|Map of 1850 showing Barahoti in British India's territory
The previous posts looked at:
I shall now look at a place which has often been in the news: Barahoti.
Here too the Chinese claim to the area are fictitious (not to say frivolous) as the area is clearly located south of the watershed.
The Traditional Boundary
On November 20, 1950, during a question and answer session in the Parliament, Prime Minister Nehru was asked: “Will the Prime Minister be pleased to state whether India has got any well-defined boundary with Tibet?”
His answer was: “The border from Ladakh to Nepal has probably not been the subject of any formal agreement between India, Tibet and China but it is well established by custom and long usage. The Historical Division are investigating if there are any formal agreements. There have been a few boundary disputes in this area but they have been peacefully settled.”
It is a historical fact that the Indo-Tibet frontier had been peaceful. It is probably why the Indian diplomats who four years later negotiated the Panchsheel Agreement foolishly ‘forgot’ to mention the border during the talks (and in the final text). India would pay dearly for this lapse.
Over the years, China have kept changing the posts, claiming new areas, often not knowing the coordinates of the places.
In this context, it is interesting to study the historical background of the ‘disputed’ area, called Barahoti by India and Wu-Je by China.
The Beginning of the Story
In June 1890, the Foreign Department in Delhi received a report from the Commissioner of Kumaon, reporting the visit to Bampa of the Agent of the Jaghphoon (Dzongpon) of Dapha (Daba) in Tibet. The subject of the letter was “Tibetan encroachments on the Garhwal frontier.”
The Under-Secretary in a Foreign Department asked for a map of area: “in the 1879 map shows to be within the border, although the borderline is not coloured. And we have an older map still, I recollect, where it is marked within the Kumaon border. We should first obtain the 1884 sheet however.”
A few days later, the Department got the proper map: “I have now got the 1884 sheet nod several other maps from the Intelligence Branch. Bara Hoti [now written Barahoti] is within the British frontier, but last year the Tibetans were in possession much lower down, on our side, than Bara Hoti. They prevented the Assistant Commissioner passing within two days' march of Hoti - a proceeding the Commissioner of Kumaon thought perfectly reasonable and harmless.”
A discussion then took place in the Government, it was concluded that one Colonel Erskine was wrong to say that the map of 1884 brought “a large slice of country including Bara Hoti within the British boundary, all the territory shown as British in 1884 was also shown as British in 1850, and it was never shown as anything else on the map of 1879 is only the colouring of the boundary was omitted - probably by some mistake of the draftsman.”
The British decided to act.
A Report about the Encroachment
The telegram had come from a ‘native’ news reporter which had written that “a Tibetan official has come down to Bampa (which is 20 miles or more below [south of] Hoti, but does not say what following he has. He [the Tibetan official] claims Hoti as Tibetan territory, and the place will, no doubt, be occupied again by the Tibetans this summer. But a further report has been sent for, and DO [Demi-Official] orders need be passed on the present correspondence. Hundes is the Tibetan district immediately across the frontier; and by ‘Hunias’ the people of Hundes is meant.”
The Tibetan name of the district is Tsada (or Zanda).
Establishing a Picket in Barahoti
On July 18, 1890, the Chief Secretary to the Government of The North-Western Provinces and Oudh, submitted a report about “the re-establishment of a Tibetan picket at Bara Hoti”.
The Deputy Secretary in Delhi noted: “It will be remembered that last year and the year before a considerable number of Tibetans came into the Niti District, set up a custom house at Bara Hoti, turned back the Assistant Commissioner while on tour, and otherwise virtually took possession of the country down to near Malari. They came in both times, in spring and returned for the winter, to their own side of the range. It was recommended that a party or about 20 Gurkhas should go up in September and turn them out.”
The official further mentioned that in fact a large expedition of 200 sepoys had been sent by the military authorities, but so much delay occurred that “the force did start from Sobha till the 8th November and did not reach Bara Hoti till nearly the end of the month, by which time the Tibetans had retired for the winter.”
