History knowing is important to understand the present, face situations and not repeat mistakes. India did not share borders with China in 1947. Mao believed in aggression, expansion and wanted to capture “HAND”-Tibet was the palm and five fingers were Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. After annexing Tibet and sharing border with India, China signed Panch sheel treaty of five principles with India, but always wanted to capture the fingers. In just 15 years after independence, when India lost Aksai Chin to China, Prime minister Nehru said “Not a blade of grass grows in that area”. China has completed 50 year long construction in hostile climatic Aksai Chin developing roads, infra structure and military bases and increased hold on Tibet and Pakistan.
Today Aksai chin has become strategic and military asset opening economic corridors. Chinese aggression and occupation of Indian land continued with variable intensity till 2013. Change from 2014 was the resistance to the intrusion of China and the long-needed development happening at the India- China border areas.
Ladakh was an area of strategic importance for the international trade routes extending from Siachin glacier to Himalayas. Raja Gulabh Sing of Jammu in the process of establishing Sikh Empire invaded Ladakh ,conquered and annexed Ladakh to Jammu in 1834. After the defeat of Sikhs in the first Anglo- Sikh war, Jammu and Kashmir (J &K) was established as the second largest princely state in British India with Gulab singh as prince of J & K. In 1947 after partition of India, Pakistani army invaded J & k. On october 24 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession and joined his princely state (J&K, Ladakh, Aksai Chin, Trans Karakoram tract and northern areas) totally to India. Ladakh shared borders with Tibet on east, Gilgit –Baltistan of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) on west, Xinjiang (Uyghur) across Karakoram pass on north and Himachal Pradesh on south.
India did not share any border with China in 1947. China intruded and occupied Xinjiang in 1949 and Tibet in 1950. In 1949, China blocked old trade route between Ladakh and Xinjiang. Aksai Chin has important road links between Tibet and Xinjiang. China went on claiming Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh to be part of China. In 1954 India and China signed Panch Sheel Treaty for peaceful cooperation, respect and non agression on the trade and course of action between India and China occupied Tibet. A slogan Hindi- Chini Bhai-Bhai (Indian and Chinese are brothers) was popoulrised. Burmese Premiere Ba Swe warned Nehru to be cautious when dealing with Zhou and CIA documents revealed that Nehru ignored the warning.
China went ahead and began building 1200 km roads connecting Tibet and Xinjiang by 1955 in Aksai Chin and built out posts in Aksai Chin. India found out after the road was constructed and Nehru disclosed details in parliament in 1959 and wanted to solve the issue diplomatically. CIA reports allegedly suggest that Nehru had reports of the road construction in Aksai Chin by 1954 and dismissed them. In 1959, 14th Dalai lama was expelled from Tibet and was given asylum in India. China claimed NEFA (North East Frontier Area) and Aksai Chin to be belonging to China.This was followed by frequent negotiations and border conflicts which culminated in Indo China war in 1962. Nehru refused to increase military spending and prepare for war when the skirmishes were happening at India China border. In June 1962, Nehru said to media that he gave army free hand and asked to free Indian territory of Thang la.
The operation to occupy Thang La was flawed as the directives of Nehru were unclear and also the validity of Thang la being Indian territory. Chinese were able to retreat Indian soldiers and this incident had grave implications for India and Nehru. The Indian side was confident war would not be triggered and little prepared. The Indian troops fought with Chinese with full vigor instead of receiving little support from then Indian government. Even in September 1962, when Indian troops were ordered to “expel the Chinese” from Thag La, Maj. General J. S. Dhillon expressed the opinion that “experience in Ladakh had shown that a few rounds fired at the Chinese would cause them to run away.”Because of this, the Indian army was completely unprepared when the attack at Yumtso La occurred. Recently declassified CIA documents which were compiled at the time reveal that India’s estimates of Chinese capabilities made them neglect their military.
It is claimed that if a more military-minded man had been in place instead of Nehru, India would have been more likely to have been ready for the threat of a counter-attack from China. India lost Aksai Chin of 37,244 square kms area to China in 1962 war. China captured most of NEFA or present Arunachal Pradesh which was restored to India after cease fire as USA, Russia and Britain supported India. Then Line of Actual Control (LAC ) came into existence after the war which was not well demarcated. The extent of India china border is 3488 kms and comprising of Ladakh on west with 1597 kms, Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand in middle with 545 kms and Sikkim &Arunachal Pradesh on east with 1346 kms.
After the war of 1962 Pakistan and China strengthened their relations. Karakoram Pass was a common tripoint for three countries of India, China & Pakistan. In 1963, China and Pakistan signed a Sino -Pakistan Frontier agreement and China gained control over Karakoram Pass without involving India at all. China built 1300 kms Karakoram highway connecting Gilgit Baltistan of POK with Xinjiang of China from 1959 to 1979. From 1962 there used to frequent skirmishes and fights near LAC mainly in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
In 1967 Chinese army tried intrusion and building posts at Nathu La and Chola La of Sikkim which resulted in clashes resulted in death of 80 Indian soldiers and several Chinese soldiers. Indian army retaliated successfully and retained control over Sikkim. Prior to Indian independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, as the Vice President of the Executive Council, pushed through a resolution in the Indian Constituent Assembly to the effect that Sikkim and Bhutan, as Himalayan states, were not ‘Indian states’. In 1975 people of Sikkim opposed monarchy and joined India by referendum which was not accepted by China. In 1975 chinese army crossed into Tulung La, Arunachal Pradesh and killed 4 Indian soldiers on patrol.In 1987 military confrontation happened in Sumdorong Chu valley in Arunachal Pradesh after which Indian Foreign minister visited Beijing for talks.
