Monday, June 24, 2013

Chinese 'incursion' into Daulat Beg Oldie: what's the truth?

There was terrific outcry in the Indian media over the reported Chinese 'incursion' into the Daulat Beg Oldie sector in Ladakh sometime in April this year. Various interpretations were given. China was flexing its muscles, given its new found economic and military might. The move was intended to force India to the negotiating table. China was upset over India's aligning closer with the US. And so on. And there was a large section of the media, particularly TV, that demanded a strong response to the Chinese 'provocation'.

As we know, following negotiations the Chinese dismantled the tent they had set up and the small platoon they had sent in went back. There is no clarity on what assurances the Indian side gave.

In an article in EPW, Neville Maxwell casts serious doubts on the view that the Chinese were upto mischief. Maxwell, a London Times correspondent in India during the India-China war of 1962, is the well known author of a book on the war that squarely laid the blame for the war on Nehru's unilateral attempts to define the border with China, without any regard for Chinese claims.

In his article, Maxwell says that India has been engaged in a substantial build-up in the sector and asks whether the Indiani military is responsible for raising Chinese suspicions:

Since last year there has been a significant Indian build-up at DBO. Indian newspapers have reported reinforcement of the garrison, the induction of heavy artillery, even armour, and a landing strip laid in 1962 has been reactivated to facilitate supply. What is the Indian purpose? A Chinese invasion at that point is inconceivable, so it cannot be defensive. A 1993 treaty bound both governments to reduce force levels on the LAC “to a minimum level compatible with friendly and good neighbourly relations”. From what level or element of the Indian state does the impetus for this force augmentation come? From the military? 

I do not recall any mention in the media of heightened Indian military activity in the area- all I read and heard was that the Chinese had penetrated several kms into Indian territory. Even the latter may not be correct because the Line of Actual Control is undefined and which piece belongs to whom is   a matter of perception.

Maxwell reiterates his well known view of India's handling of the border dispute:

... it all began with the British. In 1914, they attempted to induce China to cede a significant tract of territory to give India a “strategic frontier” in its north-east. They failed. In the mid-1930, they revived that attempt, this time shunning diplomatic niceties and, taking advantage of China’s impotence, simply annexing the target tract, while forging the official diplomatic record to cloak their action with spurious legitimacy. No doubt they expected that in due time China would get over its indignation and acquiesce to the facts on the ground (and they were right there, the PRC was ready to legitimise the situation).

Thus a border dispute with China was congenital to independent India – and Nehru rendered that affliction incurable by sustaining the British falsification and refusing to submit the dispute to negotiation. Then he metastasised it by laying claim to the Aksai Chin area in India’s north- west, a claim without British precedent or any basis in treaty, usage or geography, deluding the Indian public by having new official maps published falsely showing the whole of India’s northern borders as settled and internationally agreed.
 When we can expect more balanced reporting in India, whether in respect of China or Pakistan?


Anonymous said...

These are good facts that we could have never known from Indian media. The much renounced hostility of relationship between India & Pakistan and between India & China is outcome of media and not governments or people of two countries.

Perhaps Indian populace should switch on to BBC or NY Times (non-Indian media).

Charles Pergiel said...

Just saw some photos of a C-130 Hercules landing at DBO. Pulled up some satellite images of the place. All I see is some black and green areas. Doesn't look like much of anything. Of course, there is no telling how old those satellite images are.