September 05 – Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s Birthday – Reflections on my Mylapore, Madras, Chennai Family Connections
September 05, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s birthday is celebrated as Teacher’s Day in India. On Saturday, September 05, 2020, I want to share my reflections on my Mylapore, Madras, Chennai Family Connections. This relationship connects several important events of my life’s journey. For I believe in the doctrine of predestination, I can trace my life’s journey as a series of predetermined events.
In my analysis, time and the place are of equal importance in the formulation of predetermined events. I shall discuss the role of time and place in the context of three issues; 1. Birth Place, 2. Relationships, for example, Radhakrishnan worked in Presidency College, Madras where my father studied and worked, and 3. Final Destination.
Mylapore, Madras, Chennai, my birthplace predetermined my connection to Radhakrishnan as well as my connection to my wife who is also born on the fifth day of September.
Radhakrishnan studied in Madras Christian College and later worked in Presidency College, Madras. My wife talks about Madras Christian College for her father, and four of her brothers studied there. In February 1973, just after I got married, I visited Madras Christian College along with my wife to meet her younger brother who was studying there for his Master of Science degree.
My father studied in Presidency College, Madras and later worked there during my early childhood years spent in Mylapore. Apart from Radhakrishnan, his son, Sarvepalli Gopal also worked in Presidency College
In October 1962, my connection to Radhakrishnan was shaped by Communist China’s attack on India across the Himalayan Frontier. On one hand the Spirit of Nationalism inspired me to serve in the Indian Army, and on the other hand, it profoundly influenced my thinking about choosing a life partner. At the same time, the 1962 India-China War prepared a very special place to render my military service while I am still a college student. In September 1969, I was granted the Short Service Regular Commission to serve in the Indian Army Medical Corps. My educational career prepared me for this role as well as giving me the opportunity to find a partner who accepted my passion to serve in the Olive-Green military uniform. I got married in January 1973 while I was serving at Doom Dooma, Tinsukia District, Assam in SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE – ESTABLISHMENT NO. 22, a special military organization founded in 1962.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: “AHIMSA PARAMO DHARMAH; DHARMA HIMSA TATHIVA CHA.” Both India and Tibet recognize Non-Violence or Ahimsa as the highest principle. The military organization, Special Frontier Force-Establishment No. 22 represents the second part of the statement; Violence or Himsa is equally the highest principle when it is necessary to defend the righteous.
The military organization is known as Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22 came into its existence during the presidency of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of the Republic of India, 13 May 1962 to 13 May 1967. While Special Frontier Force is a product of Cold War Era secret diplomacy, I would like to share my personal story, the events from early childhood, that shaped the rest of my life and has formulated my bonding with this Organization and my desire to accomplish its military mission.
Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (05 September 1888 to 17 April 1975), the second President of the Republic of India is known to me from my early childhood. His daughter (Rukmini) was married to my maternal grandfather’s younger brother who had also lived in Mylapore.
My maternal grandfather, Dr Kasturi. Narayana Murthy, M.D., who worked as Professor of Medicine in Madras Medical College lived at 2/37 Kutchery Road, Mylapore. I was born at my grandfather’s residence. While I lived in Mylapore and later during my summer vacations spent in Madras City, I used to visit Radhakrishnan’s daughter’s residence daily. At that time, Radhakrishnan served as the first Vice President of India (1952-1962). I clearly remember the celebration of 2500th Birth Anniversary of Gautama Buddha on May 24, 1956. In India’s Capital City of New Delhi, the celebration was attended by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Lama Rinpoche. The Institution of the Dalai Lama is the central focus of Tibetan Cultural Identity and Tibetan national character.
Since 1962, India instituted Radhakrishnan’s birthday (05 September) as Teacher’s Day. Since that time, every year that I spent as a student, I had a special reason to remember my family connection with his daughter and my father who belonged to the teaching profession. Radhakrishnan correctly predicted the need for military action to fight injustice. In 1962, during his Presidency, India bravely resisted the Chinese aggression and thousands of Indian Army soldiers gave their precious lives to defend India. It inspired me to serve in Indian Armed Forces to continue the task of opposing and resisting the threat posed by Communist China.
