Foreign Affairs
India-China dispute: How Tawang become part of India?

On 9 December 2022, Chinese soldiers (India-China Border conflict) tried to encroach on the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh In Tawang. The Indian soldiers chased them away. The question is why did China try to encroach?

China wants its occupation in this area. But that is not all. There is a long history at the bottom of this fight, whose roots go back 400 years ago. What is the story of Tawang? How did the first clash between India and China take place in Tawang? And, who was that hero because of whom we can call Tawang our own today?

What does Tawang?

Here is a temple named Hamlet Temple in Tawang. In the year 1643, the sixth Dalai Lama, Tyangsang Gyatso was born here. There is a tree near this temple, about which a story goes. It is said that when Tsang Tsang went to Lhasa to take over as the Dalai Lama.

Local lama sadhus say that these branches were equal only once. That was the year 1959. And in the same year, the fourteenth Dalai Lama left Tibet and came to India to seek refuge. Now look amazing, China never accepted the fourteenth Dalai Lama. But every year an event is organized there in memory of Tyangsang Gyatso. Now ask why?

India-China dispute: How Tawang become part of India?

India-China dispute: How Tawang become part of India?

History of Tawang

Before 1951, Tibet used to collect taxes from Tawang for about 400 years. Then in 1914, at the Shimla Conference, there was an agreement between Tibet and the British Government. It was decided that considering the Himalayas as a natural border, we would name it the McMahon Line. Under this agreement, Tibet handed over 700 square miles of area to British India. Tawang was also included in this. However, it took two decades for the agreement to get off the ground. The main reason for this was that China did not agree with it.

Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama

Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama (Photo: Wikimedia )

Then the situation changed during World War II. In 1941 the war between China and Japan started. Meanwhile, the Assam government started strengthening its hold on the North Eastern Frontier Agency ie NEFA. It was named ‘Forward Policy’. In 1944, the Assam Rifles established a post at Dirang Dzong in the southern part of Sela Pass. And made the tax collectors of Tibet walk away from there.

Tibet protested, but who was going to listen to whom in the middle of the war? However, even during this time Tibetans remained frozen in Tawang. This situation remained intact for some years after independence. Then in 1950, China entered this game.

In 1950, Mao attacked Tibet and declared it a part of China. This means that now they have started calling Tawang as their own. Realizing this, Nehru sent a delegation to Tawang in 1951.

Bob Khathing

Ralengnao Bob Khathing (Bob Khathing). Khathing was born in 1912. And he used to come from the Tangkhul Naga community of Manipur. Khathing became a part of the army and took part in World War II.  After the war, the Maharaja of Manipur urged him to be a part of the government. Then Khathing was entrusted with the administration of the hilly areas. In 1948, he became a part of the Manipur Assembly and by 1950 was appointed as the commander of the Second Battalion of the Assam Rails.

In 1950, there was a severe earthquake in Assam. During this, Khathing took charge of the relief work. And the next year he was appointed as the Assistant Political Officer of NEFA. While on this post, he came into the eyes of Nehru. And when the trouble started in Tawang in 1951.

Nehru sent him there as his representative. Maxwell Neville writes in his book ‘India-China War’ that Khathing was sent there along with many porters (coolies). He removed the Tibetan tax collectors from Tawang and took over the administration there. And he also got a lot of support from the local people there. Because those people did not want to be a part of China under any circumstances. However, till this time China had not shown any interest in this area.

The western sector. By 1957, he had connected Xinjiang, and Tibet via Aksai China and made good inroads in the western sector. Then he started paying attention towards NEFA. China remained silent from 1957 to 1959. One reason for this was that he was worried about Taiwan. There was a fear that here China might get entangled with India and otherwise attack Taiwan. Although a message was sent to China from the Americans side that Taiwan will not do anything like this.. China was a powerful military power. That’s why Nehru was continuously emphasizing peace.

Dalai Lama came to India

Despite this, when China attacked Lhasa in 1959, the government welcomed the Dalai Lama to India. This step was equivalent to taking enmity with China. But Nehru’s reality idealistic to some size, was in support of adopting the principle of international justice. Even after this, China remained calm for the next 3 years.

There were some skirmishes, but at the same time letters were exchanged between the two countries. Zhu Enlai came to India in 1960. Here he offered hints that if India accepts China’s authority over Aksai Chin, then China will give up rights over NEFA. But there were other problems with Nehru.

