From Sikkim (1971)
Sikkim is a tiny, thumb-shaped state wedged between Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. For centuries, it was the primary route into the two Buddhist kingdoms. When Tibet was occupied in 1950, the expansion of China was brought “almost up to our gates”, as a deeply-worried Sardar Patel wrote to India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
The British had made Sikkim a protectorate in 1861, according it the same status as other princely states on the subcontinent. In 1950, three years after independence, Sikkim became a protectorate of the new republic. The kingdom had autonomy in domestic matters but India was responsible for defence, external affairs and communications. For Nehru, Sikkim’s autonomy was nearly sacred. “If we bring a small country like Sikkim within our fold by using force,” he said, “it would be like killing a fly with a bullet.”
Twenty-five years later, that was no longer the republic’s position. How the change came about is a story with multiple plots involving India’s greatest spymaster, a defiant king, his ambitious political rival, and two enigmatic foreign women.