By ANANT MISHRA [Former Youth Representative to United Nations]
India and China came face to face in 1962. Almost a decade later, the two nuclear armed neighbours signed a pact to ensure that the border differences do not result in confrontation. Narendra Modi, India's newly elected prime minister, before the polls, stated Arunachal Pradesh as an integral of the nation while urging China to stop its “ideology of expansion”. While addressing the people in Gandhinagar, Modi said “No power on earth can snatch away Arunachal Pradesh.” “Times have changed”, he added. The world and so does India condemns China’s “thrill for expansion”. Hence to gain support from third world nations, China has to drop its ideology of expansion. Arunachal Pradesh, which lies in the far remote stretch of Himalayas, has been governed by the Indian government for years.
China’s Claim on Arunachal Pradesh
China rejects India’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh and considers it as South Tibet. China also rejects the McMahon Line which was drawn by the then British India's Foreign Secretary, Sir Henry McMahon, in 1914. Beijing see’s this 4000km line of actual control as dispute between the two neighbours. Although, before Chinese Premier Xi Jinping visit to India, foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said “Our relationship needs to feature peace and common development. We hope our bilateral relationship can move forward and bring more benefits to people of our two countries and achieve a common development.” His statements come minutes before Chinese Primer’s announced his visit. The Indian government declared a 12.2 percent increase in their defence budget in 2014, to $131.57 billion as China began installing advanced weaponry such as air to air rockets in coastal regions.
The area of Aksai Chin is completely desolated as it was used as a passage for caravans by nomadic tribes. One of the earliest treaties in the region took place in the year of 1842. The then Sikh Confederacy of Punjab had annexed Ladakh and it assimilated Ladakh in Jammu in the year 1834. In 1841, they captured Tibet. Chinese forces dragged the Sikh army from Ladakh and capturing it alongside Leh. After numerous battles, the Chinese and the Sikhs signed a treaty in 1846, which mentioned no military intervention in foreign land. In 1846, the then British army defeated the Sikhs transferring the sovereignty of Ladakh to the British. The British Commissioners then started visiting the Chinese officials to discuss border matters which they shared. Disputes occurred on most of the points however both the parties agreed to form an official border irrespective of natural elements, hence a border was demarcated. The lines were drawn; Pangong Lake and Karakoram Pass were divided, leaving behind undefined Aksai Chin. The then British government claimed Aksai Chin to be a part of Ladakh, which the counterpart Chinese declined to negotiate. Since then the PRC, directly violating the five principles of peaceful coexistence treaty of 1954 is administrating the region. It is also important to understand that this location gave enormous strategic importance to the Chinese during the skirmish of 1962. Aksai Chin has great strategic importance due to its proximity to New Delhi, the capital city of India.
W. H. Johnson, a loyal civil servant of the Survey of India, proposed the “Johnson Line” in 1865, which showed Aksai Chin a part of Jammu and Kashmir. In the same year, Chinese empire was struggling to curb the Duncan Revolt, in the Xinjiang province, which Chinese empire had lost control, thus, the line was not presented to the Chinese. Confused by this sudden change, Johnson immediately approached the then King of Jammu and Kashmir and presented this line to him. He not only claimed the 18,000 square kilometres within his territory he also claimed territory further north including the Sanju Pass in the Kun Lun Mountains. Johnson’s work was criticised not only among his clergy, many high ranking officials described his work as “patently absurd”. Amid enormous pressure and criticism Johnson resigned from the Survey of India. In later years, Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir sent few soldiers to guard the abandoned fort at Shahidulla at one point, but by then many sources placed Shahidulla and the upper Karakash River within the territory of Xinjiang. According to Francis Young husband, an explorer who visited the region in 1880’s, there was only an abandoned fort Shahidulla and few inhabitant houses, followed by a staging post and small headquarters of the nomadic Khirgiz. The abandoned fort was built earlier by the Dogras. In 1878 Chinese were able to suppress the revolt and recaptured Xingjian along with Shahidulla, months before the issue. In 1892, China began erecting boundary marks along the Karakoram Pass. In 1897 Sir John Ardagh, a British Military Officer, proposed new boundary lines along the Kun Lun Mountains north of the Yarkand River. At that time Britain feared the expansion of the Russians as Chinese Empire began to fall, thus Ardagh argued claiming this line to be “defensible”. The Ardagh line was a meagre modification of Johnson Line, which later came to known as “Johnson-Ardagh Line”.
McCartney Mac Donald Line
Hung Ta Chen, a senior Chinese Military Officer at Kashgar, handed the Chinese proposed boundaries to George McCartney, the then British consul general at Kashgar in 1893. According to the proposed boundaries’, Lingzi Tang plains which were south of the Laktsang range, were placed in India, and Aksai Chin proper, which was north of Laktsang range were placed in China. Agreed by the proposed boundaries, McCartney forwarded the proposal to the British Indian government. The border along the Karakoram Mountains was proposed and supported by the British officials for numerous regions. The Karakoram Mountain ranges formed a natural boundary, which would extend the British boundaries’ till the Indus River watershed, leaving the Tamim River watershed for the Chinese control as this Chinese control would stop the Russian advances in Central Asia. The British named this as “McCartney-MacDonald line” and presented to the Chinese in 1899 with a special mentioned note by Sir Claude MacDonald. The Qing government didn’t respond on the note, and the British misunderstood that as Chinese acquiescence. Although no official boundary had ever been negotiated, China claims otherwise.
