India, mentions that a map annexed to the Mountbatten’s Report on his Viceroyalty labelled these boundaries as Boundary Undefined. Map annexed to a ‘White Paper on Indian States’ released in July 1948 by the Ministry of States under Sardar Patel also did not show these borders as clearly defined, unlike the McMahon Line. The controversial area in this part was Aksai Chin.
Nehru aligned himself with the maximalist position of the British on the northern borders, whether or not agreed to by China or Tibet in the past, declared them as well-demarcated Indian borders, even when the British had themselves shown the border as undefined, and formulated a policy for which no talks or discussions or negotiations were to be encouraged on boder issues.
Kuldip Nayar states in Beyond the Lines: “…To India’s dismay our maps showed some of our territory as part of China. The home ministry wrote to the states asking them to burn the maps or at least smudge the border with China on the Assam side because they did not exactly delineate the Indian border. The Chinese exploited our confusion and used our maps to question our claim.”
Nehru commented: “I agree about the attitude we should take up in regard to the frontier; we should not raise this question. If the Chinese raise it, we should express our surprise and point out that this is a settled issue…”
In his memo of July 1, 1954, some of Nehru’s directives were: “All our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and be withdrawn, if necessary. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’. These new maps should also not state there is any unseparated territory. The new maps should be sent to our Embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in our schools, colleges, etc…
“Both as flowing from our policy and as consequence of our agreement with China [which agreement?], this frontier should be considered a firm and definite one which is not open to discussion with anybody. There may be very minor points of discussions. Even these should not be raised by us…”
Even if one assumes, for the sake of argument, that the new Indian maps were drawn with due care after ascertaining the historical facts and the traditional boundaries, and India had sufficient justification for what it claimed as its boundary; the critical question is: Were the borders agreed to by the other party? Were their agreements and maps to prove what Nehru claimed was accepted by China? If not, should Nehru not have discussed with them and tried to convince them about his position, or should have taken the maximalise position to start with the negotiations. Should he have not negotiated, as there was no reasonable ground to claim that his unilateral position was correct, and shut the door for further negotiation.
A unilaterally-drawn map is a mere cartographic claim; it is not a title to land. It settles nothing; it can have no legal or international acceptance, unless concurred with the other party. Simply said, it takes two to settle a boundary.
India avoided raising the border issue with China following Nehru’s decision—even when the Panchsheel was signed. For over a decade since the independence, Nehru talked with Zhou Enlai on everything under the Sun except the boundary issues. Records quoted in various books on the subject show that Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai did raise the boundary matter with Nehru several times, but India soft-peddled the issue. China was also not insistent. No objections or protests from the Chinese were taken to mean their acquiescence to our position. So, as a “strategy”, India maintained silence, and kept mum on the issue.
-The writer is author of Foundations of Misery, Part 1, 1947-64