Thursday, July 30, 2020

Chuva and Chuje: Obscure Chinese Claims in the Central Sector

Chinese claims in the Central Sector
(click to enlarge)
It was recently reported that the populations of the Lahaul and Spiti, and Kinnaur districts of the Himachal Pradesh were becoming increasingly nervous; they expressed serious concerns as China has been building roads leading to the Indian villages near the border.
The Hindustan Times wrote: “Road construction along the Indo-China border, on no man’s land, came to fore after villagers of Kunnu-Charang in Kinnaur raised an alarm and informed the local administration and border patrol party.”
The article further noted: “China has accelerated work of road construction along the Indian border in Tango and Yamrang regions, which are close to Chitkul and Charang villages on the Indian side. Both Yamrang and Tango in China are controlled [by the] Tibetan Autonomous Region.”
Though there is no known villages with these names in Tsamda (Zanda) county of Ngari Prefecture, it is possible that these are new villages or the names have been changed.
According to The Hindustan Times, the Indian villagers have asked security agencies to increase their vigil along the border after the incidents in Ladakh and in view of China's renewed activities (road construction and two air incursions which are said to have taken place in the Kaurik sector in April).
When a team of the armed Forces, accompanied by local villagers conducted a recce near the border, they are said to have spotted some road construction on the Chinese side.
A villager told the media that China was building a road to the Yamrang village. “There is no mobile network in the region and road connectivity is poor on the Indian side. There is fear among villagers that the Chinese troops could invade the Indian territory,” said the article.
The Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police manning the border, are now on high alert.

A Disputed Area?
While most of the Indian media reported that the area was not ‘disputed’ by China, it is not the case. Areas called by China, Chuva and Chuje have been on their long ‘shopping’ list to extend their territory since the end of the 1950s.

A Note from Historical Division
On July 30, 1980, the Historical Division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent a Secret Note to the East Asia (EA) Division, dealing with China. This was with reference to the claims/occupation of some Indian areas in the Central Sector by China.
The Note described the Sino-Indian Boundary in the Middle Sector.
It said that during the 1960 talks between the officials of the Government of India and China on the Sino-Indian Boundary question, the Indian officials gave their description of the boundary in the Middle Sector:

Map showing the Indian territory 'disputed' by China
One can see the coordinates given by China and India in 1960
“This sector of the boundary also has the natural features of watersheds, mountain passes and river valleys. Its location is as follows: Starting from the terminal point of the western sector, it runs southward along the watershed west of the Pare River and the Chuva River, passes by the coverging point of the Pare River and the Spiti River, crosses the Siangchuan (Sutlej) River west of Shipki Pass, continues southward along the watershed and crosses the Jadhganga River west of Tsungsha. It then turns east, passes through Mana Pass, Mount Kamet, skirts along the south side of Wuje, Sangcha and Lapthal, again runs along the watershed, passing through Darma Pass, and reaches the tri-junction of China, India and Nepal.”
The Historical Division said that the Indian officials brought forward clear and conclusive evidence:
“to show that the alignment as shown by them in the Middle Sector had, throughout its length a traditional and customary basis reaching back through many centuries, and that, in addition, this boundary had been recognized by Chinese Governments and been confirmed through diplomatic exchanges, treaties and agreements."
Consequently, these areas were occupied in the early 1950s.
The officials further presented to representative evidences:
“relating to different aspects of administration, to show that Indian Governments had exercised full, continuous and uninterrupted control over all the areas right up to the traditional alignment.”
Where are these papers now? Nobody knows.
They are probably kept in some almirahs of South Block.
Who has the keys? It is a real issue as there is no more Historical Division in the MEA.

