Sino-Indian Border Dispute: Part III

1962 Onwards

Indo-China relations remained frozen till the 1980’s, with India refusing to negotiate a settlement until China withdrew its troops from Aksai Chin. A gradual change took place during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure and the land swap idea was tentatively discussed again by Deng Xiaoping in 1980[1], though it was never finalised. Incursions and troop movements continued on both sides for over 30 years after the War until the 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility. However, the 1993 and 1996 Bilateral Agreements settled the Line of Actual Control (LAC), giving it legal and official recognition[2].

It is important to clarify that the LAC is only a rough demarcation of Indian and Chinese occupied territory, but it does not constitute the official boundary. There has been no official exchange of maps delineating the exact points of the LAC, thus ambiguity remains in several regions. Today, although tensions remain high and border patrols from both sides frequently cross the undefined border antagonising both sides, not a single shot has been fired at the LAC in 25 years; making it one of the most peaceful border disputes in the world.

Validity of the Claims

The legitimacy of India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh ultimately rests on the Shimla Convention of 1914. There is dissenting opinion as to the validity of this agreement for several reasons. First, Britain had been precluded from entering into bilateral agreements with Tibet because of China’s alleged suzerainty. Second, China claims that the treaty is itself nullified because Tibet was not a sovereign State and did not have the power to enter into relations with other States.

Chinas allegations can be contested on the grounds that Tibet had; upon the collapse of the Manchu Dynasty and consequent regime change in China, become an independent State and thus, had absolute control over the area in question. As an independent State, Tibet had the inherent right to enter into treaties with other States as it saw fit. Tibet did not have any of the encumbrances created by the Anglo-Chinese or Anglo-Russian Conventions that precluded parties from entering into agreements with the British.  The British were also free to treatise with an independent Tibet because the aforementioned conventions only envisioned an autonomous Tibet within Chinese control. Moreover, as Nehru pointed out in a letter to the Chinese Premier, China had never objected to Tibet’s right to enter into sovereign agreements: “In fact this was not the first occasion when Tibet concluded an agreement with other countries. In 1856 Tibet concluded an agreement on its own with Nepal. The Convention signed by Britain and Tibet in1904 was negotiated by the British and Tibetan representatives with the assistance of the Chinese Amban in Tibet.”[3] Hence, although the Chinese did not accept the McMahon Line and the British were wary of publicising it, the legitimacy of the agreement itself is unquestionable.

Secondly, as pointed out directly by Nehru and various other commentators, China never raised an objection to the Mc Mahon line at Shimla, post-Shimla, or even after India took control of Tawang in 1951. They only ever objected in the late 1950s, almost four decades after the Shimla Convention. China’s lack of formal objection to India’s claims to the McMahon line is critical because international law is unequivocal on the subject: “If a state acquires knowledge of an act which it considers internationally illegal, and in violation, and nevertheless does not protest; this attitude implies a renunciation of such rights, provided that a protest would have been necessary to preserve a claim.”[4] India lost an opportunity to move out of the shadows and openly stake its claim in 1954 because of a mulish desire not to rely on the so-called ‘colonial legacy.’ However, one must remember that China itself never made a claim to Arunachal until 1959, in the aftermath of the Tibetan Rebellion. It was only when they realised that they could use Arunachal as leverage to gain access to Aksai Chin that they began to make noises about having a claim to Arunachal.

Aksai Chin is of vital importance to China, more so than Arunachal. One of Chinese Premier, Xi Jinping’s pet-projects is the construction of a land route to the oil-rich Middle East that undercuts the importance of the Indian Ocean and increases Chinese influence along the volatile northern border of India. China has spent massive amounts of money in Pakistan to ensure the development of this route including building a port at Gwadar in the Baloch Province of Pakistan. The only hurdle to their unfettered access to oil in the Middle East is Aksai Chin, hence its importance. Perhaps even more important is its strategic position. It is located at a high altitude making it resistant to infiltration or military invasion from Central Asia or India and thus, forms the perfect outpost for China.

