|Where is the Agency?|
The other route, via Lipulekh Pass in Pithoragarh’s district of Uttarakhand (and Purang in Tibet), is often badly damaged in rains and lanping offered Nathu-la.
As the first pilgrims were yesterday crossing over to Tibet, PTI reported: “The pilgrims belonging to different age-groups and hailing from various parts of India made their way to the Nathu-la pass after a two week-long journey acclimatising themselves for the high-altitude journey to Kailash which stands at an altitude of about 6,500 metres in Tibet.”
A first batch of 250 people was allowed to take part in this year yatra, via the new route.
According to PTI: “The pilgrims, several of whom were middle-aged and retired, said they have been looking for this kind of an opportunity since long. They said it was good fortune to undertake the Yatra through a comfortable route and went on to thank the Chinese authorities for facilitating the new route. The route through Nathu-la Pass will facilitate comfortable travel for Indian pilgrims by buses, especially for elderly Indian citizens, though conditions in the Himalayan region with less oxygen levels still pose a challenge.”
The Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng was present for the occasion. With the Councilor in the Indian Embassy in Beijing, Shrila Dutta Kumar and some Chinese officials from Tibet, they welcomed the pilgrims.
Le Yucheng said: “Instead of travelling through rough terrain facing high risks, you can reach the sacred place in bus while enjoying the heavenly beauty along the way. I am sure the Indian friends can feel the warm hospitality and profound friendship of Chinese people," adding that the Indian pilgrims will not only will gain spiritual strength but also develop better understanding of China.
What about Tibet, Mr. Le?
PTI adds: “The Yadong [Chinese spelling for Yatung] county in Tibet where Nathu La pass was located on Chinese side is decorated with banners to welcome the pilgrims.”
|Nehru and Indira Gandhi |
with General Tan Guansan in 1958 in Yatung
The first large town that the yatris crossed was Yatung.
The Chinese vehicles must have speeded up, not to bring memories of the past; less than 60 years ago, tens of shops in Yatung, were still run by Indian traders.
A year ago, I posted on the blog, a vivid description of the place given by the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru when he visited Tibet on his way to Bhutan in 1958.
How many of the yatris knew about Yatung, one of the most flourishing Indian Trade Agencies in Tibet?
It is a tragedy in itself.
India had a beautiful Agency building where the Prime Minister spent 2 nights in 1958.
What has happened to the building?
Has Tarun Vijay, Rajya Sabha MP and leader of the first batch of yatris asked his Chinese guests? I don’t know.
What about Ashok Kantha, the Indian Ambassador in Beijing, who surveyed the area a few months ago. Here too, I don’t know.
For the past 2 years, I have asked several persons familiar with Sikkim, what has happened with the Agency building, located just above the main bazaar (now the town), nobody knows.
Apparently, the beautiful building belonging to the Government of India has been destroyed by China. When? Nobody seems to know.
I am posting here some of the correspondence between India and China on the last days of the Agency.
China is doing no favour to India by opening this extremely long route (compared to Shipki-la in Himachal or Demchok in Ladakh), so, at least China should say what has happened to the Indian Agency in Yatung.
|Nehru meets the Indian traders in Yatung bazaar in 1958|
Memorandum given by the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, to the Embassy of China in India, 31 October 1962
Reference Memorandum, dated 8th October, 1962 from the Government of the People's Republic of China.
The building of the Indian Trade Agency at Yatung has been the property of the Government of India for several decades. When the Trade Agency was withdrawn in 1962, the Chinese Embassy had been clearly informed of the Government of India's intention to retain their property and buildings at Yatung under the charge of the Indian Consul General at Lhasa. It was also stated by the Government of India that the building would be used as a resting place for Indian officials proceeding to and returning from Lhasa in the course of the performance of their official duties. The Indian Government's request was fully in keeping with international custom and practice.
The Chinese Government had informed the Indian Embassy in Peking on the 2nd June 1962 that they were agreeable to the retention of the buildings by the Government of India under the charge of the Consulate General in Lhasa. However, by later on denying permission to use the building, the Chinese Government has effectively gone back on its earlier assurance as the right to the use of property is an essential and fundamental right that arises from ownership.
In accordance with the stipulation of the Government of the People's Republic of China, the Government of India even did not keep any Indian nationals as maintenance staff but instead retained 5 Tibetan ex-employees of the Indian Trade Agency at Yatung. The Government of India were, therefore, naturally surprised when these employees, too, were turned out of the building later on by the local authorities. The Agency premises and the buildings are now not being looked after by any one. It is understood that the locks of some of the quarters have been removed and some window panes have also been broken.
The Agency building has belonged to the Government of India for several decades and in paragraph (4) of the notes exchanged between the two Governments on 29th April, 1954, it has been clearly stated that all buildings within the compound wall of the Indian Trade Agency at Yatung may be retained by the Government of India. It has also been stated that the Government of India may continue to lease the land within the agency building from the Chinese side. This clearly shows that the land within the compound wall on which the building stands was already on lease with the Government of India several years prior to the conclusion of the 1954 Agreement.
It was only at the unreasonable and arbitrary insistence of the Chinese Government that a fresh lease deed for the land was signed between the two Governments on the 18th of January, 1958, for a period of 10 years, although such a procedure was uncalled for in, terms of the Agreement.
