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The History of Sino-Indian Relations and the Border Dispute Between the Two Countries (4)


II. Sino-Indian Relationship During the British Rule from 1764-1947

A. The Western Sector
B. The Middle Sector
C. The Eastern Sector

In the Eastern sector India shares a border of 1,140 kms with China which stretches from the Tri-junction at the Isu Razzi Pass at its easternmost point to Bhutan in the west. The present state of Arunachal Pradesh, formerly known as North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), with an area of about 83,743 sq kms came into being on 21st January 1972. It comprises of the five divisions of NEFA. Tuensang, the sixth division of NEFA was merged with the newly formed Naga Hill districts in 1957 (Map 5). In the Eastern sector, India does not claim as part of its territory any area of Tibet which is at present under the Chinese control. However, an area of about 90,000 sq kms – comprising mostly the present State of Arunachal – is claimed by China as a part of Tibet which, according to them, was unjustly incorporated into British India by the British under the cloak of the illegal Simla Agreement of 1914.

The Creation of the North East Frontier Tract (NEFT) and the Demarcation of the Indo-Tibet Border during the British Rule

The early history of India’s North-East remains shrouded in mystery. “Although the western Brahmaputra valley was always part of the ancient Hindu cultural system, during the last two millennia it had not politically formed part of the Indian state. Neither the Asokan nor the Gupta empires extended as far as Kamrup (the old kingdom of western Assam) and Moghul attempts to subjugate Assam had always ended in failure. Hardier races from the east, attracted by the rich tillages of the Brahmaputra valley, established successive rules over the original Hindu inhabitants. The invaders left behind a racial mix of tribes: the Khasis of Cambodian (Khmer) stock; the Nagas, Kukis and Mizos of Tibeto-Burman descent, and the Abors and Miris, remnants of a Mongolian invasion.”1

It was renamed NEFA by the Government of India in 1951. Please see the attached Appendix for the details.

In the beginning of the 12th and the 13th century, Assam and some parts of the present day Arunachal Pradesh were ruled by the Sutiya and the Ahom kings. The Sutiya Kingdom was established by Birpal in 1187 on the northern bank of the river Brahmaputra. It was a powerful kingdom which ruled for over 500 years in north-eastern Assam and some areas of present day Arunachal Pradesh, with the capital at Sadiya. The Ahom dynasty was established in 1228 by Sukaphaa, a Shan prince of Mong Mao (present day in China’s Yunnan Province) who came to Assam after crossing the Patkai Mountains (Map 1). The hostilities between the Ahoms and the Sutiya Kingdom began when the Sutiya Kingdom expanded to the south during the 14th century. In 1364, the Ahom king Sutuphaa was killed by the Sutiya king during a friendly negotiation. This incident triggered a number of battles between the two sides, which saw a great loss of men and money on both sides. The simmering dispute flared in 1523 when the Ahoms struck the Sutiya Kingdom when it was in its weakest state. However, the Sutiyas went to the countryside where they were strong and continued their fight against the Ahoms to reclaim their lost territories. It finally ended in 1673 when the Sutiyas fell under the domination of the Ahoms and the Sutiya Kingdom was absorbed into the Kingdom of Ahom.

In 1821, after the third and final invasion and control of Assam by Burma, the Hindu Ahom King, Sudingphaa or Chandrakanta Singha, sought help from the British against the Burmese. The British too were worried about the conquest of Assam by Burma and eventually on 5th March 1824 the First Anglo-Burmese War broke out. The Burmese were defeated and were expelled from Assam, Chacher (present day a district of Assam) and Manipur (Map 1). Finally the Burmese monarch sued for peace and the treaty of Yandabo was signed by both parties on 26th February, 1826. According to the terms and conditions of the treaty, the Burmese monarch renounced all claims over Assam and the British became the masters of the Brahmaputra valley. After establishing their rule in Assam, the British granted pensions to the members of Ahom royal family and other Ahom nobles. Purandar Singha (1833–1838) was the last king of Ahom Dynasty in Assam. In 1838, finding him incompetent and a defaulter in payments of revenues, the British formally annexed his kingdom, putting an end to the 600 years reign of the Ahom Dynasty (Map 3).

