India and her neighbours (1947-1964)
- For much of its history, Bhutan has preserved its isolation from the outside world, staying out of international organisations and maintaining few bilateral relations. Bhutan had come under the British suzerainty after clashing with the colonial powers in 1865 after Duar War. In 1910, the British had signed the Treaty of Punakha with Bhutan which allowed the British to guide its foreign affairs and defence. This laid the foundation of the relation between India and Bhutan in subsequent times.
After the British had left the subcontinent, the relationship between India and Bhutan saw a continuity of this pattern. The Bhutanese agent in India continued to function as before while political representative from India based in Sikkim contributed in looking after Bhutan.
The Bhutanese were apprehensive about their future relations with India in years leading to the latter’s independence. When the British Cabinet Mission had visited India in 1946, the Bhutanese authorities presented a memorandum about their country’s separate identity as compared to the princely states in the then India. The Cabinet Mission had confirmed the political status of Bhutan and the latter remained autonomous when the British had exited the following year.
The Bhutanese were still apprehensive about India’s dominance and forged an alliance with Sikkim and Tibet to create a balance. But the former prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, assured Bhutan about its distinct identity and autonomy.
In April 1948, a Bhutanese delegation arrived in India and urged the Ministry of External Affairs to revise the treaty signed between the British India and Bhutan in 1865 after the Duar War. India reciprocated and reiterated its respect for Bhutan’s independence provided the latter also maintained the same rapport it had with the Britishers.
India also agreed to return the Dewangiri Hill strips in return for a revision of the essential provisions of the 1910 treaty. Bhutan also agreed to forgo its subsidy (as per the 1910 treaty) which it had received from India if it had returned 800 square miles of territory that the British had taken through the 1865 treaty.
Thimpu then demanded to enter into a fresh treaty with New Delhi which the latter welcomed, thinking that close relation with the Himalayan kingdoms would nullify any serious threat emanating from the Chinese side.
1949 Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship:
- Consequently, India and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship on August 8, 1949, in Darjeeling.
The main feature of this treaty is that the King of Bhutan, for the first time, had signed a treaty as a sovereign monarch and both countries expressed the desire to maintain cordial relations with each other. The treaty contained 10 articles.
Article 1 said that the two governments will have a perpetual peace and friendship between them.
- Article 2 reflected the spirit of Article 8 of the 1910 treaty by declaring that India would not interfere in Bhutan’s administrative affairs and the latter would be guided by the former’s advice in its external relations.
- Article 3 saw India revising the annual allowance to Bhutan upto Rs 5 lakh (revising Article 4 of the 1910 treaty).
- Article 4 saw India agreeing to return 32 square miles of the Dewangiri territory to Bhutan.
- Article 5 and 6 said both states would develop free trade and commerce and Bhutan would import arms, ammunition, machinery and warlike material only through India. Bhutan also agreed that there would be no export of arms and ammunition across its frontier.
- Under Article 7, both countries agreed that subjects of both countries residing in each other’s territory would enjoy equal justice.
- Article 9 empowered both countries to extradite criminals taking refuge in each other’s territory.
Through the 1949 treaty, Bhutan entered into a special relation with India and laid the foundation for greater assistance for its economic development. The Indo-Bhutan treaty became the cornerstone of Bhutan’s foreign policy and the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1950 strengthened this relation further as both nations began to see a common threat in Beijing.
The relation between the two neighbours had a fluent run till 1959. In 1954, the then Bhutanese king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk visited India and four years later, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Bhutan. He reiterated India’s wish that Bhutan remained an independent entity. Next year, when the Chinese military crackdown in Tibet led to the Lhasa Uprising, Nehru even told the Indian Parliament that any act of aggression against Bhutan would be considered an act of aggression against India.
Signs of gap between the two countries
- In 1959, when Bhutan requested India about participating in negotiations with the Chinese for resolving the Sino-Bhutanese border disputes in the wake of the Chinese repression in Tibet, India turned it down.
- In May 1960, a misunderstanding arose between India and Bhutan over a map which was released by the India side. Bhutan said the map had not shown the border between the two countries as an international one. Later, boundary strip maps between the two countries were signed. But the Bhutanese National Assembly or Tshogdu argued that it was time for Bhutan to have direct diplomatic relations (challenging Article 2 of the 1949 treaty).
Bhutan’s growing assertion
- Bhutan gradually began to assert its independence in the economic sphere. During the 1960s, it convinced India in having direct economic relations with other countries to work for its development. It negotiated with a Swedish company for establishing a paper factory in its own soil and also invited French nuns to develop medicinal services.
