In the two ‘opium wars’ faught between China and Britain between 1839 to 1860, Britain ceded the part of Hong Kong island in perpetuity. Further China was weakened due to defeat in Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95. In 1898, China signed the lease contract to give British full jurisdiction of remaining Hong Kong that was necessary to ensure proper military defence of the colony around the island. The lease agreement was for 99 years expiring on 30 Jun 1997, with zero rent. Claude MacDonald, the British representative during the convention, picked a 99-year lease because he thought it was “as good as forever.” Part ceded and part leased, made it unfeasible to return the leased land alone as it would have split Hong Kong in two parts. The Chinese also started to pressure the British to return all of Hong Kong, taking the position that they would not accept so-called “unequal treaties” that were imposed on them by colonial powers.
Hong Kong propspered in 20th century. However facing the uncertain future of Hong Kong, Governor MacLehose raised the question in the late 1970s about lease agreement. The expiry of lease in 1997 created problems for business contracts, property leases and confidence among foreign investors. In 1983, the United Kingdom reclassifed Hong Kong as a British Dependent Territory (now British Overseas Territory) when reorganising global territories of the British Empire. Talks and negotiations began with China and concluded with the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
The declaration stated that Hong Kong’s sovereignty will be transfered to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997, when Hong Kong would remain autonomous as a Special Administrative Region and be able to retain its free-market economy, British common law through the Basic Law, independent representation in international organisations (e.g. WTO and WHO), treaty arrangements and policy-making except foreign diplomacy and military defence. It stipulated that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer.
North Vietnam defeated the French colonial administration of Vietnam in 1954. Vietnamese Communist Party, led by Ho Chi Minh with its capital Hanoi ruled the North Vietnam. In the South, the French transferred most of their authority to the State of Vietnam, which had its capital at Saigon and was nominally under the authority of the former Vietnamese emperor, Bao Dai. North Vietnam wished to unify the entire country under a single communist regime modeled after those of the Soviet Union and China. The South Vietnamese government, on the other hand, fought to preserve a Vietnam more closely aligned with the West. US was driven by Cold War concerns about the spread of communism, particularly “domino theory” – the idea that if one Asian nation fell to the leftist ideology, others would quickly follow.
US active combat units were introduced in 1965. By 1969 more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and China poured weapons, supplies, and advisers into the North. The war lasted from 1965 to 1973 with South Vietnam and US accepting the defeat. As per the official estimates casualities were 2 million civilians on both sides and some 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters. The U.S. military estimated that 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died alongwith 58,000 US soldiers in the war.
Vietnam emerged from the war as a potent military power within Southeast Asia, but its agriculture, business, and industry were disrupted, large parts of its countryside were scarred by bombs and defoliation and laced with land mines, and its cities and towns were heavily damaged. A mass exodus in 1975 of people loyal to the South Vietnamese cause was followed by another wave in 1978 of “boat people,” refugees fleeing the economic restructuring imposed by the communist regime. Meanwhile, the United States, its military demoralized and its civilian electorate deeply divided, began a process of coming to terms with defeat in what had been its longest and most controversial war. The two countries finally resumed formal diplomatic relations in 1995.
In 1938, the communist General Zhu De requested Jawaharlal Nehru to send Indian physicians to China during the Second Sino-Japanese War to help the soldiers. The President of the Indian National Congress, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose accepted the request and made arrangements to send a team of volunteer doctors. A medical team of five doctors was sent as the part of Indian Medical Mission Team in September 1938. The medical team comprised of M. Atal, M. Cholkar, D. Kotnis (28 years), B.K. Basu and D. Mukerji. All other doctors except Dr. Kotnis, returned back to India.
However, Dr. Kotnis decided to stay back and serve at the military base. He initially started his work in Yan’an and then went to the anti-Japanese base area in North China where he worked in the surgical department of the Eighth Route Army General Hospital as the physician-in-charge. His job as a battlefront doctor was stressful, where there was always an acute shortage of medicines. In one long-drawn out battle against Japanese troops in 1940, Dr. Kotnis performed operations for up to 72 hours, without getting any sleep. He treated more than 800 wounded soldiers during the battle. He was eventually appointed as the Director of the Dr. Bethune International Peace Hospital named after the famous Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune.
