Mar 10

You Scratch My Back, but I Won’t Scratch Yours

The two Asian Giants are still not able to figure out the line which divides them – in the longest running border dispute in modern history. This dispute offers interesting lessons on how to, and how not to, handle boundary issues. The analysis of Chinese behavior in the negotiations is doubly important given China’s perception in the west of it ‘flexing its muscles’, and China’s theory of ‘Peaceful Rise’.

About a century ago, Sir Henry McMahon, the then British Foreign Secretary, took a think red pencil and sketched a line between India and Tibet on a map – a line which has resulted in the two most populous nations in the world going to war, costing more than 2000 lives; and which has created enormous mistrust on both sides, especially in India.

Consequently, on 3rd July 1914 was signed one of the most bizarre and controversial agreements ever known to man – The Simla accord, the complexities of which have yet to be unraveled.

It was signed at a conference in the Indian mountain town of Simla which was attended by representatives of the British Empire, the newly founded Republic of China, and the Tibetan government at Lhasa.

It is largely based on this extremely controversial treaty that the entire negotiating stance of the Indian government is based. It recognizes the McMahon line as the legal international boundary.

The legality of the Simla accord is disputed. If it is legal, then it serves India’s cause; and if it is illegal, China’s.

The border negotiations have been going on since 1981, making them the longest boundary negotiations in modern history (as well as the oldest disputed border).  The dubious record includes,

1)  Eight rounds of senior-level talks between 1981 and 1987,
2) 14 Joint Working Group meetings between 1988 and 2002
3) 14 rounds of talks between the designated Special Representatives since 2003.

Disputed Territories

The major territories which are disputed between these two countries can be divided into two distinct parts:

1) The Western SectorAksai Chin, which lies to the east of the Kashmir valley, covering an area of about 37,250 sq.km (14,380 sq.mi) – currently occupied by China.

Map showing the Disputed Territories

Disputed Territories

2) The Eastern Sector – The Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China calls South Tibet, covering an area of 83,743 sq.km (32,333 sq.mi) – currently occupied by India.

China’s boundary settlements with other countries

Western and Indian analysts and journalists frequently accuse China of having a new-found self-confidence, call on Obama to “burst Beijing’s bubble” (The Washington Post), call its statements “harangue” and its behaviour “hubris” (The Economist), and of possessing an increased “assertiveness” (Almost everyone!).

Even a 2005 Pentagon report on Chinese military power expressed concern that “conflicts to enforce China’s [territorial] claims could erupt in the future with wide regional repercussions.”

J. Mohan Malik, an expert in Asian Geopolitics and Proliferation, maintains, “Having wrested substantial territorial concessions from Russia, Vietnam, and Tajikistan in their land border disputes with China, Beijing is now expecting the same from India.

Although a thorough analysis of China’s border disputes merits a separate blog post, only a summary is sufficient here to put things in perspective.

China has had land border disputes with every country with which it bordered. However, it has resolved 12 out of the 14 disputes quite remarkably, giving remarkable concessions in each of them.

In its border negotiations with different countries, China has pursued compromise and offered concessions in most of these conflicts. China’s compromises have often been substantial, as it has usually offered to accept less than half of the contested territory in any final settlement. It has also not reiterated its claims on a majority of the territory which was seized from it by the so-called ‘unequal treaties’.

According to M. Taylor. Fravel, a premier expert on China’s border disputes,

“Contrary to scholars of offensive realism, ……China has rarely exploited its military superiority to bargain hard for the territory that it claims or to seize it through force. China has likewise not become increasingly assertive in its territorial disputes as its relative power has grown in the past two decades. Contrary to others who emphasize the violent effects of nationalism, which would suggest inflexibility in conflicts over national sovereignty, China has been quite willing to offer territorial concessions despite historical legacies of external victimization and territorial dismemberment under the Qing.”
“…..China has not issued demands for large tracts of territory that were part of the Qing dynasty……”

“China only contested roughly 7 percent of the territory that was part of the Qing dynasty at its height”

In the map shown above, the grey area was part of the Qing dynasty during 1820, claims which China did not pursue.

China’s land border negotiations with neighbouring countries offer a startling revelation. The portion of the total disputed territory which China received as part of its boundary negotiations with 12 of its 14 neighbours are as follows:

  • Afghanistan – 0%
  • Tajikistan – 4%
  • Nepal – 6%
  • Burma – 18%
  • Kazakhstan – 22%
  • Mongolia – 29%
  • Kyrgyzstan – 32%
  • North Korea – 40%
  • Laos – 50%
  • Vietnam – 50%
  • Russia – 50%
  • Pakistan – 54%

(Pakistan was a special case in which China received 60% of the disputed land but transferred 1,942 sq.kms of separate land to Pakistan. In Tajikistan’s case, the figure refers to the 28,000 sq.kms of the disputed Pamir mountain range; other sectors were divided evenly. In the case of Vietnam, in addition to this settlement, China transferred, apparently without any strings attached, the White Dragon Tail Island to (North) Vietnam in 1957)

Needless to say, the above statistics have not been given the attention that they deserve internationally.

According to Fravel, “Analysis of China’s dispute behavior bears directly on the future of peace and stability in East Asia. Behavior in territorial disputes is a fundamental indicator of whether a state is pursuing status quo or revisionist foreign policies, an issue of increasing importance in light of China’s rising power.

China’s recent ‘assertiveness’

On a recent visit to the US, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “There is but a certain amount of assertiveness on the Chinese part. I don’t fully understand the reasons for it”.

He was referring, among other things, to Chinese objections to the PM’s and Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh and China’s attempt to stall an ADB loan, part of which was earmarked for Arunachal Pradesh.