After the 1962 war, China withdrew its troops to the boundary stipulated by the McMahon line, implicitly recognising its legitimacy even though they retained troops in Aksai Chin. They have made multiple attempts to initiate land swaps, showing that their real interest is in Aksai Chin, not Arunachal. Despite incursions, they have never pushed the issue as much as they have for Aksai Chin. Although they continue to make noises about Tawang being part of Tibet because of the 400year old Tawang monastery’s close historical and spiritual connections with Lhasa, they have never tried to take it. Thus, one may tenatively conclude that India’s claim to all 84,000sqkm of Arunachal Pradesh is valid but the Chinese will never accept it until the Aksai Chin issue is settled.

Strategic Importance of Arunachal Pradesh

The present State of Arunachal Pradesh was earlier known as the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). It became a fully fledged state on 20th February, 1987.

China:

Arunachal Pradesh is of vital strategic importance to China because of the following reasons[5][6]:

  • If China holds Arunachal Pradesh, it will border Bhutan on both its eastern and western flanks
  • In the event of war, India will be able to launch multi-layered air-strikes from Arunachal that will pose a grave threat to the Chinese and act as a deterrent
  • It provides quick and easy access to Siliguri, the 22km corridor that connects the NER to the rest of India. If China cuts off the Siliguri Corridor, it can take the whole of the NER in one quick move
  • Arunachal is the quickest route to China and is thus useful to India
  • Arunachal is the home of clandestine pro-Tibet movements that threaten China’s rights in Tibet and provide assistance to separatists. If it has Arunachal, it can crush all pro-Tibet sentiment and drive away the remaining Tibetans in the NER
  • Arunachal will provide China will all-weather communications access to Tibet
  • It can continue to hold Arunachal hostage in order to pursue its true ambitions in Aksai Chin

India:

The importance of Arunachal Pradesh for India far exceeds the strategic value it has for China[7]. This is because:

  • Bhutan is a buffer state between India and China. Chinese presence in Arunachal will mean that Bhutan will be swallowed up by China leaving a far greater portion of India’s border vulnerable to Chinese incursions.
  • It is the quickest route to China and Tibet and also allows India to make multi-layered air deployments that act as a major deterrent to China.
  • The border at Arunachal protects access to the Siliguri Corridor. If Siliguri is lost, India will lose the NER.
  • Tawang is a strategically important location and whoever controls it holds the key to the entire NER. India cannot afford to lose this key to China.
  • Pro-Tibet presence in Arunachal is important for India because it protects it from absolute Chinese domination
  • The NER provides easy access to Southern India and is also holds a great deal of India’s Natural Resource wealth.
  • The dispute over Arunachal gives India vital bargaining chips in its negotiations with China over Aksai Chin

Thus, India not only values Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of its territory, but it also holds vital strategic importance and helps it counter China’s influence.

Indo-China Relations

India and China are not close to resolving the border dispute. The Chinese still insist on referring to Arunachal as ‘South Tibet’ and have taken to protesting every time an Indian leader visits the region, as they did when Prime Minister Modi visited the State in February 2015[8]. The Chinese media engages in intense anti-India propaganda every time the Dalai Lama or any of India’s political leaders visit the region and has, on numerous occasions suggested military action to take over the entire NER.

Both States have been strengthening their strategic infrastructure to counter the other. China even departed from its policy of not overtly antagonising India and conducted the first pan-China exercise (Stride–2009) in the Chengdu Military Region that falls within the jurisdiction of Tibet[9], veering closer to the disputed border area.

There have been minor changes in the diplomatic field since China issued stapled visa’s to 2 Indian sports officials residing in Arunachal. This was a departure from its long standing position of not recognising the Indian passport for residents of Arunachal Pradesh and experts have suggested that this could be a sign of conciliation and must be taken seriously[10]. However, this appears to be more of a smokescreen than a significant change by virtue of the fact that it was coupled with major military exercises and there have been no high level talks about the border issue since.

