Distortion of history

Archival evidence suggests that Indo-China border dispute have no roots in history and old maps were burnt in the Ministry of External Affairs to create a new unilateral line. Iftikhar Gilani reports.

Balloon of canards, kept afloat by Indian diplomacy successfully over past three decades, has been punctured finally, with archival and unpublished evidence pointing that India-China boundary dispute was nothing but a distortion of history. Toutedas world’s biggest diplomatic blunder, the evidence shows how Indian leaders and diplomats brushed aside the facts of history in 1959 and thereafter, especially from the media and academia with baleful and lasting consequences. Even the separatists in Kashmir have often joined this chorus, raising fingers on Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement. J&K Peoples Conference Chairman Sajjad Gani Lone even once accused Islamabad of gifting Kashmir territory under its occupation to China.

Jammu and Kashmir State as it constituted on the 14th of August 1947, had an area of 82258 sq miles. In the 1891 census, the area was recorded as being 80900 sq miles. The same figure was repeated in the 1901 census. In 1911, it was shown as 84258 sq miles. But the Census Commissioner in 1941 urged its reduction to 82258 sq miles. A white paper issued by Home Minister Sardar Patel on Indian states soon after independence repeated the figure. However, in the 1961 census, possibly with an eye on its dispute with China regarding the fixation of the actual boundary line, India raised the area of Jammu and Kashmir to 86024 sq miles.

Surprisingly, 5000 sq miles were added soon after Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru returned from Karachi after signing historic Indus Basin Water Treaty with President Ayub Khan in 1960. Qudratullah Shahab, principal secretary of Khan, records in his autobiography that at an informal interaction in Murrie, Nehru enquired whether Pakistan was negotiating a boundary agreement with China. When Ayub replied in affirmative, he asked for a glimpse on maps. ‘It was totally an informal meeting. Ayub even agreed to send a copy of the map. But Nehru soon back in Delhi, raised a diplomatic cry, issuing demarche asking Pakistan to handover map to India through official channels,” reads Shahab’s memoirs. He (Nehru) even described it a conspiracy hatched jointly by Pakistan and China.

(Chinese soldiers wedding on Pakistani China border)

Almost corroborating Shahab, noted scholar on legal and constitutional issues A G Noornai in his latest book “India-China Boundary Problem, 1846-1947: History and Diplomacy” (Oxford) has mentioned how old maps were burnt in the Ministry of External Affairs to create a new unilateral line. “On 24 March 1953, a decision was taken to formulate a new line for the boundary…Old maps were burnt,” says the book, quoting a former foreign secretary, who, as a junior official, was obliged to participate in this fatuous exercise.

Quoting extensively from a 17-para memorandum, issued by Nehru, giving explicit directives to withdraw all old maps, the book mentions that new maps were printed showing Northern and North Eastern frontiers without any reference to any line. Nehru also directed to send these maps to embassies abroad and should be introduced to the public generally and be used in schools and colleges. He also advised officials that this frontier should be considered a firm and definite one and should not be open to discussion with anybody.

“There may be minor points of discussion. Even these should not be raised by us. It is necessary that the system of check-posts should be spread along this entire frontier. More especially, we should have check-posts in such places as might be considered disputed areas,” says Nehru’s memorandum.  This directive shut the doors to negotiations on the boundary. The legend ‘undefined boundary’ was dropped in the western (Kashmir) and middle sector (Uttar Pradesh) in the new map of 1954, which existed in the official maps of 1948 and 1950.

Further rebuffing the impression created by Indian government and widely accepted by Kashmiri leaders that Pakistan had ceded some territory to China, archival evidences suggest that it was actually China which ceded to Pakistan 750 square miles of administered territory under the Pakistan-China boundary agreement of March 3, 1963.

There may be an issue of Pakistan’s legal competence to compute such an agreement by virtue of the authority conferred on it by the UNCIP resolution as the power administering Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas (Gilgit-Baltistan). But, Article 6 of the agreement envisages its revision after the conclusion of the Kashmir settlement. However, this is arid legality, for India has repeatedly offered a settlement of Kashmir on the basis of the status quo. We must deal with the merits of the Sino-Pak agreement.