There has also been some media hype among the Indian media about unconfirmed reports of border incursions (which The Economist calls the ‘picking up (of) fights’ by China) . But since the Line of Actual Control (LAC)  is not clearly defined, incursions often take place on both sides; and it was dismissed by the Indian government as inconsequential.

Dr Fravel argues that “China has beefed up border security and associated infrastructure along all of its borders, not just the one with India.” Now since its border with India is not clearly defined,  a perceived incursion to one side is simply a normal border patrol to the other side. Even the Indian government has said that the LAC is perceived differently on both sides.

According to Fravel, “…often times the Indian government denies that incursions have occurred when local officials in India report that they have occurred. What is clear is (that) Chinese activity on the border has increased in the last several years. What I mean here is the frequency of its patrols, and that in itself is threatening to India if it cannot patrol at the same level of frequency.

India significantly beefed up the number of troops on its border with China after these reports.

Although this is not the appropriate place for a detailed analysis of these accusations, it is clear that China’s recent behaviour does NOT indicate that it wants Arunachal Pradesh per se, it simply means that its claim is still alive, which it always was. That Arunachal Pradesh is disputed (but not Chinese per se) territory has been its official position since before the 1962 war.

China in fact only ‘attacked’ India in 1962 only to get it to negotiate.  After occupying Arunachal Pradesh for a short period, it declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew – thus maintaining the same status quo as that prior to the war.

‘Facts of History’

History is History. It cannot be changed. But what we can change is its effect on the future. China understands this perfectly.

It refers to the McMahon line and the other aspects of the dispute as ‘a fact of history’ or ‘a fact leftover by history’ (two favourite phrases of the Chinese government). It is willing to forget history and move forward, even if it means offering significant concessions.

China seems to have mastered the art of giving remarkable concessions and settling disputes peacefully. (So much so that it seems to border on an obsession of resolving land border disputes as quickly and amicably as possible), characteristic of which is its ‘One country, Two systems‘ approach, which resulted in the successful and peaceful transfer of Hong Kong and Macau to China. By contrast, India had to ‘invade’ Goa, another Portuguese colony like Macau, to liberate it.

This is in stark contrast with India, where apparently Foreign Policy is merely a vote-grubbing exercise. It would be political suicide for any Indian government if it were to ‘settle’ any dispute with mutual concessions.

In fact, it would not be an over-exaggeration to say that while Chinese Foreign Policy is about surviving the next century, Indian Foreign Policy is about surviving the next election.

In 1960, Zhou Enlai offered Nehru a bargain which was in India’s favour by a land area ratio of about 7:3 – China would drop its claim in the Eastern sector(Arunachal Pradesh) if India would drop its claim in the Western sector(Aksai Chin).

But Nehru rejected this package solution, and later also refused to negotiate with the Chinese, until it vacated ‘illegally occupied’ Indian Territory (As if there’ll be anything left to negotiate then!).

Deng Xiaoping again offered a similar deal to India on a number of occasions in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but they were again rejected by India.

In contrast, India has chosen to adopt a sector by sector approach, negotiating each of the two distinct sectors separately.

Because China expressed a willingness to drop its claim in the Eastern sector, Fravel thinks that “India believes that it can use this strategy to maximise concessions from China. Because China has already suggested dropping its claims in one sector, India can also seek concessions in the Western sector. China has opposed this and one reason why China has increased the prominence of Tawang (a district/town in Arunachal Pradesh or South Tibet with close links to Tibet) is because India prefers to pursue a sector by sector approach. China is signaling to India that if a sector by sector approach is pursued, China will expect concessions in both sectors from India.”

Needless to say, even in this sector by sector approach, there is no evidence that India is willing to offer any concessions.

In the official statements of these two countries, the differences of their approaches seem to stand out. While India refers to Arunachal Pradesh as an ‘integral part of India’, China refers to it as ‘disputed territory’. Thereby indicating that although China has a claim on that territory, it recognizes and respects the fact that India also has a claim on it. It doesn’t refer to Chinese occupied Aksai Chin as its ‘integral territory’ and South Tibet (or Arunachal Pradesh) as being under ‘illegal occupation’ by India.

These facts have been completely missed by the Indian media as well as the general public and politicians, who put the blame squarely on China for the dispute remaining unresolved.

Recently The Times of India published an article by Dilip Hiro, a journalist and analyst specializing in India, which stated, “Although China has settled its land border disputes with all other neighbours it has refused to do so with India”. Indian analysts are often quick to claim that China has ‘refused’ to settle its border dispute with India because it is antagonised by India’s rise, conveniently ignoring the fact that the same argument can apply to India too.

“You can scratch my back, but I won’t scratch yours.”

Historians on both sides can offer arguments and analyses to support their claims and debate till the cows come home. But while the Chinese government is willing to forget history and even recognize the McMahon line in the eastern sector, the Indian government remains stubborn, risking a political fallout and a huge backlash fueled by a brainwashed Indian public, which is in turn fueled by exaggerated and false media reports. The current Indian government is often compelled to succumb to the people’s prejudices. Nationalistic fervour and zeal runs so high in Indian minds that it clouds rational thinking in the national interest.

In fact, after losing the war in 1962, Nehru and his government; along with the Indian media, succeeded in portraying India as the innocent ‘victim’ of Chinese ‘aggression’ and ‘betrayal’. Even today, a look at media reports and even MP’s speeches in parliament clearly shows that this fiction is still maintained in the Indian mindset.

The words of a 1964 CIA report still ring true today,

“A political settlement, which could not be negotiated when Sino-Indian relations were still to some degree friendly, will be even less likely now that relations are completely antagonistic.”