The issue continued to be discussed: “It is now reported that a very few unarmed Tibetans have returned to Bara Hoti and it is a question whether it is worthwhile to take any notice of them. If anything is done at all it should be as an ordinary matter of police duty - a small party of police being sent to drive them out. But if so, it should be done while they are still there and the winter should not be waited for. On the other hand, it may be considered that last year's expedition [with the 200 sepoys] may be considered as practical evidence that the country belongs to India, and that our claim has been practically made good. In this case there might be no necessity to take any action until the Tibetans make themselves obnoxious again at, or about, Bara Hoti. The only political significance about the affair is its resemblance to the Sikkim question.” The British were then facing problems with the Tibetans in North Sikkim crossing over the ridge line and sending their yaks to graze in British territory.
The Ministry of External Affairs’ conclusion was: “The Tibetans come in and assert a claim to territory, and behind them come the Chinese and support this claim on their own account-no matter how preposterous it is - and a troublesome international question arises. The way to obviate the greater difficulty is obviously, to nip the smaller one in the bud.”
The Chinese threat will materialize in 1954. We shall come to it, though the Chinese were nowhere in the picture at this time.
On July 17, 1890, the Secretary of the Ministry replied to the note: “Although only a few men have come to Hoti and are unarmed, it is evident they have come as officers of their Government with the intention of exercising authority, for they have been summoning the-people and taking bonds from them. I should think we might tell the Government of the North-Western Provinces that they should not allow these Tibetans to exercise authority in Hoti, and that they should take such steps as they think necessary to prevent them and to make it perfectly clear that Bara Hoti is British territory. Probably this could be best effected by sending one of the Civil Officers of Kumaon on tour to Bara Hoti.”
Two days later, another note provided more information: “Tibetans came to Hoti and invited our people to go to a mart in Tibet to trade. They asked them to undertake not to introduce diseased goats and not to invade Tibet, and they asked for the letter which the Commissioner of Kumaon had last year sent to one Natbu Padhan, then they went away.”
Delhi’s conclusions were: “Now if this is so, it appears to me that the Tibetans have by their actions acknowledged Hoti to be within our border and made no attempt to exercise authority there. But the report is by no means lucidly written, and if the North-Western Provinces can send of an officer… it will be well, fur it would save two purposes to make clear our assertion of authority at Hoti, and to obtain real information.”
But let us have a look at the original report.
The Letter from the Local Sarpanch
The letter ‘not lucidly written’ had been translated into English; it had come from Durga Dutta, Patwari, Mana Painkhanda and was dated July 1, 1890.
Dutta wrote: “On making an enquiry (I find) that the Dupa officers' servants, one Sarji [messenger of the Tibetan Commissioner or Dzongpon] of Urgyal by name, with two men with him, brought on the 19th May of the current year, salt on 50 goats and gave it to their mitrae or customers of villages Gamsali, Bampa and Farkya. After two or three days, they went away with rice on the goats, and a copy in their Tibetan language of the khat which the Commissioner had given to Nathu Padhan from Ramri. Again, the same Sarji returned with two men on 10th June, called together to Gamsali all Padhans from above Soonagiri and Jelam to Niti and told them that the Dupa [Daba?] officer was gone on a pilgrimage to Kailas(h), and that the Padhans should give in their usual bonds about ‘Ragbyadh’ (meaning that they should not bring diseased goats, etc.) as also (a bond) of bringing ‘Pal tan’ (meaning that they should not bring a British force). All Padhans gave bonds about ‘Ragbyadb’, but with regard to ‘Paltan’ they replied that it was not in their power whether a force did or did not come and they could not give a bond about it.”
The letter continued: “The Sarjis went away. Again, for the third time, the same three persons on three yaks (Chanur Gao) returned on 27th June vid Char Hoti and said that Jagponam the Dapa officers bad returned fro in pilgrimage and three guards had come with them and stationed themselves as usual at Hoti, and that the Dapa officers had sent a word to the natives of the 'Ghata that they should fear nothing from (the Tibetans) but come for trade as usual and bring the original khat. A letter also came for Johar Singh Bampa (complaining) that he had not come (to Thibet) for two years, that the man who had quarelled with him had been summoned and the quarrel would be settled. But Johar Singh won't go. Having said this and given the letter, they went away. It is said that on 24th, 26th and 27th June, Fonya, Nathu Padhans and other natives of this Ghata went to Hundes.”