INDIA – TIBET RELATIONS FROM 1950 to 1962:
The Celebration of 2500th Anniversary of the birth of Gautama Buddha (Buddha Jayanti) in New Delhi on May 24, 1956 displays the historical connection between India, and Tibet. Prime Minister Nehru, President Rajendra Prasad, the 14th Dalai Lama, and the 10th Panchen Lama, Rinpoche are seen in this photo image.
Because of Gautama Buddha, India, and Tibet are natural allies. But, the complex, political, and military relationship developed as a reaction to the People’s Republic of China’s invasion of Tibet in 1950.
The President of India, Dr Babu Rajendra Prasad with the visiting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and Panchen Lama Rinpoche.
The military occupation of Tibet by Communist China makes a great impact upon the historical, cultural, religious relationship between India, and Tibet. It commenced an entirely new era in which both India and Tibet are driven by the same kind of security concerns. Prime Minister Chou En-Lai represents the face of that danger that forced Prime Minister Nehru to know and appreciate the nature of Tibetan Nation as represented by the 14th Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Lama Rinpoche.
India achieved its full independence from the British rule on August 15, 1947. India became the Republic of India on January 26, 1950. Dr Babu Rajendra Prasad became the first President of the Republic of India. The first general elections were held in 1952, and Radhakrishnan, who was at that time-serving as India’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union, was elected as the first Vice President. He served a second term as the Vice President from 1957 to 1962.
India witnessed a major military threat to its Himalayan frontier when the People’s Republic of China sent its army during October 1950 to occupy Tibet while Tibetans had no ability to resist such a massive, military invasion of their territory. Tibet tried to resolve the issue using diplomacy. Tibet requested India to bring the issue to the attention of the United Nations to adopt a resolution against the Communist invasion. At that time Tibet was still following the policy of political isolationism, and neutralism and was not recognized by the United Nations as a member nation. The United States was fighting the Korean War to contain the spread of Communism in Asia. However, Tibet did not obtain direct, US military intervention. India did not have the necessary military force of its own to intervene inside Tibet. At the same time, India also actively pursued its own policy of political neutralism that is known as the Nonaligned Movement to reduce the political tensions caused by the Cold War. India thought that the crisis in Tibet could be resolved by directly negotiating with China without involving the United Nations. During 1951, Communist China imposed a 17-Point Agreement on Tibet while Tibetans had no capacity to defend their rights; the Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on 23rd May 1951 to take measures for the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.” China started quoting this agreement to justify its illegal and unjust military occupation of Tibet.
It must be clearly understood that the Great Fifth Dalai Lama founded the “Ganden Phodrang” Government of Tibet in 1642. The successive Dalai Lamas have headed the Tibetan State for nearly four centuries. Towards the end of the Qing Dynasty or Ch’ing Dynasty, the Great 13th Dalai Lama declared Tibet’s full Independence from Manchu China. From 1911 to 1950 – 49-Years, Tibet was an independent Nation before the founding of this political entity called The People’s Republic of China.
The photo image of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Peking meeting with Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.
Tibet tried its very best to appease the Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-Tung until 1954-1955. China took full political, and military advantage of Tibet’s isolationism and took every possible measure to deny the freedom that Tibetans had enjoyed for several centuries despite sporadic foreign invasions by the Mongols, and later by the Manchus. In the past, the foreign rulers of Tibet did not intervene in Tibet’s internal affairs. Tibetans retained their traditional style of governance through the Institution of the Dalai Lama or the “Ganden Phodrang” Government which ruled Tibet for four centuries.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama with India’s President and Vice President.
Both India and Tibet strongly desired to resolve the conflict with communist China using diplomacy. The existence of autonomous Tibetan nation serves the best interests of Indian national security.
A banquet held in Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi in 1956 to honor the visiting Head of State, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet who is seen seated between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Ms Indira Gandhi.
Both India and Tibet desired friendly and peaceful relations with China. Prime Minister Chou En-Lai is seen here with the 14th Dalai Lama, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and his daughter Ms Indira Gandhi. These efforts towards peaceful co-existence with Communist China had utterly failed during 1957-58.
