New Delhi: After China reiterated that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India was the one defined in 1959, India on Tuesday rejected that contention as being contrary to the border agreements that call for a clarification of the LAC.
The Chinese foreign ministry, in a statement issued to Hindustan Times, said that the alignment of the LAC was very clear – in context to a question of the ongoing military stand-off with India in eastern Ladakh.
“Firstly, China-India border LAC is very clear, that is the LAC on November 7, 1959. China announced it in the 1950s, and the international community including India are also clear about it,” said China’s ministry of foreign affairs.
In response, India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that India has “never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC)”. “This position has been consistent and well known, including to the Chinese side,” he added.
The 1959 LAC is a reference to the proposal made by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai’s letter to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Chinese premier, in his letter dated November 7, 1959, had suggest Indian and Chinese forces should withdraw 20 km from the McMahon Line in the east and “from the line up to which each side exercises actual control in the west”. This was rejected by Nehru in a reply dated November 16, 1959.
Srivastava also noted that China had agreed in various bilateral agreements and as well as the 2005 Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for settlement of the India-China Boundary Question for clarification and confirmation of the LAC to reach a common understanding on the alignment. “In fact, the two sides had engaged in an exercise to clarify and confirm the LAC up to 2003, but this process could not proceed further as the Chinese side did not show a willingness to pursue it,” he said.
The spokesperson claimed Beijing’s insistence that there “is only one LAC is contrary to the solemn commitments made by China in these agreements”.
He also referred to Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in parliament where he stated that China has attempted to unilaterally change the status quo by its attempted transgressions in Ladakh.
The Indian side also noted that China has affirmed during various discussions – including in the agreement between external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi – that Beijing would abide by all existing pacts.
“We therefore expect that the Chinese side will sincerely and faithfully abide by all agreements and understandings in their entirety and refrain from advancing an untenable unilateral interpretation of the LAC,” said Srivastava.
This is not the first time that China has brought up the ‘1959 LAC’ in recent years. In August 2017, Indian and Chinese troops scuffled and threw stones at each on the banks of Pangong Tso lake.
During daily briefings, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying mentioned the ‘1959 LAC’ on two separate days – on August 16 and 21. “China urges India to abide by the provisions of relevant conventions and treaties, earnestly follow the 1959 LAC, strictly restrict the activities of its border troops and faithfully maintain the peace and stability of the boundary areas of the two countries,” Hua had stated on August 21, 2017. At that time, Indian and Chinese troops were also involved in a stand-off on Bhutan’s Doklam plateau, which lasted over two months.
In his 2016 book Choices – Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy, former national security advisor Shivshankar Menon had said that China always described the so-called 1959 LAC “only in general terms on maps not to scale”.
“In both 1959 and 1962, India had rejected the concept of a Line of Actual Control, arguing that the Chinese concept was a disconnected series of points on a map that could be jointed up in many ways; the line should omit gains from aggression in 1962 and therefore should be based on the actual position on September 8, 1962, before the Chinese attack; and the vagueness of the Chinese definition left it open for China to continue its creeping attempt to change facts on the group by military force,” Menon wrote.
In July, the Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, stated that China was not interested in the clarification of the LAC as it would lead to further disputes.
“The purpose of clarification of LAC is to maintain peace and tranquility. When we look back into history, if one side has unilaterally put its own perception on the LAC during the negotiations, that will lead to disputes. That’s why, this process cannot be move on. I think that this is a departure of original purpose,” he said during an online webinar.
The last meeting between India and China on the stand-off was on September 21, when senior military commanders met at Moldo on the Chushul side. A joint press release was also issued by both countries.
Since early May, soldiers of both countries have been at a stand-off at multiple points in eastern Ladakh. The current tensions have witnessed fatalities, as well as firearms being used at the LAC for the first time in decades.