The Chinese Government's unwarranted denial of facilities to the Government of India for taking care of their property and building at Yatung and their plea that if Indian officials and couriers are permitted to use these buildings as a resting place it would be tantamount to the setting up of another official establishment on the Chinese soil constitute further testimony of the uncooperative and obstructive attitude that has all along characterised the actions of the Chinese Government in Tibet.
The Government of India hold the Government of the People's Republic of China responsible for any loss or damage that has already been caused, or may be caused in future, to the Agency building as a result of these unwarranted actions of the Chinese Government.
A few months later, when Chinese miscreants destroyed some parts of the Agency, the Chinese put the blame on Arvind Deo, the Indian Consul General in Lhasa, who had passed through Yatung on his way to India.
Memorandum given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Peking, to the Embassy of India in China, 29 December 1962.
According to reports from China's Tibet local authorities, when the former Indian Consul-General in Lhasa A.R. Deo and his staff withdrew from Lhasa and were passing through Yatung, they seriously damaged property within the premises of the former Indian Trade Agency in Yatung in the afternoon of December 15, 1962. For instance, they demolished several motor-cars, broke up a diesel generator, cut open several dozen barrels of gasoline, diesel oil and machine grease with hatchets, broke down doors and windows, etc.
On the eve of their withdrawal from Lhasa, the staff of the Indian Consulate-General there also smashed the glass on the doors and windows of the Consulate-General building in Lhasa.
It must be pointed out that the above-mentioned acts of the staff of the Indian Consulate-General not only constituted a breach of the local public order, but obviously harboured an ulterior motive, that is, to shift the blame on the Chinese side. The Chinese Government sternly condemns these despicable acts of the former Indian Consulate-General and its staff and reserves the right to look into this matter further.
Memorandum given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Peking to the Embassy of India in China, 11 March 1963
The Chinese Government has received the memorandum of the Ministry of External Affairs of India dated February 8, 1963 to the Chinese Embassy in India.
It is an indisputable fact that while withdrawing from Lhasa the former Indian Consul-General in Lhasa and other places. On the night before their departure from Lhasa, the Indian officials gathered in the Consulate-General and indulged in drinking. Some of them, fully drunk, broke the glass of the doors and windows of the Consulate-General with frying-pans and sticks. On December 15, when they stopped at Yatung on their way back to India, the Indian officials did more damage. They destroyed with axes, steels rods and other things the auto-vehicles, electric-generators and scores of drums of gasoline and diesel oil kept in the courtyard of the then Indian Trade Agency, glass panes of the doors and windows, etc.
All these are hard facts that cannot be denied, and the eye-witnesses; and evidence are all there. No quibbling denials made by the Indian Government in order to help them shirk the responsibility will be of avail. The attempt made in the Indian memorandum to describe what they had done as something perpetrated "with the connivance of the Chinese local authorities" is sheer fabrication. If the said damage 'had not been done by the Indian officials themselves, and if the allegation made in the Indian memorandum that the former Indian Consul-General found glass panes of the doors and windows of the former Indian Trade Agency in Yatung broken and all valuable property there removed when he arrived there were true, certainly he would not have failed to take up the matter with the Chinese local authorities; and he should have taken up the matter with the Chinese local authorities so as to ascertain what had really happened and find out who must be held responsible. But he did not dare to do so. And the Indian Government remained silent about this matter. This is ample proof that the Indian side had a guilty conscience. It was only after the Chinese Government delivered to the Indian Embassy in China a memorandum explaining the truth of the matter that the Indian Government unscrupulously made the false counter-charge against the Chinese local authorities. This unseemly action can deceive no one. The Chinese Government firmly rejects the Indian Government's preposterous claim that Chinese local authorities in Lhasa and Yatung should be held responsible for the damage done by the Indian officials to the property under their care, and reiterates that it reserves the right to h further action in this case.
Memorandum given by the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi to the Embassy of China in India, 1 April 1963
Reference Chinese Government's Memorandum dated 11th March 1963 delivered to the Embassy of India in Peking.
The Government of India in their Memorandum of 8th February, 1963 had already given full facts regarding the vandalism on the buildings of the former Indian Trade Agency at Yatung caused by unauthorised persons with the connivance of the local authorities.
There is no need to reiterate the same.
Even in July 1962, it had come to the notice of the former Indian Consul General at Lhasa that the former Trade Agency buildings at Yatung had been forced open, glass panes on the doors and windows broken and all the valuable properties removed. Soon after this was reported by the Consul General to the local authorities, the Vice-Director Mr. Hang, of the Lhasa Foreign Bureau told him that the local authorities were neither responsible for the safety of the property left at Yatung nor were they interested in what happened:
In the face of this, it is very strange that the Chinese Government are now, trying to shield the actions of the local miscreants carried on with the connivance of the local authorities. The "guilty conscience" referred to in the Chinese Government's note therefore appropriately applies to the Chinese side and not to the Indian side" In order to- shake off their responsibilities the Chinese Government have - now attempted to slander the officials of the former Indian Consulate General at Lhasa with the sole idea of deceiving others.
The Indian Government therefore categorically rejects the Chinese Government's slanderous allegations and continue to hold the Chinese Government solely responsible for the damage done to the properties of the Government of India at Lhasa and Yatung.