Conclusion

Chinese officials and academics have often made noises about being magnanimous on the issue of Aksai Chin if India gives up Tawang. At the same time, India must not be naïve in thinking that China will allow India to take Aksai Chin which is its lifeline to Xinjiang in Tibet. India will not benefit from the loss of some its most important strategic locations, so China’s hope of acquiring ‘South Tibet’ and amalgamating it with ‘Greater Tibet’ remains a distant dream. India must build up its diplomatic and strategic arsenal until it is in a position to bring China to the negotiating table for the issue to be resolved on a mutually agreeable basis. At the same time, it must remember that the border dispute is one aspect of a much greater Indo-China relationship. Prime Minister Modi is taking the right first steps in building India’s economic ties with China and strategic ties with its neighbours but there is still a great deal more that must be done to improve its defence and economic ties such that it will become expensive for China to act against India.

[1] Ibid 27

[2] Swaran Singh – Three Agreements and Five Principles between India and China; http://ignca.nic.in/ks_41062.htm (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)

[3] Ibid 26

[4] Oppenheim. International Law: A Treatise

[5] Centre for Asian and Strategic Studies-India – Importance of Tawang;

http://www.cassindia.com/inner_page.php?id=63&&task=diplomacy (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)

[6] Dr. Subhash Kapila – Strategic Importance of Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang;

https://indiancurrentaffairs.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/strategic-importance-of-arunachal-pradesh-and-tawang.pdf (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)

[7] Ibid. 35,36

[8] Reuters Shanghai – China protests at Modi’s visit to disputed Arunachal Pradesh

[9] Dr. Subhash Kapila – Strategic Importance of Arunachal Pradesh; C3S Paper No.368 dated September 20, 2009

[10] B. Raman – China: A seemingly interesting move on Arunachal Pradesh; C3S Paper No.716 dated January 16, 2011

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Sino-Indian Border Dispute: Part II

Post-Independence

India attained Independence on the 15th of August in 1947. Soon after, Indian authorities wrote to Tibet to affirm their rights as the successors of the British Government. They wished to confirm that all benefits accruing from any treaty or agreement entered into between Britain and Tibet, would pass on to the India[i]. Tibet ratified this in 1948, thereby confirming that all the privileges that had been enjoyed by British India would be enjoyed by it’s independent Successor in consonance with the principles of International Law dealing with State Succession.

In October 1950, the People’s Liberation Army marched into Tibet and asserted Chinese sovereignty.[ii]. India’s ideal position would have been to challenge China’s sudden aggression and come to the rescue of its mountain ally. However, Prime Minister Nehru realised that India was not in a position to prevent the Chinese takeover of Tibet. Instead, he opted to maintain good relations with China while building India’s military presence along its own borders, and increasing the number of administrative outposts at the borders in order to deter Chinese encroachment into Indian territory south of Tibet[iii]. To further protect its interests, India declared that the McMahon Line would form its North-Eastern Boundary and decisively asserted control of the strategic Tawang Tract. (The Raj had acquired Tawan in 1914 but had not extended its administration into Tawang. As a consequence, the Tibetan administration had maintained its presence till as late as 1951).

One of the most important strategic decisions that India took at the time was to secure the Tawang Tract. The Governer of Assam, Jairamdas Daulatram sanctioned a secret mission that resulted in the local chieftain of Tawang acceding to India in 1951, thereby settling any questions about India’s sovereignty over it[iv]. More importantly, at the time, China did not protest against India’s authority over any part of the region, or of India’s eviction of all the local Tibetan authorities in Tawang. These developments lead India to believe that the Chinese weren’t averse to accepting the McMahon Line as the official border, creating an improvement in relations. India even went so far as to broadly support China’s claim to Tibet, though still maintaining that it should remain autonomous. India also refused to sponsor Tibet’s appeal to the Security Council[v], all with the objective of avoiding any conflict with China. Everything appeared to be going very well for Indo-China relations.

