India, China, Tibet

October 21, 1959

Report Outline
Conflict Over India's Northern Border
Border Pacts and Asian Political Shifts
China's Aims Along the Southern Border

Conflict Over India's Northern Border

Chinese probing Beyond Boundaries of Tibet

Prime minister Nehru's policy of holding India to a strictly neutral course in the power struggle between the free and Communist worlds was rudely shaken during the past summer by forays of Chinese military detachments across the traditional frontier between Tibet and India. Clashes with Indian patrols occurred in the vicinity of widely separated border outposts. At last accounts, Chinese forces remained in possession of an outpost at Longju in India's Northeast Frontier Agency, which they had seized on Aug. 26, and of another outpost at Khinzemane in the same general region. Chinese forces which on July 28 apprehended an Indian patrol far to the northwest in the Ladakh area of Kashmir apparently had withdrawn.

Exchanges between New Delhi and Peking indicated that these and a number of additional Chinese incursions were more than minor border incidents. On the contrary, Red China seemed to be setting out to occupy extensive territories previously claimed only by depicting them on Chinese maps as within Tibet, which is legally a part of China, The Indian government uttered strong protests. Replying on Sept. 26 to a note of Sept. 8 from Chinese Communist Premier Chou En-lai, Nehru observed that China was putting forth claims to “large areas of Indian territory [40,000 square miles] inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Indian nationals, which have been under the administrative jurisdiction of India for many years.” He added that “No government could possibly discuss the future of such large areas which are an integral part of their territory.” Chou's letter had come as “a great shock to us,” Nehru said, for India was one of the first nations to recognize the Communist government of China and Indians had “consistently sought to maintain and strengthen our friendships with your country.”

While refusing to take up the larger Chinese claims, Nehru avowed willingness to consider minor border adjustmerits. He said in his letter to Chou, however, that “No discussions can be fruitful unless the posts on the Indian side of the traditional frontier now held by Chinese forces are first evacuated by them and further threats and intimidations immediately cease.” Chou in a telegram to Nehru on Oct. 7 played down the border difficulties as “merely an episode in our age-old friendship.” Although Nehru welcomed the friendly tone of this message, he warned at a news conference the following day that “any kind of advance” by Chinese forces from positions currently held on Indian territory would “certainly be fully resisted.”

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