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Panchsheel Treaty: Definition & Principles

Panchsheel Treaty: Definition & Principles
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  • 0:04 The Panchsheel Treaty
  • 0:48 History of Panchsheel
  • 1:57 The Five Principles
  • 2:41 Impact
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Cold War was an era of competition between global superpowers, so where did the developing nations fit in? In this lesson, we'll look at the Panchsheel treaty and see how it defined the relationship between China and India in the second half of the 20th century.

The Panchsheel Treaty

China and India are two of the world's oldest civilizations. They're also two of the most populous nations in the world and contribute more to the global economy than nearly anyone else. As a result, it's probably not too surprising to learn that China and India interact quite a bit. While the interactions of many nations are governed by various treaties, the one that defines the relationship between China and India is unique. It's called the Panchsheel treaty, but you may also hear it referred to by its other name: the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. The Panchsheel treaty represents a significant relationship between two of the world's strongest nations, and is, therefore, one of the most important pieces of foreign policy in the modern world.

History of Panchsheel

In 1949, China transformed itself into a single-party communist nation called the People's Republic of China. In 1950, the dominion of India formally completed its quest for independence from the British Empire and became the Republic of India. Both nations were looking to claim a place in the post-World War II world of the 1950s. China wanted to regain its former prominence and prove that it could conduct its own affairs without the guidance of the Soviet Union. India wanted to start building up its own international relations without the British Empire. Both wanted to prove that they could participate in the world without being controlled by anyone else.

In 1953, both nations got their wish. India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and China's first premier, Zhou Enlai, met to define the relationship between their two nations. Their agreement was presented in the 1954 Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet Region of China and India, and indicated to the world that China and India had defined their relationship not on economic or cultural or military foundations, but on ideological ones.

The Five Principles

In the treaty, the leaders of China and India outlined their policy of Panchsheel and defined it through five ideological principles. Those principles are:

  1. Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty
  2. Mutual non-aggression
  3. Mutual non-interference
  4. Equality and cooperation for mutual benefit
  5. Peaceful coexistence

That was it. According to Nehru and Zhou, China and India's relationship would be one of respect and peace. Basically, each nation agreed not to mess with the internal affairs of the other and committed themselves to pursuing peaceful solutions to any conflicts that might arise between them.

Impact

The policy of Panchsheel was a very different sort of foreign policy from what was happening across the rest of the world. After World War II, dozens of colonies gained their independence, and then were immediately brought under the influence of either the capitalist USA and Western Europe, or the communist USSR. This period of conflict between these two groups is known as the Cold War.

India, as a recently decolonized nation, worried that the international competition between these superpowers would ultimately hurt the weaker, newer nations of the world. So, the Panchsheel treaty was never meant to simply define the relationship between China and India; it was meant to serve as a model for how all nations should conduct their international affairs.

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