Rising Tension:

On September 27, 1951, Chinese Premier, Zhou En-Lai informally assured the Indian ambassador in Beijing, K M Panikkar, that China intended to safeguard India’s interests in Tibet, even adding that ‘there was no territorial dispute or controversy between India and China.’[vi] Unfortunately, Panikkar missed the warning signs. The Premier had also been speaking to lobbies in Beijing of ‘stabilising the Indo-Tibetan Border.’ This meant that the Chinese were engaging in doublespeak, telling their own people that they had the right to more land in the region, possibly even dipping into Indian territory, while simultaneously assuring India that there were no problems. China’s true beliefs emerged when they began to publish maps which showed Chinese territory dipping 100 miles below the McMahon Line. Not one to be deterred by obvious evidence to the contrary, Nehru accepted Zhou En-Lai’s explanation in 1954 and 1956 when the Premier dismissed the maps as ‘old’ and ‘uncorrected[vii], successfully skirting the real issue.

In 1954, India and China signed a fresh treaty on trade and pilgrimage to Tibet called the “Sino-Indian Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between India and the Tibet Region of China” under which India made a major concession and recognised Tibet as a part of China. Both States also agreed to recognise six border passes. Moreover, India gave up the extraterritorial rights that it had always enjoyed in Tibet as a successor of the British Government. The most troubling aspect of this treaty was that it made no mention of the Shimla Convention or the McMahon line; even though it conferred upon China all the benefits that would have accrued from the Shimla Convention. Nehru viewed the Shimla Conventions as part of India’s colonial heritage and did not wish to let it overshadow all her future diplomatic endeavours[viii].

Many analysts have condemned Nehru’s failure to push for a statement on the border as an incredibly shortsighted move. This treaty gave India the perfect opportunity to have a dialogue with the Chinese and settle the border issue once and for all.  Thus, it is difficult to argue that India had not missed a major diplomatic coup in 1954 – Had the Shimla Convention or the McMahon line been mentioned in the 1954 treaty, the issue would have been laid to rest instead of consistently acting as a thorn in the side of Indo-China Relations for decades to come. However, contrarian historians and analysts have argued that this is an easy allegation to make with the benefit of hindsight. Srinath Raghavan argues that, “This argument overlooks the fact that India had no means of preserving its rights in Tibet in the face of Chinese determination to arrive at a fresh arrangement. As the then foreign secretary explained, India’s relinquishment of its rights was ‘a concession only to realism’. Nehru, moreover, was unwilling to broach the boundary issue [in 1954] because India was far from consolidating its hold on the border regions, and was ill-prepared to counter any efforts by China to take possession of these areas. If the issue became an openly contested one, India might be unable to defend its claims.”[ix]

In 1957, India discovered that China had built a road from Xinjiang in Tibet through Aksai Chin (area North East of Kashmir). This region, which had been hitherto marked as ‘undemarcated’, was claimed by India as of 1954 when Nehru asserted that Aksai Chin had been “part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries” and was “not open to discussion with anybody.” Several historians posit that India’s sudden claim irked the Chinese, leading to suspicion and a renewed interest in Arunachal and Tawang as leverage for the resolution of the Aksai Chin problem. India lodged a formal protest with the Chinese on Aksai Chin, prompting a series of exchanges between Zhou en Lai and Nehru wherein China expressed (for the first time, directly) its rejection of the McMahon line.

