Bangalore International Centre had arranged a Talk on “Sino- Indian Relations” by Mr. Claude Arpi, Noted Writer, on Friday, 19th August, 2011 at 6:30 pm. The Talk was moderated by Dr. Bidanda M Chengappa, Senior Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies.
At the outset, Mr. Arpi highlighted the strategic location of Tibet and how over the years Tibet has had intimate cultural linkages with India. Buddhism traveled to Tibet from India and the Buddhist monks and scholars from Nalanda provided the source for the growth of knowledge, culture and tradition in Tibet. The Brahmi script and the Tibetan script have remarkable affinity which can be seen in various inscriptions in both India and Tibet. Tibetan art was also heavily influenced by the Contemporary art forms in India. The decline of the Nalanda University in India in the post-Gupta period along with the decline of Buddhism led to an abrupt halt of the free cultural exchange between Tibet and India. However, all along there was a clear understanding that Tibet was an independent and autonomous country. As the fountain of Buddhism dried up in India, Tibet became increasingly more and more insular and links with India became tenuous. Subsequently Buddhism traveled from Tibet to Mongolia where the rulers embraced Buddhism and, in return, assured protection against external aggression to Tibet. However, the autonomy and independence of Tibet remained unimpaired. This situation changed with the establishment of British authority in India and the desire of the British to establish a sphere of influence in Tibet. The Younghusband expedition to Lhasa in 1904 did precisely that. However, the British did recognize that China had also interests at stake and formalized it in Simla Conference in 1914 where a treaty was signed by British, Tibetan and Chinese Plenipotentiaries. A map which delineated the borders as per the agreement in the Simla Conference contained what is popularly known as the McMohan Line. This border and trade relations between the two countries remained undisturbed and untroubled throughout the British Rule in India. In 1947 also the regime in Tibet was known as the Government of Tibet, and there were several exchange of letters between Government of India and the Government of Tibet. This dynamics changed totally with the Communists coming over to power in China and slowly, but surely, China started claiming and asserting its suzerainty over Tibet. In October 1950 Chinese troops moved into Tibet and within a short time completed the operation which was termed as “Liberation of Tibet”. Unfortunately India took a passive approach and took the stand that it was an internal affair of China. This was further acknowledged as the official position of India in the “Panch Sheel” Agreement signed between India and China where Tibet was identified as a region of China. The next landmark was the Tibetan uprising in 1959 which led to the influx of a large number of Tibetan refugees in India, including the Dalai Lama. The steady worsening of relationship with China began since that date and culminated in the war in 1962.
Mr. Arpi discussed thereafter the border disputes in detail and stressed that ultimately both the countries may have to take a pragmatic “give and take” approach. He also discussed China’s approach to dam the rivers originating from Tibet which may have several damaging impacts in Indian sub-continent.
Mr. Arpi made a mention about the tremendous infrastructural developments taken up in the border areas by China which make it much easier and simpler for them to move the defence forces and heavy equipments to target India. As against that, Indian side of the border areas is terribly deficient in infrastructure.
It was an extremely thought-provoking event with a very lively interaction.