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What Was The Bandung Conference Which Sushma Swaraj Mentioned?

The conference held in 1955 was one of a kind. The first ever large scale Asian-African conference, Bandung conference was a meeting of Asian and African countries most of which were newly independent.

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Updated:August 3, 2017, 10:25 PM IST
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What Was The Bandung Conference Which Sushma Swaraj Mentioned?
A 1955 photograph from the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, a meeting of Asian and African states who were newly independent. (Universal History Archive via Getty Images)
New Delhi: External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday made scathing attacks on the opposition as she said the India-China standoff went way back to a time when Jawaharlal Nehru was in power.

Swaraj further said that the Bandung Conference was one such episode. Let's take a look at what exactly this conference was and how it shaped India's foreign policy:

Held in 1955, the conference was one of a kind. This was the first ever large scale meeting of Asian and African countries most of which were newly independent.

India was represented by Jawaharlal Nehru and there have been varied versions as to how he handled India's foreign policy at Bandung.

The Doklam standoff takes form from the contradictory approaches to the problem of border settlement taken by the two governments. A report in Indian Express quoted retired journalist Neville Maxwell, who has been looking at Indo-China relations for decades now.

Maxwell says different and contradictory approaches taken by India and China (represented by Nehru and Zhou Enlai respectively) at Bandung are formative in Indian-Sino relations.

"With some (of our neighbouring) countries we have not yet finally fixed our border line and we are ready to do so. But before (such negotiations can be held) we are willing to maintain the present situation by acknowledging that those parts of our border are parts which are undetermined. We will restrain our government and people from crossing even one step across our border, (and) if such things do happen we (would) admit our mistake. As to the determination of common borders which we will be undertaking with our neighbouring countries, we shall use only peaceful means and we shall not permit any other kind of method. In no case shall we change that," Zhou had declared.

This is where Nehru's stand on the issue came in. In 1950, when Nehru was asked about the alignment of India's birder with Tibet, the then Prime Minister replied, "The frontier from Bhutan eastwards has been clearly defined by the McMahon Line which was fixed by the Simla Convention of 1914”.

Members had then said that China's official maps ignored the McMahon Line and showed India's North East Frontier Agency as part of their territory.

"They've been doing so for 30 years. Our maps show the McMahon Line as our boundary, and that is our boundary, (Chinese) map or no map. That fact remains and we stand by that boundary and we will not allow anybody to come across our boundary," he said.

Investigations later have shown, according to Neville Maxwell, that India's McMahon Line claim stands only on a forward policy – which had been advanced by British India's North East frontier by close to 70 miles in its final leg.

It is possible that Nehru was told about the Line by senior official Sir Olaf Caroe during the time of Independence. Interestingly, the Chinese government is said to have come to know about it later when it got access to diplomatic records filed in the Potala in Lhasa but it didn't change their basic policy.

Maxwell believes that the Doklam confrontation is the sour fruit of Delhi's irrational insistence that it has the right to set its borders and those of its neighbours too.

The Other Move By India Under Nehru

Another development that had important impact in terms of India's foreign policy was Nehru's visit to the United States in October 1949.

According to the archives of the People's Democracy, the US Administration had timed the trip in such a way that it coincided with the ascendance of the Communist Party to power in China.

"During the visit, considerable pressure was exerted by the United States on Nehru to draw India into the anti-communist camp. However, Nehru spurned all such insidious attempts by summarily rejecting the US proposal of setting up military bases in India in return for the economic aid that Nehru had gone there to seek. Failure to obtain US economic aid without political strings and because of the general foreign policy of the United States of suppressing national liberation movements in Asia, relations between India and the United States began to sour," the article said.

The article further mentions the "relation with the new regime in China was an important foreign policy problem that India had to tackle and it did so by recognising the Peoples Republic of China on December 30, 1949”.

India also supported the demand for granting China its rightful place in the UN Security Council instead of the Chiang Kai-shek regime of Taiwan, which according to the articles had full support from the United States.
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