Book review: Sikkim by Andrew Duff
SIKKIM: Requiem for a Himalayan Kingdom by Andrew Duff. Random House India Books. 2015 release.
Duff tells the sad and sorry tale of this beautiful little mountainous habitat, the name of which ironically enough, translates to `happy home.`It is indeed, the stuff of a political potboiler but alas, a true story.
This account begins with mention of the Great Game, of the expedition fronted by Frances Younghusband, of how the British go on to make Sikkim a British protectorate and annexe Darjeeling; and after independence, how India continues with that status quo till 1975, when Sikkim is made part of the country.
Duff reveals just how directly or obliquely involved the US, China (of course), and our staunch ally of the time, the Soviet Union were, in the affairs of this state.
You read it with much sadness. More so at the end, when the author is sitting with the colourful monk Yongda who was once part of the Sikkim king`s guard. Yongda tells him that the Buddha had claimed Sikkim as his own land, identified it as a beyul a hidden valley for Buddhists to retreat to in times of strife. So I hope, the monk says, that India will realise this and….leave this land to its own way.
Another takeaway was how China kept making repeated incursions into Indian territory and kept indian soldiers forever busy trying to evict them. That when India made Sikkim part of itself, the Chinese issued a stark warning that
Indias expansionist and aggressive ambition might not be limited to just Sikkim.`
And this, the most significant: in a meeting between then Chinese Vice-premier Deng Xiaoping and Kissinger in November 1974, Deng told Kissinger that he was mystified by Indian foreign policy in general, and the Indian action in Sikkim, in particlualr. If it was prompted over fears of a conflict between India and China in the Himalayas, he said, that was plainly ludicrous. He knew his troops hated the Tibetan plateau and he found it hard to believe India could have any strategic interest in such a forbidding place.
You really have to wonder how much has changed since 1974.
An engrossing read for history buffs, and for those who would know the politics behind the merging of Sikkim with India.