- In 1961, Bhutan and New Delhi signed a pact to harness the Jaldhaka River for generating 18,000 Kilowatts of hydro-electric power of which Bhutan would receive free supply of 250 KWs. This project was completed in 1966. Besides, a 120-mile road was also built at the Assam border to connect Bhutan. India also constructed roads in Bhutan.
- While India repeatedly reiterated its military support to Bhutan, the latter expressed concerns about India’s ability to protect Bhutan against China while fighting a two-front war involving Pakistan.
- During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, some of the Indian troops had crossed into the Bhutanese territory. Bhutan complained to the Indian Army that it is a sovereign state and its king refused to offer base to the Indian troops for defence purposes. Bhutan stressed that the 1949 treaty was not a defence pact.
- Bhutan continued with its effort to establish an independent identity. In 1962, Bhutan joined the Colombo Plan with India’s assistance and received an international status for the first time.
- In 1968, Bhutan attended the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference for Trade and Development) session in New Delhi and barred unauthorized foreigners, including Indians, from entering its territory.
- In 1969, Bhutan also started its own currency. In 1970, it formed its own foreign affairs department. In 1971, it was admitted in the United Nations (though with India’s help).
- Official Indian policy after independence came to assert India’s interest in the integrity and territorial inviolability of India’s smaller neighbours.
- Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s statement in parliament on December 6, 1950: ‘From time(s) immemorial, the Himalayas have provided us with magnificent frontiers…We cannot allow that barrier to be penetrated because it is also the principal barrier to India. Therefore much as we appreciate the independence of Nepal, we cannot allow anything to go wrong in Nepal or permit that barrier to be crossed or weakened, because that would be a risk to our own security.’
- On March 17, 1950, Nehru had declared: ‘It is not necessary for us to have a military alliance with Nepal…But the fact remains that we cannot tolerate any foreign invasion from any foreign country in any part of the subcontinent. A possible invasion of Nepal would inevitably involve the safety of India.’
Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950
- Nehru’s activism vis-á-vis Nepal finds reflection in the Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendshipm 1950 and an agreement governing both bilateral trade and trade transiting Indian soil (July 31, 1950) formalised with the signatures of the Indian ambassador and the Nepalese prime minister, against the backdrop of a growing movement against Rana rule by the Nepali Congress.
- The 1950 treaty and letters exchanged between the then Indian government and Rana rulers of Nepal, stated that “neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of the other by a foreign aggressor” and obligated both sides “to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighbouring state likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two governments.”
- These accords cemented a “special relationship” between India and Nepal that granted Nepalese the same economic and educational opportunities as Indian citizens in India and preferential treatment to Indians compared to other nationalities in Nepal.
- The Indo-Nepal border remained open; Nepalese and Indian nationals could freely across the border without passports or visas and live and work in either country. Indians, however, were not allowed to own properties or work in government institutions in Nepal while there were no such restrictions (except in some states) for Nepalese nationals in India.
Growing Assertion of Nepal
- In the 1950s, the Rana rulers of Nepal welcomed close relations with India. Rana rule in Nepal however collapsed within 3 months of signing the Treaty. As the number of Indians living and working in Nepal’s Terai region increased and the involvement of India in Nepal’s politics deepened in the 1960s and after, so too did Nepal’s discomfort with the special relationship.
- Clearly, the end of Rana rule was accelerated by China’s re-establishment of control and authority in Tibet. Thereafter, Nepal’s quest for security gained a new vitality, gaining momentum after the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict. This came after India granted asylum and encouragement to Nepali political dissidents angered at King Mahendra’s takeover of December 1960.
- Other significant measures were the signing of a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with China in April 1960 and the opening of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu in August the same year. Yet another was the 1961 agreement with China to construct a highway connecting Kodari, on the Nepal-Tibet border, to Kathmandu. It was clearly meant to increase Nepal’s strategic options, especially since her capital was then linked by road solely with India.
- Tensions came to a head in the mid-1970s, when Nepal pressed for substantial changes in the trade and transit treaty and openly criticized Sikkim’s 1975 annexation by India. In 1975 King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev proposed that Nepal be recognized internationally as a zone of peace; he received support from China and Pakistan. In New Delhi’s view, if the king’s proposal did not contradict the 1950 treaty, it was unnecessary.