The McMahon Line
In 1826, British government shared the common border as they took over Manipur and Assam from the Burmese, during the First Anglo Burmese War of 1824. In 1847 an agent of the North East Frontier, Major J. Jenkins reported Tawang to be a part of Tibet. In 1872, four monastic officials from Tibet arrived in Tawang to resolve the boundary settlement issue with Major R. Graham, a NEFA official, which concluded with Tawang Tract as part of Tibet. Thus in half of the 19th century, British government treated Tawang Tract as a part of Tibet. This boundary received its official state on 1 June 1912 through note written by the then British General Staff in India, stating that the “present boundary (demarcated) is south of Tawang, running westwards along the foothills from near Ugalguri to the southern Bhutanese border.”
A 1908 map of the Eastern Bengal and Assam province by the then Foreign Department of the Government of India, showed the international boundary extending from Bhutan to the Baroi River, followed by Himalayas foothill alignment. In order to discuss the boundary issues, representatives of Great Britain, China and Tibet gathered for a conference in Shimla in 1913. While all the three representatives agreed to the proposed boundary, Beijing later objected the boundary regions of Outer Tibet and Inner Tibet, and did not ratify it. However, the details of Indo Tibetan boundary were not revealed to China at the time. The then foreign secretary of the British Indian government, Henry McMahon, who was the instigator of the boundary lines, decided to overlook the Chinese (although he was under strict orders not to) and settled border agreements with the representatives of Tibet. According to the later Indian claims, the border was supposed to run through the ridges of the Himalayas, as the south was traditionally Indian. However, India claims that the McMahon Line lay south of the boundary. “Himalayas are the ancient boundaries of the Indian subcontinent, and thus should be the modern boundaries of India, while it was the position of the Chinese government that created dispute”, Indian government official report of 1989 said.
Himalayas have been geographically and culturally part of Tibet since ancient times.
As months passed, China began establishing boundary markers south of the McMahon Line. T. O'Callaghan, a high ranking official of the Eastern Sector of the North East Frontier, covertly relocated all these markers to a location slightly south of the McMahon Line, and to confirm any Chinese infiltration in the region, he met with Tibetan officials. Lately after 1930 British government began using McMahon Line on all official maps of the region.
China confronted Tibet’s approval of proposed boundary and denied any “hope for an independent state”. For most of the part, Tibet did not object except the demarcation of the trading town of Tawang, was under British rule. However, in the outbreak of World War II, Tibetan gained complete authority on the town. Concerned by the threats from both Chinese and Japanese army, British Indian troops secured the town as part of the defence of India's eastern border. In the 1950s, India started patrolling in the region. They found, on many locations, the highest ridges fell north of McMahon Line.
On July 24th, 1976 diplomatic ties resumed between the two nations. Since then the visits of officials from both the nations have been quite frequent and mostly friendly, in spite of some strained acts, like, denial of visas of military officials and travel in the disputed areas of the Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin. However both fast developing nations and member nations in BRICS share strong economic ties as India’s imports from China records 28 billion and exports to China to 6.4 billion. While addressing to the media Chinese Primer Wen Jiabao said “India and China are two very populous countries with ancient civilizations, friendship between the two countries has a time-honoured history, which can be dated back 2,000 years, and since the establishment of diplomatic ties between our two countries, in particular the last ten years, friendship and cooperation has made significant progress.”
Some Relevant Implications
China is a long term ally and arms supplier to Pakistan, India’s rival. Indian armed forces ended military drills with the Chinese military, involving all the advances weaponry, aircrafts and long range guiding systems, most of which took place in the disputed state of Arunachal Pradesh. Some in Chinese government fear that India is becoming a key player in the strategic US program aimed to contain China. The United States has sold $8 billion weapons to India, and has spent around $100 billion in 10 years to modernize its military.
In May 2013 the two armies were locked in a three week standoff in the western Himalayas after Chinese troops set up a camp at least 10 km (6 miles) inside territory, which triggered vast criticism against the neighbour.
In April 2013, India accused Chinese soldiers of launching an incursion far into Indian Territory, this heated up the tension between the two Asian giants over the de facto boundary in the Himalayas. “Chinese troops entered 10km into Indian Territory on April 15 and pitched tents in the Depsang valley in the Ladakh region of eastern Kashmir,” an Indian military official said.
No power on earth can snatch away Arunachal Pradesh, times have changed. The world does not welcome the mindset of expansion in today's times. China will also have to leave behind its mindset of expansion.
- Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
Narendra Modi, India's new prime minister declared the disputed territory of Arunachal Pradesh an integral part of India and urged China to abandon its “mindset of expansion”.
The sudden change in the government’s outlook towards the issue and the new leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the PRC’s policy of expansion has added more to the dispute. Will this prove India’s stand on the Chinese imperialism or is it all bark and no bite?
With Indian government increasing their defence budget, experts tend to question, is arms race a plausible outcome of this dispute? Considering PRC’s unprecedented military and diplomatic support to Pakistan, India's bitter rival, the dispute might result in a “nuclear” end.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]