Sino - Indian Face Off In Eastern Ladakh : Part Two

"One thing is certain that two Asian giants can not be real friends because of asymmetrical political systems and competing economies. Whole issue has to be understood in this framework"

Sino - Indian Face Off In Eastern Ladakh : Part Two

In Part One, the theme was to dispel general impression  about Chinese soldiers invincibility . It was highlighted that Indian soldiers were more than equal to PLA soldiers , despite their technological advancement . In this part, I would highlight the contours of Sino - Indian conflict in totality to understand how it has reached a present state of acrimony . One thing is certain that two Asian giants can not be real friends because of asymmetrical political systems and competing economies . Whole issue has to be understood in this framework .

Sino - Indian Face Off In Eastern Ladakh : Part One
They give an impression that Chinese soldiers were super humans and Ladakh would be swallowed by them in no time . They should not lose their sleep over it as nothing is going to happen.

Part 2  highlights  the contours of Sino - Indian conflict in totality to understand how it has reached a present state of acrimony . One thing is certain that two Asian giants can not be real friends because of asymmetrical political systems and competing economies . Whole issue has to be understood within this framework.

India has a total of 3488 KM long  LAC ( Line of Actual Control) with China. It is divided into three sectors, namely, Eastern , Central and Western . Border with Nepal is not taken into account. The  difference between LAC and LC is that LC was well marked on ground and maps. It is with Pakistan in Kashmir. LAC is unmarked on ground and maps. It is with China on Ladakh. And this is the cause of Sino - India conflict and boundary  dispute since 1950s.

On the Eastern side the LAC is recognised by India along McMohan Line up to the western edge of Bhutan. . However China does not recognise this line. On the Western front , there are series of lines such as Jonathan Line , McCartney Line , Foreign Office Line , Chinese Claim Line of 1960 and the ground position since 1962. See the first map--- these lines marked in various colours on the sketch. It also gives out Western Highway ( Yellow line on right) passing through Aksai Chin.

In the Middle sector the border is more and less settled except some pockets opposite Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.? BARIHOTI Bowl in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand , just West of Lipulekh pass/ Kalavari border with Nepal, has been a point of Concern .

Eastern Sector and McMohan Line

The Eastern sector LAC runs along the McMohan Line which basically goes along along the water shed of Himalayas from west (Bhutan’s Western extremity) to East with Myanmar . This Line came up in an agreement between British India and Tibet Government at Shimla in 1914 . Henry McMohan was the British civil servant who demarcated this line with the Tibetan representative. Tibet at that time was a sovereign state. However China does not accept this  and asserts that Tibet was part of Chinese Qing Dynasty and as such part of China. It questions the sovereignty of Tibet in 1914. China therefore does not recognise McMohan line.

Precisely speaking , even Tibet did not accept this line as the boundary and the representative, who had signed it, was sacked on his return to Lhasa. Even British Government was confused. They had asked Henry McMohan to not to sign it but he went ahead with it. However on independence, India claimed this as the natural boundary between India and Tibet .

China does not recognise this line and claims entire Arunachal Pradesh which is some 65000 Sq KMs. There are two reasons given by China. Firstly, China was not party to Shimla agreements 1914.  Secondly, it did not accept Tibetan suzerainty in 1914 and as such it had no locus standi to sign this treaty. It further claims that even local Tibet Government had not accepted it . The fact is that Arunachal Pradesh had been part of South Tibet till mid 19th Century and Twang was the second largest Tibetan monastery of Tibetan BUDDHISM. The Tibetan government had, though,  questioned it but never annulled it .

The point of interest is that even Myanmar ( old Burma) was part of British India in 1914 . Therefore this McMohan line even separated British Burma and Tibet . Surprisingly China has accepted this as a Boundary between  Myanmar and China . So , there is a duality in Chinese stand. There is a belief that around 1980 or before it, China had offered to forgo its claim over Arunachal Pradesh if India could forgo its claim over Aksai Chin  in the West . Even today China might like to barter this .

Middle Sector opposite HP and Uttarakhand —- Barahoti Bowl & Pooh Sector

These areas under dispute and Chinese claim are , Chumar, Kaurik, Shipki La, Nelang and Laptha. It is a 507 Km long belt but thinly held by India. It also includes BARIHOTI of Chamoli district.