History of Nepal’s Assertiveness
- On April 21, 1947, before the British withdrew from India, Nepal had secured recognition as an independent nation from the United States. This was followed on April 25, 1947 by an agreement of friendship and commerce providing for the establishment of diplomatic and consular relations. Then, in May 1949, Nepal established diplomatic relations with France at ambassadorial level.
- Thus, even before Nehru made the ominous statements on Nepal, it had entered into diplomatic relations with the U.K., the U.S. and France, which made it impossible for India to contemplate action against Nepal, as was done against the Indian princely states. Even during the twilight years of the Rana regime, Nepal wisely chose to expand its ties to the outside world to enhance its standing and international visibility. A key milestone was Nepal’s initial move to secure membership of the United Nations in 1947. Because of cold war politics this was delayed until December 15, 1955. Contesting elections for non-permanent membership to the UN Security Council, twice successfully, can also be attributed to Nepal’s inexorable search for security and her foreign policy goals.
- In 1955, Nepal participated in the Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, after having attended her first international conference in March 1947: the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi. In 1961, King Mahendra led the Nepalese delegation to the first-ever summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Belgrade. National security as a key priority is reflected in King Mahendra’s pronouncement at the Belgrade Non-aligned Movement summit: ‘Nepal has made clear in the United Nations and outside that she is opposed to all domination over any country by another.’
- Nepal’s foreign policy design was further substantiated by it establishing diplomatic relations with Pakistan in 1960 and an embassy there in 1964. In a joint communique issued after President Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan’s state visit to Nepal in September 1970, against the backdrop of the crisis in East Pakistan, it is stated that: ‘they (the two heads of state) agreed that one of the greatest dangers to world peace was the direct or indirect interference in the internal affairs of a country by outsiders and that in no circumstances, whatsoever, should any country interfere in the internal affairs of another.’
(3) India-Sri Lanka
- Shortly after independence on 4 February 1948 the new Sinhalese dominated government of Ceylon (old name of Sri Lanka) introduced the Ceylon Citizenship Bill before Parliament. The outward purpose of the Bill was to provide means of obtaining citizenship, but its real purpose was to discriminate against the Indian Tamils (who were brought by British from Tamil Nadu to work in tea, coffee and coconut plantations of Ceylon) by denying them citizenship.The Bill stipulated that anyone wishing to obtain citizenship had to prove that their father was born in Ceylon i.e. that they were at least third generation immigrants. This was an impossible task for most Indian Tamils. Those who were at least third-generation immigrants rarely had the necessary documents because they rarely registered births.Therefore, they could not prove the requirements for citizenship.
- The Bill was opposed fiercely in Parliament by the Ceylon Indian Congress, which represented the Indian Tamils, and the Sinhalese leftist parties.The Bill was passed by Parliament on 20 August 1948 and became law on 15 November 1948, just 285 days after Ceylon had gained independence from Britain. Only about 5,000 Indian Tamils qualified for citizenship. More than 700,000 people, about 11% of the population, were denied citizenship and made stateless.
Nehru-Kotelawala Pact, 1954
- On 18 January 1954 Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Ceylon Prime Minister John Kotelawala signed the Nehru-Kotelawala Pact under which India agreed to the repatriation of any Indian Tamil who wanted Indian citizenship. But India refused to automatically provide Indian citizenship to those who did not qualify for Ceylon citizenship.
Sirima-Shastri Pact, 1964
- On 30 October 1964 Indian Prime Minister Lal Shastri and Ceylon Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike signed the Sirima-Shastri Pact (also known as the Indo-Ceylon Agreement) under which India agreed to the repatriation of 525,000 Indian Tamils. Another 300,000 would be offered Ceylon citizenship. The fate of the remaining 150,000 Indian Tamils would be decided late
- Relations between the two states have been defined by the violent partition of British India in 1947, the Kashmir dispute and the numerous military conflicts fought between the two nations.
- After the dissolution of the British Raj in 1947, two new sovereign nations were formed—the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan.
- Soon after their independence, India and Pakistan established diplomatic relations but the violent partition and numerous territorial disputes would overshadow their relationship. Since their independence, the two countries have fought three major wars, one undeclared war and have been involved in numerous armed skirmishes and military stand-offs. The Kashmir dispute is the main centre-point of all of these conflicts with the exception of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War, which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
- About half a million Muslims and Hindus were killed in communal riots following the partition of British India. Millions of Muslims living in India and Hindus and Sikhs living in Pakistan emigrated in one of the most colossal transfers of population in the modern era. Both countries accused each other of not providing adequate security to the minorities emigrating through their territory. This served to increase tensions between the newly-born countries.
