Background of the Conflict
After Indian Independence in 1947, India had maintained missions in Lhasa
and Gyangtse. Due to the close relations that existed between India and Tibet,
going back centuries beyond the British trade treaties, and also because of the
unsettled conditions of China enwrapped in a bitter civil war, Tibet’s
transactions with the outside world were conducted mainly through India.
Well into 1950, Tibet was regarded as a free country. Indeed, China also had
a mission in Lhasa, underlining the fact that Tibet was nominally
    On July 8, 1949, following the defeat of Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist
Government in the Chinese civil war, the Tibetan Government asked the
Chinese mission to vacate, calling upon its rights as an independent country
to request the expulsion of diplomats. Tibetan records show that they had
planned this expulsion of the Chinese agents for more than a year. China
invited Tibetans early in the 1950s to “accede peacefully” and backed up this
emphatic plea by stationing an army in East Tibet. An anxious Tibetan
delegation hurriedly agreed to go to Peking to talk to the PRC itself in an
effort to defuse the sudden tension. On October 7, 1950, the day the Tibetan
delegation was scheduled to arrive, 80,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation
Army (PLA) of China attacked Tibet and announced its ‘peaceful liberation’.
The Dalai Lama was forced to sign, under duress, the “17-Point Agreement
of May 23, 1951’’, surrendering to the Chinese attack. The PRC claimed that
the Agreement imposed on the Tibetan government shows that Tibetans not
only agreed to, but actually invited Chinese Communist troops to “liberate”
    This action, and the systematic devastation of the Tibetan people and
culture, naturally, took both Tibet and India completely by surprise. Nehru
complained that he had been “led to believe by the Chinese Foreign Office
that the Chinese would settle the future of Tibet in a peaceful manner by
direct negotiation with the representatives of Tibet.” The huge public outcry
in India, protesting the Chinese invasion, mainly dealt with the political and
cultural facets of this issue. Prior to Indian independence, the British had
earmarked Tibet as a neutral buffer zone in view of British India’s defense
environment vis-a-vis the similar  imperialistic leanings of China and Russia.