-Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India
The recent clashes between India and China have been a matter of discussion in India and in the world political arena. Since the independence of India, both India and China have engaged in various standoffs or faceoffs in the border areas or more particularly in the LAC or the ‘Line of Actual Control’ or the de facto border between Chinese administered Tibet and India.
China has always been trying to expand itself in these areas, as we have seen it launched a sudden attack on India or in the bordering areas in 1962. The recent standoff in the Tawang Sector of Arunachal Pradesh in India is another example. However, in this era, the Indian Army is well equipped and prepared to tackle any such intrusion.
Let us now understand a few facts about the border between India and China or to be precise with Tibet, as India shares no borders with China. During the British Raj, both Tibet and British Indian authorities had agreed on the borders issues and the maps were drawn as part of the Simla Convention in 1914. The border line is named after Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of British India and the chief British negotiator of the conference at Simla.
The bilateral agreement between Tibet and Britain was signed by McMahon on behalf of the British Government and Lonchen Shatra on behalf of the Tibetan Government. It spans 890 kilometres (550 miles) from the corner of Bhutan to the Isu Razi Pass on the Burma border, largely along the crest of the Himalayas.
The line delimited the respective spheres of influence of the two countries in the eastern Himalayan region along Northeast India and northern Burma (Myanmar), which were earlier undefined. Importantly, the then Republic of China (now the mainland China is known as Peoples Republic of China) was not a party to this agreement, however, the line was part of the overall boundary of Tibet defined in the Simla Convention, initialled by all three parties and later rejected by the Government of China.
The Indian part of the line currently serves as the de facto boundary between China and India, although its legal status is disputed by the People`s Republic of China. In 1950, China tightened its grip over Tibet and fully occupied it.
Now China neither approves nor accepts the McMahon Line. As per the Simla Treaty, Tawang was mentioned as a part of India. But China claims that the entire Arunachal Pradesh is a part of South Tibet and Tibet is under their control, thus, Tawang is also a part of China.
In 2017 there was an Indo-Sino faceoff at Doklam in Bhutan, which is an area spread over less than a 100 Sq KM comprising a plateau and a valley at the trijunction between India, Bhutan and China. It is surrounded by the Chumbi Valley of Tibet, Bhutan’s Ha Valley and Sikkim.
The Chinese were trying to construct a road in that area and the Indian troops helped the Bhutanese counterparts, to stop the same, resulting in a standoff. Doklam is strategically located close to the Siliguri Corridor, which connects mainland India with its Northeastern region. The corridor, also known Chicken’s Neck, is a vulnerable point for India.
As per the reports, Chinese troops came to the area with equipments to extend a road southward in Doklam, towards the Bhutanese Army camp near the Jampheri Ridge. The ridge, as per both Bhutan and India is an integral part of Bhutanese territory but China regards it as the border between China and Bhutan. Indian troops entered Doklam, at the request of Bhutan and stopped the construction.
Then, in June 2020, Galwan Valley in Ladakh in India witnessed a violent clash between the armies of India and China. This clash took the lives of 20 Indian soldiers and was one of the worst such incidents in last 45 years and led to a military standoff with China.
Tensions had been high at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) weeks before the clash, with both sides deploying an increased number of soldiers at the border. India contended that China had moved into the Indian side of the LAC and talks were held between local military commanders of both the armies on June 6, led to a mutually-agreed disengagement process.
A buffer zone was to be created between the two armies; however, an Indian commander noticed a Chinese camp in the area and went to inspect. This escalated into a fight, resulting in deaths and injuries. The Chinese used unorthodox weapons; however, Indian men gave a befitting reply and as per the reports, China lost at least 38 of their men, though Beijing had officially acknowledged only 5 casualties.
Again, the recent clash between the two armies at the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh on December 9 was erupted after Chinese troops tried to transgress the Line of Actual Control in Yangtse area of Tawang Sector. In this regard, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh said during a speech in the parliament that "On December 9, 2022, PLA troops tried to transgress the LAC in Yangtse area of Tawang Sector and unilaterally change the status quo."
Singh said that "due to the timely intervention of Indian military commanders, PLA soldiers have retreated to their own locations.” As per the news reports, personnel from both sides suffered only minor injuries during the clash.
India has taken a strong note of the whole matter and there are experts who are of the opinion that China has taken such a step may be to divert the attention of its people from the present covid situation in their country and may be to shift India’s attention from the South China Sea region to Indo-Sino border.
Writer: Editor, India; Bahumatrik.com