The letter concluded: “Sir, all natives of this Ghata went to Hundes yesterday, and to-day via Raj Hoti and Char Hoti for trade. Some five who had remained are ready to start on the 3rd instant. They (the Sarjis) did not come armed. The purpose for which they came has been given in detail (in this report). It is also known that the same Sarjis used to come two or three times every year formerly also.”
The Final Conclusion
On July 31, 1890, the Officiating Deputy Secretary in Foreign Department wrote to the Chief Secretary of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh: “It appears from the report submitted by Durga Dutta, Patwari, that some Tibetans recently came to Bara Hoti unarmed, and invited the people to a mart in Tibet for purposes of trade, and that the head of the party also asked for the letter which the Commissioner of Kumaon had last year sent to one Nathu, Padhan. The Tibetans appear to have made no attempt on this occasion to exercise any authority on this part of the frontier, and are reported to have since returned to Hundes [Tibet].”
The final conclusion was: “If the circumstances have been correctly reported by Durga Dutta, the action of the Tibetans may be considered to operate as an admission that Hoti is within the British border. The reports received on the subject are however not very clear and I am to suggest that, if His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor sees no objection, an officer may be deputed to Bara Hoti to enquire into the exact circumstances of the case, and that a further report may be submitted for the information of the Government of India. This visit will, it is hoped, have the effect also of making clear the assertion of British authority at Bara Hoti.”
It was to remain at that for the next fifty years.
It is only in the early 1950s, that the Tibetans tried to revive the issue, this time probably under the instigation of the Chinese.
In July 1952, in a note “Border Disputes and Collection of Taxes by Tibetans in Garhwal District” the Intelligence Bureau described the topography of the Himalaya in this area of today’s Uttarakhand: “The Garhwal-Tibet border can only be crossed through the Mana and Niti Valleys where there are open places and habitation, while the rest of the border area consists of snow-covered mountains studded with glaciers. In the Mana Valley, the last village on the Indian side is Mana which is situated at 26 miles from Mana Pass, which lies on the boundary of Tibet and India. From Mana the route to Tibet following along Saraswati river and there are no grazing grounds or other places of habitation on the way which could be occupied or claimed by the people of Tibet. There is no border dispute in this Valley, although some rumours have been heard, that the Tibetans claim territory upto Kanchanganga, which is situated about one mile south of Badri Nath. There are no grounds for attaching any importance to such rumours.”
This refers probably to the Nilang-Jadhang dispute which we have already studied. There were definitively old Tibetan claims in areas south of Tsangchok-la pass.
The IB Report continues its descriptions of the area: “There are four Passes between Niti Valley and Tibet, namely - Gothing Pass [Niti], Damjin [Tun Jun] Pass, Hoti Pass and Ghirti Pass. Niti, the northern most village in the Indian territory, is situated at 11 miles from Gothing Pass and Damjin Pass. There are few plains situated near these passes in the Indian territory.”
The Intelligence admits that it appears that there is an old boundary dispute about Hoti Plain, which in fact consists of two plains called Bara Hoti and Chhota Hoti, both situated near the Chor Hoti Pass.
It refers to the 1890 episode mentioned above.
The history background of the ‘dispute’ is then explained: “About the end of last century the Tibetans had established a Customs Post at Hoti Plain. To stop this practice, the British Govt. [Government] had to send out a detachment of Gurkhas along with Shri Dharma Nand Joshi, Deputy Collector, in 1890. This had a salutary effect and the Tibetans removed their post. It appears that for some time past the Tibetans have again been establishing a Police-cum-Customs post at Hoti during the trading season.”
The access of the place is difficult, but from there, a tab can been kept on the area. It has also to be noted that the access is much easier from the Tibetan side than from the Indian. Over the years, this will make it easier for the Chinese to intrude.
The Intelligence Bureau continues: “It is quite possible that if the Tibetans are not stopped from establishing their post at Hoti Plain, they might eventually claim it to be their own territory. Since there is no habitation or cultivation in this area, the Garhwal authorities hardly ever visit the area or take any action to denote that it lies within their jurisdiction.”
