INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT
On 1st April, 2020 India and China completed their 70 years of diplomatic relations. Recently, Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the NakuLa area in north Sikkim and Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh. Chinese media has accused India of building defence facilities in the Galwan Valley region of the contested Aksai Chin area. China controls Aksai Chin area, while India claims that it is part of Indian territory (Union territory of Ladakh). Chinese media claims that the actions by the Indian side have seriously violated China and India’s agreements on border issues. It also claims that India has violated China’s territorial sovereignty and harmed military relations between the two countries.
INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT: India and China have an unresolved 3488 km long border dispute that has cast a shadow on ties for decades. Prolonged rounds of negotiations have failed to resolve the dispute between the two neighbours. However, in the Wuhan and Mahabalipuram summits, both China and India had reaffirmed that they will make efforts to “ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas”. India recently set up twin commands headquartered at Chandigarh and Guwahati. and has deployed 90,000 troops personnel who are well trained mountaineers. As the border dispute is unsolved and certain border areas are not yet demarcated, this is an on and off issue where one country crosses the border while patrolling.
Mc Mahon Line
The 890-km McMahon Line separating British India and Tibet was drawn by Sir Henry McMahon at the China-Tibet-Britain Simla Convention (1914). The line marked out previously unclaimed/undefined borders between Britain and Tibet. Also the Line put Tawang (a region of the present Arunachal Pradesh) in the British empire. The line was forgotten until the British government published the documents in 1937. Subsequently, China refused to accept the line. #INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT
The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is the effective border between India and China. LAC was supposed to divide areas under Indian and Chinese control since the end of the Sino-Indian War of 1962. Unlike the LoC (between India and Pakistan), the LAC was not mutually agreed upon. This was because the war ended with a unilateral ceasefire by China.
Dispute over Aksai Chin
During the time of British rule in India, two borders between India and China were proposed- Johnson’s Line and McDonald’s Line. Johnson’s line (proposed in 1865) shows Aksai Chin in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir (now Ladakh) i.e. under India’s control whereas McDonald Line (proposed in 1893) places it under China’s control. India considers Johnson Line as a correct, rightful national border with China, while on the other hand, China considers the McDonald Line as the correct border with India. At present, the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is the line separating the Indian areas of Ladakh from Aksai Chin. It is concurrent with the Chinese Aksai Chin claim line. #INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT
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The disputed area between India and China mostly passes in the land. However, the Pangong Tso lake is unique where the disputed border passes through the water. The lake does not have major tactical significance. However, the lake lies in the path of Chushul approach, one of the main approaches that China can use to offend Indian Territory. #INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT
About the Lake
Located in the Union Territory of Ladakh. It is situated at a height of almost 4,350m and is the world’s highest saltwater lake. Extending to almost 160km, one-third of the Pangong Lake lies in India and the other two-thirds in China. It is a brackish water lake. It freezes in winter and is ideal for polo and ice skating. It is not a part of the Indus River basin. #INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT
Fingers in the lake
The barren mountains on the lake’s northern bank called the Chang Chenmo, jut forward in major spurs, which the Army calls “fingers”. India claims that the LAC is coterminous with Finger 8, but it physically controls area only up to Finger 4. Chinese border posts are at Finger 8, while it believes that the LAC passes through Finger 2. Around six years ago, the Chinese had attempted a permanent construction at Finger 4 which was demolished after Indians strongly objected to it. Chinese use light vehicles on the road to patrol up to Finger 2, which has a turning point for their vehicles. If they are confronted and stopped by an Indian patrol in between, asking them to return, it leads to confusion, as the vehicles can’t turn back. The Chinese have now stopped the Indian soldiers from moving beyond Finger 2. This is an eyeball-to-eyeball situation that is still developing.
Confrontation on the water
On the water, the Chinese had a major advantage until a few years ago — their superior boats could literally run circles around the Indian boats. But India purchased better Tampa boats, leading to a quicker and more aggressive response. Although there are well-established drills for disengagement of patrol boats of both sides, the confrontations on the waters have led to tense situations in the past few years. The Chinese have moved in more boats — called the LX series — in the lake after the tensions which rose in the area from last month. The drill for the boats is agreed upon by the two sides, as per the Standard Operating Procedure. Over the years, the Chinese have built motorable roads along the banks of the Pangong Tso. It points to the importance accorded by the Chinese to the area. Even during peacetime, the difference in perception over where the LAC lies on the northern bank of the lake makes this contested terrain. In 1999, when the Army unit from the area was moved to Kargil for Operation Vijay, China took the opportunity to build 5 km of a road inside Indian Territory along the lake’s bank. From one of these roads, Chinese positions physically overlook Indian positions on the northern tip of the Pangong Tso Lake. #INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT
Naku La sector is a pass at a height of more than 5,000 meters above Mean Sea Level (MSL) in the state of Sikkim. It is located ahead of Muguthang or Cho Lhamu (source of River Teesta). At Muguthang, the road on the Chinese side is motorable, and on the Indian side, it is a remote area. The other passes located in the state of Sikkim are Nathu La Pass and Jelep La Pass. #INDO CHINA GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICT
Indian tourists are only allowed up to Spangmik village, around 7 km into the lake. In fact, tourists were not allowed at all at Pangong Tso until 1999, and even today, you need to obtain an Inner Line Permit from the office of the Deputy Commissioner at Leh. Doklam stand-off between India and China (2017) Doklam, or Donglang in Chinese, is an area spread over less than 100 sq km comprising a plateau and a valley at the trijunction between India, Bhutan, and China. It is near the chicken neck corridor of India, The Doklam issue was discussed at the Wuhan Summit (2018) and the two nations decided to issue “strategic guidance” to their militaries to strengthen communications so that they can build trust and understanding. It has also been reported that China has established new administrative districts for the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos in the South China Sea. China has also named 80 islands and other geographical features in the sea, claiming sovereignty over underwater features in the contested region.