The conversation ended without any result. India was angry with Nehru as to why he was getting his second-rank leaders to meet him. On the other hand, Nehru’s compulsion was that he wanted to show Inlai how much opposition he would have to face from his own government on any agreement. In China-India relations, this conversation is called ‘Point of No Return’.

China took the Name of Goa

The year 1961 Confirmed the intentions of China. This incident was the independence of Goa. On 15 December 1961, Defense Minister Krishna Menon sent a proposal for settlement to the Portuguese Army in Goa. When there was no response to this proposal, the army entered Goa and in two days Goa was made a part of India. China used the independence of Goa in the form of a lot of propaganda. Chinese newspapers said, “Nehru’s popularity is falling, so he had to act on Goa”. At the same time, he said that just as India has the right to take possession of Goa, similarly we also have the right to take our land.

The year 1962 was the year of the international crisis. The United States was stuck in the Cuban Missile Crisis at this time. And he didn’t care much that way. At the same time, the Soviet Union also wanted to see China as its partner against the United States. Indeed, Nikita Khrushchev wrote in a message to the Chinese ambassador,

This was the first and last time when the Soviet Union directly supported China in the Indo-China border dispute. If you look at the situation, you will see that at this time India was alone from all sides. Even after this, Nehru continued to engage in talks.

The last talks between the two countries took place in Geneva in 1962. Krishna Menon proposed that a delegation from India would come to Beijing and hold talks. On 4 August 1962, Inlai replied, ‘China is ready to talk only on its own terms’. In the words of Sudarshan Bhutani, who was then working in the Indian Embassy in Beijing, the door was completely closed from the Chinese side.

How the fight started in NEFA

A post became the trigger point of the war. In June 1962, the Assam Rifles prepared the Dho La-Pass post on the Thagla Ridge. This post was built on the southern bank of a river named Namku Chu. Captain Mahavir Prasad of 1 Sikh was commanding it.

At this time HQ 7 Infantry Brigade and two battalions of 1/9 Gorkha Rifles and 1 Sikh were present in Tawang. There was no road beyond Tawang. That’s why the goods were brought here by loading them on the backs. Although the distance between Tawang and Dho La-pass was only 22 km, it used to take 3 days to reach here through difficult roads. Brigadier JP Dalvi has given details of this in his book Himalayan Blunder.

1959 North-East Frontier Agency by Elwin from Philosophy for NEFA

File:1959 North-East Frontier Agency by Elwin from Philosophy for NEFA (Photo: Wikimedia )

Dalvi explains that the sole purpose of the Dho La-Pass post was to save Tawang. On September 8, about 600 Chinese soldiers surrounded Dho La Pass. And in the coming days, their number increased to around 1200. 7 Infantry Brigade which was supporting Dho La Pass was asked to withdraw and 9 Punjab was asked to establish contact with Dho La Pass via Hathungla Pass. Things were stable. But here a big mistake was made by India.

On 5 October, Lieutenant General BM Kaul, who had just been appointed GOC IV Corps, arrived by helicopter. And he ordered the Chinese soldiers to be driven out by Thagla Ridge. At the same time, he ordered the troops to move up to the mouth of the ‘Namku Chu’ river. While the brigade commander was not present there yet. He had to reach by the 7th.

Capture of Tawang

Brigadier Dalvi writes that in the battle that took place on 10th October, 6 officers of 9 Punjab attained Veergati. At the same time, 11 Chinese soldiers also attained martyrdom. However, after the fight that day, China gave Indian wounded soldiers a chance to retreat. Dalvi wrote,

The real fighting started on 20 October and by 23 China reached Tawang. Meanwhile, the soldiers stood at their places, but neither the military leadership nor the government told them any clear planning. On the night of the 23, China encircled Tawang from all sides and captured it in the morning of the 24. About 800 soldiers sacrificed their lives to save Tawang.

By the end of the war, almost half of NEFA was captured. However, after the ceasefire, he vacated this area. But did not give up his authority on this. Especially on Tawang. Since then, as a result of several rounds of talks for the next half a decade, relations between the two countries improved.

One China policy was adopted in India during the Vajpayee government. And in return, China gave up its rights to Sikkim. In the talks held between the two countries in 2005, it was said that the area would be determined according to the wishes of the local people. It can be taken to mean that China had agreed to give up its rights in Arunachal Pradesh.

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