Indo-China border – The current situation

China’s quiet but steady plans of increasing it’s military capabilities are not going unnoticed! Reports emanating from the Pentagon, early last week, have confirmed that it has successfully deployed long range CSS-5 missiles close to the Indian border while also having developed contingency plans to move airborne forces to the region at very short notice. Quite naturally, this is of serious concern to India, considering the long standing not-so-friendly relations that both countries have shared over the years, a culmination of which was witnessed in 1962 when Chinese aggression against India came at a very unexpected time, at the backdrop of the Indo-China cooperation effort that was supposed to spearhead the beginning of a warm bilateral relationship between both nations!

In an annual report to the US Congress, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” officials from the US Department of Defence have stated that “Beijing remains concerned with persistent disputes along China’s shared border with India and the strategic ramifications of India’s rising economic, political, and military power” and in order “to improve regional deterrence, the PLA has replaced the older liquid-fuelled, nuclear capable CSS-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with more advanced and survivable solid-fuelled CSS-5 MRBMs and may be developing contingency plans to move airborne troops into the region.” The report also notes that China continues to invest heavily in “increasingly capable long-range air Defence systems, electronic warfare and computer network attack capabilities, advanced fighter aircraft, and counter-space systems.”

To understand the context of the report, especially the aforementioned contents of it, or rather to attempt to gain a clear understanding of the situation on the ground, one needs to revisit the occurrences of many instances of skirmishes initiated by the PLA against the Indian Army, while repeatedly claiming regions along the border as part of Chinese territory and systematically orchestrating such claims as legitimate, many such incidents having been reported during the course of the previous year! Therefore, mentions made by American officials about China’s concern and resultant up-scaled measures of deterrence along the Indo-China border can at best be termed as lopsided or unfounded in substance, considering, among other things, China’s continued posture of aggression and a refusal to engage in talks regarding territorial disputes!

Chinese aggression and repeated claims of Indian territory are not by any means recent, and have been happening well ahead of the 1962 engagement, both in overt and covert means! By remaining continually irreconcilable and averse to meaningful and constructive dialogue, this communist state has been nurturing a sense of hostility against India for a very long time now! Following the ascension to Presidency by Hu Jintao, China effectively began a new era of militarization and modernization of the PLA that at best can be described as transgressing the boundaries of China’s political and territorial interests! Apart from the Indo-China scenario, one can also draw instances from China’s actions with regards to Taiwan, where it continues to engage in a substantial military build-up, largely aimed at stifling any move by Taiwan to assert independence from the mainland!

It may be recalled that, not very long ago, China tried to block a $2.9 billion loan that India had sought from the Asian Development Bank, citing that it was purported for use in Arunachal Pradesh, a region China claims to be part of it’s territory! Such concerted attempts by the Chinese are not few or far apart these days and seem to be well orchestrated as is it’s view of emerging India and it’s imminently rising socio-economic status! China has, during the recent past, engaged in massive infrastructure development along the border with India, strengthening road and rail networks, aimed to augment operations by the PLA in the possible hope of arm-twisting it’s neighbour and gaining superiority in the region! So long as such projects continue to be undertaken unbridled, there is a looming danger of Chinese incursions on a large and more determined scale and the Government of India needs to ensure that steps are taken to recognize such threats by putting into place countermeasures of deterrence, or in the present circumstances, defence at least!

