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China’s Finger Problem – will President Xi cure?

Author: Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
Publication: Indian Defence Review
Date: September 15, 2014
URL: http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/chinas-finger-problem-will-president-xi-cure/

The Maurya Empire of India was one of the largest empires of its time. At the pinnacle of its glory, this empire stretched to the north right up to the natural boundaries of the Himalayas and to the west right beyond Baluchistan to the Hindu Kush Mountains of what is present day Afghanistan. The Empire included India’s central and southern regions of the Deccan Plateau by Emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara. The only small region of Kalinga (present day Odisha) too was conquered by Emperor Ashoka. Internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activity thrived through the expanse of the empire and beyond.

Emperor Ashoka having embraced Buddhism, laid the foundation not only of a reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all India but also spread the thoughts of Buddhism ideals to Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia and even into Mediterranean Europe and Siberia. The population of the Mauryan Empire was estimated to be in the region of 60 million. The Arthshastra was written in that period and the Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka is the national emblem of India.

Then was the Chola Dynasty, one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of Southern India spanning five centuries, the earliest reference to which are found in the inscriptions left by Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Empire. The heartland of the Chola Empire was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River but at the height of their empire spanning five centuries, the Chola Dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South East Asia. Cholas were the first to develop naval infantry, which was put to good use. The Chola territories spread from the islands of Maldives in the South and Sri Lanka, also successfully invading cities of Srivijaya of Malaysia, Indonesia and Burmese kingdom of Pegu. Temples built by Chola kings are seen in Bali in Indonesia and Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka today. According to the Malay chronicle Sejarah Melayu the rulers of the Sultanate of Malacca were descendants of the kings of the Chola Empire.

From the above it can be seen that Indian territories were once right up to the Hindukush Mountains, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, parts of Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Portions of Tibet too were annexed by India. Not many would be aware of the captured Chinese flag brought by Maharaja Ranjit Singh that adorns the officer’s mess of an infantry battalion of the Indian Army. Then, Indian troops of British India were posted at Yatung. The Chinese may need to read up on India’s history and whether going by Chinese standards, India should start claiming all these territories?

As important is for Chinese scholars, strategists and more importantly the Chinese government to understand that Pakistan has no claim on the entire State of Jammu Kashmir, being an aggressor and imposter. Chinese silence / ignorance, Pakistani propaganda and Western indulgence in chaperoning Pakistan in order to use her proxies is all what the current situation is all about. What led to the then Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir Hari Singh to cede the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India is contained in his letter dated 26 October 1947 to Lord Mountbatten, clearly describing the blatant aggression by Pakistan. Mounbatten accepted this instrument of accession, also acknowledging the aggression by Pakistan. The complaint made by India to the UN on 1st January 1948 too conveyed Pakistan’s aggression to the international community. On 5 February 1948, Sheikh Abdullah addressed the UNSC asking for the world body to force Pakistan to vacate its troops from J&K.

Most significantly, the UN Resolution of 13 August 1948 clearly stated that Pakistan should vacate the State of Jammu & Kashmir, conveying indirectly that Pakistan had been consistently lying on the question of whether or not her troops were involved in the aggression of Jammu & Kashmir. Still more importantly, it is when the Pakistani Prime Minister conceded that Pakistani troops were indeed involved, the UN asked Pakistan to vacate J&K. The Resolution on Assurance adopted by UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) 1948 further endorsed this fact. China should realize that Pakistan had absolutely no legal authority for leasing out the Shaksgam Valley to China in 1963 and same goes for Pakistan’s move to lease out Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) area that may have already been done secretly. Pakistan was and continues to be person non-grata as far as the State of J&K is concerned.

