Declassified papers of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) claiming to unveil years of Chinese "deceit and cunning" before the 1962 invasion of India stoke mistrust between the two Asian giants just as they try to resolve their border row and develop strategic ties, say China experts in New Delhi.
The experts also dismiss the CIA papers' portrayal of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as a man who allowed himself to be misled by the Chinese.
"The timing of the release of the declassified documents may not have been intentional. But nothing that the CIA does is innocent. It will certainly impact on public opinion in India and international opinion," Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea, the doyen of Chinese studies in India and diplomat-turned-academic, told IANS.
"Americans are worried about the prospects of India and China getting together. They want India on board and see China as the next big thing on the global scene," said Sinha Bhattacharjea, emeritus fellow and former director of the Institute of Chinese Studies.
"They want to prevent the growth of the relationship between India and China," she stressed.
"What the papers reveal is that the Americans have little understanding of the complexities of India-China relations. We need to take what the CIA says with a large pinch of salt because they have an agenda," said Sinha Bhattacharjea, who served as second secretary in the Indian embassy in Beijing in the 1950s.
The recently released papers, described by the CIA as its "Family Jewels", record its version of developments from 1950 to 1959.
The agency says these years "were marked by Chinese military superiority which, combined with cunning diplomatic deceit, contributed for nine years to New Delhi's reluctance to change its policy from friendship to open hostility" towards Beijing.
The CIA spoke of a "five-year masterpiece of guile", executed and planned in large part by then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, which misled Nehru about Chinese intentions for nine long years.
"Chou's strategy (as the premier's name was then spelled) was to avoid making explicit, in conversations and communications with Nehru, any Chinese border claims, while avoiding any retraction of those claims which would require changing Chinese maps."
Srikanth Kondapalli, associate professor in Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, also sees an insidious agenda behind the CIA's disclosures.
"The US is trying to create a wedge between India and China at a time when the two countries are emerging as major powers and developing their strategic partnership," Kondapalli, a long-time China-watcher, said.
Vinod Khanna, a former Indian diplomat who co-authored the book 'India and China: The Way Ahead' along with former Indian ambassador to China CV Ranganathan, however, thinks that if there is an American agenda India and China are "sufficiently major powers" who should not be affected by such reports.
"These are matters of perception. If this is a game plan and we fall for it, I will be sorely disappointed," Khanna said. He stressed that India's relationship with China is a complex affair and the two countries should determine their relationship on the basis of "independent judgment and objective realties."
Both Sinha Bhattacharjea and Kondapalli also vigorously contest the CIA's portrayal of Nehru as a naïve man who was lulled into a sense of complacency by Beijing's smooth talk.
"Nehru was not naïve, as the CIA papers make him out to be. Nehru was a realist who formulated a policy of engagement with China as he thought only peaceful co-existence can ensure the prosperity of newly-independent nations," said Kondapalli.
Sinha Bhattacharjee contended that given the complexities of the border issue, Nehru presciently realised that only diplomacy - and not war - could resolve any issues between the two most important nations of Asia.
"How can you judge anybody's intentions? Deception is a strange word. In 1959, nobody could have thought that China would attack India," said Sinha Bhattacharjea.
Kondapalli, however, conceded that Nehru in his talks with Zhou mostly concentrated on global issues such as Afro-Asian solidarity, non-alignment and China's candidature for the UN Security Council.
"He perhaps got carried away by his internationalist fervour. He rarely discussed bilateral issues with the Chinese leadership," said Kondapalli.