Along the Himalaya watershed, there were quite a few areas were Tibetans authorities tried to change the border for the sake of their traders and shepherds. The IB report further remarked: “It may be mentioned that last year  when some Indian traders established their trade at Hoti Plain for buying wool etc. from the Tibetans living near the border, the Dzong-Pon [District Commissioner] of Dhapa (Tibet) [Daba in Western Tibet] sent his Serjis (or sarjis - ‘messengers’) to Hoti Plain to serve notices on the Indian traders to appear before him.”
The IB recommended to the Government of India: “It is, therefore, essential that the Govt. of India should make it clear to the Govt. of Tibet and its Dzongpon that the Hoti Plain is Indian territory and the Tibetans have no right to establish any Customs post there; nor can they exercise any authority in the area.”
The report added: “We understand that the Deputy Commissioner Garhwal has already suggested to the U.P. Govt. that he and the Supdt. [Superintendent] of Police should visit Hoti with a detachment of Garhwal Rifles and Armed Police, and that they should hoist the Indian flag there in order to establish their own authority and stop the Tibetans from establishing their Customs post.”
It is what the ITBP still do every year, though now they often encounter Chinese troops patrolling the high-altitude plain.
The Intelligence Bureau concluded: “A number of Indian traders from Niti and Mana Valleys visit Tibet every year for purposes of trade. They have to pay certain taxes inside Tibet. However, in case of Mana Valley, the Serjis of the Dzong-Pon [Dzongpon] of Chaprong [Tsaparang] realize Rs.22/- from the people of Mana as Singthal i.e. Land Tax. This collection is made in Indian territory when the Serji comes to announce that the Pass is open. The Serjis are also provided with free food and fuel. It is reported that in the records of the Dzong-Pon this levy is entered as Land Tax and not as Trade Tax. No such collection is made from the villagers of Niti Valley. We feel that the Tibetan tax-collectors should not be allowed to collect taxes inside the Indian territory. The traders could pay this amount which is really a Trade Tax, when they visit the Tibetan markets.”
A similar situation had arisen in Nilang/Jadhang area.
On April 24, 1952, the ministry had received the opinion of Ministry of Defence (MOD): “the guiding principle in the new circumstances must be the Government of India’s ability to vindicate what they would regard as the appropriate frontier, since it would be idle to claim territory which could not be effectively protected or controlled.”
Nilang is mentioned in a previous post, but it is worth quoting the MOD, as the Ministry remarks can apply to any border posts: “The area under dispute is an extremely difficult country physically and climatically with hardly any communications. It therefore follows that operations in the area will have to be confined to short periods and undertaken by specially trained infantry organized on an ad hoc basis with very scanty artillery support and no support whatsoever from either tanks or aircraft. The administrative problems connected with an operation would be considerable. Even if the defence area were narrowed down to the protection of the villages Nilang and Jadhang, with the present resources of the army, it would be well nigh impossible to guarantee the integrity of the above villages. It will be equally difficult to afford hundred per cent protection to the small inhabited localities lying with the Indian frontier within the Indian frontier in this area.”
Therefore, the MOD conclusion was “Whatever solution the E.A [External Affairs] Ministry adopt, it would be subject to the conditions set out above so far as the defence of the frontier will be concerned.”
Like for the case of Nilang/Jadhang, in Barahoti, it was decided to assert Indian customary rights in the area. Not doing so, could have had serious consequences for the entire Himalayan frontier.
The View from the Ministry of External Affairs
A few months later, in September 1952, an official of the Ministry of External Affairs pointed out: “Last year there was some trouble over the opening of market for trading with Western Tibet at Hoti instead of the established market known as Nabra in Tibet. The local Tibetan officials who used to collect certain dues from our traders suffered a loss and resented the functioning of the Hoti market. There is, however, no indication that the Tibetans wanted to establish a customs post at Hoti.”
The issue was referred to G. Mukharji, the Home Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh Government who, on December 27, 1952, wrote back to the Foreign Secretary. Note that the subject line of the letter read: “Border disputes and collection of taxes by Tibetans in Garhwal district.”
