|The annexation of Xinjiang was the original sin|
On June 19, 2020, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian provided what he called a step-by-step account of the Galwan clash; it is obviously an account with Chinese characteristics, mixing wishful thinking with the hard facts. One of the ‘Wolf-Warrior’ diplomats, Zhao Lijian stated that the Galwan Valley is located “on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary”.
How can Zhao speak of a LAC? China has never shown their maps of the famous line; in March 2002, Beijing’s representatives presented their ‘perceptions’ of the LAC during a meeting of China Expert Group; hardly 20 minutes later, they withdrew the maps, never to be shown again. Since then, Beijing has systematically refused to tell India where the LAC lies in Ladakh. Isn’t it strange then that Zhao speaks of a line that his government refuses to define?
Litany of half-truths
To come back to Zhao’s statement, it describes the different phases of the shocking June 15 incident, exonerating the Chinese troops of any blame. It went amiss for the 43 PLA soldiers who lost their lives. While accusing India of “unilaterally building roads, bridges and other facilities in the Galwan Valley region” Zhao asserted that Galwan has always belonged to China; the Chinese propaganda has been repeating that Galwan area and the Aksai Chin have been Chinese since time immemorial.
It is far from true. No Chinese national has ever set a foot in the area till the mid-1950s and it is only due to India’s weakness at that time that Mr Zhao can make this outrageous claim today. Some classified documents from the Russian archives about the annexation of Xinjiang were recently published by the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center in the US; they shed some light on the issue.
Evidence of deceit
Charles Kraus, the program’s Deputy Director wrote: “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army invasion in October 1949 of Xinjiang, the vast ‘province’ bordering the Mongolian People’s Republic and Soviet Central Asia, was a stunning development.”
On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong announced from the rostrum of Tiananmen Square in Beijing the birth of the People’s Republic; the Great Helmsman immediately moved to annex the territories in the West of the Middle Kingdom. In less than two months, the PLA annexed Xinjiang and closed down the Indian Consulate General in Kashgar. India’s observatory post connecting with Central Asia was no more. Delhi was told that the new regime would have to renegotiate all its former agreements, a position untenable in international law; but in 1953, Nehru announced in the Parliament that India had to close its Consulate in Kashgar because “nothing could be done about it”.
The capture of Xinjiang was a great military feat and a strategic coup; the doors to Northern India were suddenly open to China. By taking over Xinjiang, Mao controlled the Middle Kingdom’s western borders and trade with Central Asia; he also came for the first time in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly the Aksai Chin area, witnessing the present tension. Kraus concluded: “The invasion was military cunning combined with political skill and, frankly, dumb luck. But it also couldn’t have happened without the aid of the Soviet Union.” Mao’s strategic vision and his ‘dumb luck’ helped to prepare the background for the contemporary events in Galwan, Hot Springs or Pangong Tso areas. Several ominous signs on the 1950 horizon should have forced the Indian government to read beyond the Chinese rhetoric and the Chinese Premier’s assurance of eternal friendship with India. It would not be.
Western Tibet was being invaded a year later; as the two new provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet needed to be linked, a road across India’s territory in the Aksai Chin was started in 1953-54; Delhi chooses to close its eyes. In 1956, a first map of the Chinese ‘perceptions’ was published by China. In a note written in 1963, the Indian government explained: “Territorial claims were put forward for the first time by the Chinese Prime Minister in September 1959, [was] based on a Chinese map published in 1956. In December 1959 [Zhou] affirmed the boundary on this map as the correct boundary claimed by China… Since then the Chinese claim line has varied according to China’s bargaining convenience and the progressively increasing extent of occupation of Indian territory through force.”
|The Indian Consulate General in Kashgar|
In 1960, Beijing produced another map engulfing large parts of Ladakh; Delhi probably did not realise the implications, thinking that China was still a ‘friend’. The line had moved hundreds of kilometres from Kashgar and Hotan which had only been occupied a decade earlier. Then in July 1962, the first clash took place in Galwan; on July 26, South Block wrote Beijing: "The Chinese forces have established several new posts and resorted to aggressive patrolling in Indian areas, which lie west of even the 1956 Chinese map claim line”. After months of correspondence; with each side accusing the other, Mao decided to attack India before the winter. The rest is history. Today Beijing says that Galwan always belonged to China. What a blatant lie!