A letter written by India’s former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru to his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai in 1959 belies the Chinese government’s claims that he had accepted the 1890 Sino- British treaty over Sikkim.
The Chinese government had recently quoted Nehru to buttress its claims over the Dokalam area.
On Monday, Chinese ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) spokesperson Geng Shuang cited the letter from Nehru to Enlai, written on March 22, 1959, that India’s protectorate state Sikkim’s border with China was confirmed by a treaty signed between China and Britain in 1890, and that the border was demarcated in 1895.
“On September 26, 1959, Nehru confirmed with Zhou that there was no dispute on the China-Sikkim border,” Geng Shuang claimed.
However, according to news agency PTI, in his letter to Zhou Enlai, Nehru contested Chinese premier’s position that the boundaries of Sikkim and Bhutan do not fall within the scope of the discussion between India and China and pointed out that the Chinese maps included sizeable areas of Bhutan
"It is not clear to us what exactly is the implication of your statement that the boundaries of Sikkim and Bhutan do not fall within the scope of the present discussion," Nehru wrote in his letter.
"In fact, Chinese maps show sizable areas of Bhutan as part of Tibet," he added.
In the lengthy letter highlighting India's stand on the boundary dispute, Nehru wrote that under treaty relationships with Bhutan, the Government of India is the only competent authority to take up with other governments matters concerning Bhutan's external relations, and in fact it has taken up with China a number of matters on behalf of the Bhutan Government.
"The rectification of errors in Chinese maps regarding the boundary of Bhutan with Tibet is therefore a matter which has to be discussed along with the boundary of India with the Tibet region of China in the same sector," he wrote.
After asserting that Chinese maps are showing sizable areas of Bhutan as part of China, Nehru referred to the 1890 Sino-British treaty granting India's sovereignty to Sikkim.
"As regards Sikkim, the Chinese Government recognised as far back as 1890 that the Government of India 'has direct and exclusive control over the internal administration and foreign relations of that State'. This Convention of 1890 also defined the boundary between Sikkim and Tibet; and the boundary was later, in 1895, demarcated. There is thus no dispute regarding the boundary of Sikkim with the Tibet region,” Nehru said.
At the same time, he pointed out that "it is wrong to say that the frontier east of Bhutan as shown on Chinese maps is the traditional frontier. On the contrary, it is the McMahon Line which correctly represents the customary boundary in this area. The water-parting formed by the crest of the Himalayas is the natural frontier which was accepted for centuries as the boundary by the peoples on both sides."
China and India have been engaged in a standoff in the Doka La area near the Bhutan trijunction for almost a month.
Sikkim, which became a part of India in May 1976, is the only state which has a demarcated border with China. The lines are based on a treaty signed with the Chinese in 1898. Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Dokalam, while China claims it as part of its Donglang region.
Chinese are making attempts to build a road which was objected to by Bhutan.
The Ambassador of Bhutan has a lodged a protest with the Chinese Government through their Embassy in New Delhi on June 20. Bhutan has no diplomatic relations with China.
(With PTI inputs)