A Himalayan Chess Game

When India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947, the region’s Princely States – including tiny Sikkim – became pawns in South Asia’s great power politics, as Andrew Duff explains.

A US-built Sherman tank of the Pakistani army rumbles through Slalkot in the Pakistani Punjab in September 1965.At the height of the Indo-Pakistan war, in mid-September 1965, Britain’s ITN broadcast a 15-minute report from what they called ‘another potential starting point for a Third World War’. The images were not of Indian and Pakistani soldiers in disputed Kashmir. Instead, the dramatic footage showed Indian and Chinese soldiers 14,000 feet up on the other side of the Himalayas, on either side of the border between the Kingdom of Sikkim (an Indian protectorate perched between Nepal and Bhutan) and Chinese-occupied Tibet. 

The broadcast highlights an often-overlooked international dimension to the 1965 conflict, which caused frantic diplomatic activity involving India, Pakistan, China, the US and the Soviet Union and was, in fact, an important factor in the eventual de-escalation of the crisis. 

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