- According to the British plan for the partition of British India, all the more than 600 princely states were allowed to decide which of the two countries to join. With the exception of a few, most of the Muslim-majority princely-states acceded to Pakistan while most of the Hindu-majority princely states joined India. However, the decisions of some of the princely-states would shape the Pakistan-India relationship considerably in the years to come.
The Liaquat–Nehru Pact or Delhi Pact, 1950
- It was a bilateral treaty was between the two South-Asian states, India and Pakistan, whereby refugees were allowed to return unmolested to dispose of their property, abducted women and looted property were to be returned, forced conversions were unrecognized, and minority rights were confirmed.
- The treaty was signed in New Delhi by the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on April 8, 1950. The treaty was the outcome of six days of talks sought to guarantee the rights of minorities in both countries after the Partition of India and to avert another war between them.Minority commissions were set up in both countries.
- On the issue of the 1950 Delhi Pact with Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee resigned from the Cabinet on 6 April 1950. Mukherjee was firmly against Nehru’s invitation to the Pakistani PM, and their joint pact to establish minority commissions and guarantee minority rights in both countries. He wanted to hold Pakistan directly responsible for the terrible influx of millions of Hindu refugees from East Pakistan, who had left the state fearing religious suppression and violence aided by the state. Mukherjee considered Nehru’s actions as appeasement, and was hailed as a hero by the people of West Bengal.
- Junagadh was a state on the southwestern end of Gujarat, with the principalities of Manavadar, Mangrol and Babriawad. It was not contiguous to Pakistan and other states physically separated it from Pakistan. The state had an overwhelming Hindu population which constituted more than 80% of its citizens, while its ruler, Nawab Mahabat Khan, was a Muslim. Mahabat Khan acceded to Pakistan on 15 August 1947. Pakistan confirmed the acceptance of the accession on 15 September 1947.
- India did not accept the accession as legitimate. The Indian point of view was that Junagadh was not contiguous to Pakistan, that the Hindu majority of Junagadh wanted it to be a part of India, and that the state was surrounded by Indian territory on three sides.
- The Pakistani point of view was that since Junagadh had a ruler and governing body who chose to accede to Pakistan, it should be allowed to do so. Also, because Junagadh had a coastline, it could have maintained maritime links with Pakistan even as an enclave within India.
- Neither of the states was able to resolve this issue amicably and it only added fuel to an already charged environment. Sardar Patel, India’s Home Minister, felt that if Junagadh was permitted to go to Pakistan, it would create communal unrest across Gujarat.
- The government of India gave Pakistan time to void the accession and hold a plebiscite in Junagadh to pre-empt any violence in Gujarat.
- Samaldas Gandhi formed a government-in-exile, the Arzi Hukumat of the people of Junagadh. Patel ordered the annexation of Junagadh’s three principalities.
- India cut off supplies of fuel and coal to Junagadh, severed air and postal links, sent troops to the frontier, and occupied the principalities of Mangrol and Babariawad that had acceded to India.
- On 26 October, Nawab of Junagadh and his family fled to Pakistan following clashes with Indian troops. On 7 November, Junagadh’s court, facing collapse, invited the Government of India to take over the State’s administration. The Dewan of Junagadh, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the father of the future Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, decided to invite the Government of India to intervene and wrote a letter to Mr. Buch, the Regional Commissioner of Saurashtra in the Government of India to this effect.
- The Government of Pakistan protested. The government of India rejected the protests of Pakistan and accepted the invitation of the Dewan to intervene.Indian troops occupied Junagadh on 9 November 1947. In February 1948, a plebiscite held almost unanimously voted for accession to India.
- Kashmir was a Muslim-majority princely state, ruled by a Hindu king, Maharaja Hari Singh. At the time of the partition of India, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the state, preferred to remain independent and did not want to join either the Union of India or the Dominion of Pakistan. He wanted both India and Pakistan to recognise his princely state as an independent neutral country like Switzerland.He wanted to make his state the Switzerland of the East since the population of the state depended on tourism and persons from all regions could come to an independent Jammu and Kashmir with ease. For this reason, he offered a standstill agreement (for maintaining the status quo) to both India and Pakistan. India refused the offer but Pakistan accepted it.
