For China, map is not the territory - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

News Plus

For China, map is not the territory

Beijing has always valued actual control on ground more than legal and historical credentials of its frontiers. As a result of its militarised attitude, the India-China border could neither be delineated nor demarcated over the last 70 years.




Tapir Gao, the BJP MP representing Arunachal East parliamentary constituency, has made some sensational claims about Chinese encroachment on Indian territory in the post-1962 period in his home state. The government, however, is yet to confirm or deny his claims outright. On 19 November 2019, Gao raised the issue during the Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha. In a special mention, he asserted that China pushed 50 to 60 km inside the Indian boundary in Arunachal Pradesh over the last 35 years. His list of encroached places included Asaphila, where reportedly Jaswant Singh, former External Affairs Minister, had once served under Army Captain. It has allegedly been under the Chinese control since 1984-85. The next Doklam, Gao feared, would occur in Arunachal Pradesh.

On 4 December, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, demanded the government to come clear on Gao’s remarks. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in his reply tried to play the situation down. The problem arises, as Singh rightly said, because of the non-demarcated nature of the border. Moreover, there are perceptual differences on both sides regarding the boundary line. The minister assured the Indian Army was fully prepared to meet any eventuality. He, however, dodged the issue of Chinese encroachment of India’s territory.

Then came the bloodbath in Galwan Valley on the night of 15 June 2020. Twenty Indian soldiers were martyred, whereas an unspecified but apparently larger number of soldiers perished on the other side. It was for the first time in forty years that lives had been lost on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This gave ballast to Gao’s claims. Gao, speaking to news portal EastMojo, named a string of posts in Upper Subansiri district like Asaphila, Longzu, Bisa and Maza that China has gradually encroached after the 1962 War. Sumdorong Chu Valley, in Tawang district, was allegedly captured by the Chinese in 1986.

India shares roughly 3,200 km of border with China. The greater part of this border is actually abreast of the Tibetan Autonomous Zone. Only a small portion in Ladakh UT borders Xinjiang Autonomous Province. This is separate from nearly 500 km west of Karakoram Pass which had been occupied by Pakistan in 1947, and later ceded to China in 1963. If, hypothetically, Tibet had remained independent of China, as it had been for practically four decades before its occupation by Mao’s People’s Republic, India would have left with negligible length of border to defend with China. In that case it would have been a non-militarised border, if not also an open one.

Historically the borders between British India and Tibet were delineated at the Tripartite Conference (13 October 1913 to 2 April 1914) in Shimla with accredited British, Chinese and Tibetan plenipotentiaries participating. The venerated monarchy of China had by then been overthrown; and Tibet led by the XIIIth Dalai Lama had declared her independence. The moment was opportune for the British to recognise the independence of Tibet. However, the British being a colonial power, there was little incentive for such a decision. On the other hand this precedence of recognising “independence” could have jeopardised their authority in India. The Shimla Agreement, 1914 was not accepted by China, which repudiated the signatures of its own representative. Though China did not ratify the agreement, Peking’s objection was not related to borders between British India and Tibet. The British unilaterally published those maps in 1929, noting that borders between British India and Tibet are settled. In the eastern sector this boundary is called McMahon Line, named after Henry McMahon, the British diplomat.

The British, until their last day in India, had continued to recognise the suzerainty of China over Tibet. Nehru, in recognizing China’s suzerainty, was merely following that settled position. India was not happy at China’s invasion (which the Chinese termed as ‘liberation’) of Tibet. He miscalculated Chinese designs, and erroneously thought that China would never invade Tibet to assert its suzerainty. His misperceptions soon exploded in his face. However, at the same time, India’s options were limited when the Tibetans had been cold-shouldered by Britain, the US and the Kingdom of Nepal, etc, in their quest for independence. Would India have risked a diplomatic or military confrontation with China when her own territory was not at stake? There are always imponderables in history.  