BARIHOTI  is just West of LIPULEKH PASS / Kalapsni area /Limphyadhuria area which recently Nepal has claimed it. The issue came up after India had completed a road to Kailash - Mansarovar in Tibet through Lipulekh pass in May 2020. Nepal claims some 400 Sq KMs area. Most observers believe that this action of Nepal is at the behest of China, who suddenly realised that Lipulekh Road could be a serious threat to her in Tibet . Nepal has passed a resolution in Nepalese Parliament and issued a new map including these areas in Nepalese territory.

BARIHOTI is 397 kms from Dehradun . Nearest road head is 3 KMs at Rim Khem from BARIHOTI Ridge. From here, it is a 700 Mtrs descent into 80 Sq KMs Grass land of BARIHOTI.

1958 Agreement by Nehru had it Declared as “No Man’s land” —- This is an Achilles heel in Indian Defence. One wonders , what made Nehru do these favours to China ? He seems to have had no practical vision on national security. Today, same China has become a thorn in the flesh.. And strange is India had given even logistic support to China when it occupied Tibet. Besides, Nehru had even rejected US offer of Permanent seat of UNSC in favour of China. What a Vision ?

Chinese incursions in this area of BARIHOTI bowl  have been noted up to 37 between 2010 and 2012 . The incursions in 2017 were by attack helicopters. It is an Achilles here of Indian Defence .

Western Sector — Eastern Ladakh

Indian claim is along the Jonathan Line of 1865 . WH Jonathan was a civil servant in the survey of India. He had drawn a line along the KUNLUN mountains to describe the border of J& K state with Tibet . Immediately , Maharaja of J&K established a Fort at Sahiddulla ( Xaidulla now) and occupied it. This includes the Aksai Chin area of some 36000 Sq KMs .

However Tibet had recaptured it in 1870 . Then a Kashgar Governor  in 1899 suggested a line along Laktasang Ridge to British representatives,. It is called McCarteny Line — which runs west of present Western Highway from North of Lanka La through Sumdo to Karakoram pass

However Britain in 1914 withdrew the Boundary further East along the Karakoram range and gave this area to Tibet . This action left Aksai Chin entirely to Tibet. Strange again that JL Nehru accepted Chinese suzerainty over Tibet but in 1954 ordered to include Aksai Chin in Indian maps . Such a confusion occurs when one is clueless about ground situation. When in 1962 China annexed it , he dismissed as the land where not a blade of grass had grown. This is when Mahavir Tyagi had taunted him about his baldness of the head and cutting it.

Chinese claim Line of 1960 includes the areas it had captured in September 1962 — These areas run along a line from Khuranak fort in the south to Karakoram pass in the North through Dambu Guru - Kongka La - Shamal Lungpa- Dehra Compass- keeping Galwan River / Depsang Plains to the west  and Chip chap river to the east to Karakoram Pass.

The area opposite the above Chinese claim line is Chumar—Chushul -Pangong Tso—Shyok River — Galwan River confluence with Shyok River -Daulat Beg OLDI ( DBO ) . Recently India has constructed a road from Darbuk to Shyok —- along Shyok River to Galwan River Confluence to DBO. At the confluence of two rivers India has constructed a 30 Meter Bridge . Also a 12 Km long link was being constructed to PP -14 ( Protective Patrol -14 ) which is objected to by China. PP- 14 overlooks the entire Galwan River Valley . It is this point and the Link Road which is the point of conflict . The DSDBO Road is some 255 Kms long.

DBO is a strategic location. It is 12 KMs Crow flight South West of Karakoram Pass which is very important . China is also building a road to Karakoram Pass from Western Highway . Chinese are worried that DBO could be an Indian launching pad for forays into Gilgit and Xinjiang at a future date . The DSDBO road would be the logistic artery for such an offensive. Therefore they think of the importance of Galwan River valley to keep a watch on this. Hence pp -14,is an eye sore for them which denies them this opportunity.

