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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Sinister truth behind China's border misadventure

September 20, 2009 - September 18, 2009

Bhaskar Roy

Although the India-China border is yet to be demarcated and the Line of
Actual Control is to be defined clearly, both sides have a very good idea
where the perceived LAC lies. This should prevent serious incursions into
Indian-controlled territory.

But the problem is that Chinese incursions have been rather aggressive in
recent times.

The incursions are happening in the western sector of the Sino-Indian
border -- in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand -- and appear to be
aimed at extending Chinese territorial claims.

Sporadic incursions in the western sector, the middle sector and the eastern
sector have been going on for years, even as the Indian government
periodically protests.

As of July this year, there has been a qualitative change in the type of
Chinese violation of Indian Territory. Piling up of rocks well inside Indian
territory and painting Chinese characters on them, the incursion of two
Chinese helicopters into Indian airspace, the dropping of
Chinese-manufactured food cans, and a second reported violation of the
Indian airspace by three Chinese F-7 fighter aircraft, all in the western
sector, is something to be taken note of.

Reports in a section of the Indian media that Chinese troops fired on and
injured two Indo-Tibetan Border Police soldiers appear uncorroborated and
have been denied by both countries. The free Indian media, therefore, has to
be more responsible.

A long held Chinese position, aired mainly through their official media and
think tank experts, has been that "If India makes concessions in the western
sector, China would consider making concessions in the eastern sector."
This, naturally, has never been elaborated. The exchange maps of the two
sectors between the two sides remains pending, preventing clarification on
where the LAC actually starts and ends.

The western sector has become increasing important to China in the context
of its southwestern strategic thrust. It occupies 38000 square kilometers in
the western sector known as Aksai Chin, but claimed by India. The
trans-national Karakoram Highway from China into Pakistan also enters
Pakistan through Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is claimed by India.

In an agreement in 1963, Pakistan ceded over 5000 square kilometers of PoK
territory to China in violation to Indian claims.

Aksai Chin also provides surface transport access to China through Tibet to
Xinjiang, currently in the news for the Uighurs Muslim protest against
Chinese occupation. This road is important from the point of facilitating
movement of Chinese troops into Xinjiang and to the country's borders with
Central Asia.

There are two other very important reasons for China to seek to expand its
territory in the western sector. One is to use the Karakoram Highway as an
artery to cut short its access to the Persian Gulf through Pakistan.
China has already built a deep seaport at Gwadar in Pakistan and the
Karakoram Highway is connected to it. It also plans to construct twin oil
and gas pipelines from Gwadar to Western China. This is a great challenge
and once achieved, will be an engineering feat similar to the building of
the railway across hostile terrain in the Tibetan Plateau.

There are two other objectives of strategic importance -- One is to push the
Chinese border as far as possible into India and second is to bring the
Chinese army as close to the Indian land route as possible, making Ladakh
vulnerable by cutting its south eastern side from the rest of India. It is
something like what Pakistan tried to do in Kargil in 1999 -- cutting off
the land route to Kashmir.

China has started incursions along the border with Sikkim. The "Finger
Point" area where Chinese troops are probing is of military importance to
both sides, though it is within the borders of Sikkim and Tibet.

Although the Chinese have made a pretence of accepting Sikkim as part of
Indian territory during Prime Minister Vajpayee's visit to China in 2003,
they never actually did. Prime Minister Vajpayee and the Indian government
fell for the trick that if India fully recognised Tibet as a part of China,
the latter would accord recognition to India's sovereignty over Sikkim.

India did sign on the Tibet issue, but China did not honour its end of the
bargain on Sikkim. China gave an impression that there was no border dispute
insofar as Sikkim is concerned. The Sikkim issue is a pressure tactic and
has the potential of becoming a burning issue further. To open new pockets
of contention is a dangerous move by Beijing.

In the eastern sector, China's claim of 90,000 square kilometers of
territory, that is the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh, can be used by it
to keep boundary and territorial disputes with India alive, and take it into
the international arena.

This is what Beijing exactly did when trying to block an Asian Development
Bank (ADB) loan to India for development work in Arunachal Pradesh.

New Delhi has made it abundantly clear that Arunachal Pradesh is Indian
Territory and non-negotiable. Small adjustments, however, can be made along
the border without disturbing the settled population.

The 2005 India-China agreement on modalities to resolve the boundary issue
has a clause that settled populations would not be disturbed. Although the
agreement was jointly formulated, the Chinese are reneging on the clause.

The Chinese target is to get Tawang, which it sees as being of great
strategic importance.

One Chinese argument is that since the sixth Dalai Lama was born in Tawang
and is dear to the sentiments of the Tibetans, Tawang must be incorporated
in Tibet. This is a specious argument. Throughout history, the holy man has
moved elsewhere from their birthplace and settled.

Tawang is situated at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and Tibet. The
occupation of Tawang by the Chinese will bring their forces not only on
Bhutan's eastern border, but on the shoulders of a strip of land known as
Chicken Neck in Siliguri, which joins north-east India to the rest of the

In a time of war, this strip of land could be cut-off by Chinese troops in
no time especially since the vulnerable corridor is downhill.

And create an overwhelming military fortified border with India.

It plans to extend the Tibet railway to the Indian border in the Eastern
sector, at Xigatse, which will greatly help troop mobilization.

One can imagine the Indo-Himalayan belt being pushed southward, according to
Beijing 'forward defence' doctrine.

While China has been fortifying its borders with India, the same cannot be
said of India.

The Indian side has built hardly any permanent structure. In some areas,
Indian patrols do not go even up to the area of Indian claims, in some parts
they go unarmed, and at some other portions there are only civilian patrols.

This reportedly is a government decision not to provoke the Chinese. The
Indians have shown a weakness, which the Chinese have been quick to grab.
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