Kyle Gardner – Published in The Wire, 17 November 2021
Arriving just ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Sino-Indian War, Nirupama Rao’s The Fractured Himalaya examines the consequential 13 years that preceded 1962, a period that has shaped and constrained relations between the two countries ever since. Combining a diplomat’s eye for negotiation and a historian’s facility with multi-faceted explanations, Rao’s work is sure to become required reading on the history of Sino-Indian relations.
The Fractured Himalaya rightly returns Tibet to the centre stage of the India-China drama. Too often the story of China’s “peaceful liberation” of Tibet has been narrated as a tragic historical inevitability. Rao highlights how, from the start, the India-China relationship was in fact a “three-body problem,” with Tibet at the geographical and diplomatic centre of the nascent relationship. By the 1940s, Tibet had exercised a high degree of de facto independence for decades, despite claims by the Qing empire’s successors to sovereignty over it. Once the communist regime’s aims became apparent and Tibet’s isolationist government sought international recognition, diplomatic options were limited.