BENGALURU: India’s former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao in an interaction on her book ‘The Fractured Himalaya: India, Tibet, China, 1949-1962’ spoke about the Indo-China relations then and now and the influence of the 13-year period that preceded the Indo-China war in 1962 on the relations between the two neighbours with Tibet at the centre.
“From the start, the India-China relationship was in fact a three-body problem, with Tibet at the geographical and diplomatic centre of the nascent relationship,” said Rao. The event was organised by the Synergia Foundation – a city-based strategy think tank.
She said that following the tragic events in the Galwan Valley in 2020, the focus is back on Indo-China relations. “We need a wide-angled perspective to recall the early history of this relationship. Both India and China were very young and in the process of national consolidation and influencing our roles on the world stage. What happened in those years has quite an influence on Indo-China relations even today,” said Rao.
She added, “An industry has grown abouat blaming Jawaharlal Nehru for everything that happened during that period. He had his flaws, but his follies cannot be textbook gospel. His decisions were made in real time. India was a young country and Nehru’s contribution in nation building cannot be ignored. He saw the reality of the coming of the Communists and was subconsciously worried about China’s expansionism. He was concerned about safeguarding our borders. Nehru was the first person to own his failure in the China policy, which had deep linkages with the Tibetan issue. He had granted His Holiness the Dalai Lama asylum in India and Tibetans recognised him as Dharmaraja, but he focused more on building relationships with China and felt that Tibet was a lost cause,” said the former diplomat. She added that there were weaknesses, mistakes but we need to understand the circumstances in which decisions were made and how they were made in real time.
Rao said India’s ties with Tibet are very complex and are not only dictated by geography but by trade, pilgrimage and cultural osmosis. The presence of the Dalai Lama and his whole succession question continues to be strongly opposed by China. She spoke at length about the people in the Himalayan region on either side of the border and about the strong cultural and trade linkages.
She said that she has been asked why a book like this is necessary at this point in time because this subject has been researched and written extensively for many years. “We fought the 1962 war, the 60th anniversary of which is coming up. There’s no end to analysis of events and people involved in the era. My interpretation of that period is that of a diplomat practitioner. I studied the subject when I was in the Indian Foreign Service and I dealt with the bilateral relationships between India and China much before I was posted as Ambassador to Beijing,” she said. “My aim was to provide a rational understanding of the complex relationships between India and China,” said the former diplomat.