The Genesis of the Shimla Conference (1913-14) and Impact of McMahon Line on Sino-Indian Boundary Negotiations

24 Oct 2017

General J. J. Singh

Venue: Conference Room II, India International Centre
Time: 3:00 PM

The event is jointly organized by the Institute of Chinese Studies and the India International Centre


Mysterious and mystic Tibet had long remained forbidden territory for foreigners before the tranquillity of this Shangrila was shattered by the expedition led by Col. F.E. Younghusband when for the first time the British Empire’s forces trod on the sacred streets of Lhasa. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of British India was compelled to invade Tibet because of the attitude of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government, wherein, earlier trade agreements were not being respected and the Viceroy’s letters were returned unopened. This arrogance was too much for the British Indian Empire, then at its zenith, to accept. Younghusband’s force reached Lhasa on 7 September 1904 where the Anglo-Tibetan Convention was signed. As a result, the Tibetans were brought to heel, the British imposed heavy reparations on them and secured the desired trade privileges. However the Tibetans were astonished and surprised to see the victorious British expedition making their way back after a fortnight of the signing of the Treaty.

The Qing Empire in China got a rude shock by the apparent ease with which Younghusband’s expedition advanced into the guts of Tibet from the exposed and vulnerable southern direction. The shaken regime in Peking undertook urgent measures to assert their authority over Tibet much beyond the stipulations laid down by the British and reneged from their assurances that they would allow Tibetans to exercise fullest autonomy under Chinese suzerainty. They simultaneously unleashed a wave of terror to subjugate Tibet. The British decided to review their ‘hands off’ policy on Tibet and called for a tri-partite meeting of representatives of Tibet, China and British India at Shimla in 1913-14. At the end of nine months of negotiations, however, the Chinese plenipotentiary did not sign the final agreement, but the British and the Tibetan plenipotentiaries went ahead and did so. In addition they signed maps (scale of 1 inch to 8 miles) delineating the Indo-Tibetan boundary (the famous red line of McMahon). For independent India the McMahon line as it is referred to now, has proved to be a boon and is cartographically accepted and shown as the boundary in maps worldwide

About the Speaker 

General JJ Singh is a former Governor of the State of Arunachal Pradesh (2008-2013) and a former Chief of Army Staff (2005-2007) and Chairman Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces (2007). As Governor, he was instrumental in implementation of the Prime Minister’s development package of Rs 20,000 crores for development of the state in major infrastructural projects related to road, rail, air connectivity and power. During his tenure as army chief, Gen. Singh refined operational planning and war-fighting doctrines. Gen. Singh was recently honoured with the Légion d'Honneur by France.


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