Russian support for India vis a vis China is rooted in history of Khrushchev and Mao

One of key reasons for the Sino-Soviet split was Chinese Communist Party’s aggressive posture in Eurasian region. In 1959 when Khrushchev along top Soviet leadership visited Beijing the two sides had heated war of words over situation in Tibet and...

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The portrait of the late Communist Party leader Mao Zedong in Beijing, China.
NEW DELHI: Russia's position vis-a-vis Chinas belligerence in Eurasia particularly along in the Himalayan frontiers adjoining India dates back to 1950s when then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had a heated debate with Chinese supremo Mao in 1959 over treatment meted out to Dalai Lama and aggression against India.

One of key reasons for the Sino-Soviet split was Chinese Communist Party’s aggressive posture in Eurasian region. In 1959 when Khrushchev along top Soviet leadership visited Beijing the two sides had heated war of words over situation in Tibet and PLAs killing of Indian soldiers, according to historical records.

Khrushchev’s visit to China came just months after the Dalai Lama had fled to India. A meeting was held during the visit between Khrushchev, M.A. Suslov (Soviet statesman & senior party leader) and A.A. Gromyko (Foreign Minister) — from Soviet side and Mao, Premier Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi (Foreign Minister) among others from the Chinese side.


Khrushchev told Mao in a blunt fashion, “You have had good relations with India for many years. Suddenly, here is a bloody incident, as a result of which [Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal] Nehru found himself in a very difficult position…If you let me, I will tell you what a guest should not say: the events in Tibet are your fault. You ruled in Tibet (西藏), you should have had your intelligence [agencies] there and should have known about the plans and intentions of the Dalai Lama.”

Contradicting the Soviet leader, Mao said, “Nehru also says that the events in Tibet [were] our fault. Besides, a TASS declaration on the issue of conflict with India was published and it supported India.

Khrushchev stated that it would be ‘stupid’ on the part of Soviet Union to support China on the conflict with India and that Beijing has no contact with common population in Tibet. “You were wrong to let the Dalai Lama go. If you allow him an opportunity to flee to India, then what has Nehru to do with it? We believe that the events in Tibet are the fault of the Communist Party of China, not Nehru’s.”
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Mao reportedly disagreed. But Khrushchev questioned justification by PLA to kill Indian soldiers and even stated only Indian soldiers lost their lives.

When Chen Yi during the course of the meeting stated that they were outraged by Khrushchev's comments that the aggravation of relationship with India was China's fault, the Soviet leader shot back saying, “We should support Nehru to help him stay in power.”

Khrushchev went on to say, “If you consider us time-servers, comrade Chen Yi, then do not offer me your hand. I will not accept it...We cannot be intimidated.”

Three years later India and China fought a war and Soviet Union supplied helicopters were in action in the Ladakh sector. Khrushchev was also looking for ways to support India during that war.
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