|Chinese tents in Galwan area|
The National Herald described thus the scene: “Pandit Nehru returned by a special plane from Kashmir after a week's holiday. He was accompanied by Mrs Indira Gandhi, Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and his two grandsons. The Prime Minister was looking better after the rest.
The presspersons literally jumped on the Prime Minister: Chinese troops had encircled an Indian picket in a remote unknown place of Ladakh, the spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had just told the scribes: "There has been no change in the situation caused by encircled Indian post in the Galwan river valley in Ladakh by Chinese intruders.” But, the Prime Minister was cool: “no conflict had occurred so far between the Indian and Chinese personnel at the Galwan outpost in Ladakh.”
An Old TendencyThe tendency to minimize Chinese intrusions is not new; that day at the airport, Nehru explained that “some time or the other the Chinese would have to end their encirclement of the Indian outpost to avoid an armed clash.”
A correspondent dared pointing out that according to the latest Indian protest note the situation was serious; the Prime Minister agreed: "Yes. They are pitched in a high key. Anyhow, so far as I know nothing has happened: no conflict has occurred.” Nehru added: “Some time or the other the [Chinese] will have to [end the encirclement]."
Nehru remained cheerful, he even joked when the correspondents trooped around him, laughingly asking: "Are you now encircling me?"
They accuse us and we accuse themTwo days later, before departing for Bangalore, the Prime Minister spoke again to the pressmen, “while there was a risk of clash between Indian and Chinese forces at Galwan post in Ladakh, I do not think there will be any major clash;” he further observed: “Well, they accuse us and we accuse them. It is very difficult to say what will happen. …There is a risk of a clash, but not a major one.”
The MEA Annual Report explained India’s position: “In July 1962 Chinese troops encircled an Indian post in the Galwan Valley, [the Indian government has] indicated their willingness to enter into discussions on the India-China boundary question …as soon as the present tensions have been eased and a suitable climate for talks and discussions is created.”
The Chinese troops eventually withdrew from the area.
This background is interesting when one looks, when at the present situation in Ladakh where the PLA troops are facing the Indian troops in a similar manner.
The summer 1962 incident sent a false message to the government, in particular to the arrogant Defence Minister Krishna Menon, who was on his way to Geneva to meet Marshal Chen Yi, the Chinese Foreign Minister; but it made many Indian officials, including BN Mullick, the Intelligence Bureau Director, believed that the Chinese would never attack or if they attack, it would be a minor clash.
We know what happened three months later, when a totally un-prepared Indian Army had to face the onslaught of the Chinese Army.
Remember the HistoryThis history should not be forgotten when one looks at the present events in Ladakh, though the ‘establishment’ today, like yesterday, will say that nobody should worry and that the issue will be sorted out through talks, negotiations (today they speak of agreed ‘mechanisms’); it may not happen like that.
Ambassador RS Kalha in his book, India-China Boundary Issues recalled: “Nehru seemed to be convinced that the Chinese would not make any major incursion into Indian held territory. Perhaps Krishna Menon had convinced him so. Nehru told General Thapar [then Army Chief] that he had ‘reliable information that the Chinese would not offer resistance if there was a show of force to make them vacate the check-posts’. The events in the Galwan valley seemed to confirm Nehru's thesis, when Chinese troops advanced right up to the Indian post, surrounded it, but did not open fire and eventually withdrew.”
The Ambassador added: “This was not the message that the Chinese wished to convey. They intended it as a warning that they could eliminate any Indian post at any time, but Nehru misread it and reached the opposite conclusion that China would not fight.”
Galwan remained quiet till October 20, the day the PLA launched a massive attack; as a result, 36 of the Indian soldiers were killed and the remaining 32, mostly wounded, were taken prisoners in Tibet.
Maj Gen PJS Sandhu, the author of 1962: A View from the Other Side of the Hill recently commented: “unlike in NEFA, the Chinese did not withdraw even an inch in Ladakh. They stayed put where they had reached, i.e. their 1960 Claim Line. In Ladakh, they had claimed about 33,500 sq km of Indian territory; by the end of the War, they had taken control of most of it, except about 450 sq kms of area which remain till today as a few disputed pockets.”
A Serious SituationWhat makes the present situation extremely serious is that, though there are twelve disputed pockets along the Lac where opinion differs in Ladakh, Galwan is not one of the them. The Indian and Chinese perceptions of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) were the same till beginning of May, when the PLA started intruding into Indian territory.
What makes things worse, is that nobody is exactly sure why China decided to advance at that particular place, at this particular time when Beijing should be worried at the consequences of its virus spreading all over the planet.
Very few in India today realize that China has always refused to inform India of its LAC perceptions.
In 2000, both sides agreed that they would initiate a process for the clarification and determination of the LAC in all sectors of the boundary; a first meeting took place in March 2000, where maps of the middle sector were exchanged.
On June 17, 2002, both sides met again and maps of the Western sector were seen by both sides for about 20 minutes, during the meeting itself the maps were withdrawn since it was felt that they represented maximalist positions for both sides.
In these circumstances, it is high time for India to not only insist on immediate exchange of maps of the LAC, but also to select a few points of pressure which could be painful for Beijing, i.e. Tibet, Taiwan or Hong Kong and if necessary, to start applying pressure.
|Chinese 'Perceptions' of the border in Ladakh|