Zhou wrote to Nehru in 1959, stating, “The so-called McMahon Line was a product of the British policy of aggression against the Tibet Region of China -and has never been recognised by any Chinese Central Government and is therefore decidedly illegal. As to the Shimla treaty, it was not formally signed by the representative of the then Chinese Central Government, and this is explicitly noted in the treaty.….. The Chinese Government absolutely does not recognise the so-called McMahon Line, but Chinese troops have never crossed that line. This is for the sake of maintaining amity along the border to facilitate negotiations and settlement of the boundary question, and in no way implies that the Chinese Government has recognised that line.”[x] Nehru, expressing shock and distress in his response claimed that he had no idea that China would ever claim such large tracts of Indian territory in Arunachal. He pointed out: “It is clear from the proceedings of the conference that not only did the Chinese representative fully participate in the conference but that the Tibetan-representative took part in the discussions on an equal footing with the Chinese and the then British Indian representatives … At no stage, either then or subsequently, did the Chinese Government object to the discussions on the boundary between India and Tibet at the conference… Later, the Chinese Foreign Office in a memorandum, dated the 25th April 1914 listed a number: of objections to the boundaries between Inner Tibet and Outer Tibet and Inner Tibet and China. It did not raise any objection to the boundary between Tibet and India as shown in the map attached to the tripartite Shimla Convention…On the contrary, it is the McMahon Line which correctly represents the customary boundary in this area. The water-parting formed by the crest of the Himalayas is the natural frontier which was accepted for centuries as the boundary by the peoples on both sides.” [xi]

Zhou En Lai appeared to have eventually convinced Nehru to consider a land swap. Towards the end of 1959, Nehru seemed to be gearing up for a land exchange with China; swapping Aksai Chin in the West, in exchange for settling the border dispute in the East[xii]. This would have been a good way to settle the problem and protect India’s then vulnerable borders. Unfortunately, Nehru later backtracked based on information obtained by historian, Dr. S Gopal. He made a speech in the Lok Sabha stating that India’s claim to Aksai Chin was stronger than China’s, thus precluding him from making any subsequent concessions on that front[xiii]. Dr. S Gopal is the only historian who has, on record, stated that India has a stronger claim on Aksai Chin than China. Public opinion also did not favour an exchange of land with China either, precluding Nehru from considering such an offer.

India-China relations remained in a state of flux in the late 1950s. The unfortunate simultaneity of the Tibetan rebellion, military patrols and incursions by both sides along the disputed border, and the Dalai Lama being given asylum in India led to Chinese distrust and paranoia about Indian ‘meddling’ in Tibet. The Communist Party Leader, Mao Zedong and Chinese Premier, Zhou En-Lai had been becoming increasingly suspicious of Nehru’s intentions in Tibet.[xiv] Facing pressure at home, Nehru resorted to the disastrous ‘Forward Policy’ which ultimately led to the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

During the war, the Chinese managed to penetrate Indian territory as far Curzon’s Outer Line, but later unilaterally reverted to the frontier as per the McMahon Line[xv]. The 1962 war led to extreme mistrust among Indians because the Chinese had made peace promises during the Panchsheel Treaty negotiations of 1954. Public opinion reflected the official belief that the Chinese had stabbed them in the back by attacking in 1962.

The other causes and consequences of the War, and the remaining history of Sino-Indian Relations will be dealt with in Part III.

[i] The History of Sino-Indian Relations and the Border Dispute Between the Two Countries (5) – http://new.resurgentindia.org/the-history-of-sino-indian-relations-and-the-border-dispute-between-the-two-countries-5/ (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)

[ii] ibid. 19

[iii] Srinath Raghava, “The Boundary Dispute with China”, available at: http://www.india-seminar.com/2008/584/584_srinath_raghavan.htm

[iv] Ibid. 4

[v] Ibid. 19

[vi] The History of Sino-Indian Relations and the Border Dispute Between the Two Countries (6) – http://new.resurgentindia.org/the-history-of-sino-indian-relations-and-the-border-dispute-between-the-two-countries-6/ (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)

[vii] Ibid. 23

[viii] Ibid 10

[ix] Ibid 18

[x] Letter from the Prime Minister of China to the Prime Minister of India, 8 September 1959

