India’s China Lens After 1962 War

Do you remember ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’? The slogan, still in vivid memories, was adopted in 1954 by the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It happened after China and India concluded the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

After India’s independence and the formation of the People’s Republic of China, India maintained cordial diplomatic relations with its neighbour.

But then, after a series of events that led to the final blow, India attacked on October 20, 1962 in what became known as the Sino-Indian War of 1962. The fact that China never attacked did not allow the Indian army to prepare and the result was a stalemate between 10,000-20,000 Indian troops and 80,000 Chinese soldiers. The war lasted for about a month and ended on November 21, after China declared a ceasefire.

It was the 1962 war that changed India’s outlook on many things.

History of India-China border dispute

On December 9, Indian and Chinese troops clashed on the Himalayan border in the first incident between the nations in nearly two years. In a statement, India’s defense ministry said soldiers from both sides suffered minor injuries in Friday’s clash in the Tawang sector in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, a remote and inhospitable region bordering southern China.

The 2,100-mile-long (3,379-kilometer) disputed border has long been a source of friction between New Delhi and Beijing, with tensions escalating in June 2020 when clashes between the two sides left at least one person dead. 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers in Aksai Chin-Ladakh.

Demonstrators hold signs during an anti-China protest following a border clash in the Tawang sector of India’s northeastern Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh that left soldiers from both sides injured, in Mumbai, India, on December 13, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Border disputes between India and China date back to before independence. The McMahon Line was drawn in 1914 by representatives of Great Britain, Tibet and the Republic of China in an attempt to negotiate a treaty to fix the borders between India and China. While Tibet and British India accepted the border, China did not.

India gained independence from the British in 1947, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949. The McMahon Line was also declared invalid by the new Chinese government.

After China annexed Tibet in the 1950s, China claimed that it was never an independent territory, and India has always maintained that China has no sovereignty over Tibet.

However, according to reports, India remained cordial in its relations with China. A report by India Today states that before 1962, India was so concerned about its relations with China that it did not even attend a peace treaty conference with Japan because China was not invited. India also tried to become China’s representative on world-related issues, as China was isolated from many issues, the report mentioned.

However, it was China’s perception of India as a threat to its rule in Tibet that became one of the main causes of the Sino-Indian war.

A Buddha statue is pictured in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh on April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika

Mao Zedong, leader of the People’s Republic of China, was humiliated by the Dalai Lama’s reception in India when he fled there in March 1959. Tensions between the two countries rose when Mao blamed Indians for the Tibetan rebellion in Lhasa. .

The Line of Actual Control—the informal cease-fire line between the two countries—ended the 1962 India-China war. However, after losing the war, India began to rethink its foreign and security policy with a focus on its military, resulting in an increase in defense spending.

In September-October 1967, the two countries clashed again at Nathu La and Cho La after Indian troops began laying barbed wire along the border.

On February 20, 1987, India gave away the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which angered China, leading to clashes. Arunachal Pradesh was established in 1954 as North East Frontier Agency (NEFA).

China has asserted its claims to Tawang in recent years.

Why Tawang is important to China

Tawang Ganden Namgyal Lhatse is the second largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the world. It was established in 1680-81 to fulfill the wishes of the fifth Dalai Lama. China says it serves as proof that the monastery once belonged to Tibet. To bolster its claim to statehood, China has cited historical links between Tibet’s Lhasa Monastery and Tawang Monastery. Also, when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, he entered India via Tawang and stayed in the monastery for some time.

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama waves from Jangchub Chorten in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika/FILE

India has repeatedly told the Chinese government that Tawang is a part of India, reiterating the point when the two prime ministers met in Thailand in 2009, a CNBC-TV18 report explains.

China strongly opposed the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang in April 2017. He had earlier opposed the US ambassador’s visit to India. Kiren Rijiju strongly refuted the Chinese Army’s invasion of Arunachal Pradesh in 2016.

The axis of the infrastructure

India has focused on all aspects of development as it strives to become a $5 trillion economy. The Arunachal government signed an MoU with National Highway Logistics Management Limited last month to develop infrastructure in the state. The Indian government is also expanding its infrastructure across the northeastern border areas.

China is also investing in border infrastructure. “This is not a small incident, because there has been a massive mobilization and both sides are expecting a firestorm after the incident in Galwan. When you look at the arrangements they’ve made, it’s staggering: $23 trillion invested in Tibet alone under the 14th five-year plan, specifically to build roads and an air base. Indeed, if peace is to return to China and India, we need disengagement and de-escalation in many of these areas,” Srikanth Kondapalli, JNU professor of Chinese studies, told CNBC-TV18.

Influence of state Hindi

Residents of Arunachal Pradesh, on the other hand, are more resistant to speaking Hindi than residents of other northeastern states. The Indo-Sino war can be seen as one of the reasons why the language became so widespread in the state: the locals had to speak Hindi with the Army, which helped establish hospitals, schools and other facilities. state

“Even if the child speaks his mother tongue until the age of five, he automatically picks up Hindi the moment he goes to school. That is the communication language of the group members,” Jumyir Basir told The Indian Express about the popularity of Hindi among the people of Arunachal Pradesh.

The popularity of Hindi in Arunachal Pradesh has been well documented in recent years. About 90 percent of the state’s population speaks the language and Hindi is used among other languages ​​even in debates in state legislatures. According to the latest language survey conducted by renowned language critic GN Devy in 2010, Arunachal Pradesh is home to around 90 local languages. However, the state’s preference for Hindi as a common language distinguishes it over many local languages ​​from its sister states in the northeast, where native language preference is known to be very strong, the report explains.

“Unlike other states in the North East, here we did not have a language movement, because we all speak different dialects. In my community I may speak my own language but if I have to speak to someone from another tribe, I have to use a contact language. That’s why Hindi has become like a lingua franca,” Basir told The Indian Express.

The popularity of Hindi in the state must also be seen in the context of the changing politics of the state. Arunachal Pradesh was at the epicenter of the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962. The presence of the Indian Army in the state at that time is believed to be one of the first instances in which Hindi was introduced here.

“The army came with Hindi, they spoke Hindi. In many ways, the army provided some kind of service, such as opening schools and hospitals. As a result, it was crucial for the local community to understand Hindi in order to interact,” Basir told IE. He went on to suggest that China’s aggression in the region might also have influenced the Indian government’s language policy. “I feel that Hindi was introduced here to integrate the then larger NEFA into the nation-state,” he says.

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