Sunday, 31 July 2016

When Does an Incursion Become a Transgression?

        As per reports, on 22 July 2016 a party of Chinese PLA soldiers entered Barahoti [Middle Sector] and a face-off ensued with Indian personnel that was eventually satisfactorily resolved.
*Barahoti Grazing Ground[BGG] is a gigantic amphitheater at about 13,000 ft. surrounded by much higher mountain ridges, except to the north-east, where the ridge is only about 1000-2000ft higher and contains a gateway to the BGG from the Tibet side through the Tun Jun La [Pass].
*Tun Jun La is not one of the six passes mentioned in the 1954 Agreement between the Republic of India and the People's Republic of China [PRC] on Trade and Intercourse Between India and the Tibet Region of China. Sensing an opportunity in 1954, since the pass was unmanned, the Chinese renamed it as Wu Je, occupied it and set up a PLA post there.
*As per a Chinese Note to GOI, the Tun Jun La [Wu Je] is "one days journey from Niti Pass;" but the Chinese have consistently refused to indicate whether BGG is north or south of the Niti Pass. This assumes importance since Niti Pass is one of the six passes mentioned in the 1954 Agreement.
* An Indian Army contingent led by Capt.[Now Lt-Gen] Baljit Singh had established in May 1962 that a stream flows south from the Tun Jun La and joins the Dhauli Ganga, leaving no one in doubt that the Tun Jun La is indeed the watershed in the area and it therefore follows quite conclusively that the BGG is well within Indian territory. It may also be mentioned that the BGG was the subject of correspondence between the British Indian government and the Tibetan authorities since about the 1890s.
*The Sino-Indian Agreement on Tibet was signed on 29 April 1954. From the time the Chinese occupied Tibet in 1950 till the signing of the Agreement, there was not even a single Chinese intrusion in the area. But on 17 July 1954, barely a few months later, the Chinese themselves intruded into BGG and protested to India claiming that Indian troops had intruded into Chinese territory.
* The significance of the Chinese protest lies elsewhere. On conclusion of the 1954 Agreement, Nehru had written to Chief Ministers that with this "indirectly the question of our long frontier is settled". On 1 July 1954, Nehru also instructed that from now on "all our old maps should be carefully examined and where necessary maps should be un-demarcated territory be a consequence of our agreement the frontiers of India should be considered firm and definite and not open to discussion with any one".
* Actually what the Chinese were signaling was that not only was the Sino-Indian boundary not mutually agreed upon, but that its alignment was wide open and certainly not as Nehru had indicated.
*In June 1956, when Nehru proposed talks to settle the issue, the Chinese initially procrastinated, but eventually agreed. Despite every effort, the Chinese refused to give the co-ordinates of so-called Wu Je to determine its position.
*On 19 April 1959, both sides agreed not to send armed troops into the area. No military action took place here in the 1962 conflict. In 2000, it is reported that it was further agreed that even armed personnel would not enter BGG. The present incursion therefore seems to be a violation of this understanding.
* As earlier the significance of the present Chinese incursion, both by land and by helicopters, lies elsewhere. What they are now signaling is that the entire Sino-Indian boundary is alive; it is not dormant and that the dispute is not confined to the Western and Eastern sectors only. The Middle sector is in contention also. And if by publicizing the deployment of tanks in the Ladakh area, India is showing its intent; the Chinese are trying to indicate that they too have other options.    

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