India and China are two big countries, in size and resources, and also in numbers. Relations between them have a bearing on the politics of the region and also internationally. India had welcomed the victory of Chinese Communist Party against the Kuomintang in 1949 and was one of the few countries among the non-communist countries in extending earliest recognition to it.

India and China were not contiguous neighbours until China occupied Tibet in 1951 and established its effective control in Lhasa. It is this occurrence in history that brought them within handshake distance and indeed they shook hands to the amazement of the world. The Chinese expansionist mindset soon took over the narrative and Tibet proved to be the Achilles’ heel in promoting friendly relations between the two new neighbours across the hitherto peaceful Himalayan borderland. As this compendium brings it out, Tibet and Tibetan issues proved detrimental to India-China relations. Shorn of Tibet, there was not much to interact between them despite the exchange of visits at the level of prime ministers which provided the initial bonhomie but it did not last long and the narrative on Tibet caught up.

The Five-volume, 2523-document study is expected to provide the understanding of the ups and downs in their relations over the years. This work gives me the satisfaction of fulfilling my ambition of documenting India’s relations with the neighbouring countries, an ambition which I starting nursing as I got closer to my retirement in 1993. It led to the publication of five volumes each on India’s Relations with Sri Lanka in 2000, with Bangladesh in 2003 and with Nepal in 2005. Given the range of issues involved in the case of Pakistan, it needed Ten Volumes, 10,000 pages and seven years to document India-Pakistan relations, which got published in 2012.

Given the delicacy of the issues involved in the India-China discourse and these being live issues, the Ministry of External Affairs remained reluctant to open up its archives for this project. The Nehru Papers in the custody of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library(NMML) were great help in filling this lacuna. There are indeed some gaps, but could not be helped. I am grateful to the Department of Culture and the Director, NMML for their permission in accessing these papers, which earlier were practically out of bound for research. There are also some other collections of private papers in the NMML, such as those of P.N. Haksar, T.N. Kaul and Subimal Dutt which too contributed to the richness of the present work.

As I sat down to interpret and organise these papers to tell a coherent story, a problem presented itself. The evolution of independent India’s relations with Tibet had hardly started, China asserted its sovereignty over a reluctant and weak Tibet. India was caught in their vortex and it became difficult to separate the two sets of documents-- those dealing with Tibet and those with China. The advice I received from the former Indian Ambassador in China, Shivshankar Menon, who also occupied many other important posts such as Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor, came to my rescue. He advised to put the available documents chronologically and leave it to their users to interpret them as best as they liked. While following this advice scrupulously, I did depart from this arrangement in a few places, where I thought putting certain papers together would make their reading inclusive. In this category particularly fall the documents bearing on India-China-Burma and India-China-Nepal relations. I do hope the users of these documents would understand it, even if, in some cases, it is found somewhat inconvenient.
In reproducing the documents I have made every effort to adhere to the original text both in terms of punctuation and spellings of names of persons and places as occurring in the original.

In the successful completion of a work of this magnitude I received help from several friends and well-wishers. First of all, I thank Smt. Sujatha Singh former Foreign Secretary for her approval of the project and launching it. I will also like to thank Ambassador Ashok Kantha former Secretary (East) and former Ambassador to China, in encouraging me to undertake this study, since he felt my earlier works had been found useful, and this will be another addition.

Foreign Secretary Shri S. Jaishankar was extremely kind in sparing his valuable time to see me when requested and removing bureaucratic hurdles that came in the way as the project progressed. He was also very appreciative of my earlier publications in this genre, which he said had been found useful. Thank You, Sir.

Having already crossed 82, and having kept myself fully occupied in the many research projects listed at the beginning of this publication I find difficult to say it quits. I do hope remaining years and energies would stand me in good stead to undertake some more studies. Inshaallah.

For all my accomplishments since retirement, I have to thank a few of my friends who stood by me through many difficult moments with their advice and help. Though their number is large, I would like to mention a few of them, whose help made all the difference.

First and foremost I would like to mention Shivshankar Menon, who since my retirement in 1993 has been source of great help. He ensured that all hurdles, as and when they occurred and they did on many occasions, were crossed and the tape finally breasted. I would also like to thank his wife Mohini, who always welcomed me at their home not only in Delhi but also abroad as their house-guest and offered their warm hospitality and ensured that I felt comfortable. Please accept my gratitude for all your friendship over the years.