The loss of Tibet’s buffer status adversely impacted India’s external security. It led to the militarisation of a customary and peaceful border. Till the signing of the so-called “Panch Sheel” Agreement in Peking on 29 April 1954 there was no obvious difference between India and China on the border issue. The border question became evident only after the first visit of Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister, to New Delhi on 25 June 1954. It marked the beginning of the short-lived Indo-Chinese fraternisation. During the entire period of “Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai” (1954-1959) India was buffeted by Chinese incursions (or allegations of Indian trespassing). The External Affairs Ministry always took every such reported event seriously. Still, Jawaharlal Nehru, as the Foreign Minister, believed that these were only inadvertent.

 However, Nehru felt concerned that maps in China’s official publications passed off large parts of Indian territory as Chinese. He took up the issue during his first official visit to China in October 1954 with Zhou Enlai. Zhou tried to allay his concerns by saying that since the new People’s Republic (estd. 1949) could not conduct cartographic and geological survey as yet, China was still using the old Guomindang (Kuomintang) era maps. Nehru did not press his point, but merely wished that Chinese maps would be updated in near future.

However, it subsequently became evident that China had no such intentions. Chinese intrusions at Bara Hoti, Dam-Zan, Shipkila Pass, etc, continued to happen in 1955 and 1956. In 1958, India realised that China has built a road from Yeh Cheng in Xinjiang to Gartok in Tibet. The road ran across the Aksai Chin in Ladakh on the Indian side of the traditional border. The China Pictorial magazine (July 1958 issue) published a map where the India-China border was marked with a thick brown line, but moved large parts of India in eastern (NEFA) and western sector (Ladakh) into Chinese side. Finally, on 22 March 1959 Nehru was obliged to write a long letter to his Chinese counterpart Zhou Enlai, wherein he referred to three treaties existing between British India/Indian princely states/ Indian protectorates and erstwhile imperial government of China on the border issue.

The treaties Nehru referred to were a) Anglo-Chinese Convention, 1890 to delineate the frontier between Tibet and Sikkim (an Indian protectorate, which later joined Indian Union in 1975) b) The 1842 tripartite agreement between the Maharaja of Kashmir, Chinese imperial authority and Lama gurus of Lhasa based on which China in 1847 admitted that boundaries with Kashmir were sufficiently fixed and a 1893 Chinese map shows Ladakh as territory of princely state of Kashmir and c) the MacMahon Line between India’s eastern sector and Tibet (Shimla Conference, 1913-14) which was accepted both by Tibet and India, and China’s rejection of the agreement was based merely on position of the line separating Inner Tibet from Outer Tibet and Tibet as a whole with mainland China. There was no objection on the line separating Tibet and India.

While the Ministry of External Affairs might have all those historical maps in its archives, China knows that map is not the territory. It is more interested in establishing actual control on ground. The “Line of Actual Control” is terminology first employed by Zhou Enlai in 1959. In a diplomatic correspondence to Nehru dated 7 November 1959, Zhou wrote: “In order to main effectively the status quo of the border between the two countries, to ensure the tranquility of the border regions and to create a favourable atmosphere for a friendly settlement of the boundary question, the Chinese government proposes that the armed forces of China and India each withdraw 20 km at once from the so-called McMahon Line in the east, and from the line up to which each side exercises actual control in the west”.

 The “Line of Actual Control” of 7 November 1959 was not designed to remain stationary. It moved many km southwards both in Ladakh and NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) after the massive Chinese invasion of 20 October 1962. Still the Dragon’s feet did not stop in 1962. China continued to nibble away at the Indian border, something that Tapir Gao gave illustrations of. The 15 June 2020 attack in Galwan Valley was the latest in the series. China wants the disengagement to take the shape of a “four kilometres” buffer zone between the two armies from the conflict spot. It implies India should withdraw from its own territory to create a new “Line of Actual Control”.

The script sounds similar to that of Zhou Enlai’s in 1959. No wonder China has shown little inclination to negotiate the borders. Its extravagant claims have dissuaded India from putting the border issue on the negotiation table. The India-China border as a result remains undelineated on the map and undemarcated on the ground.