“Starting from Nepal, British empire’s northern boundaries with the Himalayan kingdoms ran along the foot of the hills. So long as British influence was predominant over these kingdoms, they could act as a buffer between India and China that had suzerainty over Tibet. The British empire had been extended to the east of Bhutan in the first half of the nineteenth century with the conquest of Assam at the end of the first Anglo-Burmese war (1824-26). However, British administrative control, at the initial stages, was essentially limited to the Brahmaputra valley. The thickly forested hill tracts to the north and south of the valley were not easily accessible, nor were the tribal people — the Mishmis, Abors, Miris and Monpas — living in India’s north east frontier easily amenable to British administrative control. The imperial authorities were, therefore, quite content to leave these areas beyond the pale of British administration. However, with the growth of commercial interests (mainly tea plantation and timber), in the second half of the nineteenth century, the British Government became apprehensive of the uncontrolled expansion of commercial activities by British merchants, because that could bring them into conflict with the tribal people. To prevent that possibility, the government decided, in 1873, to draw a line – ‘the Inner Line’ – that could not be crossed without a proper permit. Its main purpose was to create a protected zone, beneath the hills, for commercial activities; it was laid down in details and also demarcated for some of its length. But it was mainly an administrative boundary, not an international frontier, for which an ‘Outer line’ (See Maps 2 & 4) was drawn. It was demarcated in 1875 as far east as the Baroi river, and beyond that point the boundary followed a line along the foot of the hills up to the Nizamghat (See Map 1) that was said to be well recognized through usage. In 1862, for example, in that part of the Himalayas that could be designated as Abor country, the Abors had agreed, by signing the treaty of Camp Lalee Mukh, to recognize that British territory extended to the foot of the hills. In short, British territory to the east of Bhutan, with the exception of the Tawang Tract, ran along the foot of the hills, and the ‘Outer Line’ as demarcated in 1875 only formalized this. But between 1873 and 1914, the British rulers gradually extended a ‘shadowy administration’ well beyond the ‘Outer Line’, till they reached what came to be known later as the McMahon line. The distance between the Outer line and the Inner Line varied and in some stretches the distance between the two lines was only 10 miles. In the controversy that developed in later years between India and China, the Chinese claimed that the tribal territories between the McMahon line and the Outer Line were within the Chinese sphere of influence, although this claim has been contested by India. What appears to be correct is that till the first decade of the nineteenth century there was no defined boundary of the British empire in the north east, that was agreed upon between Britain and China/Tibet, except for the boundary between British Assam and the Tawang Tract, jointly demarcated by the British and Tibetan officials in 1872.”2

As was done in the case of demarcating India’s border with Tibet in the Western Sector, in the Eastern Sector too, the Survey of India carried out expeditions to collect geographical, commercial and other data that would be useful in properly defining India’s eastern border with Tibet. These expeditions often came in conflict with the tribal people living in those areas and the British retaliated with punitive measures like military expeditions to these areas. During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, several military expeditions were sent to the Abor Hills, Mishmi Hills and to the Patkai range from Sadiya – the then British administrative centre in Assam (Map 1). These attacks in the tribal areas were well beyond the Outer Line and gradually the British extended their political control to these areas which later were incorporated in the North East Frontier Tract (NEFT) area. Although, till 1900 the Chinese did not pay any heed to these expeditions but the Younghusband Mission in 1903-1904 to Lhasa alerted the Chinese. The Younghusband Mission was a part of Lord Curzon’s forward policy. The mission’s main purpose was to eliminate Russian influence over Tibet by propping up Tibet as an independent state whose foreign policy could be controlled by Britain. The Chinese, alarmed by this, adopted their own forward policy which gradually brought them close to India’s north east frontier. As mentioned above, the purpose of Curzon’s policy towards Tibet was to prop up it as an independent state but his idea faded away with the conclusion of the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1906 and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. The former effectively restored China’s position as the controlling power over Tibet and the latter recognized Chinese suzerainty over Tibet and the British agreed not to deal with Tibet unilaterally without the Chinese consent.

