CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
MEMORANDUM: Historical Sketch of the Sino-Indlan Dispute
Slno-Indian border dispute owesto its past than do roost frontierfactors underlying tbe dispute can bethrough more than twelve years ofindependent India andundred years of competitionthe imperial interests of Britain andthrough previous centuries which sawacross the Himalayan barrier as earlyA.D. Indian pundits date their country'sclaim to the Himalayas, which they regardfountalnbead of Hindu civilization, as far
back. Tbe Chinese would hav no trouble delving even farther back into their chronicles for supporting evidence.
Tibet historically was the arena of the Slno-Indian confrontation. As the Britishtheir hold on the subcontinent during the latter half ofh century, they began to look to the frontiers. The security policy that evolved cast Tibet and Afghanistan ln the classic role of buffers against any threat from the Manchu and Czar1st empires.
China's rulers always claimed dominion over Tibet, ln varying degrees, but Chinese power has ebbed and flowed during the course of an ancient relationship. As the power of the Manchu dynasty began to crumble toward the end ofh century, Chinese overlordsblp in Tibet became no more than nominal. British leaders saw their opportunity and activelyforward policy" which ultimately extended India's sphere of influence as far as Lhasa. Peking's last-gasp attempts to reassert its control in Tibet collapsed with the fall of the Manchu regime and the establishment of the Chinese Republic
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4. The climax of British efforts to secure the Tibetan frontier came the following year when, through London'sripartitewas convened atountain resort In the Punjab Himalaya. British, Tibetan, and Chinese plenipotentiaries met to negotiate an agreementTibet's status in relation to China and India. London hoped to get an agreement which would be the capstoneeries of treaties it had signed with tbe Himalayan border states and Tibet establishing British Influence as dominant ln the
fi. The Simla conference Is remembered now chiefly because of the McMahon Line, which was drawn on the conference map to define the boundaryIndia and Tibet froa Bhutan east to what Is now Burma. The line, named after the Britishleader, Sir Henry McMahon, was Intended to follow the crest ridge of the Great Himalayan range as tbe natural Indo-Tlbetan frontier. Since the crest ln this northeast sector is brokenumber of places by river gorges and bisecting ranges and was still largely unexplored, the line drawn on the small-scale map gaveoughof the actual boundary.
chief concern of the Simlawas the proposed division of Tibetdistinct zones, to be known as Inner and Under this scheme, Chinese authority was
to be limited to those areas of Tibet bordering on China's southwestern provinces, while "outer"Lhasa and all of westernwas to be granted full autonomy.
Chinese Government refused toratify the treaty, although itsindicated agreement by initialing theat Simla. China's objectionsthe proposed boundary between Inner andonly; the Chinese apparently did notthe McMahon Line dividing India andSimla Convention was signed in4 by
the British and Tibetan representatives only; they had alsoDelhiap delineating the McMahon Line ln greater detail.
Interest in the Tibetan problem dropped sharply with tbe outbreak of Worldew weeks lator. Despite the lack of final ChineseLondon formally declared that it considered the Simla accords to be binding on the governments concerned. During the period between the two world wars the Tibetan issue remained quiescent. Lhasatate_of de facto independence2nd frontier security gave New Delhi little concern. The Japanese advance into China prompted the Nationalist government38 to try to reassert Chinese influence ln Tibet, but these approaches were rebuffed by the Tibetan authorities.