- Despite the standstill agreement, team of Pakistani forces were dispatched into Kashmir. Backed by Pakistani paramilitary forces, Pashtun tribals invaded Kashmir in October 1947 under the code name “Operation Gulmarg” to seize Kashmir. They reached and captured Baramulla town on 25 October and looted. Instead of moving on to Srinagar just 50 km away and capturing its undefended airfield, they stayed there for several days. Kashmir’s security forces turned out to be too weak and ill-equipped to fight against Pakistan. Fearing that this invasion would bring about an accession to Pakistan, the Maharaja now turned to India and requested India for troops to safeguard Kashmir. Indian Prime Minister Nehru was ready to send the troops, but the acting Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, advised the Maharaja to accede to India before India could send its troops. Hence, considering the emergent situation he signed the instrument of accession to the Union of India on 26 October 1947
- Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah (founding leader of the National Conference) had already reached Delhi a day earlier on 25 October to persuade Nehru to send troops.
- The Instrument was accepted by the Governor-General of India the next day, 27 October 1947. With this signing by the Maharaja and acceptance by the Governor-General, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir became a part of Dominion of India as per the Indian Independence Act 1947 passed by the British parliament.
- By this time the raiders were close to the capital, Srinagar. Indian troops were airlifted from Delhi, landed at Srinagar airport in Kashmir on 27 October 1947 and secured the airport before proceeding to evict the invaders from Kashmir valley.
- The Indian troops managed to evict the aggressors from parts of Kashmir but the onset of winter made much of the state impassable. After weeks of intense fighting between Pakistan and India, Pakistani leaders and the Indian Prime Minister Nehru declared a ceasefire and sought U.N. arbitration with the promise of a plebiscite. Sardar Patel had argued against both, describing Kashmir as a bilateral dispute and its accession as justified by international law.
- In 1957, north-western Kashmir was fully integrated into Pakistan, becoming Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-administered Kashmir). In 1962, China occupied Aksai Chin, the northeastern region bordering Ladakh.
- The state remains divided between the two countries by the Line of Control (LoC), which demarcates the ceasefire line agreed upon in the 1947 conflict modified in 1972 as per Simla Agreement.
- India and Pakistan have fought in numerous armed conflicts since their independence. There are three major wars that have taken place between the two states, namely in 1947, 1965 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. In addition to this was the unofficial Kargil War and some border skirmishes.
Indo-Pak War of 1965
- The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 started following Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar, which was designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against rule by India.The five-week war caused thousands of casualties on both sides. It ended in a United Nations (UN) mandated ceasefire and the subsequent issuance of the Tashkent Declaration.
- Since Partition of British India in 1947, Pakistan and India remained in contention over several issues. Although the Kashmir conflict was the predominant issue dividing the nations, other border disputes existed, most notably over the Rann of Kutch, a barren region in the Indian state of Gujarat. The issue first arose in 1956 which ended with India regaining control over the disputed area. Pakistani patrols began patrolling in territory controlled by India in January 1965, which was followed by attacks by both countries on each other’s posts on 8 April 1965. In June 1965, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson successfully persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute. (The verdict, which came later in 1968, saw Pakistan awarded 350 square miles of the Rann of Kutch, as against its original claim of 3,500 square miles.)
- After its success in the Rann of Kutch, Pakistan, under the leadership of General Ayub Khan, believed the Indian Army would be unable to defend itself against a quick military campaign in the disputed territory of Kashmir as the Indian military had suffered a loss to China in 1962. Pakistan believed that the population of Kashmir was generally discontented with Indian rule and that a resistance movement could be ignited by a few infiltrating saboteurs. Pakistan attempted to ignite the resistance movement by means of a covert infiltration, codenamed Operation Gibraltar. The Pakistani infiltrators were soon discovered, however, their presence reported by local Kashmiris, and the operation ended unsuccessfully.
- On 5 August 1965 more than 30,000 Pakistani soldiers crossed the Line of Control dressed as Kashmiri locals headed for various areas within Kashmir. Indian forces, tipped off by the local populace, crossed the cease fire line on 15 August. Full scale war started.
- The United States and the Soviet Union used significant diplomatic tools to prevent any further escalation in the conflict between the two South Asian nations. The Soviet Union, led by Premier Alexei Kosygin, hosted ceasefire negotiations in Tashkent (now in Uzbekistan), where Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan signed the Tashkent Agreement, agreeing to withdraw to pre-August lines no later than 25 February 1966.