India and China share a 4057 km long border that is largely porous, and tensions have been long prevalent over how each side has viewed this dividing line and presently recognizes the same! The boundary with China is divided into three parts, namely, Eastern, Western and Middle sectors. In the Eastern Sector, China claims an area of 94,700 sq. kms., which is in addition to the entire part of Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Sikkim. The Western Sector consists of Aksai Chin and the Western boundary in Ladakh and is located along Lanka La, Niagzu stream, Demchok and Teshigong through the Emis Pass. China has, for long, understood the strategic value of Aksai Chin in sustaining and maintaining control over Tibet. In this region, China claims about 38,000 sq. kms. of land, primarily of that in Aksai Chin. In the Middle Sector the area extends up to Spiti Valley and Shipkila Pass, while in the Garhwal area of Uttarakhand, Satluj-Ganga watershed has been the traditional boundary. Here China claims about 1,300 sq. kms. as part of it’s territory. After the war in 1962, China has been found to have illegally occupied 20,000 sq. kms. in Arunachal Pradesh and 38,000 sq. kms. in the Ladakh region, which is excluding 5,180 sq. kms. of area ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963. In the Eastern Sector, which consists Tawang, Zemithang and Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh, it has been ascertained that the Thagla Ridge, where the 1962 Indo-China war had begun, along with places such as Namka Chu and Sumdrong Chu Valley have been under Chinese occupation since 1986. The occupation has resulted in the loss of extensive amounts of traditional grazing land of the local people. In central Arunachal Pradesh, under the Upper Subansiri district, the Asa-Pila-Maya Army camp which was part of the Indian territory is now under Chinese occupation. Similarly, in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh under Dibang Valley district, the Athu-Pupu range, a place regarded as sacred by the local people, has been been under Chinese occupation since 2006. In the Chaklagam range in the Eastern part, the three mountain ranges have been occupied by China since 2006. Similarly, in Kurung Kumey district, seven of the nine India Army base camps have been occupied by Chinese Army.

While officials in the Indian government continue to remain in a state of denial with regards to repeated border violations by the Chinese, it is estimated that India has lost vast amounts of land to China over the past decades. For starters, various agencies in India including the Army and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs admit the persisting differences over mapping of the area. Coordination incapacities among these institutions have only compounded the magnitude of the problem, something that is well known to the Chinese side! A high level meeting on the Indian side, held between various stakeholders, concluded that “there is a lack of institutional memory in various agencies as well as clear policy on this issue which in the long run has resulted in loss of territory by India in favour of China”. A report by a fact finding mission, as recently as July 2010, has detailed some shocking facts. It states that “China has built 13 airports at the border and most of them including Lhasa, Qando, Nyngchi, Ngaji and Xigaza are operational now. Apart from rail links it has also established several missile points there. It has constructed metalled roads up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and has reportedly deployed two lakh army personnel on the border. It has the potential to move two more divisions to forward areas during emergency. On the other hand there are virtually no metalled roads on Indian border and more distinctly in those areas which are under threat. There are just wind sandy rubble tracks which Indian security forces are using today. Such a road system in no way can serve our requirements during war time. This state of affairs exists both in Eastern and Western sectors of India.” The report further outlines that “China now has 40,000 km road network in Tibet, apart from rail links of 1,118 km, one from Lhasa to Gormo in Qinghai province. This would enable China to mobilise large forces by train and by road onto Indian borders. Earlier, this exercise not only took a long time but also was impossible during winter but the new rail line into Tibet and the expressway have changed the scenario totally.”

It is time that the Indian government woke up to the Chinese threat, before it becomes too late! A state of denial, in the hope of forging better bilateral relations cannot help but offer concessions to an aggressor. Alarmingly, the Indian side remains yet to be strengthened by dependable road and rail networks that could help mobilization of troops and resources in the event of a Chinese misadventure. That Chinese incursions are happening in a very slow and inch-by-inch manner does not mean that they are not happening at all. China is also supplying the local populace with essential commodities and supplies fully aware of the sheer scale of neglect by the Indian side. By doing this, it hopes to gain confidence of the people in the region, another threat that the Government of India must recognize immediately. Furthermore, China’s record of completing strategic projects well ahead of schedule and the fact that contingents of the Indian army need to walk for days together to reach the border are not helping the Indian side in any manner! Required on an urgent footing are the need for constructing a well networked chain of roads in the area, along with the need to upgrade the living and operating conditions of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, while also involving the local people to form liaisons with the territorial army in order to garner valuable HUMINT regarding the movement of Chinese army personnel. Basic infrastructure and other facilities such as telecommunications and power supply, to name a handful, are severely lacking and need to be worked upon! All of these need to be undertaken and continued very seriously in order to stave off a threat that has been looming large and will one day pose a serious threat to the Indian union!

