Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Aksai Chin and Ngari

The article quoted below is full of inexactitudes.
First it mixes the names of the places. 
Ali Prefecture is not the Aksai Chin.  It is the traditional area known as Ngari Khorsum.
Shiquanhe (Coordinates: 32°31′N 80°04′E) or Sênggêzangbo Town (Tibetan: Tibetan: སེང་གེ་ཁ་འབབ་, Wylie: seng-ge-gtsang-po kha-'bab, named after Sênggê Zangbo, a river in Ngari), or Shiquanhe Town (Chinese: 狮泉河镇, i.e. "Lion Spring River Town") is the capital of Ngari Prefecture, and of the Gar County of that prefecture.
According to Wikipedia:
The name Shiquanhe is originally the name of the river; in Tibetan, it is Sengge Zangbo or Senge Zangbu (Chinese: 森格藏布) or Sengghe Tsangpo (in a transcription used in Western books).The source of that river, a hot spring, supposedly, looks like the lion's mouth; thus the name, interpreted as "river flowing from the lion's mouth 
Further, the Aksai Chin was not invaded in 1962, but the Tibet-Xinjiang road was built in the early 1950's.
The fact that Nehru chose to close his eyes is another issue.
I am posting here an extract of my book: The Panchsheel Agreement: born in sin which gives a background of the Aksai Chin road.

By the way, do you want a ride on the Aksai Chin?
Click here...

The New Roads
Soon after the PLA entered Lhasa, the Chinese made plans to improve communications and built new roads on a war-footing.  The only way to consolidate and ‘unify’ the Empire was to construct a large network of roads. The work began immediately after the arrival of the first young Chinese soldiers in Lhasa. Priority was given to motorable roads: the Chamdo-Lhasa , the Qinghai-Lhasa  and the Tibet-Xinjiang Highway (later known as the Aksai Chin) in the western Tibet. The first surveys were done at the end of 1951 and construction began in 1952.
We already discovered that the construction of one of the feeder roads leading to Nathu-la, the border pass between Sikkim and Tibet had some strange consequences. India began feeding the Chinese road workers in Tibet, sending tons of rice through this route. John Lall, posted in Gangtok, witnessed long caravans of mules leaving for Tibet.
The official report of the 1962 China War prepared by the Indian Ministry of Defense  gives a few examples showing that the construction of the road cutting across Indian soil on the Aksai Chin plateau of Ladakh was known to the Indian ministries of Defense and External Affairs long before it was made public.
To quote the Report: “B.N. Mullik, who was then Director, Intelligence Bureau, has, however, claimed that he had been reporting about the road building activity of the Chinese in the area since as early as November 1952. According to B.N. Mullik the Indian Trade Agent in Gartok also reported about it in July and September 1955, and August 1957.
The different incidents which occurred in the early fifties should have awakened the Government of India from its soporific Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai dream-like world. It was not to be so.
Instead of alarming Nehru, these disturbing reports reinforced his determination to bolster the friendship with China. The first of these incidents was the harassment of the Indian Trade Agent posted in Gartok in Western Tibet. Though Nehru wrote to Zhou Enlai about it , no following action was taken and no proper analysis of Chinese motivations was made. Nehru barely brought the matter to Zhou’s notice: “Recently, some incidents have taken place when the local authorities in Tibet stopped our Trade Agent in Western Tibet from proceeding on his official tour to Rudok and his staff to Taklakot, both important trade marts for Indian traders and pilgrims. There has been a forcible seizure of his wireless set which is essential for the performance of his duties. We learnt of this incident with surprise and regret, because it did not seem to us in consonance with the friendly relations between our two countries...”
The harassment of the Indian Trade Agent in Western Tibet was without doubt linked with the work which had started on the Tibet-Xinjiang highway. Rudok, located midway between Lhasa and Kashgar is the last small town before entering the Aksai Chin. The presence of an Indian official there was embarrassing for the Chinese as they had started building a road on Indian soil. Did Nehru see the implications of the incident or did he still believe in Chinese goodwill? It is difficult to say.
His letter concludes thus: “I would invite Your Excellency’s Government to confer with our Government at the earliest suitable opportunity, either in Delhi or in Peking, on all such matters affecting relations between our two countries.”
The Official report also mentions S.S. Khera, a Cabinet Secretary in 1962, who later wrote that “information about activities of the Chinese on the Indo-Tibetan border particularly in the Aksai Chin area had begun to come in by 1952 or earlier.” 

