1959 claim is wrong, but it punctures China’s theory: Experts
China’s reference to a 1959 definition of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that was never accepted by India highlights Beijing’s reluctance to disengage, experts and senior army officer said, adding that the claim has also served to puncture the country’s claim that it did not transgress into Indian territory in the Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh.
“India doesn’t recognise the 1959 claim line. However, even as per the Chinese interpretation of the 1959 line, the LAC runs through Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan valley. But the June 15 skirmish took place 800 metres west of their own claim line. Their intention is to grab territory,” a senior Indian Army officer tracking the situation along the LAC said on condition of anonymity.
China’s assertion that it abides by the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as proposed by Premier Zhou Enlai to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (who rejected it) in 1959 has complicated the border row . By bringing up the 1959 LAC, China is just hardening its position and making a resolution even more difficult, said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).
Beijing’s position, made known in an exclusive statement to Hindustan Times amid the ongoing border friction in eastern Ladakh, is a reiteration of the long-existing differences on the boundary question and a sign that the ongoing military standoff is unlikely to be resolved soon.
“India has never accepted the 1959 LAC. Not at the time it was brought up in 1959, not after the 1962 war when it was referred to in the unilateral ceasefire announced by China, or at any time after that. By referring to this, they seem to indicate that disengagement is unlikely,” Hooda added.
China is attempting to justify its salami-slicing tactics by referring to the 1959 claim line, another senior Army officer added on condition of anonymity. Salami slicing refers to a string of small, clandestine operations meant to achieve a larger goal that would be difficult to accomplish in one go.
The two serving officers said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had gone beyond its own so-called claims of 1959 in the Galwan valley and triggered a deadly skirmish there on June 15 resulting in 20 Indian and an unspecified number of Chinese deaths.
Outnumbered Indian troops inflicted heavy casualties on the Chinese in the seven-hour deadly conflict near PP-14 in Galwan valley.
“The PLA claim has shifted to Nala junction or Y-junction where Galwan river meets the Shyok, which is 800 metres on the Indian side of China’s claim of 1959. In April 2020, the PLA objected to the construction of a bridge at the mouth of Galwan. This area was never contested and that’s why face-offs never took place here,” the first officer said, holding the PLA responsible for the brutal skirmish.
“I don’t think there is any great clarity about the 1959 LAC. We do have some idea about their 1960 claim line, but a claim line does not automatically translate into the LAC,” Hooda said.
“Over a period of the last 60 years, both countries have consolidated their hold over their own sides of the LAC. Areas where there are differing perceptions are also clearly known. This should form the basis for any negotiations and not some vague and undefined LAC that existed in 1959 when physical control by both sides was tenuous,” Hooda added.