  1. August 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    We’re so ignorant we never think of dangers outside our immediate boundaries-home, work etc

    • August 22, 2010 at 10:15 pm

      Shri, that is so true! What puzzles me even more is the lackadaisical attitude of the Indian government that continues to remain in denial over the actions of the Chinese army! I wonder where has gone the will to be committed to a cause and most importantly be concerned about national defence!

      • rakeshkapila
        November 26, 2012 at 1:03 am

        Indian Civilian Leadership has just been bought up by the Chinese Money Power ! God save us from Chamachas and Chores of Indian Demon-Cracy!

    • vokoyo
      October 5, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      China boundary settlements with other countries —

      Western and Indian analysts and journalists frequently accuse China of having a new-found self-confidence, call on Obama to “burst Beijing’s bubble”, call its statements “harangue” and its behaviour “hubris”, and accuse it of possessing an increased “assertiveness” (Almost everyone!).

      Even a 2005 Pentagon report on Chinese military power expressed concern that “conflicts to enforce China territorial claims could erupt in the future with wide regional repercussions.”

      J.Mohan Malik, an expert in Asian Geopolitics and Proliferation, proclaims, “Having wrested substantial territorial concessions from Russia, Vietnam, and Tajikistan in their land border disputes with China, Beijing is now expecting the same from India.”

      Although a thorough analysis of China border disputes merits a separate blog post, only a summary is sufficient here to put things in perspective.

      China has had land border disputes with every country which it bordered. However, it has resolved 12 out of the 14 disputes quite remarkably, giving remarkable concessions in each of them.

      In its border negotiations with different countries, China has pursued compromise and offered concessions in most of these conflicts. China compromises have often been substantial, as it has usually offered to accept less than half of the contested territory in any final settlement. It has also not reiterated its claims on a majority of the territory which was seized from it by the so-called unequal treaties.

      According to M.Taylor.Fravel, a premier expert on China border disputes,

      “Contrary to scholars of offensive realism, ……China has rarely exploited its military superiority to bargain hard for the territory that it claims or to seize it through force. China has likewise not become increasingly assertive in its territorial disputes as its relative power has grown in the past two decades. Contrary to others who emphasize the violent effects of nationalism, which would suggest inflexibility in conflicts over national sovereignty, China has been quite willing to offer territorial concessions despite historical legacies of external victimization and territorial dismemberment under the Qing.”

      “…..China has not issued demands for large tracts of territory that were part of the Qing dynasty……”

      “China only contested roughly 7 percent of the territory that was part of the Qing dynasty at its height”

      China land border negotiations with neighbouring countries offer a startling revelation. Portions of the total disputed territories that China received as part of its boundary negotiations with 12 of its 14 neighbours are as follows:

      Afghanistan – 0%
      Tajikistan – 4%
      Nepal – 6%
      Burma – 18%
      Kazakhstan – 22%
      Mongolia – 29%
      Kyrgyzstan – 32%
      North Korea – 40%
      Laos – 50%
      Vietnam – 50%
      Russia – 50%
      Pakistan – 54%

      Pakistan was a special case in which China received 60% of the disputed land but transferred 1942 square kilometers of separate land to Pakistan. In Tajikistan’s case, the figure refers to the 28000 of the disputed Pamir mountain range, other sectors were divided evenly. In the case of Vietnam, in addition to this settlement, China transferred, apparently without any strings attached, the White Dragon Tail Island to (North) Vietnam in 1957.

      According to Fravel, “Analysis of China dispute behavior bears directly on the future of peace and stability in East Asia. Behavior in territorial disputes is a fundamental indicator of whether a state is pursuing status quo or revisionist foreign policies, an issue of increasing importance in light of China rising power.”

  2. dr sunil
    September 9, 2010 at 10:38 am

    The inner fighting of politicians is truly affecting the issues regarding the safety of border.There is lack of courage in supreme defense authorities .There is no need to mix two issues of security of the nation & internal harmony of the citizens.If we do not show practical intervention upon china’s policy, friendly dialogues will prove suicidal for all of us,& that time politicians will go underground .

