You may have heard about the McMahon line and may know that it is a line of partition between two countries. But did you know history? The pros and cons of India? If not, be ready to learn the past from the ground person itself.
Sir Henry McMahon drew a line between India and Tibet (which was later seized by China) during the Simla Convention of 1913-1914. This line depicted the boundary between the two countries and remained to do so.
It has a profound effect on the relations between India and China, eventually leading to the Sino-Indian war and several battles and standoffs before and after that. It will continue to be a problem if left unattended.
General (Retd.) J.J. Singh analyses the evolution o-f the boundary goes in-depth into the history of India, Tibet, and China, shows the mistakes of our former leaders, and puts forth recommendations for the future in this masterpiece of his.
Table of Contents
About the Author: J.J. Singh
General Joginder Jaswant Singh, a highly accomplished soldier, served as the Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee.
He is the first Sikh to have taken over the role of Chief of Army staff, after taking over from his predecessor.
Mr. Singh was closely indulged in the planning and execution of the Kargil war. After retirement, he served the country as the governor of Arunachal Pradesh.
His father was also a soldier, a Lieutenant in fact, and had to go through many transfers. Hence, growing up, Joginder lived in many army camps.
Naturally, he took to army life and culture. Mr. Singh received his early education from Catholic convent schools in Secunderabad and Jammu.
He matriculated in 1960. His family remained in Jammu while he served his first posting at Udhampur.
Other than “The McMahon line,” he has also written an autobiography, ‘A Soldier’s General,’ published in 2012.
The McMahon Line Book Review
Long ago, the Tibetan Empire was an independent nation and a powerful force to be reckoned with.
It is located on the highest plateau on Earth. Tibet remained a mysterious land of Shangri-La, protected by some of the highest mountains, rivers, and other forces of nature.
The people of Tibet lived in peace, untouched by foreign hands. But as they say, all good things must come to an end; Tibet’s peace came at a high price.
This land of monks and Buddhism also served as a buffer between the two greatest Asian nations – British India and China, or the Dragon and the Elephant as they are sometimes referred to, from getting at each other’s throats.
“It was Tibet’s particular misfortune to be caught in the clutch of two powerful neighbors, Britain and China, who used her as a pawn in the compassionless game of political intrigue and diplomacy.”
As you might well expect, Tibet was always at the risk of getting invaded by either British India or China.
The British invasion of Tibet, a.k.a the Younghusband expedition, marked the start of a chain of events that would lead to the Sino-Indian war of 1962. The scars left by it on both the nations can never truly be erased.
The McMahon Line is a bevy of all the events of our past related to the boundaries between India, Tibet, and China. It deserves to be an essential part of studies about politics and foreign relations.
The Partition: The McMahon Line
China attempted multiple times to invade Tibet in the 18th century but failed to do so every time. Tibet finally surrendered to the Younghusband invasion led by the British Indian Forces. After the invasion, the troops receded to British India, leaving Tibet to fend for herself.
The Chinese forces invaded Tibet, as soon as they saw that Tibet was vulnerable and without a leader.
Tibet fought brave and hard, but the Chinese were gruesome and merciless. For the first time in centuries, they had control over Tibet.
But Tibet rose again and drove the Chinese out of their land.
During all this time, the British turned their backs on Tibet and did not aid in fighting off the Chinese.
They later came to their senses and scheduled The Simla Convention – A meeting of the three countries.
The main aim was to create a treaty that would assure peace among the three nations.
Sir Henry McMahon presided over this convention. He drew two lines in red and blue on a map.
The red line marked the boundary between India and Tibet and the blue line between Tibet and China.
The Chinese refused to accept the blue line, failing the convention. The Red line is now known as The McMahon Line and it remains as the boundary between India and China. (China seized Tibet after World War II).
Language and Writing:
This book is one of the easiest to read and understand that I’ve ever come across in this genre. It is understandable to novices, students, and scholars alike.
Moreover, it doesn’t need any former knowledge of geography, or Indian Politics to understand precisely what is going on.
Mr. Singh has written the book in a very crisp manner. It leaves no room for doubts but enough room for our inferences.
The McMahon line is not merely a textbook of boring facts. It does justice to our history and to those who the author writes about.
I also recommend this book to anyone looking for extensive reading material to improve their language. You can use it as a guide for bettering your language and writing skills.
You will come across so many new words and phrases. The language here is simple and a little tough at the same time, but it’s no fun without a little challenge, right?
The Details of McMahon Line
The first part of the book is patient enough to explain the geographical aspect of Tibet with the finest of details.
This course of action continues through-out the book wherever needed and creates a sense of imagination for all readers.
The McMahon line comes with visual aids such as maps to help the reader in understanding all the complex geographies.
The author not only writes about the history of the three nations but also includes his own opinion.
He passionately criticizes Nehru’s decision to consider China as an ally and his refusal to protect the Indian borders after they seized Tibet.
This clearly shows that this book was not written to glorify any of the three countries. Instead, it was utterly impartial and stated only the truths with meticulous references to its sources.
The Appendix also occupies a major part of the book. Together with a proper bibliography and a nearly perfect Index, The McMahon Line is a book of great academic significance.
What I liked the most:
I am not a fan of the political genre, to be honest. So, I was very skeptical about picking this up, but once I started, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
It was far from a mere boring textbook. I found myself for the first time immersed in the history of India, Tibet, and China. The book sort of personifies the countries.
I saw the countries as three characters—Tibet as the protagonist, India, the sidekick, and China as the villain.
I was someone who found history so boring. And if a writer can make me feel things using a history book, then that is a great accomplishment.
What I didn’t like:
The author repeats some parts so many times. It may be essential to the book, and it may not affect the readers who are into this particular genre.
But for some reason, I found it a little annoying. It might be that being a fiction lover; I just wanted the story to move along faster.
But this is something that a reader can overlook because the book is a masterpiece. I can only imagine the time and effort put into the research and making of this book.
Suggestions for Readers:
If you are into politics and history, then this is the perfect book for you. It is interesting, enlightening, and full of new facts.
It is a work of wisdom and experience and throws light on our ancestors’ mistakes. So, get a dictionary (or Google assistant) and dive into the world of wars, conflicts, and treaties.
And if you are not a nonfiction reader, here’s a tip. Think about Lord of the Rings or Inheritance or similar fantasy novels.
Politics is pretty much similar. Larger nations try to conquer smaller nations. Smaller nations retaliate and the cycle goes on.
It helped me get through the tough parts. It should help you too.
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The McMahon line Quotes:
The McMahon Line confirmed an obvious geographical frontier to the south of which live several tribes most of whom have no close affinity with either Tibetans or Chinese’, emphasized Hugh Richardson. This was undoubtedly one of the most significant achievements of the Simla Conference, although it was underplayed by Britain at the time.”