Sikkim-Tibet Convention of 1890 

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The skirmishes and the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops at Naku La in Sikkim recently, in an area of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that is considered settled, may be Beijing’s way of attempting a new claim, said defence sources, highlighting the historic Sikkim-Tibet Convention of 1890 as proof of India’s ownership of the territory. 

Details  

  • According to the Convention, the boundary in the area is based on the watershed principles. 
  • Its Article 1 states, “The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents from waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. …follows the above mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nipal Territory.” 
  • The Gazetteer of Sikkim in 1894, while describing the physical features of Sikkim, also mentions the boundary that runs along Naku la Chorten Nyima La. 

What is the issue? 

  • Although meetings between former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in 2003 and maps exchanged subsequently indicated that India recognised the Tibetan Autonomous Region as a part of China, and Beijing recognised Sikkim as a State of the Indian Union, the boundary at Sikkim while undisputed, remains undemarcated on the ground. 

About Sikkim-Tibet Convention 1890 

  • The Convention of 1890 was entered by the King of Great Britain on behalf of India before independence and around the time of independence, the Indian Independence (International Arrangement) Order, 1947 was notified by Secretariat of the Governor-General (Reforms) on August 14, 1947. 
  • As per Article (1) of Convention of 1890, it was agreed that the boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents, from the waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. The line commences at Mount Gipmochi, on the Bhutan frontier, and follows the above-mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nepal territory. 
  • The second article recognised the British government’s control over Sikkim. 
  • However, Tibet refused to recognise the validity of Convention of 1890 and further refused to carry into effect the provisions of the said Convention. In 1904, a treaty known as a Convention between Great Britain and Tibet was signed at Lhasa.  
  • As per the Convention, Tibet agreed to respect the Convention of 1890 and to recognise the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet, as defined in Article (1) of the said Convention. On April 27, 1906, a treaty was signed between Great Britain and China at Peking, which confirmed the Convention of 1904 between Great Britain and Tibet. 
  • The Order provided, inter alia, that the rights and obligations under all international agreements to which India is a party immediately before the appointed day will devolve upon the Dominion of India. Therefore, in terms of Order of 1947, the government of India is bound by the said Convention of 1890. However, India’s affirmation of the Convention of 1890 was limited to the alignment of the India-China border in Sikkim, based on watershed, and not with respect to any other aspects. 
  • Both China and post-independence India followed the treaty and its boundary demarcation. It continued after Sikkim became a state of the Indian in 1975. 
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