The area of Pangong TSO lake is another point of dispute. It is 1/3rd with India and 2/3rd with China. The points of Issue are in its Northern Bank. From the Indian side of the lake towards Chinese side , there are 8 spurs jutting out of the hills in the North side of the lake. These mountainous protrusions are called Fingers. There are 8 Fingers . They are numbered from west to East ( From Indian Side to Chinese side) India has an ITBP post short of  Finger -4 . India claims that LAC runs from Finger  -8 down south to the bend of the Lake. China claims the LAC runs from Finger -4 down south. China has its PLA base at SRIJAP —- and they patrol up to Finger -4 . India has road up to Finger -4 and China has upto Finger -8. The area between Finger -4 and Finger -8 has a very narrow track where only soldiers can walk in a single file.

Let us also learn about Siachen Glacier . It is second largest glacier in the world ( Second to Lambert Glacier) . It is around 106 KMs long and 10-15 kms wide at its girth . In the north touches Indra Col with China. It is also touching Gilgit - Baltistan on the West and some 80 KMs south West of Karakoram Pass and 120 KMs East of Khunzerab Pass , though which runs famous Karakoram Highway from Kashghar to Gwadar in Pakistan.

It was occupied by India in 1984.  At its snout starts the NUBRA River which joins River Shyok near Partapur . It lies west of DBO . Siachen is disputed by Pakistan . The fact is Siachen - DBO region separates Aksai Chin of China from Gilgit Baltistan of POK. However it is the most hostile and fractured terrain . India is now constructing a glaciated Road to DBO from Sasoma through Saser La pass . It will be an alternative route to DBO , should DSDBO be choked by China at Galwan valley.


We must note that owing to political, Social, Geo-strategic, Economical , geographical and civilizational dissimilarities, India and China can never be friends in the real sense. There is a mutual distrust of each other which ensures their animosity .

China has expansionist dreams while India believes in Status quo. China thinks that India was a big hurdle in her global ambitions. Therefore, China has been trying to  contain India and make India’s neighbour hostile to it . Its incursions in Nepal and Sri Lanka , besides Pakistan, amply manifest its  anti- India intentions. It is also trying to boo Bangladesh and Bhutan .

China’s over all military strategy against India would be five pronged:-

(a) Contain and isolate India by making her neighbours hostile and unfriendly. Make Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar hostile to India. String of pearls policy in the Indian Ocean.

(b) Cajole and Dissuade India from joining hands with USA or be a part of Quad , which has other three as USA, Japan and Australia. India’s strategic pact with Australia might have rattled China. In an article in Chinese Government mouth piece, Global Times , China has warned India on the consequences of allying with USA . As reported by News 18 TV Channel on June 01, 2020, the tone and tenor of the article said that India had more to lose than gain. It goes on to say:-

“India has little to gain from engaging in a US-China conflict over any topic, with more to lose than gain, face the new geopolitical development objectively and rationally“

(c) Outsource its low cost proxy war to Pakistan, Nepal and Maoists/Naxalites of India by:-

(i)   Supporting and encouraging internal Insurgencies, brewing in India and thus  break-up India through implosion.

(ii)  Using Pakistan to the maximum to retard India’s military and economic growth.

(iii) Intensify Conflict with Nepal to tie down Indian military.

(d)    Dominate sea-lanes around India through a  ‘String of Pearls’ policy from Dijibuti to Gwador to Hambantota and Coco islands.

(e) Turn Afro-Asian nations against US - India Axis through her non- returnable “Loan diplomacy” to poor and small countries.

Thus, in the final analysis only foolish Indians will trust China . It‌‌was Nehru’s unlimited trust in China in 1950 that India lost the advantage of great Himalayan Barrier and brought China as India’s next door neighbour . Having done a favour to China , then he bought its enmity by giving asylum to Dalai Lama in 1959.

It seems Nehru was confused about Aksai Chin too. On one hand, he had accepted Chinese suzerainty over Tibet and then claimed it as Indian. territory when in 1954, he asked for publication of maps to include it as Indian territory, right up to Kunlun range .

No wonder Mao Zedong had claimed to have said that he wanted to teach a lesson to Nehru . Henry Kissinger , President Nixon’s Advisor, states in his book that Mao had told his commanders afterwards that 1962,war was needed to knock some sense in to Indian leaders .