Needless to say, it is in India’s long term National interest to resolve the dispute quickly. However, it is not in the government’s interest to offer any sort of compromise, and wouldn’t touch the issue with a bargepole (A textbook example where national interest is superceded by political interest in a democracy).

It is abundantly clear that China wants the dispute resolved as quickly as possible. (For one, it doesn’t have such a strong and ill-informed public opinion to contend with) It understands that friendly relations between neighbours cannot be fully achieved as long as the mutual border is not clearly demarcated. It has offered significant concessions to India, keeping only the minimum territory which is strategically important to it (because of the Aksai Chin road). It is willing to recognize Indian claims on the populated portion of the disputed territory, keeping only the barren desert land of Aksai Chin, where according to Nehru himself, ‘Not even a blade of grass grows’.

But Noooo! The Indian government seems to think that it has a mandate from heaven to keep ALL the disputed territory for itself, and will not offer any concessions whatsoever. It will not accept 74% of the total disputed territory that was part of the deal offered by China (heck, it won’t even accept 99.99% of the disputed territory if China offered it!), but wants the whole 100% disputed territory for itself!

Hence, in simple terms, what the Indian government seems to be saying to its Chinese counterpart is, “You can scratch my back all you want, but I am certainly not going to scratch yours”.

–     Maitreya Bhakal

India’s China Blog – http://indiaschinablog.blogspot.com

(Originally posted at http://indiaschinablog.blogspot.com/2010/03/you-scratch-my-back-but-i-wont-scratch.html)

There are currently 4 comments highlighted: 65047, 65076, 65216, 65668.

45 Responses to “You Scratch My Back, but I Won’t Scratch Yours”

  1. A-gu Says:

    This is a pretty fair analysis of China’s resolution of previous border disputes, but let us remember the Chinese position vis-a-vis India is not “I’ll give you 74% of the land in dispute,” but that Arunachal Pradesh is “is part of the Chinese territory,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

    Neither should we forget a position that shows these claims are relatively opportunistic and not principled:

    “But India rejected this ‘east-west’ swap proposal on the principled ground that Chinese ‘concessions’ in the eastern tract were not concessions at all since China had never administered this area and had no right over it. And from its perspective, Aksai Chin was Indian territory that had been “illegally occupied” by China.

    Since October 1985, however, China has claimed right over the entire eastern tract, in present-day Arunachal Pradesh. In fact, Chinese negotiators have even turned their original swap proposal on its head, and have subsequently claimed that China would be willing to make concessions in the western tract (that is, Aksai Chin) if India reciprocated by giving up its claims in the eastern tract (that is, Arunachal Pradesh)!”

    Finally, remember that Chinese claims to Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands and the Spratley Islands (none of which you addressed here) are also potentially explosive issues that China has no intention of negotiating seriously on at all.

  2. Jimmy Says:

    Legally Taiwan is the “Republic of China”…unless ROC declares itself to be the “Republic of Taiwan”, under international law Taiwan is part of China.

    As for Spratley Islands, why would there be a issue? Unless China pissed off Vietnam big time, would they even bother to bring up the issue?

    And finally, China and Taiwan jointly claims Senkaku Islands…so it is not just a China issue.

  3. A-gu Says:

    Remember the Spratley Islands are claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, & Malaysia. That obviously makes this an obvious potential flash point in general, and more so when if China might be willing to actually use force to resolve the issue.

    The Taiwan issue is one of my favorite topics to debate, obviously, and I did bring up Chinese claims to the place, but only to emphasize the lack of Chinese interest in negotiating boundaries on these topics. Unilateral declarations, to be enforced when China pleases, seem to do for them.

    So, if I may be so bold, I’d suggest we leave Taiwan out of the conversation as much as possible; at the very least, we can all agree that claims to Taiwan are not quite like claims to other disputed areas, and have been (and should be) debated extensively in other threads.

  4. my mother Says:

    Who are the Chinese negotiating boundary issue with on Taiwan?

  5. Nimrod Says:


    China is clearly willing to wait on all disputed issues, so long as the status quo is maintained by all other parties. Yes, that’s opportunistic since China believes she has time on her side as a rising power.

    I dispute that China has no intention of negotiating seriously. However, China certainly refuses to negotiate where she is expected to, a priori, just give up all claims. Is Taiwan willing to negotiate One County Two Systems? That’s a compromise, you know? No? Nothing short of independence? Well. Too bad. Is Japan willing to negotiate Senkaku Islands in good faith? Are ASEAN countries (mostly Vietnam and the Philippines) willing to negotiate the Spratleys in good faith? No? Well too bad. If the Philippines wants to just go ahead and occupy some reefs unilaterally and do things that way, then don’t cry when China decides to do the same. I think it all comes down to smaller countries wanting to get some charity from China. Well if they want charity, they should at least kiss Beijing’s butt rather than Washington’s, no?

    Anyway, back to India. I think China’s position is pretty much Aksai Chin for Southern Tibet/Arunachal Pradesh, if India would agree to it. It is also the most realistic given situation on the ground. That has been pretty clear to me. However, while India wants to claim everything, China has to do the same, otherwise there would be nothing to negotiate, as said in the post. Again China is in no hurry on this since not resolving the issue is only more detrimental to India than to China.

  6. Jimmy Says:


    Well, only Vietnam and China could actually go to war over Spratley…we could include others, but given the power disparities here, unless US actively help others to enforce the Spratley claim against China, I just can’t see it as a huge flash point between China and all the other claimants.

    As for Taiwan, it would be a good idea to leave it off this topic…saying China should negotiation with Taiwan on “border issue” just blew it past the Taiwan independence debate.

