Three sets of documents on the Sino-Indian border dispute has been declassified by the CIA as part of new transparency efforts that also involved disclosing what has been dubbed "family jewels," describing covert CIA operations at home and abroad. One set of documents called the Caesar-Polo-Esau papers deal extensively with the communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and China, and the American reading of their policies.
In the three chapters dealing with the India-China border spat, CIA analysts suggest that Beijing and its them premier Zhou en Lai (the old spellings Peiping and Chou are used in the paper) consistently fooled Nehru and India through procrastination and dissembling.
The analysis says that Zhou repeatedly conned Nehru by telling him that there was really no border problem except for some "petty issues" which could be resolved by officials at lower levels. He also disarmed Nehru by pleading that Communist China had not had the time to revise maps from the old Kuomintang regime (which claimed areas that belonged to India.)
At the same time, the documents also paint a picture of India's first prime minister Nehru as a na?ve, romantic statesman who was gullible enough to be taken for a ride by the Chinese. Nehru, say the first set of documents, even kept border incidents and rising disagreement with China out of Indian public domain in order to contain public opinion and to maintain his relationship with Zhou.
"The Chinese diplomatic effort was a five year masterpiece of guile, executed -- and probably planned in large part by Chou en Lai," the CIA analysis says.
"Chou played on Nehru's Asian, anti-imperialist mental attitude, his proclivity to temporize, and his sincere desire for an amicable Sino-Indian relationship."
Such was Nehru's trust of China and Zhou, the CIA says, that he dismissed a letter from then Burmese premier Ba Swe, warning him to be cautious in dealing with Zhou. Nehru declared Zhou to be an honourable man.
The analysis goes on to say, "The Indians later complained, in pathetic terms, of the Chinese practice of deceit."
But in a later analysis, the CIA also suggests that Nehru himself became intransigent and backed himself into a corner because of adverse public opinion and opposition criticism of his soft stance on Chinese incursions. This dynamic of Indian democracy -- of leaders having to respond to the mood of the country and be accountable to parliament -- is something the Chinese failed to understand.
Eventually, the CIA analysis says, Beijing had to give up the idea of making a deal with India because "the only carrot acceptable to Nehru was the entire plain (Aksai Chin)." They were, therefore, left with various sticks of various sizes, and "when they used even a small one the Indians winced."Although there is nothing new in the CIA analyses and the India-China spat has been examined from every angle by military and diplomatic historians, the timing of the new disclosures are sure to embarrass New Delhi and Beijing and re-open a few old wounds and suspicions.