Lucknow acknowledged the receipt of the Intelligence Bureau’s note mentioned above and affirmed that the State Government had been keeping the Government of India in the loop as far as the developments along the Indo-Tibetan border were concerned.
The Home Secretary further asserted that there was no case of “encroachment has so far been reported though at one or two places tax collectors from Tibet did come in but were persuaded to go back.”
He added that “it is rather embarrassing that tax collectors should come in at all and it is, therefore, requested that the matter may be settled finally with the Tibetan Government do not come in to India for purposes of tax collection.”
Mukharji concluded: “Until this is done, it is feared that similar visits will be paid in future also creating unnecessary embarrassment for Government as well as for our people on the border.”
He also answered the question about the practicability of the State Government stationing a small force of armed police on the border. Quoting from an earlier communication, he reiterated that “it would not be possible to stop any intruders from coming into our territory with the help of small police guards alone.”
He further pointed out that it would be difficult for the State Government to make adequate police arrangements in such remote areas “on account of difficulties of climate and terrain.”
He mentioned the creation of a Border Security Force which is “at present under examination with the Government of India” and stated “a force of that kind alone can be trained and equipped to function in those remote and difficult areas. Until that force is properly established, the State Government find it difficult to meet the situation by posting armed police in those areas.”
It is only on October 24, 1962, four days after the Chinese massive attack that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police was raised on. But this did not stop the Chinese from trespassing every year since then.
The Panchsheel Negotiations
In December 1953, the talks for an agreement on trade and pilgrimage started in Beijing. It resulted in the infamous Panchsheel Agreement. Looking at the way Indian diplomats were ready to bend backward to any Chinese demands, Mao Zedong and his colleagues would find more and more outstanding issues to rise. But in May-June 1954, they were still awaiting the outcome of the Geneva Conference on Indo-China.
The Indian diplomats thought that by naming six passes for the traders and pilgrims, they had delineated a border.
What a folly!
India tried to include other passes: “Traders and pilgrims from India and Western Tibet may travel by the routes traversing the following localities and passes,” but it was not accepted by China.
The passes/routes mentioned by Delhi were: Tashigong, Gartok; Spanggur Tso To Rudok; Chiakang, Churkang, Ruksom; Tashigong, Churkang, Ruksom; Rudok, Ruksom, Rawang; Bodpo La; Shipki La; Keobarang; Shimdang; Gumrang (Khimokul); Tsang Chok La; Muling La; Mana Pass; Niti Pass; Tunjun-la; Marhi La; Shalshal Pass; Kungri Bingri Pass; Darma Pass; Lampiya Dhura (Lampiya Lekh); Mangshadhura and Lipu Lekh.
But Delhi capitulated, China was then a friend and ultimately only 6 passes were named.
The fact that India did not insist on this list, turned into a tragedy; as a result China will soon claim the area south of Tunjun-la (and Tsang Chok-la as well). The Indian negotiators had clearly not done their homework.
In a short note on the ‘talks’ for the Panchsheel Agreement written after the signature, the Foreign Secretary noted: “It would also be desirable for us to establish check-posts at all disputed points as soon as possible so that there may be no opportunity for Chinese to take possession of such areas and face us with a fait accompli.
In this connection the opening remarks of Premier Zhou Enlai that “there are bound to be some problems between two great countries like India and China with a long common border… but we are prepared to settle all such problems as are ripe for settlement now” are significant.
The note said: “We immediately countered this by saying that we had mentioned all outstanding questions in this region, and stressed this several times later the Chinese did not pursue the matter further. It is, however, likely that the Chinese may raise or create border problems if we are slow in advancing our administration right up to our frontiers, especially in the disputed areas which are fortunately not many. This is also a matter which requires further examination and consulates between the Ministries of external Affairs, Home Affairs and Defence.”
The former Indo-Tibet border (now Sino-Indian) was forgotten in the process.
The Ink was Hardly Dry
It took only two months for India to discover that all problems had not been solved. The first Chinese incursion in the Barahoti area of Uttar Pradesh occurred in June 1954. This was the first of a series of incursions numbering in the hundreds which culminated in the attack of October 1962 ...and which continues till date.
