It is a sign of the maturity of the Indian people that in politics there is nothing sacred and public opinion is always willing and almost eager to take a second, third and any number of fresh looks at policies. It is also understand¬able to argue that the world situation has changed conside¬rably since 1962 and what happened then need not be taken as freezing relations between India and China. But what is unnecessary, and in fact regrettable, is, in the process of recasting policies in the light of fresh circumst¬ances, to indulge in self-flagell¬ation and to contend that past policies were mistaken or, what is even less justified, to argue that these policies were founded on erroneous facts. The desire for friendship with China can be supported with¬out pretending that our case on the border with China is weak. The two are independ¬ent of each other, and to assume that they are not shows an intellectual weakness which pseudo-scholarship is only too ready to exploit.
The need to state this is driven home by the short compila¬tion of information and views put together by Dr. B.K. Basu and Shri Jyotirmoy Bosu, pre¬sident and ex-senior vice-pre¬sident of the Dr. Kotnis Me¬morial Committee. It is useful to have in one place the ques¬tions put and answers provid¬ed in Parliament on this issue in recent months. It is more doubtful whether it was worth reprinting Shri. K.P.S. Menon’s observations made on this subject in 1969. In April 1960, when Nehru and Chou met in Delhi, Menon was far away in Moscow and did not know the details of the discussions between the two prime ministers. For him to repeat, many years later, rum¬ours of the kind of settlement that could have been reached was really a pointless perform¬ance. Rumours do not gain credibility because of the dis¬tinction of those who circulate them.
More irrelevant are the efforts, printed in this booklet, to damage the strength of the Indian case on the border. Much is made of when and in what circumstances the Mc-Mahon Line agreement was printed in Aitchison’s collec¬tion of treaty documents. This is, of course, interesting to the student of history, but it makes no difference to the validity of the agreement itself. Even the Chinese have not denied the existence of that agreement. The debate centres on what bearing the Chinese government’s failure to ratify the agreement, after their representative had initia¬ted the treaty maps, has on the treaty of 1914.
It is, again, futile to cite a number of old maps published by the British government which do not tally precisely with the Indian boundary alignment. One could easily reply by producing several old Chinese maps which depict the boundary as shown by India. But the issue is a much broader one, for the Indian case is not based merely on their maps. There is consider¬able and varied evidence, especially of the exercise of administrative authority, to show that the territories claimed by China were for centuries a part of India. Why, for example, should the Kashmir government have maintained, and how could they have maintained, for a long period a police outpost at Shahidullah on the tradi¬tional northern boundary of India, if this area did not be¬long to them? The evidence produced by the Chinese to suggest that Aksai Chin was their traditional territory can¬not compare in weight, volume and variety with that provided by India. In fact, while attem¬pts are made by those quoted in this pamphlet to punch holes in the Indian case noth¬ing is said of the Chinese effort to establish their claims to the alignment demanded by them. If the whole approach were not purely negative, the hollowness of the Chinese case would have been patent. That China was nowhere in these areas till the fifties of this century, and that when they started moving down into these areas they were well aware that these territories were shown on Indian maps as a part of India—these are facts with which the writers in this pamphlet do not come to grips. Perhaps if one accepted realities the road to friendship with China would be smoother.
Sarvepalli Gopal is Professor of Contemporary History, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.