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India-China Military Ties:what About Aksai Chin & Border, by B.K. Mathur,10 July 2006 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 10 July 2006

India-China Military Ties

what About Aksai Chin & Border

By B.K. Mathur

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee visited China recently and on return described the trip as “historic”, like other leaders have done in the past --- K.R. Narayanan, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, Vajpayee, Abdul Kalam etc.  Mukherjee’s interaction with the Chinese leaders during his three-day visit was described by his Ministry’s spokesperson as an “important milestone and a major confidence building measure in the progressive relations between India and China”.  At the end of his talks with his Chinese counterpart, Mukherjee reportedly stated that India attached great importance to the “strategic and cooperative partnership with China.”  Beijing has also pledged to step up strategic partnership with India.

The two Defence Ministers have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to institutionalise military training, exercise engagements and regular contacts among the armed forces, Defence officials and experts of the two countries. Chinese Defence Minister was quoted as stating in the presence of Mukherjee that “friendship and mutually-beneficial cooperation were the fundamental interests of China and India and were conducive to the peace, stability and development of Asia and the world.”  Fine words these, politically and diplomatically speaking. But Indian leaders do not seem to have understood the Chinese mindset.

Several agreements for peace, goodwill and friendship have been signed right from the Nehru days. But never have the Indian leaders taken up seriously the military aspect of the Sino-Indian relations.  After all wars are always fought between two nations for territories, which are captured and surrendered. Obviously, therefore, the LAC is the main issue of military confrontation.  China has already occupied about 38,000 sq.km. in the remote Aksai-Chin area Beijing is also holding 5,180 sq.km. in northern Kashmir, ceded to it by Pakistan.  Additionally, China also claims another 90,000 in India’s eastern sector. What about these issues of great military significance, Mr. Mukherjee? Also, has China acknowledged Sikkim as part of India, as we have done in regard to Tibet?

As a matter of fact, the top brass of the Indian Army has always remained apprehensive of the Chinese designs along the border.  Almost at regular intervals China’s army patrols are found entering the Indian territory, claiming as their own.  In June 2003, when Prime Minister Vajpayee was on a goodwill visit to China, a Chinese patrol stopped Indian intelligence officers at Neimphu in Arunachal Pradesh, about 14 km inside the Indian side of the border.  This was followed by military incursion on the day Vajpayee was scheduled to reach Beijing.  This clrarly highlighted for the umpteenth time that New Delhi has failed to get the Chinese to present maps of their version of the LAC, leading to the border conflicts, which started in 1962 in a big way and has continued since then.

Vajpayee reacted sharply to the June 2003 incident in the Rajya Sabha and described it as a betrayal. Remember, he had to face a similar situation during his visit to China as the Minister of External Affairs, in the Morarji Government in 1978. China embarrassed him by attacking Vietnam and forced him to cut short his visit. This incident could have turned into a major military confrontation, like the one in mid-80s when the Chinese army had built a helipad in Sam-Rong Chu Valley in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Even though the Indian Army dismantled the helipad, the Chinese continued to claim that areas as their’s and set up a patrol post there, prompting India to move its 5 Mountain Division to Tawang.

In fact, in July that year, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman stated that Beijing does not recognize Arunachal Pradesh as part of India.  He accused the Indian intelligence squad for crossing the LAC. Unfortunately, the boundary issue, as also the Aksai Chin occupation by China, have remained unresolved in the Sino-Indian relations, leading to continued Army deployment all along the border.  Officials of the two sides have met several times since Rajiv Gandhi visited China in 1988.  Yet no peaceful situation. Only diplomatic comfort, even though the boundary dispute has remained a matter of concern since the Nehru days, as seen in a prolonged correspondence between the two Governments from 1954 to January 1965.

Nehru had stated at the time of the correspondence with the Chinese Government, which is contained in eleven White Papers, published by the Government of India: “It was little naïve to think that the trouble with China was essentially due to a dispute of some territory. It has also some deeper reasons.  Two of the largest countries in Asia confronted each other over a large border. They differed in many ways.  The test was whether anyone of them would have a more dominating position than the other on the border and in Asia itself”. How true today, after the end of the Cold War and disintegration of the Soviet Union. Attention Mr. Defence Minister.

Two other irritants which affect the Sino-Indian relationship are China’s military build-up and its military assistance to Pakistan, which has a direct bearing on Islamabad’s handing over the Indian territory in Pak-occupied Kashmir to China and Beijing’s gradual occupation of Aksai Chin area. Also, the Chinese Navy is extending its tentacles in the Indian Ocean with bases in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.  It is also known that Iran, Pakistan and Syria have funded China’s weapons development programme in the M-series of missiles. Beijing has shipped to Pakistan complete M-11 missiles, capable of carrying about 1100 pounds of nuclear heads and to target up to 300 miles.

China’s military build-up is a matter of great concern to India, especially when Beijing is racing to become a major world power.  That makes it necessary for New Delhi to resolve the prolonged border dispute and take up territories in Beijing’s possession, before anything else.  History tells us that the Chinese are sensitive about their border with India and they would not mind another round of a military operation on the territory issue.  Thus, the military angle in the Sino-Indian relations is important.  It makes it incumbent on India to closely watch China’s military build-up and its relationship with Pakistan.

Nothing would please one more than the continuance of atmosphere of peace and goodwill repeatedly created during the last nearly two decades between the Asia’s two mighty neighbours.  But, at the same time, the country’s defence preparedness has to be kept in mind, especially when one finds Beijing strengthening its military machines beyond its requirement and contrary to the international climate.  Just see China is spreading its tentacles in India’s north, east and south --- and expanding and modernizing its army.  There is need to talk, and talk effectively, about India’s territories in the Chinese possession.  Surrender is no victory!---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)





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