Although the Chinese suzerainty over Tibet was established in 1720 by the Qing (Manchu) dynasty, they did not attempt to properly administer Tibet till after the British expedition to Lhasa. Following the British mission to Lhasa in 1904, Chao Erh fengo, one the last great soldier and bureaucrat of the Qing dynasty set out on a military expedition in 1905 and succeeded in bringing large parts of the Tibet and other territories under the effective control of the Chinese dynasty. By the beginning of 1910, Tibet came under the effective rule of the Chinese. The Dalai Lama, who at the time of the Younghusand Mission had fled to Magnolia, now in the wake of the Chinese invasion fled to British India and stayed in Darjeeling till January 1913. Subsequently, the Dalai Lama was deposed and in his place the Chinese Amban was given the power to administer Tibet. Thus, effectively converting Tibet into a province of China.

The reassertion of the Chinese authority over Tibet in 1910 and China’s attempts to collect taxes from Tibet’s inhabitants alarmed the British who looked upon these developments as the expansionist designs of China. The suspicion became more concrete when in May 1910, the British got the reports that the Chinese government had issued orders to construct a road through the tribal belt towards Assam, which could in their view, certainly pose a strategic threat to Assam when completed. The Forward School strategists, who were in the favour of extending Britain’s control beyond the Outer Line, now came out openly in support of expanding Britain’s effective control beyond the Outer Line. Lord Minto, the then Viceroy of India, before his departure from India, also advocated an advance of the Outer Line.

Initially, the new Viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge did not favour this view. He argued that any movement into the tribal territory would invoke Chinese attack on India and in retaliation the British would have to attack China from the sea. Hardinge was of the view that they should keep good and warm relation with the Chinese. However, his views changed, when later in 1911, a British official, Noel Williamson, was killed by a tribesmen when he went beyond the Outer Line to assess the extent of the Tibetan influence in those areas. Between 1911 and 1912 several expeditions into the tribal areas were sent to avenge his murder.

“The General Staff of the Indian army in a memorandum for the surveyors, (September 1911) who were usually attached to the expeditions, urged them to keep in mind strategic needs and proposed a boundary that would follow the principal watersheds and include on the Indian side the tributaries of the Bramhaputra, Lohit and Irrawaddy rivers. A mountain chain, the memorandum suggested, ‘is from every point of view the most advantageous strategic frontier.’ A few months later, the Chief of the General Staff went a step further by arguing that the Chinese would be able to exert pressure of influence on Bhutan through the ‘dangerous wedge’ of the Tawang Tract and recommended that British India’s boundary should include not only Tawang but also a sizeable portion of Tibetan territory to its north, including Tsona Dsong, another Tibetan Administrative Centre.

Although this recommendation was not accepted in its entirety by the government in Calcutta, two years later, when the McMahon line was drawn on the map, it included the Tawang Tract within the Indian side of the border. The forward policy pursued by the British and the Chinese Governments made the tribal people living in the hill tracts pawns in their imperial game. The collapse of the Manchu dynasty in China in late 1911, and consequently the collapse of Chinese power in Lhasa brought a new opportunity to the British Government to redefine their policy towards Tibet. A Foreign Office Memorandum (of August 1912) clearly spelt out the goal of British policy: to make Tibet absolutely dependent of the Indian Government, while nominally retaining her position as an autonomous state under Chinese suzerainty. But to achieve this goal, some machinery would have to be devised which would keep ‘the Chinese out on the one hand and the Russians on the other.’ This would have to be done in a way that would not appear as a violation of the Anglo Russian Convention. The British sought to achieve this through the mechanism of a tripartite conference-involving Britain, China and Tibet — in which Britain would play the role of an ‘honest broker’, since fighting was raging between China and Tibet in the east. It is with this end in view that the British Government convened the Simla Conference (October 1913-July 1914). On 13 May 1913, the Foreign Office invited the Chinese Government to take part in a tripartite conference to settle the Tibetan problem. A similar invitation was sent to the Tibetan Government as well, while the Russians were kept informed. The Chinese had serious reservations about the idea, since China resented the status of equality granted to Tibet and questioned its right to act as a treaty making power. However, Britain ultimately succeeded in persuading China to attend the conference through considerable diplomatic arm twisting, while the ‘honest broker’ was indirectly encouraging Tibet to bargain for maximum autonomy from Chinese control, in return for a British guarantee of protection against future Chinese penetration into Tibet. Indeed throughout the conference, the British delegation worked in close cooperation with the Tibetans. If Britain wanted to prop up Tibet as an independent state ‘totally dependent on the Indian Government’, two issues had to be sorted out. First, the relationship between Tibet and China, and the delimitation of a Sino-Tibetan boundary. Second, the definition of a Tibet India border which would preclude the possibility, in future, of a Chinese presence on India’s north east frontier.

