Panchsheel is a Sanskrit word that means five virtues or “The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”. In Chinese it is called 和平共处五项原则 (hépíng gòngchǔ wǔ xiàng yuánzé).
It is a set of principles including not interfering in others’ internal affairs and having mutual respect for each other’s territorial unity, sovereignty and integrity.
31 December, 1953: While receiving the Indian delegation to the Tibetan trade talks, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai introduced the “five principles governing China’s relations with foreign countries”.
Panchsheel were first formally enunciated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed on 29 April, 1954, which stated in its preamble that the two Governments “have resolved to enter into the present agreement based on the following principles:
i) Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, ii) Mutual non-aggression, iii) Mutual non-interference, iv) Equality and mutual benefit, and v) Peaceful coexistence”.
The Panchsheel was subsequently adopted in a number of resolutions and statements across the world, including the preamble to the Constitution of China and also adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 11 December, 1957.
During Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing in 1988, India and China signed two crucial agreements to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution on the boundary question and a Joint Economic Group (JEG) and agreed to expand and develop bilateral relations in all fields.
Prime Minister Narasimha Rao visited China in September 1993. During this visit the agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the India-China Border Area was signed, providing for both sides to respect the status quo on the border, clarify the LAC where there were doubts and undertake CBMs.
In 2006, President Hu Jintao visited India. The two sides signed a Joint Declaration to formulate the ten-pronged strategy for deepening the strategic and cooperative partnership.
On 23 June, 2003 in Beijing, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee visited China. The two sides signed The Declaration on the Principles and Comprehensive Cooperation in China-India Relations and agreed to establish the special representatives meeting mechanism on the India-China boundary question.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh paid his first official bilateral visit to China from 13-15 January 2008. During the visit, he had extensive discussions with Premier Wen Jiabao and met with President Hu Jintao.
A joint document entitled “A Shared Vision for the 21st Century of the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China” was issued during the visit, outlining common positions on several international and some bilateral issues.
India and China framed Panchsheel in the context of strengthening bilateral relations and as an alternative to the Cold War and competing alliance systems based on the balance of power. The framework of Panchsheel also is widely accepted among Asian countries and in the world at various international fora.
It is not only for relations between India and China but also for their relations with all other countries so that a solid foundation be laid for peace and security in the world.
Today its principles hold relevance as it is important for India to preserve her independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is a framework of basic tenets of engagement between the two sovereign countries and withstands the test of time. Hence, it is equally relevant for all times.
Panchsheel can provide the ideological foundation for this developing paradigm of international interaction, allowing all nations to work towards peace and prosperity in cooperation while maintaining their national identity, spirit and character.
Pandit Nehru and Zhou Enlai were the two great sons of Asia, sincere and selfless, who strove hard to force close ties between India and China and usher in a better world order through Panchsheel.
There can be no coexistence without diversity. Thus, essential to peaceful coexistence is cultural, economic and political cooperation among nations.