- With declining stockpiles of ammunition, Pakistani leaders feared the war tilting in India’s favor. Therefore, they quickly accepted the ceasefire in Tashkent. India bowed to growing international diplomatic pressure and accepted the ceasefire.India’s Prime Minister, Shastri, suffered a fatal heart attack soon after the declaration of the ceasefire.
- Involvement of other nations: Pakistan and the United States had signed an Agreement of Cooperation in 1959 under which the United States agreed to take “appropriate action, including the use of armed forces” in order to assist the Government of Pakistan at its request.However, following the start of the 1965 war, the United States was of the view that the conflict was largely Pakistan’s fault and therefore, it cut all military supplies to the country.However, Pakistan did receive significant support from Iran, Indonesia and People’s Republic of China.Support given by Indonesia to Pakistan is seen as a major failure of India’s International Policy considering that the Indonesia was one of the founding members of Non-Aligned Movement along with India. Both before and during the war, the People’s Republic of China had been a major military associate of Pakistan. India’s participation in the Non-Aligned Movement yielded little support from its members. Despite close relations with India, the Soviet Union was more neutral than most other nations during the war and even invited both nations to talks that it would host in Tashkent.
Bangladesh Liberation War (Indo-Pak War of 1971)
- Pakistan, since independence, was geo-politically divided into two major regions, West Pakistan and East Pakistan. East Pakistan was occupied mostly by Bengali people. In December 1971, following a political crisis in East Pakistan, the situation soon spiralled out of control in East Pakistan and India intervened in favour of the rebelling Bengali populace.
- The Indo-Pakistani conflict was sparked by the Bangladesh Liberation war, a conflict between the traditionally dominant West Pakistanis and the majority East Pakistanis.The Bangladesh Liberation war ignited after the 1970 Pakistani election, in which the East Pakistani Awami League won 167 of 169 seats in East Pakistan and secured a simple majority in the 313-seat lower house of the Parliament of Pakistan. Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman presented the Six Points to the President of Pakistan and claimed the right to form the government. After the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, refused to yield the premiership of Pakistan to Mujibur, President Yahya Khan called the military, dominated by West Pakistanis, to suppress dissent in East Pakistan and arrested Mujibur Rahman.
- After several days of strikes and non-co-operation movements, the Pakistani military cracked down on Dhaka on the night of 25 March 1971. The next action carried out was Operation Searchlight, an attempt to kill the intellectual elite of the east.On 26 March 1971, Ziaur Rahman, a major in the Eastern Pakistani army, declared the independence of Bangladesh by broadcasting the Bangladeshi declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
- In April, exiled Awami League leaders formed a government-in-exile. The East Pakistan Rifles, a paramilitary force, defected to the rebellion. Bangladesh Force namely Mukti Bahini consisting of Regular Force and Guerilla Force was formed.
India’s involvement in Bangladesh Liberation War:
- The Pakistan army conducted a widespread genocide against the Bengali population of East Pakistan, aimed in particular at the minority Hindu population, leading to approximately 10 million people fleeing East Pakistan and taking refuge in the neighbouring Indian states. The East Pakistan-India border was opened to allow refugees safe shelter in India. The resulting flood of impoverished East Pakistani refugees placed an intolerable strain on India’s already overburdened economy. General Tikka Khan of Pakistan earned the nickname ‘Butcher of Bengal’ due to the widespread atrocities he committed.
- The Indian government repeatedly appealed to the international community, but failing to elicit any response, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 27 March 1971 expressed full support of her government for the independence struggle of the people of East Pakistan. The Indian leadership under Prime Minister Gandhi quickly decided that it was more effective to end the genocide by taking armed action against Pakistan than to simply give refuge to those who made it across to refugee camps.
- Exiled East Pakistan army officers and members of the Indian Intelligence immediately started using these camps for recruitment and training of Mukti Bahini guerrillas.The mood in West Pakistan had also turned increasingly militaristic against East Pakistan and India.
- The conflict, a brief but bloody war, resulted in an independence of East Pakistan. In the war, the Pakistani army swiftly fell to India, forcing the independence of East Pakistan, which separated and became Bangladesh.
- The Simla Agreement signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972.
- The treaty ensured that Pakistan recognised the independence of Bangladesh in exchange for the return of the Pakistani POWs. The accord also gave back more than 13,000 km² of land that Indian troops had seized in West Pakistan during the war.
- But some in India felt that the treaty had been too lenient to Bhutto, who had pleaded for leniency, arguing that the fragile democracy in Pakistan would crumble if the accord was perceived as being overly harsh by Pakistanis and that he would be accused of losing Kashmir in addition to the loss of East Pakistan.