In 1940, Dr. Kotnis met Guo Qinglan, a nurse at the Bethune Hospital. The couple got married in December 1941. They had a son, who was named Yinhua – meaning India (Yin) and China (Hua). The hardship of the stressful job as a front-line doctor finally started to take its toll on him and severely affected his health. Only three months after the birth of Yinhua, epilepsy struck Dr.Kotnis. A series of epileptic seizures proved fatal to the young doctor and he passed away on 9 December 1942. To commemorate his death and his unparalleled contribution to humanity, the Chinese government erected a memorial hall and issued government stamps on the loving memory of his name. Dr. Kotnis has been commemorated with the Canadian Dr. Bethune in the Martyrs’ Memorial Park in Shijiazhuang with the entire south side of the memorial dedicated to Dr. Kotnis.
The second Indo-Pakistani conflict was also fought over Kashmir and started without a formal declaration of war. The war began in August 5, 1965 and was ended Sept 22, 1965. The war was initiated by Pakistan who since the defeat of India by China in 1962 had come to believe that Indian military would be unable or unwilling to defend against a quick military campaign in Kashmir, and because the Pakistani government was becoming increasingly alarmed by Indian efforts to integrate Kashmir within India. There was also a perception that there was widespread popular support within for Pakistani rule and that the Kashmiri people were disatisfied with Indian rule.
After Pakistan was successful in the Rann of Kutch earlier in 1965, Ayub Khan was pressured by the hawks in his cabinet (led by Z.A. Bhutto) and the army to infiltrate the ceasefire line in Kashmir. It was boasted at the time that one Pakistani soldier was equal to four Indian soldiers and so on. On August 5, 1965, 33,000 Pakistani soldiers crossed the Line of Control dressed as Kashmiri locals headed for various areas within Kashmir. Indian forces, tipped off by the local populace, crossed the cease fire line on August 15.
The initial battles between India and Pakistan were contained within Kashmir involving both infantry and armor units with each country’s air force playing major roles. It was not until early Sept. when Pakistani forces attacked Ackhnur that the Indians escalated the conflict by attacking targets within Pakistan itself, forcing the Pakistani forces to disengage from Ackhnur to counter Indian attacks. Unfortunately the battle was indecisive. By Sept 22 both sides had agreed to a UN mandated cease-fire ending the war that had by that point reached a stalemate. Negotiations in Tashkent concluded in January 1966, with both sides giving up territorial claims, withdrawing their armies from the disputed territory.
Overall, the war was militarily inconclusive; each side held prisoners and some territory belonging to the other. Losses were relatively heavy–on the Pakistani side, twenty aircraft, 200 tanks, and 3,800 troops. Pakistan’s army had been able to withstand Indian pressure, but a continuation of the fighting would only have led to further losses and ultimate defeat for Pakistan.
In May 1954, India and China signed the Panchsheel Treaty (Five principles of peaceful co-existence). Despite this in January 1959 Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai lays claim to more than 40,000 sq miles of Indian territory in Ladakh and NEFA (present day Arunachal Pradesh). Talk to sort out the border issue in April 1960 between Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Indian Prime Minister Nehru, ended in a dead end at New Delhi. On 8th September 1962 the Chinese made their first incursion into Indian Territory in the Eastern sector. Later the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said that the Indian Army had instructions to “free our territory” and the troops were given the freedom to exercise their judgment to use force whenever they found it necessary.
However, on 11th September 1962 when the Chinese incursions did not stop the patrols were given the permission to fire at any armed Chinese entering Indian Territory. This was the beginning of Sino-Indian war which began on 20th October 1962. At the time, nine divisions from the eastern and western commands were deployed by India along the Himalayan border with China. None of these divisions was up to its full troop strength, and all were short of artillery, tanks, equipment, and even adequate articles of clothing.
