India-China Boundary Problem

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Item Code: NAG203
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Author: A.G. Noorani
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9780198070689
Pages: 376 (14 B/W Maps)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 560 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

Boundary issues have always occupied a central focus in the relations between India and China. Highlighting the role of history, policy, and diplomacy, this book traces the origins and development of the India-China boundary problem during the British Raj.

A.G. Noorani shows how British efforts to secure a defined boundary in the western sector began immediately after the creation of Jammu & Kashmir 1846. However, in the eastern sector, such an exercise began only sixty-five years later, when a Chinese threat was perceived. Examining the role of the bureaucracy and diplomatic negotiations, the author presents a nuanced analysis of the treaties and conventions, as well as internal debates between British officials on conflicting policies.

Breaking new ground, this book evaluates the relevance of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, and explains how the diplomatic history in the last hundred years shaped the boundary problem between India and China. What was a problem aggravated into a dispute that erupted in 1959. The central thesis is that history had direct relevance to the shaping of a sound policy.

Based on archival research and unpublished material, this volume uses twenty-two appendices and fourteen maps to present a unique perspective on a long-standing problem. Lucidly written, it will be indispensable for diplomats, policymakers, government officials, scholars, and students of defence and strategic studies, particularly those concerned with India and China.

About the Author

A.G. NOORANI is the author of many books including Jinnah and Tilak (2010), Indian political Trials, 1775-1947 (2005), Constitutional Question and Citizens' Right (2005) and The Trial of Bhagat Singh (2005). He is a columnist for Frontline and The Dawn.


This book records a stage in its writer's studies on the India China boundary dispute which erupted into the open on 28 August 1959. On that day Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru disclosed in Parliament that on 25 August, that is three days ago, a strong Chinese detachment crossed into our territory in the Subansiri Frontier Division at a place south of Migyitun and opened fire they were in some hundreds, 200 or 300 or, may be even more'. They surrounded a forward Indian picket consisting of twelve men and captured them. Eight of them escaped and returned to the outpost at Longju which itself was surrounded and taken over. The entire border area of the North East Frontier Agency, now the State of Arunachal Pradesh, was placed directly under our military authorities'.

Longju became a famous name whose very mention ignited emotions. Sino-Indian relations were never the same again. China's massive military attack on Indian in this sector across the McMahon Line, on 20 October 1962, and in Ladakh, in the western sector, further deepened Indian resentment.

I write a stage, and not on a culmination, for, I hope ever to remain student of public affairs including this issue. My first book Our Credulity and Negligence (Ramdaqs G. Bhatkal, Mumbai) was written in this clime. Published in December 1963, its title summed up its central thesis Nehru was credulous about China's intentions and had neglected India's defences; public opinion should 'restrain' the Government from continuing with a policy of appeasement which has proved so disastrous in the past'.

An unpleasant surprise was in store for me just as the manuscript was about to be sent to the press. Ramdas Bhatkal said that the book would not be published by his firm, Popular Prakashan, after all. His aged father was a partner and dissent, even from a strong nationalist standpoint, was frowned upon then. Two Gandhians who had demanded Nehru's resignation had been sent to prison in the previous year.

The border dispute is a heady cocktail of history, law, morality, and expediency. None of these factors can be ignored; none singly can be decisive. Unfortunately the results of almost all the3 significant research on the issue were published well after the war of October 1962. Margaret Fisher, Leo E. Rose and Robert Huttenback's pioneering Himalayan Battleground came out in 1963. Alastair Lamb's masterly essay China India Border in 1964 was followed by his two volume work The McMahon Line two years later. Dorothy Woodman's classic Himalayan Frontiers appeared in 1969. Little noticed in India, however, was Indian Foreign policy and the Border Dispute with China (1964) by a Dutch diplomat, W.F. Van Eekelen, who made good use of his sojourn in New Delhi and London. All these were works or original research based on archival material, Indians were slow to emulate. P.C. Chakravarti's The Northern Frontier of India were published in 1971 Par4shotam Mehra's work The McMahon Line and After, came in 1974followed by his two volume compilation of documents The North Eastern Frontier (1906-54). It was followed in 1992 by his excellent work An 'Agreed' Frontier Ladakh and India's Northernmost Borders, 184601947 (Oxford University Press). There was plenty and more for the student.

Soon, certitude was eroded by doubt and realization of error; slowly but surely. Archival disclosures in those and other works helped. By the late 1970s, I began pleading in my column in the Indian Express for a settlement with China. In an article entitled Dealing with China published on 20 May 1980 I recalled that On as many as six occasions during August September 1959 Mr. Nehru tried to educated public opinion that the Aksai Chin has been very much a disputed territory. China use of force and its volte face on the maps understandably caused resentment and led us to adopt what Kennan Calls legalistic moralistic approach. This writer was among those who erred thus and grievously so.

It was a slow learning process. In this I profited enormously by discussions with Ram Sathe whom I first met in January 1966. That he came over to see me, with a relation, Sarla Datar, who was also a good friend of mine, only a little over a week after my release from prison touched me. My last meeting with him was in mid 2001when I stayed with him and his devoted wife Shaila in their lovely home in pune. In those four days the boundary question remained the focus of our discussions.

Ram was India's last Consul General in Xinjiang, its Ambassador to China and rose to be Foreign Secretary (1979-83). True to form he made no secret of his disagreement with the line developed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's advisers when a dialogue of sorts with China was resumed in 1981 and requested that India's delegation be headed by someone else. The 'dialogue' is stuck, more or less.

It was alas rather late in the day that I decided to consult primary sources by myself. I repaired to the National Archives of India in 2003 and in 2007to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, both in New Delhi. I wish to record my debt to these fine institutions and my gratitude to their Directors and staff for their courtesy and assistance.

Thanks are due also to a friend and scholar of great distinction Parshottam Mehr. I went all the way to Chandigarh to seek his counsel. He is not responsible of course for the views I have expressed. He might well disagree with some of them; but not I hope disapprove of the book.

That goes also for Ram Sathe and other friends in the Ministry of External Affairs whom I have consulted in the last forty years and more. None of them is responsible in the least for what I have written.

My articles in The Indian Express and later in The Statesman reflected the course of my studies. By the early 1990s I had revised a good many notions of old. Articles in The Hindustan Times reflected that. Frontline gave me all the space I needed to express myself fully and at length on the boundary question from 1991 onwards. An article entitled, Facts of History published in the issue of 12 September 2003 was published over as many as four pages. Others were longer still. I wish to thank its Edition in Chief N. Ram, for the generous latitude that has been accorded to me for nearly twenty years.

I wish to thank Shashank S. Sinha, Senior Commissioning Manager of Oxford University Press for the enormous pains he took over manuscript. Manzar Khan, my friend and Managing Director of Oxford University Press, encouraged me in the work while putting up patiently with the delays.

Thanks are due also to P.M. Mathews who typed the entire hand written manuscript as diligently as he did all my writings in the last twenty five years.



  List of maps Viii
  List of Appendices X
  Preface Xiii
  A Page from the History of the Foreign Department: Ancestor of the Ministry of External Affairs Xvii
1 The Genesis 1
2 Defining Ladakh’s Boundaries 20
3 Search for a Linear Boundary 29
4 Two Schools on the Boundary 44
5 Reference to London 67
6 Hunza 75
7 Evolving a Boundary 89
8 The 1899 Offer to China 106
9 The Aftermath of the 1899 Offer 152
10 The McMahon Line 168
11 15-Aug-47 210
12 The Aftermath 219
  Appendices 233
  Index 343

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