The closure of the Consulate in Kashgar
If the Indian government had been ready to read beyond the Chinese rhetoric and Zhou’s assurance of friendship, it would have seen many more ominous signs. One of them was the closure of the Indian Consulate in Kashgar.
Here again, as in several other cases, Nehru justified the Chinese actions without taking any retaliatory measures or even protesting. India’s interests were lost to the ‘revolutionary changes’ happening in China. He declared in the Parliament:
Some major changes have taken place there [Kashgar]. As a result of those changes, which have nothing to do with India at the moment… our Consul went there – I speak from memory – probably in 1948, maybe even later, in 1949. But when these changes, revolutionary changes took place there, it is perfectly true that the Chinese Government, when they came to Tibet, told us that they intended that they wanted to treat Sinkiang as a closed area. They told other State Government, too. Well, nothing happened. Our Consul remained there. But because of those changes, because of many factors – among them being what happened in Kashmir – the trade ceased... Kashgar is important to us as a trade route. The trade went over the Karakoram, passed though Ladakh and Leh on to Kashmir. Various factors, including developments in Kashmir led to the stoppage of that trade... The result was, our Consul remained there for some time, till recently… but there is now no work to be done. So we advised him to come away and he did come away.
India had been trading with Central Asia and more particularly Kashgar and Yarkand for millennia. Just because ‘revolutionary changes’ had occurred, the Government of India accepted the closure of its trade with Sinkiang as a fait accompli. The reference to Kashmir is not relevant. Since the winter of 1948, India controlled the Zoji-la pass  as well as Ladakh. At that time, the Karakoram Pass was still open to the caravans.
More Reports
Another indication came during the negotiations for the Panchsheel Agreement (or Agreement between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India). Instead of the planned three or four weeks, the talks went on for four months. One of the objections by the Chinese was the mention of Demchok as the border pass for traders between Ladakh and Western Tibet. Very cleverly, Chen, the main Chinese negotiator ‘privately’ told T.N. Kaul, his Indian counterpart, that he was objecting because they were not keen to mention the name ‘Kashmir’ as they did not wish to take sides between India and Pakistan. This argument is very strange and though Kaul could see through the game, the Indian side gave in once again. Later Kaul wrote:
However, their real objection was, I believe, to strengthening [their] claim to Aksai Chin (in the Ladakh province of Kashmir) which they needed for linking Sinkiang with Western Tibet. An agreed formula "the customary route leading to Tashigong along the valley of the Indus river may continue to be traversed in accordance with custom was worked out and Delhi approved it.
This formulation would have very serious consequences, instead of using the opportunity to clarify the already contentious border issue, the Chinese were allowed to walk away with a vague statement which was open to future contestation. It was indeed a great victory for Beijing while they were building the road in the Aksai Chin. It seems as though the Indian side was just not aware of the reality on the ground.