The ink was hardly dried on the Panchsheel Agreement, when the Chinese entered Barahoti; a first note was given by the counsellor of China in India to the Ministry of External Affairs dates July 17, 1954.
The irony of the story is that it is China which complained about the incursion of Indian troops… on India’s territory!
Though Barahoti was well inside Indian territory, the exchange of notes continued during the following months and years. This exchange is the first of more than one thousand Memoranda, Notes and Letters exchanged by the Governments of India and China over the next ten years, published in the White Papers on China.
TN Kaul who had negotiated the Agreement philosophically explained later: “Territorial disputes have existed between near and distant neighbours through the ages. The question is whether they can and should be resolved by war, threat, use of force or through the more civilized and peaceful method of negotiation... Both sides still profess their faith in the Five Principles, and therein lies perhaps some hope for the future.
The Five Principles had put Kaul and his colleagues to sleep.
Some officials soon realized the blunder. John Lall, who later served as Diwan in Sikkim, commented: “Ten days short of three months after the Tibet Agreement was signed the Chinese sent the first signal that friendly co-existence was over… Significantly, Niti was one of the six passes specified in the Indo-Chinese Agreement by which traders and pilgrims were permitted to travel.”
Friendly co-existence had perhaps never existed.
The ‘Dispute’ Starts
On July 17, 1954, a note handed over by the Chinese Counsellor in Delhi to South Block briefly mentioned for the first time the issue. The Chinese asserted that “over thirty Indian troops armed with rifles crossed the Niti pass on 29 June 1954, and intruded into Wu-Je [Barahoti] of the Ali [Ngari] Area of the Tibet Region of China. (Wu-Je is about one day’s journey from the Niti Pass). The above happening is not in conformity with the principles of non-aggression and friendly co-existence between China and India, and the spirit of the Joint Communiqué issued recently by the Prime Ministers of China and India.”
How Barahoti, a pass between Tibet and India, suddenly got a Chinese name is still today a mystery.
The note continued: “It is hoped that the Government of India would promptly investigate the matter, and order the immediate withdrawal of the Indian troops.”
Probably adepts of Sun Tzu or the Art of War, the Chinese had decided to attack to justify their un-defendable position.
On 13 August 1954, the Chinese Counsellor in Delhi delivered another note to South Block, providing more detail on the so-called Indian intrusion: “further investigations reveals that they were a unit of 33 persons attached to the local garrison in U.P., India. The unit was under the command of an officer called Nathauja [according to Chinese pronunciation] who was a deputy commander of the troops stationing at Kanman [Chinese pronunciation]. Together with the officer, there was a local official named Sopit Singh [Chinese pronunciation] of Chinal tribe in U.P., who was also a district magistrate of Walzanjapur [Chinese pronunciation] district. Besides, there were a doctor, radio-operators and soldiers. They were putting up in 17 tents.” This was not in conformity with the Five Principles, the Chinese diplomat added.
Finally, on August 27, 1954, India woke up of its stupor: “We have made thorough enquiries regarding the allegation ... our further investigations have confirmed that the allegation is entirely incorrect. A party of our Border Security Force is encamped in the Hoti Plain which is south-east of Niti pass and is in Indian territory.”
The most ironic part of the story was that the Chinese were confused about the exact location of Wu-Je. The Minister of External Affairs (MEA) stated: “none of our troops or personnel have crossed north of the Niti pass, as verbally mentioned by the Chinese Counsellor.”
The Indian notes also pointed that some “Tibetan officials tried to cross into our territory in Hoti plain without proper documents, which is not in conformity with the Agreement.” The ministry could only hope that Beijing will instruct the Tibetans “not to cross into Indian territory as we have instructed our authorities not to cross into Tibetan territory.”
The correspondence was to continue for months and years in the same vein. It will soon become a regular yearly feature.
A year later, on June 28, 1955, the MEA wrote: “Tibetan officials attempted to enter in our territory in the Hoti plain. We have now received a report that a party of Chinese are camping at Hoti with 5 tents and 20 horses and that they have entered our territory without proper documents.”
The note further requested that “instructions be issued immediately to these personnel to withdraw across the border over the Tunjun-la and to refrain from entering Indian territory unless they are in possession of proper documents.”
