Monday, May 30, 2005

"We fail to see that it is not in the Western interest to have the Chinese and the Indians at each other's throats."


Here's something you don't read about every day.

hina's successful moves to improve ties with India have done more than sabotage Tokyo's hopes for an anti-China alliance with New Delhi. They have also put an end to the myth that China's alleged aggressions against India since the 1960s would prevent any rapprochement between the two countries.

The key to this strange belief was the claim that China in 1962 had launched an unprovoked border attack against India. That claim was a blatant lie -- and one of the brighter and shinier variety. It was a classic example of the ease with which Western governments and intelligence agencies, together with their friends in academic, media and research organs, combine to distort information and blacken China's reputation in Asia.

In 1962 I was China desk officer in Canberra's Department of External Affairs. For much of the year there had been reports of Indian troops pushing into Chinese positions along the Sino-Indian border. On Oct. 20 we had a further report about clashes between Chinese and Indian troops at the Thag La ridge near the NEFA (North East Frontier Area) border, which was to lead to a Chinese counterattack into northern India...

the maps in front of me showed the Thag La ridge to be north of even the Indian-claimed frontier. So India must have attacked China first, and in an area where China had already offered major territory concessions (condemned, incidentally, by Taipei as a sellout to India).

When my cables to London and Washington confirmed this rather important fact, I assumed I could suggest to my superiors to ease up on their instant denunciations of Chinese "aggression" and their promises of immediate arms to India. Their response was swift: "We fail to see that it is not in the Western interest to have the Chinese and the Indians at each other's throats."...

he myth of Chinese aggression against peaceful India was to distort Asian affairs for more than 40 years. With the help of Western black-information agencies -- British especially -- it was to provide much of the justification later for Western intervention in Indochina. Detailed documentation from Beijing proving the location of the Thag La ridge was ignored...

Now, finally, with last month's historic meeting between the Chinese and Indian prime ministers in New Delhi, the myth is being buried. Both sides have agreed to settle frontier differences -- something China has long been able to do with all its other contiguous neighbors, often generously. India has dropped any challenge to China's sovereignty in Tibet. China has recognized Indian sovereignty over the once semiautonomous Himalayan region of Sikkim. A strategic partnership has been promised.

There's more there; many assertions to check out.

But it's worthwhile to note that before we get knee-deep in knee-jerk ideological reactions to others, that what we think of as "facts" might not be facts at all.

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