The Chinese Views
As always the Chinese argued that the Indo-China boundary had never been formally delimited and that only a traditional customary boundary line between two countries existed.
China provided its description of the boundary alignment in the Middle Sector.
Incidentally, the boundary was 'not defined' simply because there was no Indo-China boundary, but only a frontier between India and Tibet, two friendly countries.
The Note continued,quoting the Chinese views:
“The middle sector of the traditional customary line, starts from the terminal point of the western sector, runs southwards along the watershed between the Pare and the Chuva Rivers on the one hand and the other tributaries of the Spiti River on the other, and passes through peak 6,526 (approximately 78° 30' E, 32° 21' N) on this watershed. Several kilometers west of the junction of the Chuva and the Spiti Rivers, the boundary meets the Spiti River and, running along it, reaches its junction with the Pare River (approximately 78° 36' E, 32° 02' N). South of the junction of Pare and the Spiti Rivers, the boundary passes through peak 6,791 (approximately 78° 45' E, 31° 54' N) and runs southwards along the mountain ridge until it crosses the junction of the Siangchuang and the Hupsang Rivers approximately 7 kilometres west of Shipki Pass.”
The confluence of the Spiti and Pare rivers is definitively India’s territory, but the Chinese claims remain as shows this recent map of the TAR.
In 1960, the Chinese officials however contented that the evidences provided by the Indian officials “had nothing the do with the disputed areas”. It was a blatant lie, but as a result Beijing claimed:
  1. Chuva-Chuje (till Sumdo village)
  2. The area West of Shipki La Pass;
  3. The area that they call Sang and Tsungsha and Puling Sumdo (known in India as Nilang, Jadhang and Pulam SUmdo) and
  4. Wuje, Sangcha and Lapthal (Wuje is a Chinese name for Barahoti, Lapthal and Sangchamalla are two adjacent valleys).
The Note of the Historical Division concluded that the Chinese claimed a total area of 2,000 sq. kms as ‘disputed area’ in the Middle Sector.
The Note further quoted Premier Zhou Enlai’s letter dated November 15, 1962 addressed to the leaders of Asian and African countries on Sino-Indian Boundary question, confirming the same:
“In the Middle Sector, the places disputed by the Indian Government east of the traditional customary line have always belonged to China. They covered a total area of 2,000 sq. kms. The inhabitants are nearly all Tibetans. The Tibet local Government had all along exercised the jurisdiction over these places and its archives to this day contain document pertaining to this exercise of jurisdiction.”
The Kinnauris certainly do not consider themselves as Tibetans.

Recent Chinese map showing parts of Kinnaur as Chinese
Did the Chinese dropped their claims?
It appears that later, the Chinese LAC in the Middle Sector conceded “the entire territory claimed by India except in the Barahoti area as lying within India’s actual control. In the Barahoti area administrative and army personnels of the two sides are not being permitted.”
Army personnel may not been permitted, but every years Chinese PLA are intruding in the area.
In any case, the fact that Chuva and Chuje is not in Beijing's LAC claim, does not mean that these areas in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, are no more claimed to be within the Chinese territory; it just mean that India has ‘temporarily' control over these places. See the Chinese map above.
Historically, the customary border was east of Kaurik, and this China can't change it, but this will not make Beijing drop its claim.
The building of roads in these areas is therefore a serious issue to be looked into by the Government, including the MEA.

Another reason for dropping the LAC claim
In 1960, the India Officials quizzed their Chinese counterparts: where were Chuva and Chuje?
China seemed to be unaware. They could not give the proper coordinates.
Here are the questions of the Indian Officials and the Chinese vague answers.
Q. 12.-Chuva and Chuje were alleged to be places "under Indian occupation". These places were not marked on the map. The Indian side would like to have details of their location and area.

A.- Chuva and Chuje were to the east of the boundary and west of place called Chulupu. Chuje was to the east of Chuva.

Q. 13.-The Chinese side mentioned that Chuva and Chuje were to the east of the Chinese alignment and west of Chulupu. The Indian side would like to have the coordinates of Chuva and Chuje. Were these villages or camping-grounds?

A.-Chuva and Chuje were two villages. Chuva river was a small river west of Sumdo. The Chinese line met the Spiti river a few kilometres west of the converging-point of the Chuva and the Spiti rivers. Then it ran along the Spiti river upto the junction where it met the Pare river (approximately 78' 36' E. Long. 32° 02' N. Lat.)
[the point given is not the confluence of the Pare and Spiti rivers, my cmment]

Q. 14.-Chuva and Chuje were stated to be two villages. The Indian side would like to know how far and in what direction from Sumdo they were located.

A.-Chuva was to the north of Sumdo. Chuje was to the east of Sumdo.
[There was no such villages near Sumdo].

In 1960,  during the meetings between the Officials of India and China, the Chinese asked some questions to their Indian counterpart. I am reproducing here the Chinese questions as well as the Indian responses. It refers to the area discussed above.

