Much has been said and written about the unending dispute over the India-China land border. Often the discussion loses track in the nitty-gritty of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The result is that we miss a critical fact: the dispute is not resolved because Beijing doesn’t want to resolve it.
Nothing else explains the absence of resolution. India has made every effort to do that; prime ministers from socialist Jawaharlal Nehru to Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi have left no stone unturned to have good relations with China. Nehru is said to have given up the permanent seat with veto power at the United Nations so that China could get that. Modi has met Chinese President Xi Jinping as many as 20 times so that border disputes between the two Asian giants could be peacefully resolved. And the result?
“Furious hand-to-hand fighting raged across the Galwan river valley for over eight hours on Monday night, as People’s Liberation Army assault teams armed with iron rods as well as batons wrapped in barbed wire hunted down and slaughtered troops of the 16 Bihar Regiment, a senior government official familiar with the debriefing of survivors at hospitals in Leh has told News18,” the portal www.news18.com reported a few hours ago.
“The savage combat, with few parallels in the history of modern armies, is confirmed to have claimed the lives of at least 23 Indian soldiers, including 16 Bihar’s commanding officer, Colonel Santosh Babu, many because of protracted exposure to sub-zero temperatures the Indian Army said late on Tuesday,” the portal went on to report.
“Even unarmed men who fled into the hillsides were hunted down and killed,” an officer informed the news website. “The dead include men who jumped into the Galwan river in a desperate effort to escape.”
Is this how the soldiers of a modern nation behave? The picture that emerges is more of the barbarians of stone age slaughtering their enemies than the members of a professional army engaging their adversaries. Such reports suggest that Chinese soldiers can match Hitler’s and Pol Pot’s thugs in ferocity and savagery.
The only difference is that there is method in this savage madness; it has been there right from the beginning, going back to the Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai days during the Nehruvian era. Basically, the Chinese want to keep the borders with India nebulous because this gives them an opportunity to execute their expansionist designs at the place and time of their choosing.
They don’t recognize the McMahon Line between India and China, calling it “imperialist legacy.” Britain and Tibet agreed to this line as part of the 1914 Simla Accord. It is named after Sir Henry McMahon, India’s foreign secretary at that time who negotiated with China. However, it had no problems in accepting this vestige of imperialism when it came to the border with Myanmar.
China has all along wanted to have ambiguity about border with India. In September 1959, China’s Premier Zhou Enlai wrote to Nehru: “Between China and Ladakh, however, there does exist a customary line derived from historical traditions, and Chinese maps have always drawn the boundary between China and Ladakh in accordance with this line.”
Obviously, “a customary line derived from historical traditions” can be conveniently defined in any way that suits them. As we mentioned earlier, it suited them to have the McMahon Line as Sino-Myanmarese border; they did accept that.
But not with India. As Zhou wrote in the 1959 letter, “Later British and Indian maps included large tracts of Chinese territory into Ladakh. This was without any legal ground, nor in conformity with the actual situation of administration by each side all the time.”
This has been the consistent China position. It has repeated it in May 2016. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Arunachal Pradesh was a part of “Southern Tibet.” Responding to National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval’s remarks on the McMahon Line, she said, “The Chinese government does not recognize ‘the McMahon Line’, which is illegal.”
At a lecture, Doval had expressed surprise that while China accepts the McMahon Line till Burma (Myanmar), it refuses to do that beyond Myanmar.
It needs to be mentioned here that even with Pakistan we don’t have any ambiguity about the border. India and Pakistan have disputes over territories, but our and their soldiers don’t bicker over the exact location of the Line of Control.
LAC problems are there because China wants them to be there—primarily to facilitate its aggression.
Tags: Chinese soldiers, China, nebulous, Line of Actual Control, Jawaharlal Nehru, Narendra Modi, Galwan, People’s Liberation Army, 16 Bihar Regiment
Keywords: Chinese soldiers, China, nebulous, Line of Actual Control, Jawaharlal Nehru, Narendra Modi, Galwan, People’s Liberation Army, 16 Bihar Regiment.