Letter from Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to Secretary-General of External Affairs Ministry Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai in 1950 on Tibet.

NEW DELHI
4 November 1950

My Dear Sir Girja,

Thank you for your letter of the 3rd November 1950. I am sending herewith the note which you were good enough to send me. I need hardly say that I have read it with a great deal of interest and profit to myself and it has resulted in a much better understanding of the points at issue and general though serious nature of the problem.

The Chinese advance into Tibet upsets all our security calculations. Hitherto, the danger to India on its land frontiers has always come from the North-West. Throughout history we have concentrated our armed might in that region. For the first time, a serious danger is now developing on the North and North-East side; at the same time, our danger from the West or North-West is in no way lessened. This creates most embarrassing defense problems and I entirely agree with you that a reconsideration of our military position and a redisposition of our forces are inescapable.

Regarding Communists, again the position requires a great deal of thought. Hitherto, the smuggling of arms, literature, etc. across the difficult Burmese and Pakistan frontier on the East or along the sea was our only danger. We shall now have to guard our Northern and North-eastern approaches also. Unfortunately, all these approaches-Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and the tribal areas in Assam-are weak spots both from the point of view of communications and police protection and also established loyalty to India.

Even Darjeeling and Kalimpong area is by no means free from pro-Mongolian prejudices. The Nagas and other hill tribes in Assam have hardly had any contact with Indians. European missionaries and other visitors have been in touch with them, but their influence was, by no means, friendly to India and Indians. In Sikkim, there was political ferment some time ago. It seems to me there is ample scope for trouble and discontent in that small State.

Bhutan is comparatively quiet, but its affinity with Tibetans would be a handicap. Nepal (we all know too well, a weak oligarchic regime based almost entirely on force) is in conflict with an enlightened section of the people as well as enlightened ideas of the modern age. Added to this weak position, there is the irredentism of the Chinese. The political ambitions of the Chinese by themselves might not have mattered so much; but when they are combined with discontent in these areas, absence of close contact with Indians and Communist ideology the difficulty of the position increases manifold. We have also to bear in mind that boundary disputes, which have many times in history been the cause of international conflicts, can be exploited by Communist China and its source of inspiration, Soviet Russia, for a prolonged war of nerves, culminating at the appropriate time, in armed conflict.

We have also so take note of a thoroughly unscrupulous, unreliable and determined power practically at our doors. In your very illuminating survey of what has passed between us and the Chinese Government through our Ambassador, you have made out an unanswerable case for treating the Chinese with the greatest suspicion. What I have said above, in my judgment, entitles us to treat them with a certain amount of hostility, let alone a great deal of circumspection. In these circumstances, one thing, to my mind, is quite clear; and, that is, that we cannot be friendly with China and must think in terms of defense against a determined, calculating, unscrupulous, ruthless, unprincipled and prejudiced combination of powers, of which the Chinese will be the spearhead. There might be from them outward offers or protestations of friendship, but in that will be concealed an ultimate hideous design of ideological and even political conquest into their bloc. It is equally obvious to me that any friendly or appeasing approaches from us would either be mistaken for weakness or would be exploited in furtherance of their ultimate aim. It is this general attitude which must determine the other specific questions which you have so admirably stated. I am giving serious consideration to those problems and it is possible I may discuss this matter with you once more.

Yours sincerely,

VALLABHBHAI PATEL

Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, I.C.S.,
Secretary-General, External Affairs Ministry,
New Delhi.

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