India’s External Affairs Minister recently stated, “When they (China) raised with us the issue of Tibet and Taiwan, we shared their sensibilities. So, we want they should understand and appreciate our sensibilities regarding Arunachal Pradesh.” Our National Security Advisor has conveyed to Beijing Chinese activities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir that will affect the resolution of the resolution of the Kashmir issue. But then there is more to all this. The continued deep incursions by China in Depsang area may be attributed to the chronic ailment of doing jumping jacks before visit of a dignitary from China to India or the other way around, but such Chinese antics being currently undertaken in wake of President Xi Jinping’s visit to India are regressive considering the mood is to elevate the partnership and since the BDCA was signed as proposed by China. And to say that these antics are only at local level do not fool anyone.

China arbitrarily extended her EEZ and claims to the ECS and SCS based on what was visualized by the Kuomintang, a government that the communist regime overthrew in 1949, cashing upon their claims decades later. But in the case of Tibet and India, China’s stratagem is based on Mao Zhedong’s statement endorsed by Deng Xiaoping, in saying, “Tibet is the palm of China and Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA are its fingers”. What other reason can you attribute to the annexation of Tibet? It is well documented that in the seventh century Tibet was an empire, spanning the high heartland and deserts of the north-west, reaching from the borders of Uzbekistan to Central China, from halfway across Xinjiang, an area larger than the Chinese heartland. Indeed in 763, the Tibetan army briefly captured the Chinese capital Chang-an (today’s Xian and much later it was the Mongols who later ruled China then occupied Tibet. So should Mongolia claim Tibet?

Historically until the early 13th Century, China had no claims on Tibet. Indeed the opposite applied: Tibet ruled half of present day China, but looked to India for its most significant influence, Buddhism. The annexation of Tibet by 30,000 battle hardened soldiers of Mao’s army crushing poorly equipped 4,000 Tibetans too is well known, as is the construction of the Great Wall primarily to save China from invasions, signifying that the expanse of China was limited to territories held behind that wall.

But this is about the ‘finger problem’; the five fingers strategized by Mao Zhedong and Deng Xiaoping – Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA, claims to which have been baseless but erratic. Starting from the East, take the claims to NEFA (read Arunachal Pradesh). Chinese claims were initially limited to the Tawang Plateau on grounds that Tibetans come to pray at the ancient Tawang Monastery but what about the enclaves of Minsar (Men ser), near Lake Manasarovar (Ma pham) which are for annual pilgrimage for all Indians and Bhutanese enclave of Tconsists of Darchen (Dar chen) Labrang etc near Mount Kailash (Gangs rin po che, Ti se) again used by Bhutanese and Indians for periodic pilgrimage – both these enclaves being under illegal occupation of China? Incidentally, Mount Kailash is the abode of an Indian God as per ancient mythology.

While the alternative route to Mansarovar via Nathu La will reportedly be offered by President Xi during his forthcoming visit to India, it would be a magnanimous gesture on President Xi Jinping’s part if he would also offer to keep the Minsar and Tconsists of Darchen enclaves seasonally open for annual pilgrimage by Indian and Bhutanese pilgrims considering that devotees attach great significance to traditional routes of pilgrimage. Of course the NEFA finger appears to have developed an extraordinary swelling in 2006 when China out of the blues announced claims to entire Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese claim that Arunachal Pradesh was established largely on three areas of China’s Tibet region; Monyul, Loyul and Lower Tsayul but must be viewed in the backdrop of they being historical Tibetan allusions for the regions south of the Eastern Tibetan frontier as opposed to China’s claimed ‘customary boundary line’.

The Chinese claim that these three areas, located between the McMahon Line and the traditional customary boundary between China and India, have always been Chinese territory is incorrect because historically, the Tibetan authorities did not have direct administrative control over the southern regions and borderlands beyond. However, pillaging expeditions with non-Tibetan and non-Buddhist ethnic groups using threats, intimidation and violence had being going on perhaps with the long term aim of claiming these territories. And, this is perhaps the reason why the claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh cropped up as late as 2006 through the Chinese Ambassador posted at New Delhi. China needs to compare such baseless claims with whether India then has stronger case for extending territorial claims at least up to Yatung in Chumbi Valley where Indian soldiers were posted during the British period.

