My formal initiation into 'frontier studies' started with my enrolment as a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University way back in 1952. Here, under the stewardship of professor Owen Lattimore, its first Director, the Walther Heines Page School of International Relations made a powerful impact on the study of China's Inner Asian frontiers with special reference to Mongolia and Sinkiang. The School had been able to attract considerable talent, both in linguistics as well as academic field research and between 1946-50, published some very interesting studies. For its work on Mongolia, the School brought together, under the same roof, a group of Mongolian students from several regions both of Inner as well as Outer Mongolia, representing a number of linguistic and social variations, and of different degrees of Chinese and other cultural influences. As these frontier regions between China and the Soviet Union were only partially and intermittently open to Western scholarship, work in history and other subjects, having a bearing on frontier studies, was only of a peripheral nature. The programme, which lasted barely five years resulted in the learned journals by Professor Lattimore's associates and students.
Sadly for my enrolment at Hopkins, and great ambition to work with Professor Lattimore, both he and the University were in serious trouble with Senator Joe McCarthy. In the early fifties, it may be recalled, the junior senator from Wisconsin had mounted no end of witch hunts of a number of outstanding people-especially academics who, he believed, had pronounced leftist learning and were, inter alia, responsible for the 'loss' of China to Mao and his men.
Like all witch hunts, this one too blighted any number of careers, and for long was to administer a rude shock and irreparable damage to all independent work in the universities. Was it any wonder then that the school too was wound up before long, and Professor Lattimore himself, in no small trouble. Happily, even though he was to proceed on leave, he continued to be available for informal contacts and guidance of research. Later he was to supervise my doctoral work on the Younghusband expedition to Lhasa (1903-4).
The subject I had chosen was to remain a long-time fixation. This was the expedition the British mounted on Tibet to frustrate, as it were, the Tsarist government's allegedly evil designs on the land of the lama. My own interest in the field had been aroused much earlier. For long before the first paper in this collection appeared, I had written a short piece at the popular level drawing attention to the Chinese 'liberation' of Tibet and the threat it posed- and not only to the Dalai Lama's domain.
Back of the Book
any meaningful discussion of China's role in South Asia would imply an understanding of its relations with the Indian subcontinent as a whole
.[This] would, of necessity, demand an intimate acquaintance with how the Chinese have been involved in their dealings with this part of the world in the past. Above all, how that relationship has evolved over the centuries, to the present day
. Necessarily, more recent times loom larger than the hoary past, or a future that is yet in the limbo.
A pragmatic approach to the resolution of deep- seated, if intractable problems is the need of the hour, not romantic notions about harmony or ingrained of hostility.'
From the Jacket
This volume comes at a time when India and China are constructively engaged in furthering strategic bilateral ties. Comprising nearly a dozen essays, it focuses on the long simmering boundary dispute between Asia's two major powers.
Written over a span of nearly fifty years, the papers reflect the circumstances and political mood of the period in which they were composed. The earliest goes back to the mind 1950s highlighting the 'Hindi-chini bhai-bhai' phase. In sharp contrast, the writings of the 1970s and early 1980s smack of the bitterness that followed the 1962 war. With time, relations improved- the decade of the nineties, thus emphasized on strategic partnership and building of trust.
Mehra has added two new sections to his collection of essays. The first is the bibliographical notes that provide brief updates of writings and analyses on the subject by scholars and researchers or participants in bilateral negotiations between India and China. The other features summaries of individual essays, which the uninitiated reader will find most beneficial.
Authored by one of India's foremost scholars on India's relations with Tibet and China, the book will be of interest to students and scholars of political science, international history, and international relations. Diplomats, bureaucrats, journalists, and the interested lay reader will find this volume engaging.
Parshotam Mehra was formerly Professor, and Chairman of the Departments of History and Central Asian Studies at the Panjab University, Chandigarh. He has written extensively on India's land frontiers and relations with Tibet and China. Noteworthy among these are the North West Frontier Drama 1945-1947: A Re- Assessment (1998); An ' Agreed' Frontier: Ladakh and India's Northernmost Borders 1846-1947 (OUP, 1992); The McMahon Line and After (1974), The Younghusband Expedition (To Lhasa); An Interpretation, second edition (2004).
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