The British delegation, led by Sir Henry McMahon, Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, tried to persuade the Chinese to accept the division of Tibet into two zones — Inner Tibet and Outer Tibet — while maintaining the facade of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet. The Chinese would have no administrative control over Outer Tibet, thus virtually keeping China away from the British frontiers. The British proposal had a parallel in Mongolia that was similarly divided into two zones, by agreement between China and Russia. Therefore, although the Chinese had reservations about the proposal to divide Tibet, they did not reject the proposal as such; rather their objections were focussed on where the proposed line of division should run. This was the issue on which the conference ultimately broke down, although Sir Henry succeeded, in April 1914, in persuading the Chinese delegate Chen I fan to initial the draft treaty and the illustrative map. But Chen put his initials on the documents ‘on the clear understanding that to initial and to sign them were two separate actions.’ Even this act was repudiated by the Chinese Government, when they came to know of it, severely reprimanding Chen for his unauthorized action. What is more, the draft treaty initiated by the three parties was subsequently revised, after consultations with Russia.

The Chinese decision to repudiate the action of Chen robbed the draft treaty of much of its significance, since the Chinese Government announced that it would not recognize any bilateral agreement between Tibet and the British Government. Even the Foreign Office in London was against such a move; it was made clear in the telegram dated 3 July 1914, from Crewe to the Viceroy in India. Nevertheless, Sir Henry proceeded to sign a joint declaration along with the Tibetan plenipotentiary Lonchen Satra that the amended draft of the convention, which both of them had initialled again, would be binding on both the governments. The possibility of China joining later was not, however, entirely ruled out. But the joint declaration was not made public for several years.

The Earl of Crewe: Secretary of State for India, 25th May 1911 to 25th May 1915.

Thus the tripartite conference ended in confusion. First, it resulted in a draft convention initiated by the leaders of the three delegations, although one of the participating governments, China, repudiated the action of its representative. Subsequently, a revised draft of the convention was initiated by the British and Tibetan plenipotentiaries who also signed a joint declaration making the convention binding on the two governments. What is more, the British and Tibetan plenipotentiaries signed a secret agreement defining the boundary between Tibet and India. This was the result of negotiations conducted secretly between the British and Tibetan delegations during February and March 1914, in Delhi. This boundary was not described verbally but demarcated on the map with a red line by Sir Henry McMahon, depicting India’s boundary with Tibet from the eastern frontier of Bhutan to the Isu Razi Pass on the Irawaddy-Salweel water parting. While drawing the line on the map, Sir Henry was conscious of the need for safeguarding Britain’s strategic interests in the north east frontier. For, the McMahon line, as it came to be called later, though falling short of the alignment proposed by the Chief of the General Staff, ran almost 12 miles north of Tawang, thus cutting off the ‘dangerous wedge’ of the Tawang Tract. McMahon explained later that his objective had been securing a strategic watershed boundary and gaining access to the shortest trade route to Tibet, along with the control over the Tawang monastery, in order to free it from Tibetan influence. The Tibetans were not happy with the agreement signed by McMahon and Lonchen Satra. As Sir Charles Bell wrote in July 1915, Lonchen Satra was ‘much blamed for failing in his negotiations in India and for surrendering the Tawang tract, and for making other important concessions to the British Government in the recent Convention.’ The McMahon Line led to the addition of some fifty thousand square miles of tribal territory to the British empire, part of it, as in Tawang, at the expense of Tibet. Some of these tribal people had developed close affinities with Tibet over centuries. The line drawn by McMahon became mired in controversy in the context of the Sino Indian dispute over boundary that developed during the 1950s.

Sir Charles Alfred Bell was the British-Indian Tibetologist. After joining the Indian Civil Service, he was appointed Political Officer in Sikkim in 1908.

