Zhou En-Lai’s guile lulled India to Chinese designs: CIA papers

    By Arun Kumar, IANS

    Washington : A "five-year masterpiece of guile", executed and probably planned in large part by then Chinese premier Zhou En-lai, apparently lulled India for nine long years, recently released papers of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suggest.

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    The papers, described by the CIA as its "Family Jewels", suggest "developments between late 1950 and late 1959 were marked by Chinese military superiority which, combined with cunning diplomatic deceit, contributed for nine years to New Delhi's reluctance to change its policy from friendship to open hostility" toward Beijing.

    "The Chinese diplomatic effort was a five-year masterpiece of guile, executed – and probably planned in large part – by Chou En-lai," the now unclassified three-part CIA analysis of the Sino-Indian border disputes says.

    Chou (as the premier's name was then spelled) played on Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's Asian, anti- imperialist mental attitude, his proclivity to temporise, and his sincere desire for an amicable Sino-Indian relationship, it says.

    "Chou's strategy was to avoid making explicit, in conversations and communications with Nehru, any Chinese border claims, while avoiding any retraction of those claims which would require changing Chinese maps.

    "Chou took the line with Nehru in Beijing in October 1954 that Communist China had as yet had no time to revise the Kuomintang maps, leaving the implication but not the explicit promise that they would be revised.

    "In New Delhi in November-December 1956, Chou sought to create the impression with Nehru that Beijing would accept the McMahon line, but again his language was equivocal, and what he conceded with his left hand, he retrieved with his right."

    "In accepting this explanation for conditional recognition of the McMahon line, Nehru in December 1956 appeared to have retained his unquestioning – or rather, unsuspicious – attitude."

    It was basic Chinese policy early in Beijing's relations with New Delhi not to claim territory in writing or orally, but only on the basis of maps. Thus the Chinese claim to NEFA (North East Frontier Agency) appeared only as a line on Chinese maps dipping at points about 100 miles south of the McMahon line.

    Chou En-lai, in talks with Nehru in 1954 and 1956, treated the Chinese maps not as representing Beijing's "claim" but, on the contrary, as old maps handed down from the previous mainland regime which had "not yet" been corrected, the CIA papers suggest.

    This provided the Chinese premier with a means for concealing Beijing's long-range intention of surfacing Chinese claims at some time in the future (when there would be no longer any necessity to be deceptive about them) while avoiding a dispute with the Indian prime minister in the present.

    The Indian leaders were also profoundly affected by the realities of Chinese political opportunism, the CIA papers say. "That is, they were struck by the fact that the Chinese sentiment of 'friendship' for India does not run deep beneath the surface, that it was In fact not a sentiment at all but merely a cultivated outward display used for foreign policy purposes."

    It was only the developments of August and September 1959 (after the Tibet revolt) that led the Chinese to show their hand, the papers say. "Had it not been Nehru, but rather a more military-minded man who occupied the post of prime minister in late October 1959, a priority programme to prepare India eventually to fight and government as officials had been aroused to anger against the nation's enemy as never before in its short history."

    "But Nehru insisted that war with China was out of the question, and apparently did not think the challenge justified the economic burden of increased military spending.

    To what extent these views reflected a mere rationale for New Delhi's failure to strike back at Chinese forces on the border is conjectural, the CIA papers say, "Certainly, Nehru's idea of first building a national economic base is a platitude in the context of the border dispute."

    "It emerges that above all others Nehru himself – with his view that the Chinese Communist leaders were amenable to gentlemanly persuasion – refused to change this policy until long after Beijing's basic hostility re-think his China policy, Nehru continued to see a border war as a futile and reckless course for India," CIA analysts said.

    His answer to Beijing was to call for a strengthening of the Indian economy to provide a national power base capable of effectively resisting an eventual Chinese military attack, the CIA papers suggest.

    "Behind the interminable exchange of letters and notes carrying territorial claims and counterclaims lies the view of the Indian leaders that Beijing surreptitiously had deprived India of a large corner of Ladakh and ever since had been trying to compel New Delhi to acquiesce in this encroachment," it says.

    "Not to acquiesce has become primarily a matter of national prestige, as the Aksai Plain is not really of strategic value-or was not held publicly to be of strategic-value-to India.

    "For while in fall 1959 Nehru seemed to be preparing the Indian public for cession of the Aksai Plain to the Chinese in exchange for Indian ownership of the NEFA, but this view was opposed by some leaders in the Congress Party."

    As Beijing and New Delhi were generally cordial to each other in these early years, the Chinese had not wanted to change their policy toward Nehru and thereby lose the benefit of an important champion of Beijing's cause in international affairs, the CIA papers say.

    They apparently believed that like China's other borders, the Sino-Indian border need not be delimited and that the matter could remain in limbo.

    Whether they foresaw a time when they could persuade Nehru or a successor to accept China's claims is conjectural, but they seem to have decided at an early date that their short-term policy should be one of not alerting Nehru to the wide gap between Chinese and Indian claims.

    "In practice, this meant they would have to lie about Chinese maps, and they did," the CIA papers concluded.