India cowing down before Chinese Sun Tzu ploy
by Ashok B Sharma on 26 Nov 2013 1 Comment

India’s has all along failed in its diplomacy towards China. The Indian diplomats are doing a great disservice to the nation by not asserting the Johnson Line in the northern sector and McMahon Line in the eastern sector drawn by the British colonials as India’s boundary line. In fact, after Independence the official map of the country recognizes these two lines.

The Chinese have forcibly occupied thousands of kilometers of Indian territory in the northern and eastern sectors, including 5,800 sq km of Gilgit-Baltistan illegally ceded by Pakistan. In total China occupies more than 20,000 sq km of Gilgit-Baltistan covering Shaksgam, Raskam and Aghil valleys, apart from a large chunk in Ladakh. It is strange that while India is in constant negotiations with Pakistan over its occupation of parts of Jammu & Kashmir, it has not taken any steps to negotiate with China for recovery of the parts of this State under its illegal occupation.

The recent Border Development Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing is the last nail in the coffin of Indian diplomacy. First, the agreement admits there is no common understanding of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). In face of this blatant admission of differing perceptions of the LAC how can there be border cooperation between the two sides? This exposes the hollowness of the agreement.

The agreement says that the two sides shall carry out border defence cooperation on the basis of their respective laws and relevant bilateral agreements. India had earlier signed a number of agreements with China on border issues, but China has violated these agreements on many occasions. What is the guarantee that China will not violate this new agreement? Further the BDCA says that the two sides agree that they shall not follow or trail patrols of the other side in areas where there is no common understanding of the LAC. Chinese have always been of the view that they can walk into Indian territory as they had recently done in Chumar, Depsang in Daulat Beg Oldi sector.

In such “a doubtful situation”, the BDCA says that either side has the right to seek a clarification from the other side and clarifications and replies should be exchanged through established mechanisms.

India has stopped patrolling in some areas along the LAC. Adequate infrastructure and border outputs have not been set up at many places. This gives the Chinese an added advantage to infiltrate into Indian territory and the BDCA forbids India to follow the Chinese patrol. Each time Chinese intrusion took place, our leaders were in the habit of denying and going further to cover it up saying “differing perceptions about LAC.”

The fact is that India has not yet understood the Chinese ploy of Sun Tzu – the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. China has been playing this game ever since 1962 and India has not been able to give a fitting reply, despite having the military potential. The Chief of Air Staff NAK Browne had rightly said that had Indian Air Force (IAF) been directly involved in the 1962 war, the Chinese could have been pushed back beyond the border. The IAF had been successful in pushing back the Pakistani intruders from the Kargil sector.

In reply to the Chinese Sun Tzu ploy, the present Indian leaders have been maintaining that the border between India and China is “undefined” This is contrary to the facts that since Independence the Government of India has been publishing official maps of the country with clearly defined borders with China based on the lines drawn during the colonial era.

In 1865, the British rulers sensing likely expansionist plans of then Czarist Russia and the Middle kingdom drew India’s northern boundary in the Ladakh region with Tibet which extended beyond the Kuen-Lun (Kunlun) mountains up to Khotan and included the Aksai Chin desert and linked Demchok in the south with the 18,000 feet high Karakorum pass in the north. This is popularly called the Johnson Line drawn by WH Johnson of the Survey of India. It included Shahidulla in far off Karakash valley about 400 km from Leh.

With a view to get the Chinese agree to this boundary line, the then Viceroy Lord George Curzon in 1899 tried to exclude much of the Aksai Chin by proposing the MacCartney-Macdonal line, but the Chinese refused. Interestingly, this line, by and large, coincides with the Line of Actual Control and Chinese claim line. However, realizing the strategic importance of Aksai Chin and sensing the aggressive designs of the pro-Soviet Sinkiang government of the warlord Sheng Shih-Tsai, the British in 1940-41 the British gave a second thought and came back to the Johnson Line.

As Tibet, which shared borders with India, was then independent of the Chinese kingdom, the consent of the Chinese was not necessary. The British declared Tibet as a buffer state. The Johnson line, therefore, became the northern boundary between India and Tibet. In 1907, the British and the Russians came to an agreement to leave Tibet “in that state of isolation from which, till recently, she has shown no intention to depart.”

Though Jammu and Kashmir was an independent kingdom, the 1846 Treaty of Amritsar gave British the responsibility of its security. This made Britain responsible for J&K’s northern and eastern borders with Sinkiang and Tibet.

After the British annexed Assam, mainly the Brahmaputra valley in 1826, they took over the control over the hills in 1886 when an expedition went up the Lohit valley at the far end of today’s Arunachal Pradesh. But in the western end of the sector, immediately east of Bhutan, a Tibetan administered wedge known as the Tawang tract coming alongside the east of Bhutan up to its southern alignment and running eastwards till just west of Bomdila, was considered by the British to be open country.

The Chinese began asserting their rights over Tibet by mid-1910. In 1911 citing the Chinese policy of expansion as a cause, Viceroy Hardinge ordered “a sound strategical boundary.” In September 1911, the British decided that the Outer Line, including the entire tribal belt and Twang tract, should be the boundary with Tibet-cum-China.

The British called for a conference in Shimla in October 1913 which the Chinese attended reluctantly, but the Tibetan authorities came quite eagerly as they were now engaged in conflict with their Chinese suzerains. The then Foreign Secretary Henry McMahon led the British delegation. The boundary line that followed was known as McMahon Line which extended to the edge of the Tibetan plateau. It was an ethnic boundary in the sense that the area, except for the Tawang tract, was non-Tibetan in character. The Survey of India for the first time showed the McMahon Line as the official boundary. Tibetans, however, did not accept the “annexation” of the Tawang tract, but tacitly accepted the rest of McMahon Line demarcation. The Chinese, however, soon repudiated the Shimla Convention and thus the McMahon Line.

It is a sad fate for the country that after Independence we have not been able to maintain the strategic legacy handed over to us by the erstwhile British rulers. It is high time that in the interests of nation’s territorial integrity, the Government and the diplomats assert claim on both the Johnson Line and the McMahon Line.

The author is a senior journalist

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