  7. A-gu Says:

    When claims are flat out ridiculous — such as the claims to the Senkaku Islands, which have little historical basis (China only began claiming the Senkaku Islands in 1970 thanks to natural resource discoveries), and even less of a legal basis — yes, those claims ought to be dropped out right.

    I think only time will tell how serious China is about negotiating these issues versus how interested they are in using their increasing power to force the resolutions they seek. My money’s on the second possibility.

  8. Nimrod Says:


    Why do you think it’s ridiculous? So are all claims to the Spratleys ridiculous too because the motivation behind them is resource related? These are all uninhabitable or uninhabited little rocks in the sea, so what historical basis anybody has is as good as anybody else’s. Ergo, China’s claim is as good as anybody else’s, got it?

    Realistically, the claims are only as good as your ability to enforce them, and that’s how things have always played out. Why should China be the exception? If China negotiates, she will do it from a position of strength. Negotation is for enforcing some of your claim in lieu of force (for both sides). Negotation is not for wimping out. On the other hand, with many resource questions, there is a lot of ground for cooperation, but since the world order is that every economic privilege starts from a territorial claim, things are a little difficult sometimes. That’s not China’s fault. China didn’t create such a world order but must participate in it.

  9. A-gu Says:


    At best, then, you’re saying everyone’s making absurd claims to these islands. I could go for that. We could just leave them unclaimed or make them joint territory for the whole world.

  10. Nimrod Says:


    Well I think what has been going on is countries leave the sovereignty issue alone and devise some other resource sharing plan separate from sovereignty. It seems like a smart way forward.

  11. Maitreya Bhakal Says:

    @ A-gu

    The Chinese government has always maintained that Arunachal Pradesh/South Tibet is ‘disputed territory’, on occasions and statements which are too numerous to link here.

    As for “China turning the swap proposal on its head”, I can only say that the facts speak for themselves.
    The DNA article which you linked to is characteristic of the media bias and irresponsibility which I talked about.
    Refer to my post, where I talk about the ‘sector by sector’ approach of India, where I quote Fravel as saying, “China is signaling to India that if a sector by sector approach is pursued, China will expect concessions in both sectors from India.”

    Now this fact was reprehensibly twisted by the newspaper to mean, “In fact, Chinese negotiators have even turned their original swap proposal on its head, and have subsequently claimed that China would be willing to make concessions in the western tract (that is, Aksai Chin) if India reciprocated by giving up its claims in the eastern tract (that is, Arunachal Pradesh)!” and that “China is no longer interested in an east-west swap.” !!

    Needless to say, the newspaper only gave its (Indian) readers what the want to read, not what they should read.

    You said: “remember that Chinese claims to Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands and the Spratley Islands (none of which you addressed here) are also potentially explosive issues that China has no intention of negotiating seriously on at all.”

    This post discusses China’s LAND border disputes only, specifically the one with India. That is why I have not ‘addressed’ the maritime disputes here.

  12. jxie Says:

    The McMahon line is between China and India/Myanmar. The McMahon line was essentially used by China as a base to settle the border with Myanmar, despite the Simla Convention wasn’t signed by the ROC representative. The western sector is a different thing altogether. Wikipedia has pretty decent information on it — search Internet with keywords “Johnson line Aksai Chin”. I urge you to read it up.

  13. Maitreya Bhakal Says:


    “…while India wants to claim everything, China has to do the same, otherwise there would be nothing to negotiate, as said in the post.”

    Now that statement is a bit misleading. China has never claimed ‘everything’ per se.
    What I actually say in my post is that Nehru demanded that the prerequisite for negotiations was the withdrawal of Chinese troops from Aksai Chin. In which case there won’t be anything left to negotiate about, since China would already have vacated all disputed territory and in essence given up it’s bargaining power. Not to mention the Aksai Chin road.


    I have not gone into the detailed history of the dispute in this article because I thought that that merits a separate article by itself (which I intend to publish in the future).
    My main aim in this post was to emphasize the fact that while the Chinese government is willing to move beyond history, the Indian government is stuck on (controversial) historical claims.

  14. jxie Says:

    Bhakal, I didn’t say it right. What you wrote is a remarkable piece, coming from presumably an India perspective. My point is that it can be a masterpiece with some further refinement.

  15. Sangos Says:

    Good to read your comments and views in this thread and am glad there is an active forum on this all important topic. It might interest posters here to know that we had a rather long drawn debate on a similar topic last year at http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2009/03/12/could-china-india-go-to-war-over-tibet/

  16. Steve Says:

    Per that debate that Sangos mentioned, I found it apropos that most of us concluded the best final solution would be for China to keep Aksai Chin and India to keep Arunachal Pradesh, basically each country continuing to hold the territory it currently occupies. Maitreya attributes this exact position to China’s negotiating stance, which seems very reasonable to me and about as far as they can go in terms of compromise. If this is truly the case, then I’d say that India is the one that is holding up the settlement of the border dispute and until their leadership moves away from an “all or nothing” position, this issue will continue to poison relations between the two nations.

    Maitreya, many thanks for this post. I completely agree with jxie; it’s an excellent summary of the dispute!

  17. buru Says:

    I think India should thank its stars that it occupied Arunachal b4 the Chinese did..as it never was part of India( not even the British controlled/explored all of it).
    Its acting like a greedy deluded thief..
    China is the thief who knows how to be satisfied with what it stole.. 🙂

  18. wuen Says:

    I appreciate the effort of Maitreya Bhakal in presenting this report. Your statement have confirm my understand of India politic.