The Chinese Government never accepted the legality of the Anglo Tibetan bilateral agreement on the border. For one thing, the agreement was concluded through secret negotiations between the British and the Tibetans, outside the pale of the Simla Conference, which was convened to solve the Tibetan problem through trilateral negotiations, and not to discuss bilaterally the Indo Tibetan boundary issue. The secret Anglo Tibetan Agreement (concluded on 23/24 March 1914) was later presented (on 27 April 1914) as an extension of the Red Line depicting the proposed boundary between China and Inner Tibet, in the Simla Convention map.

Moreover the Chinese questioned the right of Tibet to act as a treaty making power, especially because of the Anglo Chinese Agreement of 1906, and the Anglo Russian Convention of the following year. The British themselves had their doubts about the outcome of the Simla Conference as it failed to produce any agreement to which China was a party. The Government of India’s view, as expressed in a letter to Sir Charles Bell in 1915, was that the negotiations conducted in Simla ‘broke down simply and solely because the Government of India attempted to secure for Tibet greater advantages than the Chinese Government was prepared to concede…’”3

It is interesting to note that the Aitchison’s Treaties vol. 14, published in 1929 did not include the 1914 convention and McMahon’s supplementary boundary agreement with the Tibetan Government. Till 1935, the Survey of India maps too kept the McMahon Line as a secret. Till then India’s boundary in the north east was shown along the foothills of Assam. It was Sir Olaf Caroe, Deputy Secretary in the Foreign Department who, in 1935, came up with the idea to show the McMahon Line on the maps. Sir Olaf Caroe argued that to prevent the inclusion of the Indian territories – those which came under the British control after the demarcation of the McMahon Line – into Tibet by China, the Anglo-Tibetan Agreements should be published and immediate measures should be taken to show the McMahon Line as India’s north-eastern boundary in official maps. The Secretary of State for India agreed with his suggestion. Accordingly, a new edition of the Aitchenson’s map of volume 14 was published in 1937. But to make the changes unnoticeable the new 1937 published edition was marked as the 1929 edition. This was a falsification of the original documents and to hide this all the original 1929 edition prints were destroyed, except the one that was kept in the Harvard Library. Following the Survey of India’s 1937 map, which showed the McMahon Line (Map 2) as India’s boundary in the north-east, many other atlases followed suit. However, some atlases did not take note of this change and continued to show India’s boundary in the north-east along the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sir Charles Umpherston Aitchison (1832 – 1896), was a Scottish born Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab, then a province of British India. During the earlier part of his service in the Indian foreign office he commenced the compilation of a valuable work entitled A Collection of Treaties, Engagements, and Sanads (an Indian government charter, warrant, diploma, patent or deed) relating to India and neighbouring Countries; the first volume appeared at Calcutta in 1862, and eleven volumes were issued by 1892; each treaty is prefaced by a clear historical narrative.

“So far as the Tawang Tract was concerned, even twenty years after the Simla Conference it continued to be effectively under Tibetan control and when the Lightfoot expedition reached Tawang in April 1938, the Tibetan Government formally protested and asked for the withdrawal of the British part. This had prompted a section of British officials to advocate a ‘forward policy’ to establish British control over Tawang. It was proposed that the Tibetan officials and the head lamas of the monastery be asked to withdraw. But there were also moderates within the administration who opposed the move to bring Tawang completely under British administrative control on both practical and legal grounds. H. J. Twynam, who was the acting Governor of Assam in 1939, reminded the Viceroy that Britain’s rights to act under the 1914 Convention did not have firm juridical basis. ‘…If one of three parties to the tripartite convention does not ratify,’ he asked, ‘can another party to the convention claim that it is binding on itself and the third party?’ The letters exchanged between McMahon and the Tibetans were ‘lacking in the formalities associated with a Treaty.’ He suggested that instead of trying to occupy the area that was under Tibetan Administration, and inhabited by people with close ethnic, religious and political ties with Tibet, the government should think of alternatives. He suggested that the McMahon Line should be modified to run through Se La, a towering pass a few miles to the South East of Tawang so that the Tawang monastery would be left to Tibet.

