|After Tibet, General Wang Jianping visited Xinjiang|
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Even as the Vice President of India travelled to China to celebrate 60 years of Panchsheel, Beijing published a map that showed large parts of Indian territory as its own, while its troops sailed into Indian waters at Ladakh
Is China taking India for a ride? On the surface, everything seems good. The Vice President of India, Mr Hamid Ansari, accompanied by the Foreign Secretary, visited China to celebrate 60 years of Panchsheel. Mr Ansari estimated that the visit was “good, productive gestures of friendship were made by the host.” He added: “Chinese President Xi Jingping said he is looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the BRICS summit… I was told that the Chinese leadership regards a vibrant relationship with India as a critical element of their policy.”
Around the same time, Beijing published its first official vertical national map of China, incorporating vast areas of the South China Sea… and India’s northern borders. Embarrassed, the Ministry of External Affairs decided to take note of the new map which showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. The spokesperson was, however, quick to dismiss the new depiction of China’s borders by stating that “cartographic depiction did not change the reality that Arunachal was part of India.”
What is more shocking is the fact that the spokesperson omitted to mention that the Central Sector (parts of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) where large chunks of Indian territory (such as Barahoti and Nilang) appear on the Chinese map too. Similarly, there was not a word for the Aksai Chin and areas around the Pangong Lake in Ladakh! Why has the MEA nothing to say about these vast areas of India’s territory? There is one more ‘detail’, which is vital for India’s defence: On the new Chinese map, the size of the Chumbi Valley, located between Sikkim and Bhutan, is extremely bloated. Does China plans to grab more territory from Bhutan?
It is all the more difficult to understand after the Indian Press had reported that on June 24, Chinese People’s Liberation Army boats came 5.5km into Indian waters on the Pangong tso (lake). The Chinese incursion lasted over two hours, involving four high-speed interceptor boats that were pushed back by Indian troops, using US-built boats. The Hindustan Times quoted Government sources to affirm that the lake has seen 12 face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops this year alone: “In 2013, there were no less than 18 face-offs between Indian and Chinese troops in Pangong tso due to serious difference in perception on the Line of Actual Control and also due to massive Chinese infrastructure build-up close to the line.” The low-key reaction of the MEA is particularly surprising when one looks at the newly-published Chinese map.
China has been a regular offender. A few months after the signature of the infamous Panchsheel Agreement in October 1954, Jawaharlal Nehru visited China. On his return, he wrote an internal note entitled ‘Implications of China Visit’. The maps of China showing large parts of India’s territory as belonging to China were discussed with the top Communist top leadership. Nehru writes: “I referred to Chinese maps which still showed portions of Burma and even of India as if they were within Chinese territory.”
Zhou Enlai cleverly replied that, “These maps were old ones and China had not done any surveying to draw new maps. Their boundaries even with Mongolia and the Soviet Union were still not clearly demarcated and there were discrepancies.” Nehru concluded: “I wondered how China would feel if a part of Tibet had been shown as part of India in our maps.” Of course, he did not have the guts to actually test this.
Today, though Beijing still promotes the Five Principles, the situation on the ground is on the way to repeat itself. Let us not forget that China’s Survey and Mapping Administration has approved the controversial map published by Hunan Map Press, which in its announcement said the map was of “great significance in safeguarding the nation’s water sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
But there is more than the maps. When one closely looks at the situation in Tibet, one realises that the leadership in Beijing has started to work hard to reinforce its borders with India. During the last few weeks, Mr Deng Xiaogang, Deputy Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region has been ‘inspecting’ Western Tibet (known as Ngari), adjoining Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Is China trembling just because the Dalai Lama is going to give the Kalachakra initiation to tens of thousands of devotees in Leh? It is doubtful. China is just keen to strengthen her borders. During his long tour of Ngari, Mr Deng visited Rutok, the main town on the vicinity of the Pangong lake; the day when the lake-intrusions took place, he was ‘inspecting’ the nearby Gar country (and incidentally planning to dam the Indus).
Perhaps even more importantly, General Wang Jianping, the commander of the People’s Armed Police Force (paramilitary force manning the border)visited Lhasa on June 26. The powerful officer, with a larger budget than the PLA, inspected the TAR’s People’s Armed Police training base in Lhasa, a traffic police detachment, Tibet’s Forest Armed Police Corps and a detachment of Ngari Police. According to The Tibet Daily, he wanted to get “a detailed understanding of the situation” (on the borders).
The Chinese newspapers reported that Gen Wang acknowledged the success achieved by the Armed Police’s Tibet Corps and the PAPF in every work and asked all the police officers and men to understand the seriousness of “the complicated situation” faced by China. While asking the PAPF to continue to do its job well, Gen Wang spoke of strengthening the the force “for war preparation”. He also said a good chess player takes the initiative. According to The Tibet Daily, Gen Wang asked the PAPF to give first priority to the tasks that need to be dealt with urgently, providing a strong support for “Tibet’s continuous stability, long term stability and comprehensive stability”. ‘Stability’ has been the motto of each and every Chinese leader coming to Tibet in the recent months.
It remains to be seen if the visit of Gen Wang and Mr Deng’s tour of the border areas in Western Tibet is linked to the new aggressiveness on the Pangong tso. In view of the high level delegation accompanying Mr Deng in Ngari, it is probably the case.
The Indian media accompanying the Vice-President in his Panchsheel trip missed another thing: On June 27, President Xi, during a meeting with defense personnel, bid them “to build a strong and solid frontier defense network for both territorial land and water”. Xinhua reported that President Xi stated: “Upon mentioning frontier defense, one cannot help thinking of China’s modern history when the country was so weak and destitute that it was for everyone to bully.” He asked the Chinese people “not to forget the history of humiliation and to build a strong frontier.” It sounds ominous, though India continues to wishfully dream of the Five Principles of Co-Existence.