    To understand the side of the Indian politic, I read from Neville Maxwell book title “India’s China War”. By reading the title, it give a clue about who started the war because the author put a apostrophe s in India. I try to find other book about India China war in English but can’t find it. I can only find small articles. I think Neville Maxwell did a good job of aggregating many source of his information in the bibliographies section. This will enable scholar to verify the authenticity of his statement and the credibility of his source.

    By reading this book, I come up with my understanding of the Indian politician. I believe Indian politician inherited the foreign policy of the British Raj. The British Raj according to the book wanted Tibet to become a independence state to act as a buffer. To achieve this end, the British Raj invited the Chinese official and Tibetan representative into the Simla Conference in April 1914 to initite a draft treaty which will become the Simla Accord.

    The Simla Accord treaty seperate Tibet into Outer Tibet control by the government at Lhasa and Inner Tibet directly under the administration of Chinese government. The British delegation told the Chinese official that China could keep Outer Tibet by suzerainty. The Chinese official refuse because it would be tantamount to give Outer Tibet independence by losing the administration of Outer Tibet. The Chinese official Ivan Chen refuse to signed the Simla Accord treaty. When the Chinese official refuse to signed the treaty, the British delegate McMahon secretly signed with the Tibetan representative the Simla Accord even if he was order by the British Government not to signed it without Chinese official approval. Without the Chinese Government to a Tripartite Agreement, the Simla Accord become void.

    By setting the Simla conference, the British Government have breached two conventions.

    One of them is the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1906. This convention stipulate “engage not to annex Tibetan territory”. The McMahon Line breach this convention because it was created without the Chinese participation or knowledge, which took place in Delhi between the British and the Tibetans in February and March of 1914. According to the book, “The British moved the line progressively to the north of Tawang, which was still short of the goal proposed by the Chief of the General Staff to annex some two thousand square miles of Tibetan territory. McMahon Line essentially pushed the boundary northward about sixty miles, and moved it from the foothills to the crest line of the Assam Himalayas. In doing so, McMahon accomplished for British India what other officials attempted twenty years ago on the Afghan frontier, and brought the tribal no-man land under nominal British sovereignty”.

    A second breach is the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. This convention stipulate “not to enter into negotiations with Tibet except through the intermediary of the Chinese Government”. The secret signing of the Simla Accord with only the Tibetan representative violated this convention.

    These two convention should be enough to render the Simla Accord void, but the Indian politician who inherit the forward policy of the British Raj decide not to accept these facts. In addition, all map of India printed before 1936 prove the McMahon Line to be non existence at the present location. This part of the history is clear because there are no ambiguous interpretation. The Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1906 and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 acknowledge the Chinese soveignty over Tibet. Britain and Russia saw Tibet as part of China.

    I believe the Indian politician are adopting the attitude of being vague about the history of Tibet so they could continue the forward policy of the British Raj. This will not help to settle the disputed area. To push forward the negotiation to settle the dispute, the Chinese official had stop refering to the history of this region in dispute. Now, the negotiation will be started in a new page with both claim as legimated as the others. I hope both side will be able to solve the dispute.

    I understand the Indian politician care very much about Tibet because some of the Indian largest rivers come from Tibet. Indian politician either want direct control of the source of these rivers or want Tibet to be independant so China will not be able to control the source of these rivers. If the two rivers of China was under the control of India, China would also like to have security in controling Tibet source of rivers. This is my understanding of the security situation in Asia. The Tibetan plateau is the source of many of Asia longest rivers. China is well position in this respect — India is not. Luckly for India, China is willing to cooperate with India to safeguard the source of these rivers. It is best for India to work with China to safeguard these rivers. Trying to make Tibet independence by harboring the Dalai Lama will not help the Indian of monitoring the overflow or lack of water from these rivers. I believe the Indian are ready to fight to the death if the Chinese decide to divert these river or built dam to generate electricity, because these rivers affect the life a over a hundred millions Indian. I also believe Chinese does not want to aggravate the Indian by building dam in the tributary of these rivers.

    These rivers does not pass only through India but also through Pakistan and Bangladesh. If India control the source of these rivers, it will not stop the dispute in South Asia. There are solution to solve the security of the Indian, but this will depend on the Indian politician in understanding the concern of the Chinese and trusting the Chinese have no intention of harming the Indian in the present and the future.

  19. Sangos Says:

    Well its refreshing that the author of this report-an Indian, has taken a critical view of the Indian Goverment itself. Just to clear out a point or two. The Chinese claim on ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ IS historical as opposed to Aksai Chin which is logistical. The Indian POV is roughly reverse -Aksai Chin is historically India’s and Arunachal Pradesh is inportant to secure the Northeast territory.

    @ wuen – I read Maxwell’s book and I took it with a grain of salt. While Maxwell is very bluntly truthful about what went wrong with India and Nehru, he’s kinda shieldy about what went wrong with the Chinese. So I really could not learn much what was going on to the north of the Himalayas. And I think the Indians have taken Maxwell a little too seriously considering how they are going over the top dealing with China recently.

    @ Buru & Steve – good to see you guys again and for getting us up to speed..thanks!

  20. wuen Says:


    It is a good opportunity to have someone who have read the book by Neville Maxwell. I welcome your suggestion and opinion on the book.

    You are right about Neville Maxwell not being clear on the side of the Chinese. This is not his fault, because he did not receive the permission to search in the Chinese archives. His sources come from Indian and western articles. The book may not contain full disclosure of the event, but the portion of the event I cited at #18 have been verify by many people. Thank you for your suggestion.

    The content of the book can be disputed, but I did not found any author who took the responsibility of refuting the evidence in the book. The credibility of Neville Maxwell can be deduce from his academic background. He was educated at McGill University and Cambridge University. He also went to the School of Oriental and African Studies before he wrote his book. To not take him seriously is to question his achievement in his academic studies.