[xi] Letter from the Prime Minister of India to the Prime Minister of China,

26 September 1959

[xii] Ibid. 23

[xiii] Dr. VC Bhutani of Delhi University to Rashme Sehgal of Rediff; http://www.rediff.com/news/interview/china-does-not-consider-india-as-equal-to-itself/20150513.htm (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)

[xiv] Ananth Krishnan – From Tibet to Tawang, a legacy of suspicions; http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/from-tibet-to-tawang-a-legacy-of-suspicions/article4019717.ece (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)

[xv] Ibid 23

Sino-Indian Border Dispute: Part I

India maintains that all 84,000sqkm of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is, and always has been an integral part of its territory. China, on the other hand claims that “South Tibet” consists of 65,000sqkm of what India claims is Arunachal Pradesh.

This dispute originates from the Shimla Convention of 1914, wherein Tibet agreed to cede the region beyond the McMahon Line to British India. This very region forms modern-day Arunachal Pradesh and the dispute arises because the Chinese contend that Tibet was their vassal and did not have the independent authority to cede any territory. They still refer to it as ‘South Tibet’ and no Chinese government has ever accepted the McMahon Line[i]. India asserts that the Shimla Convention is valid and the region beyond the McMahon line by virtue of history, custom and treaty belongs to India. This dispute has overshadowed Indo-China relations for over a century now without any sign of resolution.

History of the Dispute

An understanding of the this dispute requires a deeper historical analysis of the circumstances in which the Simla Convention was signed. The international boundary between India and Tibet, known as the ‘Outer Line’, had been demarcated in 1875 and it ran along the foothills, from Baroi Lake in the East, to Nizamghat.[ii] The then British India’s territorial expansion into Arunachal Pradesh took place as a result of Lord Curzon’s aggressive forward policy. Curzon began to send armed missions beyond the Outer Line to capture more territory and counter increasing Russian influence in Tibet. At the time, there was a “Great Game” between China, Russia and Britain to assert control over Tibet and its outlying regions. The lure of capturing important trading outposts in the region was the primary factor influencing their interest in the region. Under Curzon, the British captured territory northwards of the Outer Line, till what came to be as the McMahon Line (but did not include Tawang at this point). After the Younghusband Mission (a military force sent to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet) Britain eliminated Russian influence by propping Tibet up as an independent State with a Britain-approved foreign policy[iii].

Britain’s successes startled the Chinese; then ruled by the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, and scared them into adopting a ‘forward policy’ of their own. They began to assert their own influence over Tibet and a successful military campaign culminated in their effective rule over Tibet by 1910.[iv] Britain had been precluded from retaliating because of the Anglo-Chinese and Anglo-Russian Conventions of 1906 and 1907[v], by which they had agreed not deal with Tibet unilaterally and to recognise Chinese suzerainty over Tibet. The fall of the Manchu Dynasty in late 1911 led to a drastic change because it gave Tibet an opportunity to assert its Independence. The Dalai Lama who had fled during the Younghusband Mission, returned to break Tibet out of the Chinese sphere of influence[vi].

Britain wanted to bring Tibet back under its own wing but had to do this without breaking the Anglo-Russian Convention. At the same time, The General Staff of the Indian Army had proposed a boundary that would include the main watersheds, the main tributaries of the Brahmaputra and the Lohit and Irrawady Rivers[vii]. The Chief of the General Staff had gone a step further and argued that the Chinese would be able to exercise influence on Bhutan through the strategically located Tawang Ridge and to protect Indian interests, this region must be included within the Indian border as well. Hence, acquiring these regions took on paramount importance for British India. They decided to achieve these goals through a Tripartite Conference between Tibet, British India and China – the Shimla Convention of 1914.

Shimla Convention, 1914

China was initially reluctant to participate at Shimla because it did not want to be seen on an equal footing with Tibet and questioned its treaty making power. It was eventually persuaded to participate by Britain and the three parties met at Shimla in October 1913. The conference was presided over by Sir Henry McMahon; representing the British and attended by the representative of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Lonchen Shatra and Monsier Ivan Chen representing the Kuomintang Regime in China[viii].