Middle Sector

Chinese Question (Q) 1
Was the watershed between the Spiti and the Pare rivers referred to by the Indian side a continuous mountain ridge or did it again move on to spurs? Before the India alignment crossed the Pare river what ridge did it follow?

Indian Answer (A)
The watershed between Spiti and Pare rivers lay along high and continuous mountains and not along spurs. Before crossing the Pare river the Indian alignment lay along the ridge lying to the north-west Kauirik.

Q. 2.
What was the location of Kauirik village? From inset 'A' on the map handed over by the Indian side, it appeared that it was situated north-west of the junction of the Pare and the Spiti rivers. Did the Indian alignment also pass in the vicinity the junction of the Pare and the Spiti rivers as indicated on the Indian map?

A- Kauirik was situated at approximately Long. 78° 39' E. and Lat. 32° 06' N, which was about five miles north-east of the junction of the Pare and Spiti rivers. The Indian alignment lay immediately to the north and east of Kauirik and cut the Pare river about a mile south of Kauirik.

Q. 3
The Indian side stated that south of the Pare river their alignment ascended a spur. To what their mountain range did this spur belong?

A- The spur south of the Pare river, along which the Indian alignment belonged to the Zaskar Wange.

Q. 4
The Indian side stated that their alignment crossed the Siang-chuan (Sutlej) river at its bend. What were the co-ordinates of the crossing? What were the geographical features followed by the Indian alignment from Peak Leo Pargial to Shipki Pass?

A- The Indian alignment crossed the Sutlej at approximately Long 8° 44' E and 32° 52' N.
From Peak Leo Pargial the alignment descended along a spur, crossed the Sutlej and again mounted the spur on the opposite bank of the river to the Shipki Pass.

The other questions were about Shipki-la.

In this context, a letter from Zhou Enlai, the Prime Minister of China addressed to his Indian counterpart is interesting.

Beijing, December 17, 1959.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Thank you for your letter of November 16, 1959. Although the Indian Government's opinions regarding the prevention of border clashes are still a certain distance away from the Chinese Government's proposal of November 7 and part of them obviously lack fairness, it is heartening that in your letter you have indicated the, desire of trying to avoid all border clashes and to settle the boundary disputes between the two countries by peaceful methods.
The Chinese Government's proposal of November 7 for the withdrawal of the armed forces of the two countries 20 kilometers respectively along the entire border is aimed at thoroughly eliminating the risk of border clashes not wholly foreseeable, completely changing the present tense situation on the border where the two countries are facing each other in arms, and creating a favourable atmosphere of mutual confidence between the two countries. These aims are unattainable by other provisional measures. Furthermore, the adoption of this measure pending the delimitation of the boundary will in no way prejudice the advancing by each side of its claims when negotiations for the settlement of the boundary question take place. Therefore, the Chinese Government still earnestly hopes that we can reach agreement on such a measure for the sake of friendship between our two countries in the past and for hundreds of years to come. As to how far the armed forces of each country should withdraw, the Chinese Government is entirely willing to decide on a distance which will be deemed appropriate by both sides through consultation with the Indian Government.
Pending the above-mentioned agreement, the Chinese Government, in a conciliatory spirit and out of the desire to move toward the withdrawal of armed forces along the entire border, is prepared to agree first to reach a partial solution by applying the proposal you have made in your letter for the non-stationing of the armed forces of both sides at Longju to the other disputed places on the border as well. In the eastern sector of the Sino-Indian border, armed Indian personnel once occupied Longju and are now still in occupation of Khinzemane. In the western sector of the Sino-Indian border, armed Indian personnel are up to now in occupation of Shipki Pass, Parigas Sang, Tsungsha, Puling-sumdo, Chuva, Chuje, Sangcha and Lapthal. Most of these places which definitely belong to China were occupied successively by armed Indian personnel after the signing of the 1954 Agreement on Trade and Intercourse Between the Tibet Region of China and India in which China and India for the first time put forward the Five Principles of peaceful coexistence. Among them Puling-sumdo is one of the ten places which the Chinese Government agreed to open as markets for trade in the Ari area of the Tibet region of China as specified in Article II Section 2 of the 1954 Agreement. Now since the Indian Government holds a different opinion on the ownership of these places, the Chinese Government proposes that no armed personnel of either side be stationed at any of them...

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