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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Book Review: Beware of the Dragon (Part I and II)

March 20, 2009

Manmohan Singh
March 19, 2009

Dragons Shadow over Arunachal
By R.D. Pradhan
(Rupa & Co) 192 pages

New Delhi -- Tibetans in India observed in March
this year the fiftieth year of the escape of the
Dalai Lama from Tibet following Chinese
occupation of Tibet. They have expressed the hope
that the Tibetans, who are presently living in
their homeland, would be able to live in peace and freedom.

It was perhaps, unintentional but timely, that we
have a new book written by the first Governor of
Arunachal Pradesh, R.D. Pradhan, entitled Dragons Shadow over Arunachal.

Not many gave credit to former Prime Minister
Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 when he decided that the
North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), as it was then
known, should be given full statehood with its
own Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister and a
full-fledged Governor. The general feeling was
that the people of NEFA did not demand full statehood and one could wait.

Looking back, one realizes how right Rajiv Gandhi
was. The first three years of Rajiv Gandhis Prime
Ministership was one of the best periods in
Indian history. The Government of India entered
into the Punjab Accord with Sant Longowal, the
Assam Accord was signed with agitators in the
State who were becoming violent on the issue of
immigrants from Bangladesh, the Mizo Accord was
signed and elections were held there with rebel
Laldenga heading the new government, and major
initiatives were taken to give full-statehood to
the seven sisters in the North-East.

Rajiv visited Bangladesh, which was hit by a
cyclone, took major initiative to make efforts to
settle the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka and convened the SAARC conference.

I recall having closely worked with the then Home
Secretary, R. D. Pradhan, in projecting the
decisions as Principal Information Officer of the
Government of India. As one looks back, another
good decision taken by Rajiv Gandhi to send Ram
Pradhan as the first Governor of Arunachal
Pradesh, even though he was initially reluctant
to take on the responsibility after retirement.

During his assignment between 1987 and 1990 Ram
Pradhan and his wife traveled all over Arunachal
by road and air, met people of all the sixteen
districts, each distinct from the other in their
own way, painstakingly interacting with the
tribal chiefs without patronizing them. He was
able to carry forward the efforts of Sir Verrier
Elvin and the Officers of the Indian Frontier
Administrative Service, in instilling in the
people with a sense of belonging to India.

He discovered for himself that many tribes from
Arunachal, while having distinct traditions, had
strong links with the rest of India. That there
are temples associated with Bhishma, that Lord
Krishna had married Rukmini — a Idu-Mishmi girl —
and that every year on Makar Sankranti day on
January 14, people from far off came to Parasram
Kund near Tezu on Lohit river for a holy dip.

As Governor, Pradhan studied Indias border
problem with China. Many have blamed Jawaharlal
Nehru for having trusted China and entered into
an agreement on Tibet in 1954 and helped China
being ushered into the non-aligned meet at
Bandung in 1955. Nehrus efforts were directed to
make China a strong friend of India, even though
he was skeptical of Chinese intentions.

That Nehru was skeptical about China is brought
out in the remark he made to G. Parthasarathi,
who called on him On March 18, 1958, just before
left for China as Ambasssador: So G.P. what has
the foreign office told you: Hindi Chini bhai
bhai? Dont you believe it? I dont trust the
Chinese one bit, despite Panchsheel and all that.
The Chinese are arrogant, devious, hyprocritical
and thoroughly unreliable. In fact, they have
deliberately chosen to be anti-Indian. Your brief
from me, therefore, is to be extremely vigilant
about all Chinese intentions, policies and actions towards us.

R.D. Pradhan says that Nehru was not naive in his
personal assessment of China. After the Longju
incident in August 1959, in his letter to the
Chief Ministers on 1 October 1959, he foresaw the
tension erupting into conflict and warned the
army. The author quotes Kautilya to say that it
is left to the genius of a countrys leadership to
make an ally or an adversary of a neighbouring
State. Nehru made consistent efforts to turn
China from an adversary to a friend. He failed.

Nehru could never live down the wrong judgment he
made about Chinese intentions to wage war against
India in 1962. He died on May 27, 1964, a
disillusioned man bequeathing the border issue to his successors.

Much water has flown down the Brahmaputra since
then. (Incidentally, the author points out that
Brahmaputra is one of the very few rivers in
India that have a male nomenclature) The Chinese
were not able to deflect Indira Gandhi in 1971
when India decided to support the Mukti Bahini in
Bangladesh. Over the years, India has gradually
strengthened its economy and defences.

There was a distinct change in Chinese attitude
towards India after the Sumdrong Chu incident in
1986 when India decided to open a post there in
response to Chinese movement in the area. Efforts
commenced to persuade Rajiv Gandhi to visit
China. The author quotes what Chinese Foreign
Minister Wu told H. K. Dua (then working for the
Hindustan Times): The objective of talks during
Rajiv Gandhis visit could only be to arrive at an
agreement on principles. Without such an
agreement, he added, no border problem could ever be resolved.

R. D. Pradhan had the opportunity of briefing
Rajiv Gandhi before his visit to China. The world
witnessed the famous handshake of Deng Xiaoping
with Rajiv Gandhi in Beijing in December 1988
followed by remarks to his young friend: Starting
with your visit we will restore our relations as
friends The agreement on principles were worked
out. The Joint Working Group set up then on the
boundary question has been meeting ever since over two scores or more times.

The Chinese had agreed in 1988 that the two
governments would identify where the Line of
Actual Control is located along the Sino-Indian
border. There has been no response by China on
this matter for over two decades.

China has been laying claims to areas in
Arunachal, particularly Tawang. When it faced an
international outcry before the Olympic Games,
China expressed its appreciation of the Indian
approach. The tone changed soon after the conclusion of the games.

R. D. Pradhan points out that India has made the
mistake of not developing infrastructure in the
North East all these years. The policy changed
last year. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited
Arunachal, called it Our land of the Rising Sun
and announced the implementation of projects costing 100 billion rupees.

The Chinese expressed displeasure over Manmohan
Singhs remarks, to which Pranab Mukherjee
responded by saying that Arunachal was an
integral part of India and the Prime Minister did
not do anything that was not warranted by
announcing schemes for the development of the region.

The author points out that unless we are careful
we may find the Dragon occupying physically the
space in the north east. And the people of Arunachal face the threat.

One only wished there were more Governors who
took their tasks as seriously as Ram Pradhan did.

I. Ramamohan Rao, March 19, 2009. email:
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