Again it was repeated that it was not in conformity with the principles of non-aggression and friendly co-existence enounced in the 1954 Agreement.
An Indian official, SK Roy, Special Officer Frontier Area (or SOFA), met a Chinese official in Delhi on June 28, 1955 in connection of the Chinese intrusions, the Chinese informed the MEA that their Government “has times and again instructed the personnel of the frontier garrison not to move a single step beyond the Chinese border. Our investigations have confirmed that in the course of the last year and the current one there never has been any case of Chinese personnel crossing the border in the vicinity of the Niti Pass.”
This shows that the India-Tibet border has become the India-China border.
On July 11, 1955, the Chinese handed over a reply to TN Kaul: “Another batch of more than 30 Indians soldiers crossed into Wu-Je of the Tibet Region of China on 25 June 1955 and engaged in constructing fortifications at places very close to our garrison forces stationing there.”
On July 18, 1955, India replied to Chinese note saying it was not representing the factual position: “The troops mentioned were not in the Tibet region of China but at the Bara Hoti, on the Hoti plain in India which is south of the Tunjun-la.”
It also pointed out that the Indian troops withdrew in September 1954, because the outpost is a seasonal post; the MEA had some doubt if Barahoti were the same place; it admitted: “We are not aware of the exact location of Wu-Je, though the Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy mentioned that it was 12 kilometers north of the Tunjun-la, but we are quite confident that our troops have not, under any circumstances, crossed the border into Tibet Region of China.”
Another note was given to the Chinese embassy in Delhi on August 18, 1955. It had received a report that the Sarji, a Tibetan official, who had come with the Chinese troops in the Hoti plain had tried to “realise grazing tax from Indian herdsmen grazing goats in the area. This is a new development which we would request the Chinese authorities to stop forthwith.”
The exchanged continued during the following months.
On September 26, 1955, the Chinese embassy in Delhi mentioned the informal note given by SK Roy on August 18: “Our repeated investigations made in Wu-Je area of the Tibet Region have proved that no Chinese personnel has ever crossed the border. On the contrary, it was the Indian troops that intruded into Wu-Je which has always belonged to Dabasting [Daba Dzong?] of the Tibet Region within the Chinese boundary.”
The note added: “the Indian troops are still stationing at Wu-Je, and are incessantly carrying out reconnaissance activities on the Chinese Garrison. Hence the situation is rather serious.”
The Chinese conclusion was that “since no Chinese personnel has crossed the border, there could not have been such situation as stated in your informal note.”
On November 5, South Block gave another note to the Chinese stating that there was clearly a misunderstanding on the location of Wu-Je: “We are quite definite that our personnel have at no time intruded into the Wu-Je area of the Tibet region of China but have throughout remained at Bara Hoti which is 2 miles south of the Tunjun-la.”
It was emphazised that Chinese troops had come south of the Tunjun-la and camped at Bara Hoti alongside the Indian troops: “We would like to repeat that we are most anxious to avoid any possible incident and we, therefore, suggest that strict instructions should be issued that no personnel from the Tibet region of China should cross into India without due permission.”
It repeats once more that the India troops “have not entered the Wu-Je area because they have never crossed the Tunjun-la, the border pass ...and Wu-Je was stated by Mr. Kang to be 12 kilometres north of this pass.”
On the same day, it is also pointed to the Chinese that as the Indian detachment was approaching Damzan, which is 10 miles south of the Niti Pass (and therefore clearly in Indian territory), they were stopped by 20 Chinese soldier.
The Chinese troops sent a message to the Indians they could not go via Damzan without the permission from the Chinese authorities at Gartok. The Indian troops insisted on going via Damzan as it was clearly Indian territory: “if the Chinese party used force to stop [them], they would be responsible for the consequences.”
Finally, Delhi asserted that “great restraint [had been] exercised by our detachment. The Chinese soldiers did not try to stop our detachment but wanted to remain on the Indian territory at Damzan without due and proper permission.” The Indian note then gives the coordinates of Damzan, south of the Niti Pass, one of the passes named in the Panchsheel Agreement.
And the story goes on...