    The current impasse to improve on the settlement of the disputed territories originate from an Indian politician. During the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, he declared the “India’s boundaries fixed, final and non-negotiable”. Since then, no Indian politician have challenge that assertion. China is willing to negotiate with India, at the same time China is not moving her position on the disputed territories without negotiating. Since their are no negotiation from the Indian side, China continue to claim these disputed territories.

    If you want to know more about the Chinese side of the story, I recommend the book “Eldest Son” by Han Suyin. This book is about the life of China premier Zhou Enlai. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai are the pioneer of China foreign policy and have been active in building the relationship with India.

    If you don’t understand, please ask a specific question and I will be glad to try to give an adequate answer.

  21. tanjin Says:

    For both Indians and Americans, and their governments, they can learn a great deal from Mr. Farvel’s research

    the Chinese way of negotiation on conflicts: if you are hard, then we will be harder and stronger; if you are soft and reasonable, then we will be softer.

  22. buru Says:


    If you don’t understand, please ask a specific question and I will be glad to try to give an adequate answer.

    Sorry for butting-in ; I surmise you are from PRC, perhaps an party official. May I ask you:

    i.You say South Tibet/Arunachal is just a bargaining chip for Aksai Chin.Fine.What about the Tawang tract..is PRC ready to forego that too?

    ii.In 1962 war, PLA reached the Assam plains(Chinese claim line) in both the Western & Eastern ends of South Tibet/Arunachal, but only half-hearted progress in the central regions; any reasons?

    just my curiosity..I am from Arunachal

  23. wuen Says:


    You are also welcome.

    I am not an official and I am not from PRC.

    “i.You say South Tibet/Arunachal is just a bargaining chip for Aksai Chin.Fine.What about the Tawang tract..is PRC ready to forego that too?”

    So far there are no negotiation to settle the disputed territories. China and India have never officially settled demarcation of borders. The Indian politician refuse to negotiate so there are no bargaining. Tawang is located in Arunachal a region of disputes.

    “ii.In 1962 war, PLA reached the Assam plains(Chinese claim line) in both the Western & Eastern ends of South Tibet/Arunachal, but only half-hearted progress in the central regions; any reasons?”

    I am sorry I can not answer this question because I do not know what central region you are referring to.

    I have a question for you. What do you think about letting Arunachal become independent from India and China? Do you think it is better for everyone?

  24. sangos Says:

    Steve in his post summed it up well on the boundary issue. But we do have a serious problem with both sides counter claiming the other’s controlled territories. Let’s forget about what Nehru and Mao might have said in the past and focus on present realities.

    @ wuen – India and China ARE having boundary talks which is great. So when you say India is not willing to negotiate perhaps what you mean is India is not willing to hand over Arunachal Pradesh/South Tibet to China just as China is not willing to hand over Aksai Chin to India. So it would be better to call it an impasse unless what you mean is China proposes and India disposes, which is not impossible militarily/by intimidation.

    I will look up that book – thanks. Its good to know all the sides of the story and I am still to understand the whole Chinese saga of Tibet from Chinese POV. All the mostly western footage historically show PLA soldiers beating and killing Tibetans enmasse…am skeptical. Lhasa has been taken over by the Chinese…am skeptical again…so on so forth. We recognize that Tibet is a province of China but we need to understand what is happening and not just outright denials. It is refreshing that you are willing to talk in this forum…thanks again!

  25. wuen Says:


    “India and China ARE having boundary talks which is great. So when you say India is not willing to negotiate perhaps what you mean is India is not willing to hand over Arunachal Pradesh/South Tibet to China just as China is not willing to hand over Aksai Chin to India. So it would be better to call it an impasse unless what you mean is China proposes and India disposes, which is not impossible militarily/by intimidation.”

    This is not what I mean. What I mean is India refuse to negotiate. India and China are talking, but not negotiating on the disputed territories. Talking does not have the same meaning as negotiate in politic. The Indian politician still take the Simla Accord treaty as binding. This mean they see Tibet as an Independent state. There is nothing to negotiate. The Indian politician have the goal of keeping the forward policy of the British Raj alive. I mention Nehru because he is the cause of the current impasse. His wording took India into a non-negotiating stance toward China. It help by understand Nehru and his entourages to have a better grasp of India current foreign policy.

  26. sangos Says:

    @ wuen – Foreign Minsiter of China says that India recognizes Tibet as Chinese territory – so I am confused by your comments.

    You say India is not negotiating so what did the 2 sides talk in the dozens of border meetings till date – surely they did not discuss the weather!

  27. wuen Says:

    Here is the Simla Accord of 1914

    Simla Accord 1914

    Article 3 declare Tibet as a sovereignty country independent of China.

    This is not the complete document of the Simla Accord.

  28. wuen Says:


    The Chinese foreign minister is reflecting India current stance on Tibet. I am sorry to say I do not trust the word of the Indian politician. As long as the Indian politician does not refute the Simla Accord of 1914, they could go back on their word.

    When India and China are talking, they are exchanging their point of view. Talking does not mean the same as negotiating in politic.

  29. sangos Says:

    @wuen – no offense but lets put all the useless history in the trash can. AFAIK the Simla accord or whatever it was NOT between China and India, so IMHO that document is irrelevant to the current situation between the two countries. The ground reality is TIBET IS an integral part of China so that is beyond dispute. Who cares what Indian politians say.

    About the Arunachal P independence question, we had actually discussed it in the earlier thread and I remember Buru saying that all they care about is development, whether going with India or China. The odds actually favor China, BUT there is a big red flag on the minority treatment in China going by the case records of Yunnan, Xinjiang and Tibet. Matter of fact all the Northeast Indian states would like to be in the Chinese sphere of influence. They are not madly in love with India!

