India and China signed The Panchsheel or Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence on April 29, 1950, in what was seen as an attempt by the most populous states in Asia to coexist, despite the ambiguities they had inherited at the time. At the start of the 1950s, one of the main areas of dispute between the nations was a large number of un-demarcated boundaries, and the leadership was looking to create a framework for peaceful coexistence. Another contentious issue was the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1950, which was viewed as a sign of the expansionist policies of Chinese President Mao Zedong. India had expressed concerns over the annexation of Tibet as these were unheeded.
The signing of the Panchsheel on April 29, 1954, by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese Premier Zhou soon evolved into a wider Asia peace initiative. The Panchsheel declaration was a preamble to the wider agreement on trade between the Tibet region of China and India.
The word Panchsheel or five principles was coined from historical Buddhist inscriptions, which were the five prohibitions that determine the behaviour of Buddhist monks.
The five principles of the Panchsheel were
- Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
- Mutual non-aggression
- Mutual non-interference
- Equality and mutual benefit
- Peaceful coexistence
Even though the Panchsheel didn’t go on to promote or better Indo-China relations and peace between the two countries was short-lived, its principles were widely accepted as core principles at the conference of the Non-Aligned Movement(NAM) that followed in 1961. NAM stood out during the Cold war era in a very polarised world. Many would say China’s only purpose of signing the Panchsheel agreement was to further its strategic objectives. India, on the other hand, looked to restrain China’s expansionist policies and also prioritise its own national security by not joining either the US or USSR camps.