The “Panchsheel Principles” in the background of India-China relations

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Question – Discuss the “Panchsheel Principles” in the background of India-China relations. At the same time, also clarify that after the continuous contempt by China, there is a need for amendment in these principles. 25 January 2022

AnswerThe Panchsheel Principles Agreement was signed on mutual relations and trade between Tibet and India, the territory of China. Panchsheel is the basic principle of India’s policy of relations with foreign countries. The doctrine of Panchsheel was a trade agreement between India and Sino-Tibet, which was only formal. This agreement was signed on 29 April 1945 in Delhi between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chou En Lai.

The principles of Panchsheel were based on the inscriptions of Buddhist monks. Panchsheel means five rules of conduct, the word Panchsheel is derived from Sanskrit.

These five principles are as follows-

  1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,
  2. Mutual non-aggression,
  3. Mutual non-interference,
  4. Equality and mutual benefit, and
  5. Peaceful co-existence.

Panchsheel originated in response to a world that required a new set of principles for the conduct of international relations, reflecting the aspirations of all nations to live together and prosper in peace and harmony. However, China’s intentions and actions are not in accordance with these principles, for example:

  • In 1959, China claimed more than 40,000 square miles of Indian territory in Ladakh and the Northeast Frontier Agency. Later, Chou Enlai claimed that Beijing was not a signatory to the British India and China Peace Treaty of 1842, and that China also refused to accept the McMahon Line.
  • In 1962, India and China became embroiled in a border war after several minor skirmishes on the disputed border areas in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. This was clearly against the principle of mutual non-aggression.
  • In 1967, Indian and Chinese armies clashed at the border in the Nathu La area, resulting in the loss of lives of soldiers on both sides.
  • China criticized India’s first nuclear test in Pokhran in 1974 and condemned Sikkim’s accession to India (1975), thus interfering in India’s internal affairs.
  • China’s supply of arms to Pakistan and its alleged support to the Naga insurgents in the 1960s violated these principles.
  • The three-week standoff at Depsang Maidan (2013), the infiltration inside the LAC in Chumar sector (2014), the 73-day border standoff over the construction of a road by China in Doklam (2017) all clearly violated the Panchsheel principles. has done. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through Indian territory, violates the principle of mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
  • The recent violence in the Galwan Valley has again exposed China’s nefarious motives and has also prompted a demand in India to revise its old approach to China based on the Panchsheel principles.

Despite several violations of these principles, China insists on the Panchsheel Principles to refute theories associated with the so-called ‘Chinese threat’ and to reassure India and other countries of its intentions for ‘peaceful development’. In the present circumstances, the Panchsheel principles can be argued to be impractical and irrelevant to an extent.

India must protect its national interests, especially its border security, which must be driven by strategic and geopolitical considerations.

In this context, India may revisit the long-standing One India One China policy, and should strengthen ties with countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, following the principles of Panchsheel.

It remains to be underlined that Panchsheel has lost its practical importance, but it still remains an effective tool for resolving differences between contentious neighbours. This is because this universal principle provides the world with the foundation on which international relations can be built.

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