India and Tibet tried to cultivate a friendly relationship with China and its failure was caused by China’s policy of Expansionism.
India desired to promote international peace and tried to avoid armed conflicts. The burden imposed by China’s military occupation of Tibet was viewed with concern, but India tried the use of diplomacy and avoid war. A ceremony to honor Prime Minister Chou En-Lai, and the 14th Dalai Lama during their visit to New Delhi in 1956.
This photo image of Prime Minister Chou En-Lai, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and the 14th Dalai Lama demonstrates the desire of India to promote peaceful co-existence. Establishment No. 22 represents the failure of India’s peace initiative. The military occupation of Tibet is not a friendly posture and China could not be trusted as a friend.
While Tibet tried its very best to please the Communist leaders of China, India had also pursued a similar policy to befriend China to address the problem of the military threat posed by the military occupation of Tibet. The “Panchsheel” Agreement of 1954 between India and People’s Republic of China had recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, and India had agreed to withdraw its very small, military presence in Tibet. India believed that China would grant full autonomy to Tibet and preserve the political, and cultural institutions of Tibet. It must be noted that Tibet had not recognized or endorsed the agreement made by India and China.
Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai visited New Delhi, India in June 1954 after his initiative called the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (PANCHSHEEL). The first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad (first right), Vice President Radhakrishnan third right, and India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is at the far left.
Indian Vice President Dr Radhakrishnan made an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the problem of the military occupation of Tibet. He had visited Peking during September 1957 and met with various Communist Party leaders including Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, and President Liu Shao-Chi(Liu Shaoqi), and Party General Secretary Teng Hsiao-Ping(Deng Xiaoping).
Indian Vice President Radhakrishnan visited Peking during September/October 1957 and could not get any concessions from the Communist leaders. China had determined to pursue a policy of Expansionism and had tripled the size of its country using its superior military power.
THE ORIGIN OF SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE – ESTABLISHMENT NO. 22:
The need for the use of military force became inevitable after China made it abundantly clear that it would not negotiate its military occupation of Tibet and would not allow the traditional form of Tibetan Government as represented by the Institution of the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan Resistance Movement began with a very modest attempt to train some Tibetan nationals to fight the Chinese People’s Liberation Army that occupied Tibet.
The history of Special Frontier Force-Establishment No. 22: 1957 was a turning point. India recognized that its foreign policy of political neutralism was of no use and started depending upon the United States to address the military threat posed by China’s occupation of Tibet. But, the effort was too modest and both India and the United States had grossly underestimated the strength of the People’s Liberation Army. Camp Hale at Colorado represents one aspect of CIA operation called ST CIRCUS.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22 can be traced back to 1957-58 when the CIA launched Operation ST CIRCUS. This Commemoration on September 10, 2010, was the first time that US had officially acknowledge the CIA operation with the Tibetans and it includes the Mustang (Nepal) Operation.
During 1957 it became very clear that Communist China would not relax its military grip over Tibet, and the hopes for limited Tibetan autonomy evaporated. Both India, and Tibet had agreed to seek American military intervention, and it must be believed that India had only wanted a covert, military operation to build and establish a Tibetan Resistance Movement to challenge and overthrow the Chinese military regime in Tibet. The climax of this Tibetan Resistance was during March 1959, and China using its vastly superior military power had easily crushed this Tibetan Uprising. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama had no choice; he and his close followers fled Tibet to seek political asylum in India.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: The arrival of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in India to seek political asylum represents the failure of CIA’s covert operation inside Tibet. CIA had grossly underestimated the intelligence capabilities of Communist China.
