China's long history of incremental occupation of Indian territory in Ladakh

Even as the Indian government has never admitted it, China had occupied 640 sq km of Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh during the second term of the UPA regime under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

May 29, 2020

Even as the Indian government has never admitted it, China had occupied 640 sq km of Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh during the second term of the UPA regime under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In 2013, former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who was at the time Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NASB) under the National Security Council of the Manmohan Singh government, after his visit to the region had informed the government that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) patrol had set a new Line of Actual Control (LAC), thus occupying 640 sq km of Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh.

The undemarcated LAC came into existence when China in 1962 occupied Aksai Chin, an uninhabited high-altitude wasteland of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, and now part of the Union Territory of Ladakh. The state was bifurcated into two Union Territories in August last year.

The land grab in 2013 by the PLA happened after India had signed nine agreements, including the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), the same year in March ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to India. Incidentally, the proposal for BDCA was presented by China, which had been keen to get it signed before Li's visit.

Though China undermined the agreement soon after it was signed when it led an incursion in Depsang area of Ladakh in April, the standoff at Doklam and now at both Eastern (Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim) and Western (Ladakh) frontiers between the two countries has left the sanctity of the BDCA in tatters.

In fact, the BDCA, like all other previous bilateral agreements signed by the two sides in 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2012, has remained ineffective in checking Chinese incursions in Ladakh.

On an average, PLA intrusions occur 250-300 times annually and usually during July and August when the weather is favorable. From 2010 to 2013, China made nearly 600 incursions into the Indian side.

Over time, China has only added newer and greater claims on areas in Ladakh, in addition to the known disputed areas over which India and China fought in 1962.

In the 1950s, China had surreptitiously built a 179 km road in the Indian territory of Aksai Chin, which eventually led to a dispute and talks, followed by the 1962 war. After seven decades, from the 4,056 km disputed border between the two countries, China has slowly reduced it to merely 2,000 km in its claims. Apart from the military build-up, China has slowly invested in infrastructure in the disputed areas of Ladakh.

China has maintained that it wants to 'ensure peace and stability' along the borders without affecting bilateral relations. Even now Beijing and the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi have reiterated the same policy, even as it has only consolidated its position on India's Western frontier in Ladakh 

The Indian government on Thursday invoked a plethora of bilateral agreements signed by India and China to resolve border-related issues, as the stand-off between the soldiers of the two sides continued along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

Praising the defence forces, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, at a virtual media briefing said that Indian troops take a very responsible approach towards border management and strictly follow the procedures laid out in various bilateral agreements and protocols with China to resolve any issue that may arise in the border areas.

"Our armed forces scrupulously follow the consensus reached by our leaders and the guidance provided," he said, adding that India is committed to the objective of maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas with China.

Since 1993, he said, India and China have signed several bilateral agreements and protocols to ensure peace and tranquility in the border areas.

Srivastava recalled that the two countries signed an Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China border areas in 1993; Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC in 1996; Protocol on Modalities for the implementation of the Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the LAC in 2005; Agreement on the establishment of a working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China Border Affairs in 2012; and the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2013.

The two sides, he said, have established mechanisms both at the military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in the border areas peacefully through dialogue, and continue to remain engaged through these channels. At the same time, India, he said, remains firm in its resolve to ensuring the country's sovereignty and national security (IANS)

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