  30. wuen Says:


    No offense taken.

    Understanding history is an important factor in resolving current disputes. India inherit the treaties of the British Raj. The Simla Accord is part of these treaties. Without these treaties, India would not have existed.

    “I remember Buru saying that all they care about is development, whether with India or China”

    This is a good answer. I also share the same thought.

  31. sangos Says:

    That is precisely the whole contention of the Chinese claim – the derecognition of the Simla agreement. I am not Chinese nor have authentic references so correct me, but the argument is Tibet was always a part of China and this Simla paper was bilaterally signed between the British masters of India and the Tibetans. So by that argument Tawang DOES belong to Tibet and China. Now why the whole of Arunachal P (minus Changlang and Tirap) is being claimed by China is beyond me. And then of course we have the counter claims of the DL.

    This also alludes to Buru’s earlier question about the 1962 war. What he meant was there was no PLA invasion of the large middle chunk of Arunachal P, which IS included in the current Chinese claim. Historically these areas and ethnic groups were always independent, definitely from Tibet. So while the ’62 Tawang takeover can be explained, why did the PLA care to foray into Arunachal P at the eastern end? Wish I could attach a map here to clarify (admin any way we can do that?). It looks like simple military invasion and takeover of territory unless thIere is some historical basis which I have overlooked. Any sources? I dont wish to quote from Nehru’s “Chinese Betrayal” speech but come to think of it maybe he had a fair point.

  32. admin Says:


    You may use img tag to attach a map. Btw, it will be easier to navigate the blog if sign up for an account.

  33. wuen Says:

    Tibet was not always part of China. The Qing dynasty consolidate the administration of Tibet region. Previous two dynasties did have a form of administration in Tibet, but not the same as the Qing dynasty.

    Here is the map of Qing China

    Here is the disputed territories

    The PLA does not invade Arunachal P, because it is part of China since the Qing dynasty. The PRC inherit the land from the Qing dynasty. The map from the Qing dynasty should show that Arunachal is part of China administration.

  34. sangos Says:

    @wuen – thanks for the references. I also curious about the sort of administration the Qing rulers had over Arunachal P. Am no historian but AFAIK the Ahom dynasty of Assam had quite a plateful of trouble with these areas, and they had no Chinese representative to complain to in those mountains.

  35. wuen Says:


    I am no historian. I do not know how the court in Qing era rule a region. Some question I cannot answer. My best answer is not all ethnic group require a Qing system court. Arunachal have many different ethnic groups who can settle disputes with the help of their own culture. If Ahom Dynasty have problem with the people in Arunachal, The Ahom would need to send a representative to the Qing court.

  36. buru Says:

    I have a question for you. What do you think about letting Arunachal become independent from India and China? Do you think it is better for everyone?

    I think Sangos gave u my answer.Most of us just want a good life, and tho we are by appearance & mannerisms Chinese( I am mistaken even by Chinese as Han) we have been with India for past 60 years and imbibed a part of its culture; hence we really dont have aspirations of independence.

    “Here is the map of Qing China”
    Is this a contemporary map, or a modern one? it looks like a modern map to me?
    Chinese monk-traveller Hiuen-Tsang did visit the Royal court of Assam in 8th century AD–and he described that barbarians(South Tibetans, us 🙂 )lived to the north of Assam in the hills bordering the Chinese empire !

  37. Maitreya Bhakal Says:

    Thank you everyone for commenting.


    “My point is that it can be a masterpiece with some further refinement.”

    Again – the point of the article is not to discuss the history of the dispute; but mainly the negotiating stances of the two countries and China’s border settlements with other countries, which have been greatly ignored by the media as well as the blogosphere.

    I wouldn’t be doing enough justice to the history of the dispute if would have discussed it in the article. I intend to write a separate article about it.

    @jxie: “…..coming from presumably an India perspective”
    @Sangos: “Well its refreshing that the author of this report-an Indian, has taken a critical view of the Indian Goverment itself.”

    While it is true that most of the voices emanating from India take a largely tilted view of things and put their own selfish interests and blind short term gains ahead of India’s long term national interest while discussing the dispute, there are a few people who understand the fact that it is in India’s interest to settle the dispute as quickly as possible.
    However, these voices are neither given the attention that they deserve, nor do they generate much public debate.
    For example, I have read very few articles who propound this point of view in the Indian media. Indian newspapers simply wouldn’t publish such articles.

    Regarding Tawang:

    As I mentioned in the article, India has chosen to negotiate each of the two sectors separately. Now, if we juxtapose this with the east-west swap deal proposed by China, then that means that China will receive no concessions in the eastern sector and, in a separate settlement, India will receive no concessions in the western sector – which amounts to basically the same thing.

    Now, all this is well and good, barring the fact that India is not willing to offer any concessions, regardless of the approach followed during the negotiations!
    Which is where Tawang comes into the picture. In the Indian media, certain Chinese and Tibetan officials have been quoted as saying that Tawang hold a ‘special importance’ for China due to its historical links to Tibet. However, the only reason that China brought up Tawang is because,
    a) The Dalai Lama visited it recently, despite Chinese protests
    b) More importantly, due to the historical links to Tibet, China has indicated that Tawang will be a major factor in negotiations based on India’s sector by sector approach.
    But the Indian officials and even senior ministers have repeatedly indicated that India is not going to compromise over populated territory.
    But wait! China doesn’t WANT the populated territory at all, it wants only Aksai Chin!

    Hence we observe that India is in effect holding up the settlement of the dispute.

