Why did India-China relations go bad?

By Sunil Kumar



You’re right in saying that India and China never had any large-scale conflicts for thousands of years. But; both countries were not a single political unit in the modern sense until the middle of the 20th century. The same can also be said about countries around the world; including Germany which became a nation only in the late 19th century.

Most of their history was one of warring kingdoms; interspersed with some strong central empires. In fact; the advantage for big terrestrial empires goes to India due to the Mauryas, the Guptas and the Mughals; with empires stretching upto present-day Afghanistan(Gandhara in Mahabharata times; present-day Kandahar is a corruption of the original Sanskrit name).

The early part of the 20th century was very dynamic as European powers who had colonized most of the world upped the ante; and indulged in wars out of mutual animosity(the World Wars are a misnomer as the rest of the planet did not have the freedom to say no and shoulder the white man’s burden).

China was very weak; not a central unit with gangster warlords controlling large different swathes of the country; and a few bright spots like Sun-Yat Sen; the founder of Republican China; who overthrew the last Manchu emperor. If you’re interested; watch “The Last Emperor”; an interesting movie with a few snippets about Chinese history in this period; and mention of the puppet state of Manchukuo set up by the Japanese. Also Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani; about the life of an Indian doctor who assisted the Chinese. The man’s family was honoured by the Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Mumbai as recently as 2013.

Why is India’s Dr Kotnis revered in China? – BBC News

Inspired by Communist movements in the West and the Soviet Union; a peasant Mao gradually seized control over the mainland and seized power in 1949; the other main leader Chiang Kai Shek of the KuoMinTang(the Chinese Nationalist party) was now exiled in Taiwan. Nehru; who greatly admired socialism himself; did not recognize the duplicity of the new regime that took over in 1949. As mentioned in most of his books; he had the idea of India and China being ancient civilizations; who had never been in conflict with each other(true until then). Also; the ancient silk roads; the transmission of Buddhism to China; the tales of travelers such as Hiuen Tsang and Fa-Hien had captivated his mental worldview.

The Communists did not waste time in consolidation of Chinese territory; and secretly despised Nehru’s idealistic real-politik and desire to be a world statesman. Although in the early days; this was couched in the rhetoric of brotherhood and co-operation. The proletariat worker’s revolution idolized the West; and like street goons; admired strength.

Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even though India supported Communist China becoming a UN Security Council Member; conflicts gradually escalated as the Communists bulldozed their way and seized Tibet. The recent angst over imperial Japan’s adventures in World War II could now be fully avenged; as the Chinese Communists gained power. After the US President Nixon again re-established relations in the 70s; the West started investing; and with Deng Xiaoping; a pragmatic leader; the country gradually started expanding economically beginning in the 1980s. You must be aware of recent history; so no need to elaborate on that.

So; the main reason is increasing Chinese belligerence and desire to have global influence; which has now transcended most limits; India’s colonization and partition by the British; an egotist left-leaning defence minister V.K Krishna Menon and his failure to equip the fledgling Indian army; also its own political disputes, raucous democracy and indifference to a proactive policy that anticipated the tactical guile of an authoritarian setup keen to score in the global chess game.


English: National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hal...

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in English: National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei (Republic of China) Français : Le mémorial national à Tchang Kaï-chek à Taipei (République de Chine). ‪中文(繁體)‬: 位於臺北市的中正紀念堂(中華民國)。 ‪中文(简体)‬: 位于台北市的中正纪念堂(中华民国)。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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