Prof Chaudry Mohammad Aslam (1900–1965) a renowned cartographer and then the surveyor general of Pakistan instrumental in the demarcation of the borders with Chinese described them having been drawn on the bases of the facts of history.

He was responsible for the demarcation of the border with Iran. As a result he was awarded the Nishan-i-Humayun by the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Noorani says, Pakistan’s response was based on the facts of history and existing realities. Pakistan government led by President Ayub Khan had just waived claims on old antiquated maps, which also led China to withdraw from 750 square miles.

By the Treaty of Amritsar of March 1846, the British had created the state of Jammu and Kashmir without defining the northern and the eastern borders. In 1846 and 1847, the British invited China to negotiate a boundary agreement. But China refused. Later the viceroy Lord Elgin sent a dispatch to the secretary of state for India, Lord Hamilton, on Oct 27, 1898 defining the line to be offered to China.

The line included two tracts beyond the watershed. One was the western end of Taghdumbash, the other was a “small deviation from the main crest of the Mustagh near the Shimshal Pass to Darwaza. This is in accordance with actual possession”. On March 14, 1899 Britain’s ambassador Sir Claude MacDonald gave a note to China’s foreign office, offering a precise boundary line to China as a basis for a settlement. Matters were brought to a head by the viceroy, Lord Curzon, in a dispatch to the secretary of state for India John Brodrick on March 24, 1904. Curzon reminded him that the March 14, 1899 note on the boundary proposal had not been answered by China.

The people of Shimshal depended for their grazing almost entirely on the valley between the Shimshal Pass and Darwaza. Curzon also sent to Brodrick, on Aug 10, 1905, a map indicating both the 1899 and the 1905 lines. He recommended and explained the difference between the two.

In 1907 when the question of which line to show on the maps arose, the secretary of state for India’s cable of August 1, 1907 to the viceroy gave clear orders. The map “should indicate the frontier as following the line described in notification of 1899 to China with addition of the deviation in neighbourhood of Shimshal which was proposed in your secret dispatch No. 153 of Aug 10, 1905”.

The agreement of 1963 is based on this deviation from the MacDonald Line of 1899, which gained areas for Pakistan. Further, it was not China which pressed Pakistan for a settlement. On the contrary, it preferred to settle with India first. It was Pakistan that pressed for an accord, not to forge an alliance with China – and thus wreck its alliance with the United States – but to profit by India’s experience and secure peace and tranquillity in the area.

Dr. B. N. Goswami of the University of Calcutta and North Burdwan has also opined that “to a limited but knowledgeable section of the people, the agreement appears to be just and fair to sides.” Neutral observers and every authority on the subject abroad also do not find much substance in the Indian allegations of Pakistan ceding any territory to China.

Noorani’s book blames a divided cabinet, an irresponsible opposition, an uninformed press and a restive Parliament for dragging the boundary problem. It further reveals that only comprehensive and objective study conducted by K. Zakariah, director of the Historical Division in Ministry of External Affairs in 1953 has been still kept secret.

Maintaining that there seemed a total disconnect between the facts of history and India’s policy on the boundary problem, the author says the diplomacy also became inflexible because it espoused a policy which barred give and take.

The Chinese premier Chou En-lai was too ready to accept a solution based on vital non-negotiable interests during his visit to New Delhi in April 1960. “He was rebuffed. China proceeded to practise its own brand of unilateralism, sanctifying territorial gains won by armed forces,” author claims. Later in 1979 Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had told visiting Minister for External Affairs Atal Behari Vajpayee to settle on the border dispute.

Nehru’s stubbornness scorned the history. It took its revenge paving way to a wild, irrational play of military might and the politics of power to shape a border dispute inherently and pre-eminently susceptible to a fair compromise. “The diplomatic consequences of the deepening rift between India and China are incalculable; especially in India’s relations with its other neighbours, particularly Pakistan,” the author concludes.

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