    BTW, I think that it would be amusing to read what Sanjoy Takam, an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, said in the Indian Parliament on 9th December, 2009:

    “Mr. Chairman, Sir, thank you for giving me the opportunity to raise on the floor of this House to share and also to spell out the confusions that is outside the House, the confusion that are reigning within this House. The Members who have raised the India-China issue on the floor of Parliament, from the Opposition camp, have two confusions, it seems. One confusion they say, Government seems not assertive. The other confusion, if I have not mistaken, they are confused as to what people of Arunachal feel.

    I want to go straight away to the points. It was in 1967 that the grass root democracy started in the then NEFA – the Panchayati Raj Government started. In 1972, the Union Territory status was given to Arunachal Pradesh. For your kind information, all these two legislations were legislated on the floor of this Parliament, the Indian Parliament. It was historically a Statehood without throwing a single stone. There used to be agitations; there used to be demonstrations; there used to be hunger strikes; as it used to be happening today. But it was so fortunately Rajiv Gandhi, a person who used to have vision for India, demonstrated his skill and his support to the people of Arunachal Pradesh.

    In 1986, full-fledged statehood was granted to the State of Arunachal Pradesh. If we go back to the constitutional and political history of Arunachal Pradesh, if anything has been done, I want to be a little bit selfish by virtue of being a Member of Parliament from the Ruling Congress, it has all been done by the subsequent Congress Governments, that have done fantastic job in having historical legislations for the people of Arunachal Pradesh. “

    Now this is were it gets really interesting:

    “Prior to 1947, for your kind information, and after 1947, I want to be very assertive, not even a single soul in the womb of a mother, or even a single soul who is already born in the land of Arunachal Pradesh, cry in favour of China. Never! It is not going to happen. This is the wisdom of the people of my State. If I am here standing and addressing, it is because of Indian Parliament, it is because of Indian Constitution and it is because of various amendments brought forward for the people of Arunachal Pradesh by the forefathers of our Constitution, right from Pandit Nehru to Dr. Manmohan Singh.

    ….There is no dispute as per our mythology. We have migrated. We have come from Tibet but not even a single inch of our land belongs to any country. It belongs to India. This history has to be ascertained……….”

  38. buru Says:

    #37 Maitreya,

    I think you should take the utterings of a ruling MPs words with a ton of salt.He is basically parrotting what his(or her!) masters want him to say .Use your common sense– if a person purports to know the thinking of the soul inside a mothers womb…. 🙂
    He forgot to tell that the Indian govt also settled countless immigrants into our soil and the same parliament legislated(in secrecy) to not build any more roads after 1962. Except freedom of speech(which was already there b4 India came over) theres not much the Indian govt can crow about here..

  39. Buru Says:

    to illustrate — if Takam Sanjoy wants to go to his Assembly constituency/native home of Tali how do this MP reach there? He charters a chopper if weather permits and flies in from Itanagar.But 99.9999% of his people have to use the land route– which means 4 days trekking on foot across primeval forests & mountains from the nearest roadhead( if u can call that a roadhead that is)..and there are even remoter places out there..

  40. Maitreya Bhakal Says:

    Exactly. He is simply sucking up to the party top brass. I only included parts of his speech so that people know how this issue is perceived in the Indian government.

  41. wuen Says:


    “Is this a contemporary map, or a modern one? it looks like a modern map to me?”

    My mistake for not being precise. It is a modern map with updated name in English of Qing Dynasty. Authentic map of Qing Dynasty before the year 1911 or previous dynasties is not available on the Internet (I cannot find it)

    Here is a map that prove that Arunachal P. is recognize as part of Tibet.


  42. Buru Says:

    “Here is a map that prove that Arunachal P. is recognize as part of Tibet.”

    I know about these maps. Forget 1884, maps in the book Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru( first Indian Prime Minister) showed even in 1936 Arunachal within Tibet ha ha.. not that maps prove anything.

    I would have loved to see a Qing original..

  43. sangos Says:

    Yeah man! I love maps :)..they make all the ground realities look so simple…especially zooming around in Google Earth is awesome..try the Tsangpo/Dihang horse-shoe bend in 3D(latest version)…even the Mt. Namcha Barwa…love it!

    Anyways..I think its important and urgent to nail and get this whole Qing-Arunachal-South Tibet historical thing ironed out. Looks like the whole claims counter claims depend heavily on this perpspective. Way to go!

    Btw Buru’s got a point…most of his people in the Arunachal hills were absolutely independent from any ruler/dynasty as the “Ahom buranji” (History of the Ahom kings of Assam) clearly states. Matter of fact there was also some sort of revenue sharing between the plains Assamese and the surrounding hill peoples (also includes the Naga, Khasi etc to the south). I find NO mention of Qing/Chinese anywhere!?

    The only Chinese in these areas historically were the artisans – skilled carpenters and of course the Chinese army under the American Gen Stilwell in World War 2, whio were stationed in the Ledo area bordering Arunachal P.

  44. sangos Says:

    Hey Buru

    Take a look at this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Qing_Dynasty_1820.png.
    Dunno if its a ‘Qing’ original or photoshopped 😉
    Arunachal belonged to Qing in 1820!?

    Here’s the Ahom kingdom http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ahom-kingdom-c1826p.png

    and here is the British administration http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Assam_in_1950s.png
    Interesting to nore that the British included the present Arunachal P in the Assam of that time. While the Britsh had a treaty with the Burmese, they ‘usurped Qing’s territory’ apparently on the sly!

    Also take note that Assam plains was under the Burmese from 1817; the Ahom kingdom in Assam ended in 1826 and the British took over control from the Burmese. Thought you might fill us in…thoughts!

  45. Otto Kerner Says:


    Har, the same map “proves” that Tibet is not part of China.

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