Mumbai: A year before the Sino-Indian war on December 5, 1961 during the debate on Aksai Chin in Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had made that famous statement in Parliament of “not a blade of grass grows there”. This was at a time when China was invading, infiltrating and occupying Ladakh (Aksai Chin). It invoked immediate sharp rejoinder from Mahavir Tyagi who pointed to his bald head and wanted to know whether he too should treat it as useless?
“It is a territory where not even a blade of grass grows, about 17,000 feet high. Ladakh is a useless uninhabitable land. Not a blade of grass grows there. We did not even know where it was”, Prime Minister Nehru had said. To which Mahavir Tyagi in Rajya Sabha while angrily pointing to his bald head had quipped “I am bald, does that mean I will abandon my head?”
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was so weeded to the Panchsheel that he refused to believe that China had some other intentions.
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The immediate fall out at the end of the hostilities in November 1962 was that Lieutenant General P N Thapar opted for voluntary retirement and Lieutenant General B M Kaul resigned.
But it was Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon, better known as V K Krishna Menon who was heavily criticised for his handling of defence matters and stepped down as Union Defence Minister in 1962. Although he was regarded as brilliant, intelligent and dynamic person, it was these very qualities of his proved to be bane for the armed forces. “He regarded senior army officers intellectually far inferior to him. Even in matters of military he thought he knew more than the Generals”, states the Col Athale’s report.
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One thing that the events of 1962 and now underscore one thing quite clearly, China has little or no faith in adhering to international treaties, norms and conventions. The selfless service rendered to the Chinese by Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis in 1938 during the Sino-Japanese war meant nothing.
But the end of hostilities did not mean that China was going to stop its antics. On March 2, 1963, barely four months after the Sino-India war of 1962 ended, it deliberately signed a boundary agreement with Pakistan on the disputed border areas of Sinkiang. China deliberately signed a pact with Pakistan which acceded parts of illegally held Indian territory to China.
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In doing so it did incorporate Article 6 in the agreement with Pakistan that provided that after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, both Pakistan and China would sign a formal boundary treaty to replace the 1963 agreement.
Former Army Chief General V P Malik while delivering the 30th USI National Security Lecture in 2014 on Collusive and Collaborative threat from China and Pakistan had dealt with the issue. China got Shaksgam valley front of Gilgit-Baltistan, part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 1963. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through the illegally held region of PoK that Pakistan has given to China.
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According to him, the Collusive threat meant that Pakistan and China acted in secret to achieve fraudulent, illegal or deceitful goal. While Collaborative threat implied a joint threat by working together, which covers both overt and covert threats.
According to General Malik, China illegally 38,000 Sq. Kms of area in Aksai Chin, which de jure is part of India’s Jammu and Kashmir. China also keeps on asserting its claim over nearly 92,000 Sq. Kms area of Arunachal Pradesh. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) which came into existence after Sino-India war of 1962, which has remained disputed and un-delimited.
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India claims that the length of India-China border is 4,056 Sq. Kms, which includes boundary/LAC with Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, including Shaksgam valley. Beijing however has argued that the length of its border with India is about 2,000 Sq. Kms, which obviously excludes Gilgit-Baltistan, Jammu and Kashmir.
China has become a new factor in the India-Pakistan debate over Jammu and Kashmir. India and China border dispute is in two parts. Eastern and Middle sectors are bilateral, whereas the Western sector has become trilateral with India-China and Pakistan.
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“Central feature of Chinese strategy is to persist with a policy of no compromise on core issues, and to try and win a war without having to fight a battle. Ambiguity with a smile is characteristic of Chinese diplomacy. China continues to delay delimitation of the LAC and to resolve the boundary issue”, remarked General Malik.
Since 1962, there have been two major incidents of military fire fight with China on the LAC – in September 1967 it was at Nathu La pass at Sikkim border and in 1986 at Wangdung at Arunachal Pradesh border.
The other major military clashes that China had with India include – Cho La in October 1967, Sumdorong Chu valley in 1987, after Arunachal Pradesh was granted statehood by India in 1986, at Pangong Tso (lake) near Chushul, Ladakh and Naku La (North Sikkim) between May 5 and May 9 last month and Doklam plateau in August 2017.
While, Colonel Virendra Verma in his paper published in May 2010, summed up the Sino-Indian border dispute broadly into three categories – (1). India – China is illegally occupying – 38,000 Sq. Kms of North-East Ladakh, 2,100 Sq. Kms of Central sector, 5,180 Sq. Kms area covering Kaurik, Shipkila, Pulam, Sumdo, Jadhang and Barahoti which have been ceded by Pakistan to China. In all the total disputed area illegally occupied is 45,280 Sq. Kms.
On the other hand China has been brazenly staking claim and accusing India of illegally occupying 90,000 Sq. Kms of NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh. Whereas, in the case of Tibet, India in the past has underlined China’s ‘suzerainty’ (as opposed to sovereignty)
The British used to use the Ardagh-Johnson line from 1917 to 1933 to define the Indo-Tibet border with China, primarily to counter the growing Russian empire. The Postal Atlas map of China published by Government of China in Peking showed boundary of Aksai Chin as per the Ardagh-Johnson line which runs along the Kun-lan mountains. The Peiking University Atlas published in 1925 also put Aksai Chin in India.