The history of Special Frontier Force-Establishment No. 22: The Journey of a political refugee. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama arrived in India on 31 March 1959 and was presented a Guard of Honor by the Assam Rifles in the Tawang Sector of the North East Frontier Agency which is renamed as Arunachal Pradesh.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: Indian President Dr Babu Rajendra Prasad received His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama with due dignity reflecting India’s belief that the Dalai Lama is the traditional Head of Tibet, an autonomous nation.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: The military tyranny imposed by Communist China’s occupation forced Tibet to break-free from its traditional policy of political isolationism and it is not a big surprise to find India as its natural ally. Vice President Radhakrishnan is seen with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
THE 1962 INDIA – CHINA WAR:
I must admit that the Chinese brutal attacks across the Himalayan frontier during October 1962 came as a shocking surprise to me and to most people all over India. To some extent, India, Tibet, and the United States had lacked the intelligence capabilities to know the intentions and the capabilities of their enemy. The costs of this 1962 War would be known if China takes courage and openly admits the numbers of its soldiers wounded or killed in action. China paid a heavy price and utterly failed to obtain legitimacy for its military occupation of Tibet.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: The 1962 War between India and China paved the way towards a better understanding of India’s security concerns and the need for military alliance/pact with a friendly power like the United States to meet the challenge posed by Communist China. I appreciate Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for his idealistic views and aspiration to be known as a peacemaker. He finally recognized the need for a strong, well-equipped Army.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: Prior to the 1962 India-China War, the Tibetan Resistance Movement had no permanent base in India. The War had forced India to strengthen the Tibetan Resistance Movement and provide it with a permanent base within Indian territory. Indian Armed Forces played a major role in training the members of Special Frontier Force with financial, and technical assistance provided by the United States.
The 1962 War of Aggression launched by Communist China had a decisive influence on my personal life. I was a college student, and I was in the first year of my 3-year Bachelor of Science degree course. I felt a strong urge to join India’s Armed Forces to specifically address the military threat posed by China. The 1962 War was a conflict imposed by China to teach India a lesson. Later, official documents released by China describe that Chairman Mao Tse-Tung took punitive action to teach a lesson to India when it launched a massive war of retribution attacking Indian Army positions across the entire Himalayan frontier in October 1962. Chairman Mao Tse-Tung was angered by the support extended by India to Tibet to counter the military occupation. Chairman Mao had resented India’s role in helping the covert operation of the Central Intelligence Agency and had called it an “Imperialist” conspiracy or plot against China. China had utterly failed to achieve its objectives and the War ended when China declared a unilateral ceasefire on November 21, 1962, and withdrew from the captured Himalayan territory. It should be noted that India did not request China to declare this ceasefire. India did not promise that it will withhold the support that it extends to the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. The Secret White House Recordings of the US President John F Kennedy reveal that Kennedy had threatened to nuke China in 1962 and I must say that the threat achieved its purpose and had forced China to stop its military aggression and withdraw unilaterally without demanding any concessions from India, or Tibet.
THE BIRTH OF SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE-ESTABLISHMENT No. 22:
President John F. Kennedy had immediately responded to the Chinese attack on India. Apart from delivery of arms and ammunition, and other military supplies, American aircraft carried out photo missions over the Indo-Tibetan border. In a meeting held on November 19, 1962 at the White House, President Kennedy, Dean David Rusk(Secretary of State), Averell Harriman(Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs), Robert McNamara(Secretary of Defense), General Paul Adams(Chief of the US Strike Command), John Kenneth Galbraith(US Ambassador to India), John A McCone(Director of Central Intelligence Agency), Desmond Fitzgerald(the Far Eastern CIA Chief), James Critchfield(the Near East CIA Chief), John Kenneth Knaus(CIA’s Tibet Task Force), and David Blee(CIA Station Chief in New Delhi) decided upon a military aid package in support of the newly created military organization in India which was initially named as Establishment No. 22 and later the name Special Frontier Force was added to describe the location of its headquarters in New Delhi.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: In the Cold War Era of Silence and Secrecy, India was fortunate to find the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, Averell Harriman who played a crucial role in developing the military response to the 1962 War.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: John Kenneth Galbraith, the US Ambassador to India played a very helpful role to bring India, and the United States to come together on mutual security concerns and to build a personal relationship between the leaders. This photo image is from 1961 taken during Prime Minister Nehru’s visit to Washington D.C.