On 19th November 1962, China declared a cease fire following which firing along the border stopped. After administering a blistering defeat in 1962, the Chinese forces withdrew 20 km behind the McMahon Line, which China called “the 1959 line of actual control” in the Eastern Sector, and 20 km behind the line of its latest position in Ladakh, which was further identified with the “1959 line of actual control” in the Western Sector. The Sino-India war is notable for the harsh conditions under which it was fought. Combat took place at an altitude of 4,250 meters. During the war, neither country deployed the Air Force or Navy. Later in 1993 and 1996 both India and China signed the Sino-Indian Peace and Tranquility Accords agreeing to maintain peace and harmony along the LoAC.
Genghis Khan was born as Temujin and had grown into a feared warrior and charismatic figure who began gathering followers and forging alliances with other Mongol leaders. After his wife was kidnapped by a rival tribe, Temujin organized a military force to defeat the tribe. By 1206, Temujin was the leader of a great Mongol confederation and was granted the title Genghis Khan, translated as “Oceanic Ruler” or “Universal Ruler.” Genghis Khan created laws to unite Mongolians like outlawing the tradition of kidnapping women. He declared all children legitimate, whomever the mother. He made it law that no woman would be sold into marriage. The stealing of animals had caused dissension among the Mongols, and Genghis Khan made it a capital offense. A lost animal was to be returned to its owner, and taking lost property as one’s own was to be considered thievery and a capital offense. Genghis Khan regulated hunting improving the availability of meat for everyone. He passed laws declaring religious freedom for all and even granted tax exemptions to places of worship. He created one of the first international postal systems known as the “Yam” consisting of a well-organized series of post houses and way stations strung out across the whole of the Empire.
Khan promulgated a code of conduct and organized his armies. Using an extensive network of spies and scouts, Khan detected a weakness in his enemies’ defenses and then attacked the point with as many as 250,000 cavalrymen at once. Most armies and cities crumbled under the overwhelming show of force, and the massacres that followed a Mongol victory eliminated thoughts of further resistance. By 1227, Khan had conquered much of Central Asia and made incursions into Eastern Europe, Persia, and India. His great empire stretched from central Russia down to the Aral Sea in the west, and from northern China down to Beijing in the east. He was responsible for death of 40 million people. On August 18, 1227, while putting down a revolt in the kingdom of Xi Xia, Genghis Khan died. Still bringing death as he had in life, many were killed before his corpse was buried in an unmarked grave. His final resting place remains a mystery.
In late May 1989, thousands of students in Beijing gathered to take advantage of the media exposure that was to follow Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit. They found it the perfect opportunity to stage pro-democracy demonstrations and occupied Tiananmen Square for almost a fortnight. The university students were vocal in their demands for reinstating democratic freedoms including freedom of speech and press as well as government accountability. Inspired by the students, about a million people are believed to have assembled.
Deng Xiaoping and other leaders resorted to the use of force. Martial law was declared on May 20, and over 300,000 troops were deployed in Beijing. The demonstrations came to a sordid and violent end on the night of June 3 going into the early hours of June 4. The army launched an assault on the civilians who had blocked the square. These brutal attacks were broadcast live by international news agencies and served to shock the world. While official statements said that no student had been killed in the protest, unofficial news recorded deaths at the Tiananmen Square between hundreds and thousands. A picture of lone demonstrator standing down a column of tanks on June 5, at the entrance to Tiananmen Square became image of pro-democracy demand.
Following the Tiananmen Square massacre, China was severely criticized by the international community and levied economic sanctions. The Communist Party of China has remained unperturbed in the face of all opposition and continued its hardcore policy of snubbing out all dissent and removing all demands for democracy. Since 1989, the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to censor any mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Immediately following the incident, news agencies were issued warnings to run only the official account. Images and videos of the Tiananmen Square massacre were destroyed by the Chinese authorities and films which mention the Tiananmen Square massacre are banned in the country. Not many Chinese outside Beijing know the truth of the incident.