More authors have mentioned the building of the Aksai Chin road and the fact that it was known during the mid-fifties to the Ministries of Defense and External Affairs. In his book The Saga of Ladakh,  Maj. Gen Jagjit Singh mentions that in 1956, the Indian Military Attaché in Beijing, Brig Mallik received information that China had started building a highway through Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area. Mallik had reported the matter to Army Headquarters in New Delhi and a similar report was sent by the Indian Embassy to the Foreign Ministry.
D.R. Mankekar  gave similar information. He said that Brig S.S. Mallik, the Indian Military Attaché in Beijing made a first reference to the road-building activities of the Chinese in a routine report to the Government as early as November 1955. Five months later, in a special report to Delhi, the Military Attaché drew pointed attention to the construction of the strategic highway through Indian territory in Aksai Chin. Simultaneously, he also sent a copy of the report to the Army H.Q..
The Official Report of 1962 War states:
The Preliminary survey work on the planned Tibet-Sinkiang road having been completed by the mid-1950’s, China started constructing motorable road in summer 1955. The highway ran over 160 km across the Aksai Chin region of north-east Ladakh. It was completed in the second half of 1957. Arterial roads connecting the highway with Tibet were also laid. On 6 October 1957, the Sinkiang-Tibet road was formally opened with a ceremony in Gartok and twelve trucks on a trial run from Yarkand reached Gartok. In January 1958, the China News Agency reported that the Sinkiang-Tibet highway had been opened two months earlier and the road was being fully utilised.
Another interesting account about how the Indian army already knew in 1955 that the Chinese were building a road across Indian territory, has recently been published in the UK.  In 1955, Wignall, a British mountaineer went on an expedition inside Tibet with the knowledge of Indian Military Intelligence. The Army Chief, General K.S. Thimayya seriously suspected that the Chinese were building a road on Indian territory. Wignall was asked to get proof of it.
He was eventually caught by the Chinese Army, interrogated and kept as prisoner for several weeks. He was later released in the midst of winter in a high altitude pass. The Chinese thought he would never survive the blizzard or find his way back to India. After an incredible journey, he managed to reach India and was able to report about the road to the army authorities who, in turn, informed the Prime Minister and V. K. Krishna Menon, the Defense Minister.
Wignall was later told by his army contact:
Our illustrious Prime Minister Nehru, who is so busy on the world stage telling the rest of mankind how to live, has too little time to attend to the security of his own country. Your material was shown to Nehru by one of our senior officers, who plugged hard. He was criticised by Krishna Menon in Nehru's presence for ‘lapping up American CIA agent-provocateur propaganda.’ Menon has completely suppressed your information.”
'So it was all for nothing?' I [Wignall] asked. 'Perhaps not,' Singh  responded. 'We will keep working away at Nehru. Some day he must see the light, and realise the threat communist Chinese occupation of Tibet poses for India.
The Government of India has never acknowledged that it had information about the Aksai Chin road as early as 1954-55. It will be discussed for the first time in the Lok Sabha only in August 1959.
General Thimayya, the Indian army chief who was forced to retire in 1961, one year before the Chinese attacked India, is supposed to have said in his valedictory address to the Indian Army Officer Corps: “I hope that I am not leaving you as cannon fodder for the Chinese communists.”

