The Panchsheel treaty, signed by Pandit Nehru and Zhou Enlai of China in 1954, talks about five principles for peaceful coexistence and while India has largely adhered to it, China has hardly honoured it. The treaty, which has been flouted by China time and again, is a reflection of India’s prolonged meek stand against Chinese aggression and belligerence. Nehruvian idealism is impractical and even more so in the current realities, and although India under Narendra Modi realizes this, the Panchsheel hangover remains.
The first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru made many diplomatic blunders during his tenure, but the nature of India’s relations with China under was the most glaring one. ‘Hindi Chini bhai bhai’ had taken a huge hit with the 1962 war and has been held solely responsible for losing the Aksai Chin territory to China.
The five points of the Panchsheel treaty were- mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and cooperation for mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence. These points have hardly been honoured by China, although India stuck to them through and through. China benefitted immensely, only because its expansionist and authoritarian nature was tolerated by India throughout the years.
China has blatantly disregarded India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty throughout the decades and continues to. China stakes claim on India’s Jammu and Kashmir region in the north and the Arunanchal Pradesh region in the North-East, which was in fact further intensified after the Panchsheel treaty. In 1947, the government of India used the Johnson Line as the basis for its official boundary in the west, which included the Aksai Chin. On 1 July 1954, Nehru definitively stated that Aksai Chin had been part of the Indian Ladakh region for centuries, and that the border (as defined by the Johnson Line) was non-negotiable.
However, soon after the Panchsheel agreement, despite reassurances by Zhou Enlai that he had no claims over Indian-controlled territory and asserting that there were no frontier issues to be taken up with India, in 1956–57, China constructed a road through Aksai Chin, which ran south of the Johnson Line in many places and also placed border posts in the region. India discovered the road after its construction. In 1962, China waged war on India and violated the status quo of Jammu and Kashmir annexing a large part of the state. China also stakes claim on Arunachal Pradesh which it refers to as ‘South Tibet’.
So deep and vivid is China’s betrayal of India that it continues to give stapled visas to residents of Arunanchal Pradesh. The immigration officer instead of pasting a Visa, staples a piece of paper containing the details of the trip and once the traveler returns, the strip is torn off. Thus, there is no proof of foreign travel, aiding separatist elements, which is perfect for China as they do not consider Arunanchal Pradesh to be ‘foreign’. This was also practiced in the state of Jammu and Kashmir up until the year 2012.
Apart from this, China has also continued with its CPEC project, despite reasonable objections from India. The project is going to ensure that China occupies a permanent position in PoK. The upgrade works on the Karakoram Highway are taking place in Gilgit Baltistan, which is an Indian territory, usurped by Pakistan. Not only is this a disregard for India’s territorial sovereignty, but is an attempt to undermine India`s position in the region. Moreover, this will pose as a major security threat as not only will China’s military power appear simultaneously in its east, north and west flanks, but Pakistan will also be able to completely cut off India from Iran.
In fact, to further the CPEC project, Pakistan has decided to exercise direct administrative authority on Gilgit-Baltistan, incorporating the region as its fifth province, last year. Reports have come out claiming that China was concerned over the unsettled status of Gilgit-Baltistan, prompting Pakistan to change the annexed region’s status. Pakistan also ‘gifted’ part of this region to China.
Not just the sheer disregard for India’s territory, China has also taken to aggression to exert its control over India, which was seen recently during the Doklam standoff and even before, during the Sino-Indian wars of 1962 and 1967 and the usual incursions at the border.
Over and above this, China has also been a faithful all weather ally to Pakistan, the country whose sole basis of existence seems to be to sponsor terrorism in India. This is definitely not the ideal actions of a country respecting ‘peaceful co-existence’ and ‘mutual non-aggression’.
This recent instance of China rushing to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) after India’s decision to abrogate article 370 of the constitution and bifurcating the state into 2 Union Territories, at the behest of Pakistan, is the most recent example of China’s incessant interference in India’s internal affairs. The move was a complete failure as the UNSC refused to interfere and stated that the issue must be resolved bilaterally.
The fact that China’s angst is completely unwarranted is evident in the reaction of the other countries all over the world. Not only did the international community refuse to condemn India’s decision, but also lauded and appreciated the move. The world super powers including USA, Russia, EU, Sri Lanka, even Muslim majority nations like UAE, Maldives, Afghanistan have sided with India and most of the states have maintained the issue to be ‘internal’ to India, taken under the power and authority of the Constitution and also struck off any possibility of International interventions.
However, China continues to interfere in the internal affairs and India, by the virtue of the Panchsheel treaty continues to maintain silence on China’s glaring demons. Due to the need for maintaining ‘peaceful coexistence’, India has failed to raise a voice against China’s belligerent expansionist and undemocratic regime. India has also failed to take a diplomatic stand against China’s wrong doings in with regards to Tibet, Taiwan, South China Sea, Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Till date, India does not even acknowledge Taiwan as a country.
China’s current crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and its complete annexation of Hong Kong also reeks of sheer hypocrisy as it took up India’s Kashmir matter to the UN. A country that has no democracy to offer to Hong Kong or any other region, deserves intense international protest for its actions.
In the Xinjiang province, the communist regime of China has put over a million Uyghur Muslims in detention centers meant to ‘de-radicalise’ people. Apart from sheer human rights violations, the religious freedom of Uyghurs stands severely compromised as they are not permitted to keep beards or fast during Ramzan among other things.
China has also heavily militarized Tibet, for which there is no visible requirement. China has also changed the demography of Tibet and Sinkiang by settling Hans in large numbers, imposing the Chinese language and grossly interfering in their Buddhist and Islamic practices. They keep the Tibetans suppressed under military jackboots, against which the non-violent Tibetans are suffering.
India has been quietly making its rounds around China and indirectly questioning their acts, the recent example being that of the South China Sea in which although India has reached out, as an alternative to China in terms of trade, to the south east Asian countries that are affected by China’s belligerent claim on the entire sea (in violation of UNCLOS) but yet, diplomatically, India has not voiced their concerns against China.
Essentially, despite being guilty on all counts ranging from authoritarian rule, to human rights violations to respecting others’ territorial sovereignty; China attempted to internationalise the Kashmir matter and bring shame to India.
The reasons for disregarding the Panchsheel treaty are twofold, one being, that China has never abided by it and as history shows, has purposefully gone out of its way to create unfavourable circumstances and disregard ‘peaceful coexistence’ with India; and the other being that China itself as a country, for its expansionism and undemocratic nature does not deserve to be given the requisite respect under the treaty.
Thus, India needs to start talking about all of China’s demons, especially after their bold decision to take the Kashmir matter to the UNSC when their own hands are anything but clean. Panchsheel has been de facto rendered irrelevant by the Chinese counterparts and India’s hangover of Panchsheel needs to go immediately.