In thirty years of my career in the Ministry of External Affairs, I worked with a number of officers. My association with Ambassador Kishan Rana during the working-years blossomed into friendship in the post-retirement years. In the present project he made sure that I did not lose sight of important documents and that my study was as comprehensive as possible. My sincere thanks to him. I also thank him and Mrs. Rana for their invitation to spend some time in their holiday home at Mount Abu. Their house located on a hillock provided a panoramic view of the town and fresh air breathed there cleansed my lungs and provided a fresh dose of energy. Thanks to both of them.
>The bond forged with Ambassador Chetput Ranganathan during the working years in the Ministry has stood me in good stead thereafter. Though he shifted his base to Bengalore or Bengaluru after retirement, I have remained in touch with him and sought his advice quite often and he was always quite generous in this regard. Whenever I happened to go to Bangalore, I never failed to call on him which gave me an opportunity to visit the iconic Bangalore Club. Many thanks, Sir.

TCA Rangachari has been a personal friend for the past almost half a century. We have stayed in close touch wherever we happened to be. The family relations that developed over the years have been gratifying. He read my pieces which I occasionally wrote and offered valuable advice. Kokila and he had been generous with their hospitality in Paris which continues to be available in Delhi even now.

There is a long list of other friends who too contributed to my success both in the official and private life. It will need to fill a lot more space, if I were to mention all of them. Some time anonymity has its own blessings and virtuous and I leave them in the category of unnamed friends.

This project has been done with the cooperation of the Policy Planning and Research Division of the Ministry of External Affairs. I offer my thanks to the officers and staff of the Division for their consideration during the life of the work.

At the India International Centre, I have the privilege to keep company of Jagmoham, a former Lt. Governor of Delhi, Governor of Goa and Jammu and Kashmir, and a minister in the Central Government, and above all a scholar in his own right. His dedication to work is difficult to match but I did try to draw a lot of inspiration from him. It is however difficult to emulate him.

The trinity of Raghav, Shammi and Shiv, while engrossed with their academic pursuit after retirement from their own professions, have been my constant friends and companions at the India International Centre. Their company over many cups of coffee and tea and during lunch and sometimes over a drink, kept my spirits high and morale up. They provided that dose of energy on a daily basis, which prevented any dull moments to creep in the daily routine at the IIC, which is otherwise an idyllic place for one’s pursuits.

At my ripe age, there were occasions when my health failed me albeit temporarily. On all such occasions I found my daughter Puneet and son-in-law Gurpreet Singh, always by my side and helping me to stand on my feet, despite their own busy schedule of work. Their affection provided the balm that one needs the most at this stage in one’s life. To say thanks would be to complete a formality.

In the preparation of this work, I used facilities of the specialised institutions like the National Archives of India, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Libraries of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Council of World Affairs. Many thanks to the staff and officers of these institutions for their cooperation. I would like to make a special mention of the Library of the India International Centre, where I finally sat down to work on the material gathered from other institutions. The Staff of the Library provided all the essential facilities and amenities ungrudgingly. Thank you Shifali, Rajiv, Kanchan, Hema and of course Rakesh, Jagdish and Sunil.

Alas Jagat Mehta is no more in this world! Whether he was in or out of office, my work received his appreciation which was most satisfying.

Even after his retirement, I kept in touch with him and visited him in his ancestral home in Udaipur a few times and enjoyed his hospitality. May his soul rest in peace!

I should not fail to thank my printer Ravi Kumar and his talented son Ankit of Focus Impressions who slogged over the job for many years and met the standards, the work demanded of them.

At the end I remember my wife who was tragically killed in an accident involving a two-wheeler while crossing a road almost within a couple of years of my retirement leaving me to spend my retirement years all by myself. I sought solace in the work I accomplished and I dedicate the present work to her.

As I complete this project, I suddenly realise that it is now quarter of a century since I retired. However when I look back at the volume of work accomplished, I draw satisfaction that these were not entirely wasted years. It is not easy for one to evaluate one’s own work. But when I see my work being quoted by scholars, it gives satisfaction that it was worth the effort.

As indicated above I received help and sought opinion of many persons in the preparation of this study. As already stated they were generous with their help and advice. However I must finally hold myself fully responsible for any deficiency that may be found in these volumes.

Avtar Singh Bhasin

New Delhi
November 30th, 2017