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China has taken LAC clock back to 1959. India not in a position to take back Aksai Chin

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Through its intrusions since May, China has taken the clock back to 7 November 1959. The difference being that instead of isolated posts/patrols facing each other, three-four divisions, including reserves, are locked in a confrontation along the same line. Let there be no doubt that the 1959 Claim Line is normal for all future negotiations and China is in no mood to give up its recent gains.

The four-and-a-half-month-long conflict along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the five-point agreement signed in Moscow has opened the way to settle the larger boundary dispute between India and China. We are exactly in the same situation as in 1959. The Chinese offer then was to settle the issue in Ladakh as per the 1959 Claim Line and recognise the McMahon Line in the northeast. Through its actions since April 2020, the Chinese have already reached the 1959 Claim Line in Depsang and north of Pangong Tso. The only other area left is Demchok.

The seventh Corps Commander-level talks are scheduled on 12 October as agreed to in the 19th Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs. At the end of the meeting, the statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that China has agreed “…to work towards early and complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC following the existing bilateral agreement and protocols, and fully restore peace and tranquillity”. The Chinese statement merely said it has agreed “to hold the seventh round of military-level talks at an early stage, urgently handle the remaining issues on the ground and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border areas.”

The difference in the agenda for the talks highlights the hardening approach of China. More so, when on 25 September, in reply to a query by Hindustan Times, China unequivocally reiterated, “China-India border LAC is obvious, that is the LAC on November 7, 1959. China announced it in the 1950s, and the international community, including India, is also clear about it. However, ever since this year, the Indian Army has continued to arrive and illegally cross the border, unilaterally expanding the scope of actual control. This is the source of tension on the border issues. The key to disengagement between the two armies is India’s withdrawal of all illegal cross-border personnel and equipment.”

On 29 September, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “China does not recognise the so-called Union Territory of Ladakh illegally established by India and opposes infrastructure construction in disputed border areas for military control purposes.”

It is crystal clear that in future talks, the Chinese approach will be to reiterate its ownership of territory up to the 1959 Claim Line and China will insist that disengagement/de-escalation is based accordingly.

I trace the history of the 1959 Claim Line, its strategic and tactical importance in various sectors and whether it can form the basis for a comprehensive settlement of the boundary dispute between India and China.

Also read: PLA’s eye is on 1959 Claim Line. But Modi, Xi can get around it and make peace before winter

The 1959 Claim Line had its origin in former Prime Minister Zhou Enlai’s letter to Prime........

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