Newly independent India's friendly feelings toward the Chinese Communists during their first year of ruleharp Jolt when the People's Army of Liberation invaded Tibet invernight tbe Himalayan frontier wasajor Indian problem. Nehru regards the Chineseof Tibets the starting point of his present dispute with Peiping. In response to
an alarmed Parliament, Nehru for the first time invoked the McMahon Line and tbe Himalayan crestmagnificenttheSlno-Indian border.
the government began takingsteps to strengthen its security positionfrontier areas, New Delhi concentrated onmeasures. Assurances werehat Tibetan autonomyrespected, and2 new treaties werewith Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal aimed atIndian privacy ln those strategicalso pressed for an agreement withIndia's commercial and culturalwith Tibet. reaty signed lnIncorporating the much-touted FivePeaceful Coexistence (Panch Shila), IndiaChinese sovereignty over "the TibetChina."
he Chinese had begun tobas been called "cartographicpublished Chinese maps appeared from timeshowing the presently disputed borderas part of China. Indian protests were
turned away with the explanation that the naps simply reproduced boundaries as shown on previous Nationalist maps, since Peiping did not wish to make any changes until it could survey and consult with China's neighbors. New Delhi also attempted to minimize the importance of these differences,rowing awareness among Indian officials that thereajor border dispute in the making.
These misgivings were deepened when the Indian Government learned ln7 that tbe Chinese hadoad cutting across the northeast corner of Indian-claimedAksai Chinarren plateau never brought under Indian administration. ilitary team secretly sent ln the spring8 to reconnoiter the area was capturedhinese patrol in the first major border Incident. The whole matter was kept under wraps by both sides for moreear, until armed clashes during the fall9 on thefrontier, as well as in Ladakh, brought the border issue dratnatlcally into the open.
9 clashes, which greatlyofficial and public antagonism between tbe two countries,onsequence of Peiping'sof the Tibetan revolt during the spring
In the wake of the Dalai Lama's escape in March to India, where he was granted asylum, the Chinese built up their troop strength in Tibet and occupied the Himalayan passes in an effort both to stop the outward flow of refugees and to prevent any inward flow of arms and resistance fighters. New Delhi, alarmed by the increasing number of Chinese troops on its frontier, strengthened its units in the border areas, and skirmishes between patrols from each side of the undefined border occurred.
subsided after severala meeting between Nehru and Chou En-laiin The chilly talks onlythe wide gulf separating the Indianpositions. It was agreed, however, tolevel discussions to compare documentation
on the respective border claims. This processmore than six months, but failed to develop any practical basisegotiated solution.
New Delhi continued to demand that certainas Chinese withdrawal from Indian-claimed territory--be fulfilled before seriouswereosition which Peiping still finds unacceptable,
he Chineseexpanded, the territory under their control
in Ladakh, Increasing the threat to strategic Indian positions. ew phase in the dispute opened in the spring2 when the Indians began limited military operations ln Ladakh to force the Chinese out of their forward posts. The Indians apparently hoped to push the Chinese back to6 line, or at least to prevent any further advance.
The friction along the border resulting from this forward policy, coupled withector of the northeast frontier,the events which brought the Himalayan highlands before world attention this fall.
The claims and counterclaims underlying the border dispute never have had much relevance
to the realities of the political and psychological situation in which New Delhi and Peiping have found themselves. Today, overtaken by the enormity of the new Issues Involved, they have even less. India rests its case in tho northeast largely on the McMahon Line, and ln Ladakh on "historical tradition" supported by various agreements between Kashmiri and Tibetan authorities dating back The Chinese claim their line is "traditional" andthat Tibet never was independent and had no right to enter into agreementsoreign power, thus rendering the Simla Convention and other
the abstract, India has had thea better case but has failed either to promote
it effectively or to defend lt on the ground; China,ore dubious legal ease, has promoted its "reasonable" position skillfully and demonstrated its power to enforce lt. Questions involving the legality of the McMahon Line, the validity of such geographic factors as watershed and crest range,
the ethnic and cultural distribution of the border peoples, and various "traditional" rights andwin figure importantly again only if the dispute reaches the conference table.
19. Nehru's prediction, repeated almost dally of late, that the Sino-Indlan dispute willong and bitter one may be the first accurateof relations between India and China he has made. Whether or not military actionarge scale Isigh level of tension willfor some time. The border dispute may ln factuture nearly as long as its past.