The next three fingers are Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Why China eyes Bhutanese Territories particularly the Doklam Plateau is understandably for strategic reasons. But the Doklam Plateau particularly is being claimed knowing full well that its occupation by China will turn the Indian defences at Tri Junction in Sikkim and that it would facilitate rolling down to the Siliguri Corridor. Why else would China want the Doklam Plateau that is jutting deep down with Indian and Bhutanese Territories on either flank? Next is Sikkim which has been Indian Territory for decades but China does not recognize.

The next ‘finger’, Nepal has already been invested by China using both hard and soft power what with triggering the Maoist movement in that country during the Mao era in conjunction similar movements like in Burma (now Myanmar), Philippines (New People’s Army), Cambodia (Khmer Rouge), Japan (Japanese Red Army) and Peru (Shining Path). PLA soldiers in uniform are being reported by foreign correspondents in northern Nepal plus development projects and even three star hotels in Kathmandu have covert PLA presence. Then comes the the last and another crucial ‘finger’, Ladakh.

China has been in illegal occupation of Aksai Chin but still wants to claim more and more of Ladakh; having inched forward over the years, consolidating in Sirijap, making 10 kms of metal road in the area of Pangong Tso, but still not satisfied with this making 25-30 kms deep incursions in the areas of Depsang Plains and Chumar. This needs to be viewed in conjunction China’s strategic footprints in Gilgit-Baltistan where multiple tunnels and silos have been dug, for deployment of missiles to support operations in the IOR. The significance of this twin pincer move aiming at convergence of the two prongs is not lost on India.

Logically, if China wants India to sign on the dotted line of ‘One China’ policy, it should do likewise accepting ‘One India’ including ‘recognizing the accession of the State of J&K to India on 26 October 1947’. Sure that would make Chinese occupation of the Shaksgam Valley and Aksai Chin illegal but that can be negotiated between the special representatives of both countries charged with negotiating the border.

As regards, the ‘Fingers’, China should appreciate that India very much respects the sovereignty of Bhutan and Nepal but what China considers ‘Fingers’, also happen to be the ‘Knuckles’ for India, and Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are strategically important and sensitive regions for India. No one better than President Xi would understand the strategic pay offs for claiming more and more territory vis-a-vis early settlement of the border issue on the lines suggested. This would not only give the India-China partnership a quantum jump, the strategic payoff would lead to establishment of multiple north-south economic, energy and transportation corridors (road and rail) linking Russia-China India that could come through the Chumbi Valley, Nathu La, through Nepal and others mutually agreed, linking right down to Indian ports. Since China’s special representative on border talks is accompanying President Xi Jinping, a broad agreement as suggested could be inked between the two governments now and the special representatives tasked to complete detailed formalities in a stipulated period within next few months.

China needs to recognize that the Great Game has in fact begun in South Asia. The fact that big powers are using proxy forces and terrorism to degrade the influence of their adversaries is common knowledge. We are witnessing this many countries of Middle East and Ukraine, with population and regions ravaged. In case China has not noticed, this strategy has already been put in motion in South Asia. Premature pullout of US-NATO forces from Afghanistan, refocusing of Al Qaeda to South Asia and mass induction of weapons for Xinjiang rebels (irrespective whether the conduit is via Indonesia or elsewhere) are all part of this strategy. More important for China is to understand that in checkmating China on land in South Asia from reaching out to the IOR, the West will use Pakistan and her proxies, as is currently happening in Middle East.

Notwithstanding China-Pakistan relations, Pakistan’s retains the strategic potential to assist the West in containment of Russia and China through her proxies, in tandem with her global terrorist links. Both Pakistan and the West know it and West will always forgive Pakistan all her trespasses as they did in the case of Osama bin Laden. The dark shadow of ISIS and Al Qaeda supported by Pakistan Taliban, its factions and other terrorist organization, all coordinated and supported by Pakistan with financial support from Saudi Arabia and allies is looming large over South Asia. It is for China to review its friendships and alignments.
 
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