- The Soviet Union sympathised with the Bangladeshis, and supported the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini during the war, recognising that the independence of Bangladesh would weaken the position of its rivals—the United States and China. The USSR gave assurances to India that if a confrontation with the United States or China developed, it would take counter-measures. This assurance was enshrined in the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty signed in August 1971. USSR also helped India by veto in security council.
- The United States supported Pakistan both politically and materially. President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger feared Soviet expansion into South and Southeast Asia. Pakistan was a close ally of the People’s Republic of China, with whom Nixon had been negotiating a rapprochement and where he intended to visit in February 1972. Nixon feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan would mean total Soviet domination of the region, and that it would seriously undermine the global position of the United States and the regional position of America’s new tacit ally, China.
- Nixon encouraged countries like Jordan and Iran to send military supplies to Pakistan while also encouraging China to increase its arms supplies to Pakistan. The Nixon administration also ignored reports it received of the “genocidal” activities of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, most notably the Blood telegram. This prompted widespread criticism and condemnation both by the United States Congress and in the international press.
- As a long-standing ally of Pakistan, the People’s Republic of China reacted with alarm to the evolving situation in East Pakistan and the prospect of India invading West Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Believing that just such an Indian attack was imminent, Nixon encouraged China to mobilise its armed forces along its border with India to discourage it. The Chinese did not, however, respond to this encouragement, because unlike the 1962 Sino-Indian War when India was caught entirely unaware, this time the Indian Army was prepared and had deployed eight mountain divisions to the Sino-Indian border to guard against such an eventuality. China instead threw its weight behind demands for an immediate ceasefire.
- Jawaharlal Nehru based his vision of “resurgent Asia” on friendship between the two largest states of Asia; his vision of an internationalist foreign policy governed by the ethics of the Panchsheel, which he initially believed was shared by China, came to grief when it became clear that the two countries had a conflict of interest in Tibet, which had traditionally served as a geographical and political buffer zone, and where India believed it had inherited special privileges from the British Raj.
- On October 1, 1949 the People’s Liberation Army defeated the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) of China in a civil war and established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). On August 15, 1947, India became an independent dominion under British Commonwealth and became a federal, democratic republic after its constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950. One of the most basic policies for the Indian government was that of maintaining cordial relations with China. The Indian government wished to revive its ancient friendly ties with China. When the PRC was declared, India was among the first countries to give it diplomatic recognition.
- Mao Zedong, the Commander of the Liberation Army and the Chairman of the Communist Party of China viewed Tibet as an integral part of the Chinese State. Mao was determined to bring Tibet under direct administrative and military control of People’s Republic of China and saw Indian concern over Tibet as a manifestation of the Indian Government’s interference in the internal affairs of the People’s Republic of China. The PRC sought to reassert control over Tibet and to end Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism) and feudalism, which it did by force of arms in 1950.
- To avoid antagonising the People’s Republic of China, Nehru informed Chinese leaders that India had neither political nor territorial ambitions, nor did it seek special privileges in Tibet (as Government of India in 1947 had inherited certain extra territorial rights in Tibet), but that traditional trading rights must continue.
- With Indian support, Tibetan delegates signed an agreement in May 1951 recognising PRC sovereignty but guaranteeing that the existing political and social system of Tibet would continue. Direct negotiations between India and the PRC commenced in an atmosphere improved by India’s mediation efforts in bringing about a ceasefire to the Korean War (1950–1953). India established diplomatic relations with the PRC on April 1, 1950.
Signing Panch Sheel
- In April 1954, India and the PRC signed an eight-year agreement on Tibet that set forth the basis of their relationship in the form of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (or Panch Shila).
- Although critics called the Panch Shila naive, Nehru calculated that in the absence of either the wherewithal or a policy for defence of the Himalayan region, India’s best guarantee of security was to establish a psychological buffer zone in place of the lost physical buffer of Tibet. It is the popular perception that the catch phrase of India’s diplomacy with China in the 1950s was Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai.
- In unison with diplomacy, Nehru sought to initiate a more direct dialogue between the peoples of China and India in various ways, including culture and literature. Around that time, the famous Indian artist (painter) Rammanohar Sinha from Visva-Bharati Santiniketan, who had earlier decorated the pages of the original Constitution of India, was sent to China in 1957 on a Government of India fellowship to establish a direct cross-cultural and inter-civilisation bridge. Noted Indian scholar Rahul Sankrityayan and diplomat Natwar Singh were also there, and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan paid a visit to PRC. Between 1957 and 1959, Rammanohar Sinha not only disseminated Indian art in PRC but also became skilled in Chinese painting and lacquer-work. He also spent some moments with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.
