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  • Sai Charan

Nehru's India Helped China Conquer Tibet

File: Jawaharlal Nehru, Dalai Lama and Panchan Lama with an elephant at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Delhi.

Notable historian Claude Arpi in his recent book [1] says, "Nehru’s India supplied rice for the invading Chinese troops in Tibet when they were busy rampaging the Tibetan way of life and culture in the early 1950s". Tibet was a self-sustaining society. Starvation was unheard of. However, The sudden influx of Chinese troops brought a food crisis to the region. To overcome the food crisis, Chairman Mao, the then leader of the Chinese Communist Party, looked towards India for help.

S.K. Krishnatry, the Indian Trade Agent (ITA) in Gyantse, mentioned that the Chinese government had requested the Government of India “for an agreement allowing facilities for the transport of food and other supplies through India” [2]. The Chinese government wanted transit facilities for 10,000 tonnes of food grains through India. India first agreed to allow the transit of about 3,000 tonnes of rice to Tibet and then gradually increased the food supply.

This rice diplomacy continued for well over four years. In October 1955, the first truck reached Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, from the Chinese side. Till then, a major portion of the rice eaten by the invading PLA troops have been bought from India. Therefore, I feel that if India had not supplied the PLA with food supplies, the result of the Chinese invasion of Tibet could have been different, perhaps even forcing the Chinese troops to withdraw from Tibet due to food shortages.

Claude Arpi also says in his book that K.M. Panikkar, India’s ambassador to China from 1950-52, often defended the Chinese Communist Party’s atrocities and acted like the Communist Party’s envoy rather than India’s. The most shocking of all, the then Defence Minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, even allowed a Chinese military mission to tour India’s major defence establishments as late as in 1958. The Chinese troops having prior knowledge of India’s defence capabilities and strategies could have helped them win the 1962 Sino-Indian War.


[1] "Will Tibet Ever Find Her Soul Again?" by Claude Arpi.

[2] "‘Nehru’s India helped China conquer Tibet" from The Claude Arpi Blog.

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