India, China Sign Panchsheel for Peace

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The 1950s saw India and China trying to build a game plan for how the two most populous states in Asia would coexist despite the ambiguities they had inherited. At the heart of this was the idea of Panchsheel, or the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

One of the biggest issues of dispute was a long, largely undemarcated border, and India and China needed to work out a framework for peaceful coexistence as they entered the 1950s.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to the Temple of Ling-Kou at Nanking | Wikimedia Commons
Jawaharlal Nehru’s visit to the Temple of Ling-Kou at Nanking | Wikimedia Commons

Another thorny issue was that of Tibet. China had annexed Tibet in 1950, ignoring India’s concerns and interests. China’s military intervention in Tibet was viewed as a sign of Chinese President Mao Zedong’s expansionist designs.

Jawaharlal Nehru in Peking with Chou En-Lai and Madam Sun Yat-sen, 1954 | Wikimedia Commons
Jawaharlal Nehru in Peking with Chou En-Lai and Madam Sun Yat-sen, 1954 | Wikimedia Commons

Then, in April 1954, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai signed Panchsheel, a bilateral agreement for peace between the two nations. Soon, the treaty evolved into a wider Asian peace initiative.

Prime Minister Nehru and Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing

The five principles of Panchsheel were:
1. Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty
2. Mutual non-aggression
3. Mutual non-interference
4. Equality and mutual benefit, and
5. Peaceful co-existence

China sounded the death knell of Panchsheel and the principles of coexistence it enshrined when it attacked India in 1962. This war led to decades of mistrust.

While Panchsheel was virtually dead within years of its birth, its spirit survived in the Non-Aligned Movement, which India championed for years after.

Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons

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