Boundary problem in western part
- The government of India used the Johnson Line as the basis for its official boundary in the west, encompassing Aksai Chin. On 1 July 1954 Prime Minister Nehru wrote a memo directing that the maps of India be revised to show definite boundaries on all frontiers. Up to this point, the boundary in the Aksai Chin sector, based on the Johnson Line, had been described as “undemarcated.” In 1954, India published new maps that included the Aksai Chin region within the boundaries of India.
- During the 1950s, the People’s Republic of China built a 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) road connecting Xinjiang and western Tibet, of which 179 kilometres (111 mi) ran south of the Johnson Line through the Aksai Chin region claimed by India. Aksai Chin was easily accessible from China, but was more difficult for the Indians on the other side of the Karakorams to reach. The Indians did not learn of the existence of the road until 1957, which was confirmed when the road was shown in Chinese maps published in 1958.
- The Indian position, as stated by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was that the Aksai Chin was “part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries” and that this northern border was a “firm and definite one which was not open to discussion with anybody”.
- The Chinese minister, Zhou Enlai argued that the western border had never been delimited, that the Macartney-MacDonald Line, which left the Aksai Chin within Chinese borders was the only line ever proposed to a Chinese government, and that the Aksai Chin was already under Chinese jurisdiction, and that negotiations should take into account the status quo.
- Despite border skirmishes and discrepancies between Indian and Chinese maps, Chinese leaders amicably had assured India that there was no territorial controversy on the border. When India discovered in 1958 that China built a road through the region, border clashes and Indian protests became more frequent and serious.
Boundary problem in eastern part
- In January 1959, PRC premier Zhou Enlai wrote to Nehru, rejecting Nehru’s contention that the border was based on treaty and custom and pointing out that no government in China had accepted as legal the McMahon Line, which in the 1914 Simla Convention defined the eastern section of the border between India and Tibet. China did not consider Tibet sovereign so treaty settling boundary invalid.
- Zhou proposed that China relinquish its claim to most of India’s northeast in exchange for India’s abandonment of its claim to Aksai Chin. The Indian government, constrained by domestic public opinion, rejected the idea of a settlement based on uncompensated loss of territory as being humiliating and unequal.
Asylum to Dalai Lama
- Besides these border disputes, the relations of China and India were further strained on the question of giving asylum to Dalai Lama (spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetan people). Right from 1959 owing to large-scale demolition of Buddhist monasteries and confiscation of lands, the Chinese had caused discontent among the Tibetans. In the revolt of the Tibetans, certain insurgents together with Dalai Lama fled in the direction of India.
- Fixed on the question to decide whether he should let the Tibetan refugees into India or refuse them asylum, Nehru was put in a dilemma. On March 30th, 1959, Prime Minister Nehru said in the Lok Sabha that should a large group of people attempt to cross the Indian border from Tibet they would not be allowed into India.
- Nevertheless continuous crossing of the border carried on. Not able to hurt the Indian sentiments especially of the Buddhist community, the entry of Dalai Lama was accepted. This infuriated China.
Indo-China War, 1962
- The People’s Republic of China accused India of expansionism and imperialism in Tibet and throughout the Himalayan region. China claimed 104,000 km² of territory over which India’s maps showed clear sovereignty, and demanded “rectification” of the entire border.
- By 10th October 1962 a massive Chinese attack was launched on Indian posts and the next day the Chinese captured the Thagla Ridge, the traditional Indo-Tibetan border and they entered deep into the Indian territory.
- It took a lot of deliberations before cease-fire was declared and the Chinese agreed to withdraw to the line as it was on September 8th, 1962 .Meanwhile an intense exchange of notes continued between the two governments and efforts were being made to settle down matters.
- The impact of Chinese aggression on India has serious consequences not only on the internal situation of India but also on its foreign policy. Internally the invasion led to economic imbalance and inflation along with mounting taxes. More serious effects of Chinese invasion were on India’s foreign policy. First of all it put forward the need for India’s defence requirements. Before 1962 the Non- alignment movement was not linked up with defence concerns. After this aggression, priority was given to defence arrangements.
- (More given in Nehru’s Foreign Policy in post independent India)