 The writer is an author and independent researcher based in New Delhi. The views expressed herein are his personal.

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.

News Plus




Three days before the US-Russia summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday said that the two countries need to engage in a constructive dialogue and establish mechanisms for interaction as there are areas in which Moscow and Washington can cooperate.

“[We need] to restore our personal contacts, relations, establish a direct dialogue, create really functioning mechanisms of interaction,” Putin said in an interview broadcast by the media outlet. The President noted that the US side is well aware that there are a number of areas that are of mutual interest, such as strategic stability, regional conflicts, environmental protection measures, and climate. “There are areas in which we can really work effectively,” Putin added.

In the process, President Putin said that Russia would be ready to hand over cyber criminals to the United States if Washington did the same for Moscow and the two powers reached an agreement to that effect.

The Russian leader said he expected the Geneva meeting to help establish bilateral dialogue and revive personal contacts, adding that important issues for the two men included strategic stability, Libya and Syria, and the environment.

Putin also praised Biden for having shown “professionalism” when the United States and Russia agreed this year to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty.

The White House has said Biden will bring up ransomware attacks emanating from Russia at the meeting. That issue is in the spotlight after a cyberattack disrupted the North American and Australian operations of meatpacker JBS USA.

A Russia-linked hacking group was behind that attack, a US source familiar with the matter said last week.

Asked if Russia would be prepared to find and prosecute cyber criminals, Putin said Russia’s behaviour here would depend on formal agreements being reached by Moscow and Washington.

Both sides would have to commit to the same obligations, he said.

“If we agree to extradite criminals, then of course Russia will do that, we will do that, but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will extradite the criminals in question to the Russian Federation,” he said.

“The question of cyber security is one of the most important at the moment because turning all kinds of systems off can lead to really difficult consequences,” he said.

With agency inputs

Continue Reading

News Plus

12 killed, 138 injured in gas explosion in China



HUBEI: At least 12 people were killed and 138 were injured in a huge gas explosion in central China on Sunday, state media reported.

A gas pipe exploded in the Zhangwan district of Shiyan city, in Hubei province at about 6:30 am local time. The number of casualties is still being verified as the search and rescue operation is underway. According to the local authorities, 150 people have been pulled from the debris, and the injured are being treated at local hospitals.

Apparently, the explosion destroyed a wet market there and greatly affected nearby residents. “Hearing the loud bang, I immediately scrabbled beneath the table, thinking it was an earthquake,” a resident surnamed Liu, told the Global Times via phone.

Images are circulating on social media, which appeared to be from the scene, showed rescue workers in orange jumpsuits working through the wreckage of flattened houses.

The cause of the accident is under investigation, according to the city government, which informed on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

Rescue operation is underway and more details are awaited. ANI

Continue Reading

News Plus




Amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia has once again barred foreigners to perform the Hajj, and set a limit of maximum of 60,000 pilgrims inside the Kingdom.

“Only 60,000 vaccinated residents and citizens living in the Kingdom will be allowed to perform this year’s Haj pilgrimage due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” the Ministry of Haj and Umrah announced in a statement cited by Gulf News on Saturday. The Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars. Every able-bodied Muslim who has affordability tries to visit it at least once in a lifetime.

“Against the backdrop of what the world is witnessing and due to the continuous developments of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the emergence of new mutations, Haj registration will be limited to residents and citizens from inside the Kingdom only,” the ministry also Twitted.

“Muslims between the ages of 18-65 and are fully vaccinated, or those who received their first dose at least 14 days prior, those who are vaccinated and have recovered from a Covid-19 infection are allowed to register,” the ministry added.

This is the second year in a row that Saudi Arabia limits the Haj pilgrimage to Muslims inside the Kingdom. However, only 10,000 Muslims were allowed to perform Hajj last year.

Continue Reading

News Plus




The US and Japan have been deepening their engagement with Taiwan to help guard it against a growing threat from China. The move has out Beijing in tight spot.