From the very beginning, it had become evident that the Tibetan and the Chinese positions were diametrically opposite[ix]. Despite the fall of the Manchu Dynasty, China wished to assert absolute control over Tibet and this display of Tibetan independence did not sit well with the Chinese. They feared that their participation could be perceived as an implicit recognition of the Tibetan State. It was only McMahon who managed to convince the two to set aside their reservations and participate.

Mc Mahon’s proposal for the Conference involved Tibet being split into ‘Inner and Outer Tibet,’ with Inner Tibet being governed by China, and Outer Tibet remaining autonomous. The Chinese, however, refused to accept the demarcation of Inner and Outer Tibet because they still wanted to exercise absolute control over Tibet. Thus, negotiations broke down over the border between China and Tibet as outlined in Article 9 of the Draft Treaty.[x] This is a crucial point because one must remember that the Chinese were never, in principle opposed to the Indo-Tibetan border; they were opposed to Tibet making agreements as a sovereign power and objected only to the border between Tibet and China; not the Mc Mahon line (proposed border between Tibet and India).[xi]

The British and Tibetan representatives had already conducted secret negotiations in early 1914[xii] during which the McMahon Line had been established and the transfer of territory from Tibetan hands had been agreed to. The territory transferred included the strategically important Tawang Tract, as had been recommended by the Indian Army. Tibet claimed that with the fall of the Manchu Dynasty, it had become independent of China and was free to make agreements with the English as a sovereign power. Hence, the agreement was eventually signed and ratified between the sovereign powers of Tibet and British India and China did not participate in the framing of the final convention because it had already withdrawn from the discussions.

The fact that China was not made a party to this treaty puts it on shaky legal ground because of its subject matter. China still has some wriggle room to claim that Tibet was under its control and any agreement in contravention of their definition of Tibet would be void. The Chinese maintain that it is not possible for India to have acquired what they believe to be their own territory without their consent. Thus, until 1935, neither Aitchison’s Treaties Vol 14, nor did the Survey Maps of India reflect the McMahon Line. Eventually, Sir Olaf Caroe, in 1935 decided that the Survey Maps should be published to show Indian Territory extending till the McMahon Line. Aitchison’s Treaties Vol. 14, first published in 1929 was republished in 1937 to reflect the McMahon line and almost all previous editions were destroyed to prevent counterclaims[xiii]. The region came to be known as the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and the British began to exercise sovereignty over the region.

The question of whether or not their claims can stand the scrutiny of law is an aspect that will be further discussed in Part II.

[i] Ananth Krishnan – China reiterates claim to Arunachal; http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/china-reiterates-claim-to-arunchal/article5408690.ece (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)
[ii] The History of Sino-Indian Relations and the Border Dispute Between the Two Countries (4)
http://new.resurgentindia.org/the-history-of-sino-indian-relations-and-the-border-dispute-between-the-two-countries-4/#prettyPhoto (last accessed: 18th May, 2015)
[iii] Ibid. 3
[iv] Ibid. 3
[v] Shimla Convention, 1914; Anlgo-Tibetan Declaration, 1914; Anglo-Chinese Convention, 1906; Anglo-Russian Convention, 1907
[vi] Ibid. 3
[vii] Ibid. 4
[viii] Shimla Convention, 1914
[ix] Nirmal C. Sinha – The Shimla Convention 1914: A Chinese Puzzle; http://www.thlib.org/static/reprints/bot/bot_1987_02_01.pdf (last accessed: 14th May, 2015
[x] http://www.claudearpi.net/maintenance/uploaded_pics/1914ConventionbetweenGreatBritainChinaandTibet.pdf
[xi] AG Noorani, “Strategic Differences”, Frontline, Vol 25, Issue 26, available at: http://www.frontline.in/static/html/fl2526/stories/20090102252608400.htm
[xii] Ibid. 10
[xiii] Ibid. 4