China's resurrection of 1959 LAC claim may have military fallout. India preps

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With Beijing reiterating its claim on 1,597 kilometres of Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh on the basis of November 1959 maximalist cartographical claim, national security planners believe that Chinese Army may use this claim to put pressure on the six other areas of differences in the western sector that have not been impacted in the ongoing standoff between the two countries.

The Indian Army has been sensitised to the assessment and is on alert to pre-empt any move by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), people familiar with the matter said.

The 1959 line (defined as Green Line on military maps) was sent by Prime Minister Zhou En-Lai to his Indian counterpart Jawaharlal Nehru on November 7, 1959, appended to Zhou’s letter addressed to heads of African-Asian countries on November 15, 1962.

During the inconclusive exercise of clarification and confirmation of the western sector by expert level group, it was found that India and China had 12 areas of differences with significant areas involved. The western sector maps were to be exchanged on June 17, 2002 but the Chinese withdrew at the last moment.

According to China watchers, with six out of 12 areas of differences already in the contest, the PLA may launch an aggression on the remaining six points including Samar Lungpa, Demchok and Chumar to press home its claim which was rejected by Nehru himself. Hence, Indian military commanders have asked troops to be ready to repel any PLA move before heavy snow takes over the theatre of contest in East Ladakh. The polar winds and snow will not only wreak havoc on men but also their equipment. Artillery guns and tank barrels freeze in such cold conditions. From November 15 to May, the top priority of the two armies will be to survive the cold at the heights.

While both India and China are engaged at military and diplomatic level to disengage, the PLA commanders of Western Theatre Command only listen to their commander-in-chief Xi Jinping, not the foreign ministry in Beijing as many generals outrank the foreign minister in the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC).

The situation on the ground in the Ladakh LAC continues to be tense with the PLA realising that the Indian Army means business and has the capacity and capability to repel any aggression, an official said. The PLA troopers have stopped playing Punjabi songs on north of Pangong Tso and psychological warfare messages in the south with the Indian troopers making it clear that any transgression now will invite severe retaliation.

The Indian diplomats are unfazed by the 1959 line claim and question their predecessors who thought more about not crossing the Chinese red lines on the LAC rather than defending the Indian LAC claim.

“The Ladakh stand-off is an outcome of a 30-year differential between India and China in the infrastructure race. China became Shanghai and India remained Mumbai. It is not good English but strong infrastructure and military that will force China to come to table,” said a serving diplomat.

The Chinese 1959 claim is as absurd as India claiming part of Tibet on the basis of Dogra ruler of Jammu, Raja Gulab Singh’s general Zorawar Singh Kahluria’s 1841 Tibet campaign to occupy Ngari prefecture of Tibet.

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