J. Michael Cole, writing in The National Interest said that the regime in Beijing, which continues its effort to isolate Taiwan internationally, is now in the difficult position of having to express its discontent over coronavirus response while avoiding overreaction that could create the rationale for even closer relations between Taiwan and other countries. Taiwan has had a fairly positive past month in terms of its engagement with, and support by, regional partners.

Beijing’s setbacks began back in April, with the joint statement between US President Joe Biden and his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which “underscore[d] the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”

Such direct reference to Taiwan by a Japanese prime minister had not been heard for more than half a century, reported The National Interest. This was followed the next month by a similar statement, this one by President Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which again “emphasise[d] the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.

The unprecedented reference to Taiwan by a South Korean leader also signalled those countries within the region were becoming increasingly alarmed with China’s destabilising behaviour—particularly the high number of intrusions by aircraft from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force and Navy into Taiwan’s southern Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), wrote Cole.

Four days before the Biden-Suga joint statement, a total of twenty-five PLA aircraft–14 J-16 multi-role fighters, four J-10 multi-role fighters, four H-6K bombers, 2 Y-8 anti-submarine planes, and one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control plane–entered Taiwan’s ADIZ, a new high since the PLA began intensifying its military activity in the region in 2020, reported The National Interest.

But now, China is in a tight spot as Taiwan is receiving more attention from allies. One strategic mistake Beijing may have committed earlier this year was its refusal to reduce its military activity around the Taiwan Strait during the transition period in Washington, wrote Cole.

Continue Reading

News Plus

WHO chief asks China to cooperate with probe into Covid-19 origins



Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Ghebreyesus has called on China to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 amid renewed call to further probe the virus.

Dr Tedros made these remarks after taking part in the Group of Seven (G7) summit by video conference on Saturday, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

The WHO Director-General hoped there would be better cooperation and transparency when the next phase of the probe into the virus’s origin is underway. “As you know we will need cooperation from the Chinese side,” he said. “We need transparency to understand or know or find the origin of this virus…after the report was released there were difficulties in the data sharing, especially in the raw data.”

He further said that the preparations for the probe’s next steps were underway and that the issue of the origin of the virus was discussed by G7 leaders on Saturday, WSJ reported.

Earlier this week, the US and the UK had extended support to a “timely, transparent and evidence-based independent process” for the next phase of the WHO-convened study of Covid-19 origins. “We will also support a timely, transparent and evidence-based independent process for the next phase of the WHO-convened COVID-19 origins study, including in China, and for investigating outbreaks of unknown origin in the future,” a joint statement said after US President Joe Biden met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.

This comes amid growing calls for a timely, transparent, and evidence-based independent process for the next phase of the WHO-convened origin study.

Recently, the calls to investigate further the origins of the virus have intensified. President Biden has also ordered a fresh US intelligence inquiry into the origins of the pandemic.

The origin of novel coronavirus that caused havoc around the world has remained a mystery even after 1.5 years the first case of infection was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Now, scientists and world leaders are calling for further investigations to figure out whether the virus originated naturally or leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Continue Reading

News Plus




In a veiled criticism of the Dragon, Group of Seven (G&) leaders called on China to respect human rights in its Xinjiang region, allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, and refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilise the East and South China Seas, Reuters reported quoted a draft version of the G7 summit communique.

“We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the G7 said in a communique that was almost finalised.

Before the G7 criticism emerged, China cautioned G7 leaders that the days when “small” groups of countries decided the fate of the world were long gone.

The G7 also said they underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues”.

“We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions.”

“We also call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 Covid-19 origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China,” the communique, which is almost finalised, said.

“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said.

“We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”

Beijing has repeatedly hit back against what it perceives as attempts by Western powers to contain China, and says many major powers are still gripped by an outdated imperial mindset after years of humiliating China.

UN experts and rights groups estimate over a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang.

China denies all accusations of forced labour or abuse. It initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres and are designed to combat extremism. In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had “graduated”.

Continue Reading