The History of Special Frontier Force-Establishment No. 22: The People’s Republic of China could not alter the course of India’s foreign policy. The 1962 War launched by China ended very abruptly when China declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew from the captured territory on November 21, 1962. President Kennedy played a decisive role by threatening to “NUKE” China.
The 1962 India-China War, a military conflict that was initiated by China had accomplished the exact opposite of what China had planned to accomplish.
1. India became more firmly aligned with the United States discarding its original policy of political neutralism.
2. The level of cooperation between the Central Intelligence Agency and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW-The Intelligence Bureau of India) became greatly enhanced.
3. India started increasing its own defence-preparedness and strengthened its military capabilities to fight a future war with China.
4. India was not deterred by the Chinese attack and decided to substantially increase its involvement with the Tibetan Resistance Movement. India made the commitment to provide a permanent base to the Tibetan Resistance Movement apart from hosting the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
5. India, Tibet, and the United States joined together in a military alliance/pact leading to the creation of the military organization called the Establishment No. 22 which has come to be known as the Special Frontier Force with its official Headquarters in New Delhi.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: President Radhakrishnan visiting Indian Army units during the 1962 India-China War. India withstood the attack by Communist China and it soon recovered from its wounds and regained its full confidence to engage China on the battlefield.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: President Radhakrishnan with Officers of Indian Army during the 1962 India-China War. India understood the need for better preparedness to fight future wars and had decided to maintain its support to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the Head of Tibetan nation who was granted political asylum in India.
The History of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: President Radhakrishnan is seen speaking to news reporters during the 1962 War. India was not deterred by Chinese aggression and had boldly continued the support it extended to the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
PRESIDENT RADHAKRISHNAN’S HISTORIC VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES ON JUNE 03/04, 1963:
After the conclusion of the 1962 War with China, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s personal health demanded a serious attention and President Radhakrishnan performed the historical journey to the United States on June 03/04 to meet the US President John F. Kennedy to express India’s solidarity with the United States in promoting Peace and Democracy, and the visit displays the trust, and confidence placed by India in the future of their mutual military assistance, and cooperation. I am happy to share several photo images of that visit.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: June 03/04, 1963. The historic visit by President Radhakrishnan to affirm India’s friendly relationship with the United States in their policy towards China.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: June 03/04, 1963. President Radhakrishnan’s visit affirms the appreciation for American support during the 1962 India-China War.
The history of Special Frontier Force, Establishment No. 22: June 03, 1963, Indian President Radhakrishnan by his visit acknowledges the India-Tibet-US military alliance/pact to oppose the military threat posed by China.
The history of Special Frontier Force, Establishment No. 22 is linked to the presidency of John F. Kennedy and Radhakrishnan.
I met Radhakrishnan at his Mylapore residence after his retirement in May 1967. At that time, both of us were not aware that the very first posting of my career in Indian Armed Forces would take me to Special Frontier Force, Establishment No. 22 that was created during his presidency.
In India, Radhakrishnan is recognized as a teacher, philosopher, and a statesman. He is never described as the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. I was granted Commission to serve in the Indian Army at the pleasure of the President of India, and my posting order to serve as a Medical Officer in Establishment No. 22, Special Frontier Force was issued under the authority of the Ministry of Defence which functions under the powers sanctioned by the President of India.
The history of Special Frontier Force-Establishment No. 22: This photo image shows Vice President Radhakrishnan at his New Delhi residence during 1960. The events from 1957 to 1962 had shaped Indian foreign policy and it paved the way for alignment with the United States to oppose the military threat posed by the People’s Republic of China. I met President Radhakrishnan at his Mylapore, Madras (Chennai) residence after completion of his term of presidency in 1967. He prefers to read while relaxing in his bed. This is the image, I still carry in my memory.
The history of Special Frontier Force – Establishment No. 22: This is a photo image taken at Sarasawa airfield that proudly displays the National Flag of Tibet. Special Frontier Force is a living military organization that is facing its future with hope and encouragement from the United States, India, and Tibet.
Rudra Narasimham Rebbapragada
Nicely penned. Thank you
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