Monday, June 15, 2020

China, India & Ladakh: the Long Memory of Frozen Conflicts

If you can get your mind past the protests, riots, SCOTUS, and COVID-19 news flooding the zone, there is a good chance you've noticed things heating up on the Indian-Chinese frontier.

While it is a point of concern, many rightfully note that this is just a frozen conflict from 1962. 

Actually, it has a longer pedigree that that.

174 years old.
Since 1846, when the British took over J&K post the first Anglo-Sikh War, an attempt was made to have a boundary and was quickly followed up in 1847. In all, the British proposed boundaries — five separate ones in 1846-47, 1865, 1873, 1899 and 1914, China rejected each of them. Britain got China to send in troops during World War I and II, but the boundary remained undecided.

Major Alexandar Cunnigham, who led the British attempt in 1847 to demarcate the boundary, details this in his 1854 book “Ladakh Physical, Statistical and Geographical”. He narrates “The settlement of this boundary (between Ladakh and Tibet) was of some importance”.

In 1834, the Dogra Army, led by General Zorawar Singh, captured Ladakh. During the Sino-Sikh War (1841–42), the Qing Empire invaded Ladakh, but the Sino-Tibetan army was defeated and “a letter of agreement” was signed in 1842.
Sequence of events post Independence

1947: Chinese army enters Tibet
1950: India unilaterally declares McMahon Line in Arunachal as its boundary
1954: India claims Aksai Chin as part of its northern border
1958: India discovers China has built a road over the plateau of Aksai Chin
1959: PM Nehru rejects Chou En-lai’s letter accusing Indians of overstepping McMahon Line
1960: China bizarrely expands its claim on another 5,100 sq km of the territory in eastern Ladakh
1960: China wants status quo — India keeps NEFA (now Arunachal), while China keeps Aksai Chin — northeast edge of J&K
1961: In November, India launches forward policy to retain control over territory
1962: In Oct-Nov, India-China go to war
1993: Pact is inked on maintenance of peace along LAC
2014: PM Modi suggests demarcation of LAC, China says let representatives resolve it
Yes, watch --- but don't think this is a bolt out of the blue problem.

It is an old problem between two of the oldest cultures on the planet. 

We may get a break.

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