Panchsheel and its relevance today

The Panchsheel or “Five Principles of Peaceful Existence” was a joint statement issued during Chinese premier Zhou Enlai’s visits to India in 1954. It was the period marking end of colonialism and emergence of new nations in Asia and Africa.

These five principles were as follows:

  1. Mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  2. Mutual non-aggression.
  3. Mutual non-interference in internal matters.
  4. Equality and mutual benefit
  5. Peaceful co-existence.

Panchsheel principles resonated with India’s aspiration as India wanted to preserve her independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity. India focussed on establishing relations with other countries as equal footing and get protection from external invasions. In China, India saw an equal partner and reliable neighbour. India was one of the first countries to recognize China’s communist government; needless to say, Nehru was deeply influenced by communist ideology. India not only supported the UNSC permanent seat for China but also invited China to take part in Bandung Conference.

Was Panchsheel violated due to China’s War with India?

Panchsheel was neither an agreement nor a treaty. Further, it was for a particular period {eight years} which ended in 1962 before China imposed war in India due to India’s changed stance on Tibet, support to Dalai Lama, conflict on Aksai Chin and NEFA and host of other reasons. There was and is no legal standing of these principles in India-China relations as such.

Relevance of Panchsheel in present day global politics

Panchsheel is a framework of basic tenets of engagement between the two sovereign countries and withstands the test of the time. It is equally relevant for all times. So it is no surprise that first Asia-Africa conference at Bandung, Indonesia in 1955 adopted these principles.

New Panchsheel Framework

Panchsheel was never renewed after its expiry. It’s worth note here that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping had come up with a new set of Panchsheel, redefining them from the 1954 text. In March 2012, his predecessor Hu Jintao had also come up with similar new Panchsheel. In 2013, when India’s former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also articulated new Panchsheel principles during his speech at the Central Party School in Beijing in 2013. The five principles of New Panchsheel as articulated by Dr. Manmohan Singh are as follows:

  1. India’s development priorities will determine the engagements with the world.
  2. Greater role at the global level for regional cooperation and connectivity.
  3. India’s secular, plural and liberal democracy should inspire the world.
  4. India’s now and future are linked to global economy.
  5. India will create beneficial global economic and security structure for itself by engaging with major powers.

The above five principles have the potential to transform India’s role in shaping the emerging world order but it was unrealistic as later days of Manmohan Singh tenure were marked with timidity and inability to build a national consensus for the same.

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