And Nehru’s legacy continues under his descendants .His great grand son signed a memorandum pact with Communist Party of China on 07 August 2008. In July 2017 , same person as Party’s president, had a dinner with Chinese envoy , while Doka La face off was going on. Alas! India was always betrayed by Indians . Even after 1000 years of vassalage Indians have not learnt a lesson !


In conclusion , I would like to summarise following points to point out Indian leadership confusion right from 1947 :—

  1. India had accepted Chinese suzerainty over Tibet in 1950, which it should not have done, though Sardar Patel was against it but he died in 1950. Not only India had accepted Chinese lordship over Tibet but provided logistics support to PLA soldiers through Chumbi valley . China had no easy rail- road connections with Tibet then.

2. Then, India went and occupied South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh ) in Feb 1951— Note Maj Bob Khathing expedition to Tawang and its occupation.

3. Further, in 1954, Indian PM had learnt that China was constructing G219 ( Western Tibet Highway from Xinjiang) but it did nothing to object to it . In fact the patrol report was hidden by Menon and Nehru .

4. In 1954, India had extended the 1899 line of Indo- Tibet Border, from along Karakoram Range to KUNLUN Range mountains of JONATHAN LINE of border of 1865 thus, included Aksai Chin , which in 1899 was accepted by  Britain to be with Tibet .

5. On top of it,  India provided Asylum to Dalai Lama in 1959 —- which became an eyesore for China . Read it in conjunction with accepting suzerainty and providing asylum to someone who rebelled against China .

6. Again, after Galwan Valley incident of 06 July 1962 , ( Gorkha Coy under seize and massacre of 5 JAT coy) Nehru ordered Forward Posture and wanted Chinese to be evicted .  This he did without IA being given requisite weapons and wherewithal . Remember his famous outburst to Army Chief, General Roy Bucher in 1949: “We do not have any enemy . We do not need army . We will do with police.”

7. In 1960, when Chinese premier Chou En Lai visited India and HINDI - CHINI BHAI BHAI slogans rent the air , Chou En Lai offered a deal to Nehru to swap Aksai Chin with Arunachal Pradesh. But it was declined .

8. In 1961, when Pakistan ceded SHAKASGAM VALLEY (5180 Sq KMs) to China —- India made no noise —— Worst is that it was done when KASHMIR issue was in the UNO . Till date India makes no noise about it, nor questions China. The territory lost in 1961-62 is unprecedented but it is disgusting to hear some people making noise about loss of territory in 2020-21. when not an inch was conceded

9. Shakasgam valley is a gateway to Xinjiang province —- Uighar Muslim insurgency . If India had occupied XAIDULLA ( SAIDULLAH) Fort in Oct- Nov 1947 ——China wouldn't have occupied Tibet .

10. Instead , India did not make any effort to reinforce SAKARDU GARRISON which was held by Lt Col SHER JUNG THAPA of J& K state forces till April 1948—- well six months after fall of Gilgit - Baltistan to Pakistan through British officers betrayal .

11. Worst was our confusion when USA offered us a UN seat in 1954 —— we declined and instead asked China to be given the priority .  It seemed we were thoroughly confused — we extended border to AKSAI CHIN —but still thought China will be pleased with us and refused permanent seat in UNSC .

12. Finally , how many Indians have heard of a region called UTTAR KURU ? It is Xinjiang autonomous region of China. Today , it is tormented by Uighur Muslim insurgency .   Mythology tells that it was during Mahabharata period,  part of Pandav Kingdom as a tributary state.

Shouldn’t India be making a claim to it as does China over Tibet because it was part of Qing dynasty in the 17th Century . But who would teach ancient History to Indian leadership , from politics to bureaucracy and the military . A separate article on UTTAR KURU (Xinjiang) is warranted.

For concluding Part -3 please read on link below: “ Splitting the Anatomy  of Galwan Valley Bloodshed” published by Mission Victory India on 25 June 2020

Splitting the Anatomy of the Galwan Valley Bloodshed
“Speaking to the OC Rear of 16 Bihar, it turned out that Lt Col Maninder Nagpal, Capt Arjun Deshpande and Capt Manangma of 16 Bihar were the most daring and they ferociously led their troops to avenge the death of their CO.”

Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, battle-hardened infantry veteran, renowned author, notable national security analyst and a regular contributor in several leading defence & security journals.

(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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