  3. shraman
    September 13, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    This is indeed a cause of concern.. It seems we didn’t learn anything from 1962 face-off. We kept on sleeping while our neighbour worked hard to ensure sleepless nights for us in near future.. Our political leadersip has to be blamed for as Indian Army was giving inputs about potential threats since decades. We are losing our land to China, what worse is coocking, only china knows. Lets wait and watch how china grabs the whole arunachal..

  4. Khan Mohammad
    September 26, 2010 at 10:44 am

    We should now not deny the fact that China can never be our friend….may be we can hope for a better relation with PAK one day…but chinese are silent killer…

  5. rohit
    December 20, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    firstly we should not ignore the policy of china regarding us because if we ignore again we will face the situation of 1962.

  6. namo narayana
    January 30, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Dear sir. I am an engineer of GREF (General reserved Engineer Force wrongly popularised as BRO) and actively involved in construction of Border Roads along China Border in western and Eastern front since last 20 years . I fully agree with your veiw . The indian Army and Defence ministry are fully responsibe and to be blamed for such a poor state of affair with regard to road construction along china Border. As you may be aware, GREF personnels (not Army) are mainly deployed for construction of such roads in extreemly trying condition under top lradership of Army who are professionely very weak with respect to GREF Enginner. However with their unfair intensions they have suppressed GREF pers and engineers having more experience and qualification and making them feel humiliated and underpreveledged. Gref pers are forced to work under junior and less experienced Army leadership at lower pay and faciliteis .This has caused sheer demotivation among GREF adversly affecting the road progress. Govt is being misguided by ARMY as GrEF do not interact with govt. A large no of court cases are under prog at various courts . Cheif of BRO most of time devote to sort out internal problem of deptt instead planning of future road construction. What worse can be for the org like this which has such a challenging task ahead in view of China threat where
    Addl DGBR ( a Gref Offr) senior and more experienced is forced to work under a junior Army General who has first exposure in BRO for bal one year tennure as aresult Addl DGBR has gone to Honable Hige Court DELHI receltly.Last hearing of the case was on 27 jan 11.At all level there is similar conflict and litigation due to red tappesim and attrocity of Army. Basic question before country and person like you is will in this frictional and humiliating working atmosphere 7000 KM roads along china Border will be constructed without giving due treatment and dues to GREF people who have spent their whole carreer in adverse climatic condition and seperated from family at the cost of choldren eduction and other social commitment.
    Anser is NO NO NO ……. Army should underatand need of hour and go back to their Army role . Road construction is purely civil engineers job and GREF engineers are well capable of doing so at its own.

  7. November 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    First of all we need to claim the china occupied area and we need to show the aggression for the same. and on the parallel way we need to built total border roads and rail network for rapid movement of strategic forces to the LOC. As we are having forces on our western border we need to fortified the eastern region without any political issues and may be with private partnership also. But we need to develop all the required infrastructure like water, hydro power plants, road lines till LOC railway track along the border, airport facility also.
    Our joint forces should get all the required support without any political obstacle. Then only we can feel slightly safe as china can betray India on any day or night.

  8. shravan kumar
    February 25, 2012 at 1:08 am

    chinese govt. is increasing technology and road devleoping on ind-china the china -ind border ,china’s been hacked the network,so i m requesting to indian govt to develop road ,networking,technology have to develop hurry.
    thanking the indian govt
    an indian shravan kumar.

  9. byomkesh
    March 23, 2012 at 8:25 am

    we must also develop 4 lakh forces the win of india is more necessary jai hind

  10. jitender kumar jain
    July 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    look it is true that china is far ahead than us in every aspect. but at the same time why our government is still quiet? it must take refoms in view to tackle the problem. infact we indians have a lot big strong and good brains in every sector ,than rest of the world why we r not utilizing them? it is like that our political leaders are fighting for their seats and position doing all the scams and waiting for china to come and invade us to become again a slave nation

  11. jaishankar Awasthy
    May 8, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Nehru ignored Sardar Patel’s warning against Chinese activities.Hence we lost Tibet as a buffer state between the two countries.China is a friend-like enemy.

  12. May 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm

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