PM Rajeev Gandhi visited China for talks in 1998. An agreement for maintaining peace along LAC was signed in 1993. But, China was continuing with intrusions and fights along LAC used to happen. Allegedly China used to intrude and encroach small parts of Indian land till 2013 which is labeled as “Salami Slicing “or “Nibbling in bits”. In UPA regime China supposedly occupied Tia Pangnak, Chumur and Chabji valley in 2008. India lost Doom Cheley (ancient trade point) between Dungti and Demjok in 2008-2009 during UPA regime. Chinese army destroyed Zora war fort in Demjok in 2008 and set up an observation point. Chinese also built new Demjok colony with 13 cemented houses. In April 2013,50 trops of Chinese army set up camps in Despang plains of Ladakh and later withdrew.Alleged reports say that former foreign secretary Shyam Sharan in 2013 informed then PM Manmohan Singh that China army set a new LAC encroaching 640 sq. km Indian territory in Ladakh.
It is a sad reality that the governments till 1999 did not give importance for developing infrastructure in Kashmir, Ladakh and North east . Atal Bihari Vajpayee government increased defense budget for procuring advanced military equipment and infrastructure. One cannot forget the incident of then Defense minister, George Fernandes sending 2 senior bureaucrats to stay in Siachen over delay in procurement of snow bikes and equipment for soldiers. Atal government created road map and gave consent for developing roads along Pakistan and China borders. Next UPA government did not prioritize the work and only in 2012 the government identified 73 roads of 3812 kms along India China border with a meagre budget allocation of 4000 crores from 2009 to 2014.
Narendra Modi government from 2014 has emphasized on “Transformation by Transport” policy for the economic progress, inclusiveness and security of North east and border areas which were lacking in basic infrastructure facilities. Modi government focused on developing infrastructure of roads, railways, airports and power projects and increased budget allocation, with 100% allocation by central government. Modi government in 2 years of 2015 to 2017 allocated 4.7 billion dollars (35,800 crores rupees) for Border Roads Organization (BRO) for border roads construction. BRO constructed 51 border roads by 2017 and is constructing 61 Roads with total length of 3,346 kms and 410 heavy load bearing world bridges along LAC in Ladakh ,Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.BRO is constructing 17 road and rail tunnels on 73 strategic India china border roads including Atal Manali -Leh tunnel and Joji La tunnel.
An amount of 32,000 crores was allotted for 3800 km roads construction in North east by 2018. Modi announced another Rs. 60,000 crores under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in the northeast and Rs. 30,000 crore under the Bharatmala project. The Cabinet Committee on Security in 2019 had also cleared the construction of 44 more “strategically important roads” along the India-China border with cost of around Rs 21,040 crore. Airbases and airports were developed and Sikkim got first airport under Modi government. Such infrastructure improvement will allow easy faster transport of essentials and military equipment to border areas even in snow falls and harsh winters.
China was objecting to all construction activities done by Modi government in Ladakh and north east. In 2017, China tried to construct roads in Doklam, a trijunction point of India, China & Bhutan. India stood with ally Bhutan and China retreated. By 2019 Modi government finished 220 km Darbuk–Shyok- Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) DS-DBO all-weather road in eastern Ladakh in India, close to LAC connecting Leh, with the Daulat Beg Oldi DBO post near the China border.This decreased time to travel from days to few hours from Ladakh to Shyok and Galwan Valley connecting Pangong Tso and many villages also. Since May 2020, China has increased intrusions along LAC resulting in skirmishes with Indian soldiers mainlyt at Galwan Valley, Pangong Tso and Chushul Valley.
After high levels talks of army officers both sides agreed to retreat on June 10th. On June 15th 2020 Indian soldiers on patrol asked Chinese to remove tent in the disputed area near LAC in Galwan valley near DBO post. Chinese army in a preplanned manner attacked the Indian soldiers on patrol in Galwan valley with clubs, sharp instruments, etc.. Indian soldiers retaliated and removed the post. Twenty Indian soldiers were martyred and 43 Chinese soldiers were allegedly killed.
China has a lot of problems internally and globally. China has increasing debts, poverty and unemployment. Xi Jinping is facing criticism from the party and people for the way of handling corona crisis. Xi has promised China that Macau, Hong kong and Taiwan will be annexed completely into China by 2021. China is in conflict with many countries like Japan, Australia, America, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc.. over trade or border issues. In 2017, India along with Japan, America and Australia revived “Quad” for combined strategic military co-operation.
In 2017, India also joined the “Shangai Coperation Organization” founded by China and Russia. India and many other countries are blaming China for corona crisis and putting efforts to shift manufacturing firms out of China. Some manufacturing firms are shifting to India. In these circumstances to divert global attention and to interrupt the developmental activities done by India China resorted to the old tactics of intrusion, aggression and thought of nibbling land again. But, this time India retaliated and resisted the Chinese. Since Modi became Prime minister since 2014, India did not lose land and will not lose any further.