In 1936 the Tibetan Government made it clear that they would not accept any change in the status of Tawang and by the end of the decade with the threat of war looming large over Europe, the British Government decided not to pursue the policy of establishing control over Tawang. However, after the outbreak of the World War II, and especially after the entry of Japan, seriously threatening security of India, the government decided to take steps to make the McMahon Line the effective boundary in the north east. By 1947 posts had been established in Dirang Dzong, Walong and several other places in the tribal areas, manned by personnel from the Assam Rifles, and Tibetan officials had been excluded from those areas.”4

“… soon after independence, when the Indian government wrote to the Tibetan government informing them that as the successor to the British, the British rights and obligations under their treaties with Tibet would rest with the independent Indian government, the Tibetan government responded by asking for return of the territories on its boundary acquired by the British, including Ladakh, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and so on! But, of course, with India having agreed to Tibet being a part of China and not an independent nation, a doubt was implicitly cast upon the validity of such treaties, which were agreed to by Tibet, but not by China. India effectively did a self-goal through its Tibet policy. Dalai Lama in fact made a statement to the effect that to deny the independent sovereign status of Tibet at the time of the Simla Convention of 1914 when the McMahon Line was agreed to was to deny the validity of the McMahon Line itself.”5

In 1949, the Communist Party had taken control of China from the Kuomintangs. India, which had become independent in 1947, responded by declaring the McMahon Line to be its north-eastern boundary and by decisively asserting control of the Tawang area (1950–51). Here it is interesting to relate an untold tale about how India’s actual control was extended to Tawang. The following is a story from the Columns of The Pioneer, a daily newspaper published from New Delhi.

“The story of Major Bob Ranenglao Khathing is one of incredible, resilient and unstoppable heroics. He was the man who in 1951 quietly retrieved Arunachal Pradesh back to India. However, the true story of Major Khathing remains hidden from public view even after 50 years, though the Indian Official Secrets Act has a lifespan of only 30 years. …Khathing was born on February 28, 1912 in Manipur’s Ukhrul district. In 1939, when WW-II started, he enrolled in the army and was sent to the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. Commissioned into the 9/11 Hyderabad Regiment (now Kumaon Regiment), he had KS Thimaya (later Army Chief) as his company commander and TN Raina (also to become an Army Chief) as fellow subaltern. After the war was over, for his exemplary sacrifice and valour, he was awarded the Military Cross and made a Member of the British Empire, but also demobilised.

In 1951 he was inducted into the IFAS (Indian Frontier Administrative Service) as an assistant political officer. One day, he was summoned by Assam Governor, Jairamdas Daulatram. ‘Bob, do you know where is Tawang?’ Jairamdas asked him. ‘No Sir,’ Bob answered. ‘He who controls Tawang shall control the far east,’ Jairamdas said and after a pause the Governor asked, ‘Do you think the Chinese should control it?’ Bob answered the way only he could have, ‘No Sir.’Thereafter, Jairamdas opended up, ‘Neither the Centre nor I have the ability to get the C-in-C Roy Boucher to agree to a military expedition for this task. We need someone to do it quietly. Keeping in mind your war record, I cannot think of a better man to do it.’ Bob answered immediately. ‘I will do it.’

Within three weeks, he drilled his men into a tough bunch with high morale and camaraderie. The drill came to the notice of Major TC Allen, the last British political and intelligence officer of the East, based in Dibrugarh. He visited Bob, who told Allen to either come with him to Tawang or face close arrest under guard till the expedition was over. Allen, a keen mountaineer, applied himself with zest as Bob’s second-in-command. The expedition started out from Lokra on January 17, 1951, and it reached Bomdila on January 25. On January 26, he hoisted the Tricolour in front of the Dzong and invited all the inhabitants to a feast. From here on, February 1 started the March to Tawang. Bob and his force reached Tawang on February 7, after some real tough trek through most inhospitable Himalayan terrain. On February 20, the local chieftain submitted to Bob’s persuasive tactics and agreed to accession of Tawang, which rightfully belonged to India as per the Shimla Agreement.

