Essence of the Panchsheel Agreement
The 1954 Panchsheel Agreement came at the peak of the ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai’ (Indian-Chinese brotherhood) phase in bilateral relations. Five years later, Delhi and Beijing began to squabble over Tibet and fought a brief war in late 1962. Nehru was unwilling to renew the agreement, which lapsed after eight years in early 1962. Speaking a few years after Nehru’s death, his close confidant and defense minister, Krishna Menon criticized the deification of the five principles. If the Panchsheel, in Menon’s words, became “a mantra, slogan and a prop” for India, it was very central to communist China’s worldview.
The essence of the five principles figured prominently in Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the new republic on October 1, 1949. Mao was cautioning the west against intervention, reassuring them that the new China would not destabilize Asia. When it came to India, the five principles had great salience, for Mao had no reason to accept Delhi’s special relationship with Tibet and the multiple privileges that the government of India had inherited from the Raj. For Mao and his able premier, Zhou Enlai, the Panchsheel was about getting India to accept Chinese sovereignty in Tibet.
The Panchsheel formed the basis of India-China relations since the early 1950s and was officially expounded on April 28, 1954 in the agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of India on trade between the Tibet region of China and the Republic of India. The basic objective behind signing the agreement was to promote trade and cultural exchanges between Tibet and India and to facilitate pilgrimage and travel for the people of China and India.
Additionally, these principles became the main reference point in the China-Myanmar bilateral relations and later, in April 1955, these five principles were also incorporated in the 10-point declaration on ‘the promotion of world peace and cooperation’ issued in the Bandung Conference. The significance of the Panchsheel can be gauged from the fact that these five principles were unanimously adopted by the United Nations on December 11, 1957, as a code of conduct in international relations.