HomeTFV Timelines: Understanding the Sino-Indian border conflict Part 2

TFV Timelines: Understanding the Sino-Indian border conflict Part 2

Tale of two nations: The Second World War led to a drastic change in the world map. Old nations disintegrated, new ones being formed, but most importantly of all, former colonies were being granted freedom. One such nation, perhaps one of the biggest to gain freedom, was India. Just like a newborn infant, India as a nation had to adapt to the new ‘world’. As mentioned in the previous article, the British left India with an ambiguous position with its northern borders. How would India tackle this issue??? Read to find out:

Before proceeding, we highly recommend reading the Part-1: Understanding the Sino-Indian border conflict Part 1

The British, to suit their own needs and diplomatic stance, often switched between the Johnson-Ardagh line and the MacCartney-MacDonald lines. The British administration, up until 1908, considered the MacCartney line as the official boundary. This apparently changed with the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, post which the British began to consider the Johnson line as the official boundary. The British reverted back to the MacCartney line in 1927. 

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15th August 1947, the country of India, which was under British colonial rule, gained freedom. Jawaharlal Nehru, a prominent barrister and freedom fighter, assumed the responsibility of being the first Prime Minister of independent India. Along with its independence, the subcontinent gained another 565 princely states.Something had to be done about this, and soon the new governments of India and Pakistan began pursuing these states and kingdoms to join their respective territories. One such state, which wanted to stay independent was Kashmir. Other states such as Junagadh and  Hyderabad were tackled using military strengths, into acceding into any one of the two countries.

The territorial dispute of Kashmir:

Kashmir’s accession to India was a demographically influenced decision. To give context, in 1947, Kashmir’s population “was 77 per cent Muslim and it shared a boundary with Pakistan. Hence, it was anticipated that the Maharaja would accede to Pakistan, when the British paramountcy ended on 14-15 August. Kashmir was also situated at a very strategic point, one which both India and Pakistan were interested to occupy. The region lies right above the Ganga-Indus plains, and as also cradled several vital mountain ranges and passes, being used by caravans and traders as a trade route since times immemorial. 

On October 22nd 1947, Pakistan backed tribal herdsmen invaded Kashmir, and were on the mission to conquer the state altogether, but as the campaign progressed, the raiders stopped close to Baramulla, and instead of heading towards Srinagar, started engaging in plunder and looting. Initial resistance was put up by the State forces of Jammu and Kashmir, aided by the tribals along the Frontier regions, but eventually Raja Hari Singh would end up approaching India for military assistance.

With India now entering the war on behalf of Kashmir’s defence, Raja Hari Singh slated to sign the Treaty of Accession with India. The war would prolong for over a year, ending on 5th January 1949. At the time of UN imposed ceasefire coming into effect, Pakistan had roughly occupied 1/3rd of Kashmir while India occupied the remaining 2/3rd.  One might question, as to why didn’t India continue the war and conquer the remaining territory, and here’s the answer to it.

A colonial inheritance of problems:

India, at the time of independence, inherited a trove of troubles. A poor economy, vastly uneducated and illiterate population, and the pangs of sectarianism caused due to the partition overshadowed the territorial dispute along the northern border. Salmaan Anees Soz, in a political commentary article, describes the Indian socio-politico-economic situation as such:

 “The Partition was an unwanted addition to an already full plate of immense problems. Most of India’s 350 million people then lived in staggering poverty. One of the biggest problems was that of food, or the lack thereof. The Bengal famine of 1943, which claimed three million lives, was still fresh in memory… India imported 90% of industrial goods around the time of Independence. The Five-Year Plans that many mock today helped India’s industrial sector grow by an average of 7% over the 1950-65 period. The decline under the British was being reversed even as the basic building blocks of a new socioeconomic order were being put in place. In the 50 years before Independence, India’s GDP growth averaged about 0.9% per annum. During the first three Five-Year Plans, it averaged 4%”

Interpreted by journalist Shekhar Gupta in one of his explanatory videos, he quotes the book ‘Slender was the thread’, authored by Lt Gen L. P. Sen, describing the reason why the 1947-48 war was not prolonged. Majorly, both nations had a poor economic infrastructure when the war broke out. As climate can become extremely cold during winters, establishing a reliable and strong supply route was necessary, and which was time and resource consuming. Additionally, both the Indian and Pakistani armed forces were headed by British generals, who perhaps would not understand the gravity of the situation as neither belonged to the region. Fighting a war when the generals themselves didn’t know the gravity of the situation meant using up resources without any strong causal foundation to the war.

Enter the Dragon

3,700 kilometers North-East of Delhi, a new nation  was being conceived. After almost 2 decades of internal turmoil, a now stable government was being set up in the city of Beijing. Headed by Mao Zedong, the newly established Communist Government of China was more than willing to establish itself as a powerful nation, after being subjected to over a century of ill treatment and general distrust by the rest of the world.

 “In 1949 China’s economy was suffering from the debilitating effects of decades of warfare. Many mines and factories had been damaged or destroyed. At the end of the war with Japan in 1945, Soviet troops had dismantled about half the machinery in the major industrial areas of the northeast and shipped it to the Soviet Union. Transportation, communication, and power systems had been destroyed or had deteriorated because of lack of maintenance. Agriculture was disrupted, and food production was some 30 percent below its pre-war peak level. Further, economic ills were compounded by one of the most virulent inflations in world history.”

China, like India, faced similar problems such as vast rates of illiteracy and unemployment, poor agricultural and manufacturing capacity and a nation riddled by the pangs of the Second World War. 

India was keen to extend its diplomatic support to China, but would China reciprocate the same???

To be continued…

Additional References:

Raghavan, Srinath (2010), War and Peace in Modern India, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 101–, ISBN 978-1-137-00737-7

‘Slender was the thread’ by Lt Gen L. P. Sen, ISBN 13: 9789352878499

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