The recent hand-to-hand combat between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Galwan valley region has heightened the tensions between the two Asian powerhouses. This has again brought the India-China border dispute into focus. In this article, we’ll try to analyze the depth and details of this dispute.
The historical perspective:
The border dispute between the two countries lies in 3 sectors:
It includes three regions:
Shaksgam Valley: This region was captured by Pakistan in 1947 and remained part of PoK(Pakistan occupied Kashmir) till 1962. It was ceded to China by Pakistan in 1963 when both countries signed a boundary agreement to settle their border differences. But, India still maintains that it is an integral part of J&K.
Aksai Chin Region: During the British era, India was one of their important colonies in terms of trade as well as geostrategic reasons. Thus, they needed to protect India from coming directly or indirectly under Russian influence (-the so-called great game-). For this, they used Tibet as a buffer state and signed a boundary agreement with them. The official boundary between Tibet and British India was demarcated by the Johnson line. But later, when China captured Tibet it did not acknowledge this line and rather claimed Macartney-Macdonald line as the boundary. This way they started making an illegitimate claim over the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh using their cartographic aggression strategy. Later they even captured some of this area during the 1962 war.
Daulat Beg Oldi: It is located in Leh and China makes claim for it. However, it still comes under India’s control.
It is located in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand region. Disputes are mainly for Nelang valley in Uttarakhand, Shipki La pass, and Kaurik area of Himachal Pradesh. But, this sector is relatively peaceful which is mainly because India has a height advantage in these regions.
This sector includes mainly the Arunachal Pradesh (formerly known as NEFA) and the Sikkim region. During the British era, Sikkim Accord 1914 was signed between India and Tibet which declared the McMohan line as the boundary line in the NEFA region. But, China considered it as the southern sector of Tibet and wanted to capture it. For this, they attacked the region in the 1962 war but finally declared a unilateral ceasefire and moved back on the international borderline. Since then, China has been claiming the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory.
The underlying differences in philosophies which are causing these disputes:
China follows Mao Tse Tung’s philosophy, according to which, Xizang (Tibet) is considered to be China’s right hand’s palm, which is detached from its five fingers — of Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal (formerly NEFA). As all of these five are either directly or indirectly under the influence of India, China considers it at its responsibility to ‘liberate’ the five and to rejoin these with Xizang (Tibet). To achieve this, China keeps interfering in the region through cartographic aggression strategy and using Salami Slicing military strategy.
In contrast to this, India follows the strategy of peaceful co-existence, along with Gandhian philosophy and Nehru’s policy of Panchsheel. China has not been respecting this doctrine and exploiting it for its benefits.
How has China acted until now?
It started with China violating the Shimla Accord of 1914 and invading Tibet in 1950. At that time India chose not to take any stand for Tibet assuming that maybe this would help India form good relations with China. But India couldn’t understand China’s expansionist attitude.
Later on, China started its suppression and expansionist policies which led to mass genocide in Tibet region. During this period, India gave political asylum to Dalai Lama and other followers to save their culture. China considered this move as support to the Chinese extremist group and policy against China.
This resulted in the 1962 war in which China attacked both the Ladakh and NEFA regions (though some historians still believe that it was due to Nehru’s forward policy). India was not anticipating this move and had to face a humiliating defeat when China itself declared a unilateral ceasefire. The place where china stopped in the Ladakh region came to be known as LAC (line of actual control) and since then Aksai chin became a disputed issue for both sides.
What triggered China this time?
In the undisputed Ladakh region, India’s Border Road Organization constructed a DSDBO road connecting Leh to Daulat Beg Oldie. This was done to decrease the time duration for transporting necessary weapons and manpower for future military operations in the region. It is a strategic disadvantage for China if India’s hold becomes strong in the region and thus it started creating tensions in the Galwan valley. This point was accurately chosen as it forms the closest point to the DSDBO road from a Chinese standpoint and could create havoc on the road making it unusable.
After a bilateral talk, both sides decided to disengage, but instead Chinese did not follow the decision and instead started construction activities on their side. On being opposed by the Indian army they started attacking the soldiers. According to the reports, this was a premeditated attack from the Chinese side as the valley waters were suddenly opened by the other side, which led to severe casualties.
What is India doing now?
India has started taking this boundary dispute and Chinese intentions more seriously. We have started preparing our mountain strike corps for deterrence from any kind of future Chinese invasion. On the global front, we have been engaging in military exercises like MALABAR and working with a group like QUAD to counter China’s domination in the region. Along with military strategies there has been engagement on diplomatic lines also, through Wuhan Summit and Mamallapuram Summit.
Finally, if India is aiming for complete victory, there has to be a focus on less economic dependence on China and more development in India.