After the accession ceremony, Bob had a final task to do, to go back to the Governor and inform him that he had carried out his duty, to everyone’s satisfaction, without firing a shot (except for the fireworks for entertainment). So he set out downhill to Tezpur with a small retinue leaving the expeditionary force in charge of Allen. The Governor sent a Dakota to pick him up from Tezpur and they flew to Delhi and went to see Prime Minister Nehru, who was livid.‘Who asked you to do this?’ he vented his anger at the Governor. ‘I wish you had the good sense to consult me before you commissioned this colossal stupidity?’ he mourned. ‘I want a complete black out on this incident,’ he ordered the PMO. India acknowledged its control over NEFA only in 1954 when Bob’s men were replaced by Special Security Bureau. Bob went back to Tawang in 1986, for celebrations on Arunachal becoming a full-fledged state. This nation acknowledges Arunachal as an integral part of India, but was still to recognise the heroics of the expeditionary force. Like all old and bold soldiers, he did not die; he simply passed away, having done his duty well.”6

Appendix: North-East Frontier Agency (Map 5)

“The North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) (formerly the North-East Frontier Tracts) was one of the political divisions in British India and later the Republic of India until 1972, when it became the Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh. Its administrative headquarters was Shillong (until 1974, when it was transferred to Itanagar).

In 1914, some tribal-majority areas were separated from the erstwhile Darrang and Lakhimpur districts of Assam Province of British India to form the North-East Frontier Tracts (NEFT). The NEFT was initially divided into two sections: the Central & Eastern Section (comprising the erstwhile Dibrugarh Frontier Tract, created in 1882, and some more areas in south) and the Western Section. Each section was placed under a political officer. In 1919, the Central and Eastern Section was renamed as Sadiya Frontier Tract, while the Western Section was renamed as Balipara Frontier Tract. In 1937, Sadiya and Balipara Frontier Tracts along with Lakhimpur Frontier Tract (also created in 1919) of Assam Province came to be collectively known as the Excluded Areas of province of Assam under the provisions of Government of India Act, 1935. By Regulation 1 of 1943 (The North Eastern Frontier Tracts (Internal Administration) Regulation 1943) Tirap Frontier Tract was created by amalgamating certain areas of Sadiya and Lakhimpur Frontier Tracts. In 1946, Balipara Frontier Tract was divided into two administrative units: Sela Sub-Agency and Subansiri Area.

After the independence of India in 1947, NEFT became a part of Assam state. In 1948, Sadiya Frontier Tract was bifurcated into two districts: Abor Hills district and Mishmi Hills district. In 1950, the plain portions of these tracts, (Balipara Frontier Tract, Tirap Frontier Tract, Abor Hills district and Mishimi Hills district) were transferred to the Assam state government and the rest became one of the Tribal Areas in Assam state (under part-B of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the sixth schedule of the Indian constitution). In 1951, Balipara Frontier Tract, Tirap Frontier Tract, Abor Hills district, Mishmi Hills district and the Naga tribal areas were together renamed as the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA).

On 26 January 1954 the North-East Frontier Agency was divided into six frontier divisions: Kameng (formerly Sela Sub-Agency), Subansiri (formerly Subansiri area), Tirap (formerly Tirap Frontier Tract), Siang (formerly Abor Hills district), Lohit (formerly Mishmi Hills district) and Tuensang. On 1 December 1957, Tuensang was separated and attached to the newly formed Naga Hills district to form Naga Hills-Tuensang Area. On 1 August 1965 the administration of the agency was transferred from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Consequently, on 1 December 1965, the five frontier divisions (Kameng, Subansiri, Siang, Lohit, and Tirap) became its five districts. A deputy commissioner became the administrative head of these districts in place of a political officer. In 1967, an Agency Council was constituted for better administration. Till 1972, it was constitutionally a part of Assam state and was directly administered by the President of India through the governor of Assam as its agent. On 21 January 1972, the North-East Frontier Agency became the Union Territory of Arunachal Pradesh and was placed under the charge of a Chief Commissioner.”7


MAP 1. Assam Arunachal Pradesh MAP 2. McMahone Line MAP 3. Ahom Kingdom Map 4 outer line MAP 5 NEFA

1. War in the High Himalaya: The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962, Palit, D.K., (Maj. Gen.), Lancer International, 1991, New Delhi, pp.36-37
2. History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilisation, Volume X, Part 6: Aspects of India’s International Relations 1700 to 2000: South Asia and the World, Edited by: JAYANTA KUMAR RAY, Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi, pp.198-99
3. Ibid., pp. 200-203
4. Ibid., pp. 203-204
5. Foundations of Misery, Part I: India, 1947-64, Puranik, Rajnikant, Amazon, 2013, p.108
6. The Pioneer, February 27, 2012, p.3
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North-East_Frontier_Agency

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