On Tuesday, the spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Anurag Srivastava, has outrightly rejected the claim made by the Chinese Foreign Ministry with respect to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The development comes amidst the ongoing border standoff between the two sides in Eastern Ladakh. The 3,448 km-long LAC separates India from Chinese-occupied territory. The demarcation between the two sides extends from the Union Territory of Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. India has historically rejected the alignment of the LAC.
In an exclusive interview with the Hindustan Times, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has stated that it abides by the LAC, which was unilaterally proposed by the then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to PM Jawaharlal Nehru on November 7, 1959. It claimed, “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.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry further blamed India for the escalated tensions at the border. Accusing India of ‘illegally’ crossing the border, it stated, “However, ever since this year, the Indian Army has continued to arrive and illegally cross the border, unilaterally expanding the scope of LAC. This is the source of tension on the border issues. The key to disengagement between the two armies is India’s withdrawal of all illegal cross-border personnel and equipment.”
The background of the LAC conflict
In his letter to PM Nehru on November 7, 1959, Zhou Enlai stated that for the sake of maintaining ‘tranquillity’ between the two sides, the armed forces of India and China must withdraw 20 km from the McMahon line. Rejecting his proposal, Nehru stated, “There is no sense or meaning in the Chinese offer to withdraw twenty kilometers from what they call ‘line of actual control. ” Later, Zhou Enlai defined LAC as, “basically the line of actual control as existed between the Chinese and Indian sides on 7 November 1959.”
MEA dismisses Chinese claims on the LAC
In a detailed statement, the MEA has rejected the claims made by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava stated, “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.”
The Ministry of External Affairs cited various bilateral agreements such as the 1993 Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility, 1996 Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), 2005 Protocol on Implementation of CBMs and 2005 Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for settlement of the India-China Boundary Question to ascertain India’s commitment to reach a common understanding on the LAC’s 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,” the MEA spokesperson remarked. He added that the comments by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the existence of ‘only one LAC’ ran counter to the bilateral agreements between the two sides.
Drawing reference from the speech of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the MEA spokesperson highlighted, “It is the Chinese side which by its attempts to transgress the LAC in various parts of the Western Sector, has tried to unilaterally alter the status quo.” He added that the Chinese side had assured of resolving escalated border tensions on the basis of the past agreements. “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”, he reiterated.
Clashes between the two countries have occurred along the Line of Actual Control raising fears of serious conflict breaking out between the two countries. Only recently, the Indian Army had made major breakthroughs and occupied six new heights along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh. This was after India had acted proactively to occupy heights in regions on the Southern Bank of the Pangong Tso lake and strengthened their positions. Talks between the two countries have been ongoing but without any major headway.