Asylum and Nehru’s changing non-alignment: Tibetan refugees in India

The Tibetans were the first refugees in India with no diasporic ties to the area, and likely to attract international recognition. The question of asylum provoked domestic debate about India’s relations with China and larger visions of non-alignment, with public opinion at odds with the government foreign policy machine. Ultimately the Indian government led by Prime Minister Nehru would focus on human rights with limited involvement from the international community, with public opinion calling for the group right to self-determination. Simultaneously, the Nehruvian vision of non-alignment was undergoing a change from its immediate post-colonial form. The Indian government tried to draw a clear line between those displaced by India’s own decolonisation and a crisis that was a thorn in the side of Sino-Indian bilateral relations in the bipolar world of the Cold War. In this way, we can look at the early 1960s as India’s introduction to the role of refugees in international realpolitik.