The Opening of the Road

On October 6, 1957, a Chinese newspaper Kuang-ming Jih-pao reported:
The Sinkiang-Tibet – the highest highway in the world – has been completed. During the past few days, a number of trucks running on the highway on a trial basis have arrived in Ko-ta-k’e in Tibet from Yehch’eng in Sinkiang. The Sinkiang-Tibet Highway… is 1179 km long, of which 915 km are more than 4,000 meters above sea level; 130 km of it over 5,000 meters above sea level, with the highest point being 5,500 meters.
Thirty (“liberation” model and Chissu 150) heavy-duty trucks, fully loaded with road builders, maintenance equipment and fuels, running on the highway on a trial basis, headed for Ko-ta-k’e from Yehch’eng. In addition two trucks fully loaded with Hami melons, apples and pomegranates, all native products of Sinkiang, headed in the same direction. These fruits were gifts brought specially by the road builders of Sinkiang for the people of various nationalities.”
The circle was closed. The two newly-acquired western provinces of Communist China were linked. It took nearly two more years for the news to become public. In August 1959 Nehru dropped the bombshell in Parliament: what the Chinese called the ‘Tibet-Sinkiang highway’ was built through the Indian territory.
It appears that one cause for the delay to make the news public was that for a few years, New Delhi had doubts on how to react. Already in 1957, when the Indian Ambassador to China and his Military Attaché  had been invited to a special function to celebrate the opening of the road, they politely refused. They had refused to fall into the Chinese trap and give the stamp of the Indian Embassy to the event.
It took another year for the Nehru Government to officially complain to Beijing about the ‘intrusion’. In an Informal Note given by the Foreign Secretary to the Chinese Ambassador on 18 October 1958, New Delhi finally decided to take some action:
The attention of the Government of India has recently been drawn to the fact that a motor road has been constructed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China across the eastern part of the Ladakh region of the Jammu Kashmir States, which is part of India. This road seems to form part of the Chinese road known as Yehchang-Gartok or Sikiang-Tibet highway, the completion of which was announced in September, 1957.
The road enters Indian territory just east of Sarigh Jilgnang, runs north-west to Amtogar and striking the western bank of the Amtogar lake runs north-west through Yangpa, Khitai Dawan and Haji Langer which are all in indisputable Indian territory. Near the Amtogar Lake several branch tracks have also been made motorable.
2. The India-China boundary in the Ladakh sector as in others is traditionally well-known and follows well marked geographical features. The territory which the road traverses has been part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries and the “old established frontiers” have been accepted by the Chinese in the treaty of 1842 as the International boundary...
The Indian Government here refers to the Treaty signed  between the Jammu and Kashmir State of Gulab Singh and Ladakh. The contradiction is that Tibet, forgotten in the Panchsheel, is used in this case when it is convenient for the Indian argument. The Note concluded that it was a matter of ‘surprise and regret’ that the Chinese Government had built a road through “indisputably Indian territory without first obtaining the permission of the Government of India and without even informing the Government of India”.
The Note continued, raising a strange point: it accused the Chinese officials, workers and travelers using the road to “enter India territory without proper travel documents and visas.” It stated: “No applications for visas from Chinese personnel working on the road or from Chinese travelers traversing this road have ever been received by the Government of India.”
In conclusion, the Note stated: “the Government of India are anxious to settle these petty frontier disputes so that the friendly relations between the two countries may not suffer. The Government of India would therefore be glad for an early reply from the Chinese Government.”
The ‘petty dispute’ is still not solved today and the issue has become even knottier.
At the end of the letter, another issue was raised: for some time an Indian patrol had been reported missing. Delhi wanted to know if the Chinese had seen “an Indian party consisting of three Military Officers and four soldiers together with one guide, one porter, six pony owners and thirty-four ponies … out on a normal patrol in this area near Shinglung in Indian territory.”
Indeed, they had been seen and captured by the Chinese border guards on Indian soil. Beijing admitted immediately that they were in their custody, but according to the local Chinese commanders the Indian jawans had trespassed on Chinese side of the frontier at the time of their arrest .
This was the first of a long series of incidents. Hundred of letters and notes would be exchanged on the subject.

China invites Japan, South Korea to build observatory in disputed Aksai Chin
Times of India
Monday, 16 April 2012
BEIJING: China is pushing Japan and South Korea to establish an astronomical observatory in Aksai Chin, a remote part of Jammu & Kashmir that Beijing occupied after the 1962 war and had Islamabad cede parts of the region to it a year later.
A Chinese scientist on Sunday said the East Asia Core Observatories Association -- with China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan as it members - has recommended the site for the observatory. Yao told the official Xinhua news agency that the association had also surveyed sites in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, but the new observatory is likely to be established in Tibet (Aksai Chin) this year.
The association's website shows one of its proposed sites in Aksai Chin (Shiquanhe in Chinese) in Tibet.
"EACOA directors reached a consensus that a review and evaluation meeting are urgently needed among regional excepts, aiming to update EACOA on relevant site survey progress, particularly focus on the site-testing metrology, instrumentations, procedures and data analysis performed on the candidate site at Ali (Aksai Chin) Tibet," it said about a recent meeting.
Ali in Tibet's Ngari Prefecture falls within Aksai Chin, which India claims to be its own territory.
The move comes as Beijing has been asking India to pull out of oil exploration from the disputed areas of the South China Sea off the Vietnamese coast. Both China and Vietnam claim the South China Sea.
China feels that the presence of India and Russia, which recently entered the area, will further complicate the territorial dispute. Experts see the Chinese proposal for the observatory as an attempt to complicate the Aksai Chin dispute by drawing in Japan and South Korea, who are members of the Japan-based EACOA.
The observatory will carry out research on planetary science, star formation, gamma-ray bursts and other astronomical projects. It will conduct around-the-clock observations of certain celestial bodies.
The move, if successful, will legitimize Beijing's claim over the disputed area and make it difficult for New Delhi to establish its rights over it.

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