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30 May

“Refugee Tragedy in the Making” mistook basic facts about Aksai Chin

It was disappointing that the author of “Refugee Tragedy in the Making” confused basic facts.  For instance, there is 38,000 sq km land in dispute between China and India in Aksai Chin region, whereas another 5,180 sq km land that Pakistan ceded to China in 1963.  These are well-known figures even to layman, yet the author showed obvious history ignorance by saying that India claims the 38,000 sq km land ceded by Pakistan.

It’s further irritating to witness that the author doesn’t have fundamental knowledge on what China and India were talking about in their negotiation.  She wrote that China offered to “accommodate India on Aksai Chin” in trade for part of Arunachal Pradesh.  This is totally opposite to the reality that both countries seek to solve border dispute according to the de facto line of control, alone which China now controls Aksai Chin and India occupies Arunachal Pradesh.

Moreover, look at Aksai Chin’s strategic importance to China as connecting its Sinkiang and Tibet provinces, isn’t this “offer”, if it ever existed, ridiculous?  Could the author please provide solid reference for what she claimed?

According to Neville Maxwell, a British journalist and author of <India’s China War>, Aksai Chin is “located at a no-man’s land, where nothing grows and no one lives, on high altitude Himalayas, one of the most barren regions of the world”.  A Turki name, Aksai Chin means “China’s white sands” since as early as in 7th century it has been controlled by China in defense of Turki attacks.

Geographically Aksai Chin is not part of Kashmir.  Aksai Chin and Kashmir Valley are separated by Ladakh, a Tibetan kingdom.  Ladakh was conquered and annexed into Kashmir in early 19th century.  To safeguard Ladakh and Kashmir below Aksai Chin, British India government proposed to then Imperial China a demarcation, trying to push the British boundary forward to Aksai Chin so as to control this buffer area.  China never accepted this proposal, but British India and later India government took it for granted.

British India, however, never managed to implemented this demarcation, even during Imperial China’s collapse in 1911.  It was not until the British left the subcontinent that the new Indian government decided to pursue an even more forward policy than had the colonist.  During the summit of China’s civil war, India started building posts extending to Aksai Chin.  Before the reunited China government sought negotiation with India to solve the land dispute, then India PM J. Nehru had instructed that “India would refuse to open the question to negotiation when or if the Chinese did raise it”.  According to India, there is not at all any “land in dispute” since it’s “unquestionably” all India’s land.

After fruitless attempts, in April 1960 Chinese Premier Zhou En-Lai visited New Delhi and proposed, for the last time, a 6-point agreement as common ground for the two countries to base future negotiation upon:

1. There is land in dispute between China and India;

2. There are de facto Lines of Control in these land in dispute;

3. In demarcation, the usage of landmark, such as watershed, mountain pass and river valley, should be consistent along the entire boundary;

4. Demarcation should take into consideration of both countries’ national sentiments on the Himalayas and Karakoram;

5. Before land dispute could be solved via negotiation, both country stay behind its Line of Control and stop further advance;

6. To prevent military conflict, both country stop patrol.

China unilaterally stopped patrolling within twenty-kilometers of the border.  Yet such a peer-to- peer proposal was again rejected by India government, insisting that there was no “land in dispute”.

Consequently, in 1962 Chinese army initiated attack, drove the India military force out of Aksai Chin and resumed control of this region till this day.  More than forty years later, India finally admitted there is “land in dispute” and is willing to sit together for negotiation.  Though it’s regretfully late, it’s a good beginning for the two neighbors to move out of the shadow that essentially created by colonists.

In short conclusion, Aksai Chin is no man’s land.  Historically it was controlled by China in certain periods but not always, whereas India never did.  British India made an arbitrary demarcation to include Aksai Chin into its territory, which was never implemented.  After India obtained independence, it inherited the colonial policy and claimed this region, which led to the 1962 Indo-China skirmish during which China regained the control of Aksai Chin.

I understand that no journalist would know every topic well.  However, when facing unfamiliar topic it’s better to refrain from giving irresponsible data, information or interpretation.  My two-cent worth to Mrs. Bhalla.

Best regards,

Wang Zai-Tian

The Philharmonic Choral Society

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