India and the Tibetan Tragedy

AN apparently insignificant announcement concerning Indo-Tibetan relations was made to the press on September 16, 1952, by the Indian Ministry of External Relations. It stated that the 16-year-old Indian Mission in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, would be wound up and replaced by a Consulate-General; but that whereas the Mission maintained direct relations between India and Tibet, the new Consulate-General would be accredited to China. In other words, Indian recognition seemed to be entirely withdrawn from Tibet and thus the period of coöperation between the two countries on a basis of equality came to an end. As the initiation of this cooperation was one of the cornerstones of Indian foreign policy under British rule its termination must be the expression of some basic change in policy; and there is no better way of understanding this change than by recalling briefly the history of Indo-Tibetan relations.

Tibet is bordered by Chinese Turkestan and Mongolia in the north; by China in the east; by Burma, India, Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal in the South; and by India (Punjab and Kashmir) in the west. Bhutan and Sikkim were formerly part of Tibet but are now separate states under Indian suzerainty. Both Tibet and Nepal were under Chinese suzerainty, but whereas the Nepalese threw off Chinese domination, Tibetan efforts to terminate dependence were never completely successful. However, the term Chinese domination calls for explanation. Chinese suzerainty meant at first the overlord-ship of the Manchu Emperors. With their downfall, Chinese Republican influence in Tibet decreased rapidly and Chinese Communist influence was considered a menace in Lhasa long before the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek.

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