A Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worker drives a steamroller while repairing a road surface with tarmac on a section of the Leh Manali highway in Ladakh region | Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
File photo of road repair work on a section of the Leh-Manali highway in Ladakh region (representational image) | Bloomberg
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In the run-up to the high-level military talks between India and China, which is scheduled to be held in eastern Ladakh today, the unseen Line of Actual Control has become ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Both India and China have different perceptions on what constitutes the Line of Actual Control (LAC). For India, the LAC covers areas that China considers as its territory and the same goes for the Chinese.

This imaginary line, which runs through Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, has been a bone of contention for both India and China for decades. It has once again become a flashpoint after the latest intrusion by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Unlike the Line of Control (LoC), the border between India and Pakistan delineated on a map and signed by armies of both countries with international sanctity, the LAC is ambiguous. It is neither a line nor in control, most of the time.


Also read: India’s Fingers have come under Chinese boots. Denial won’t help us


Formal without actual drawing

The LAC was the informal ceasefire line between the two countries after the 1962 war. It remained informal until India and China signed a bilateral agreement in 1993 and formally introduced the LAC.

Although no bullet has been fired between the two countries since 1967, it has witnessed numerous clashes between patrol parties of both sides.

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Many times, the Chinese enter what they consider to be their territory but is actually India’s. The same holds true for Indian’s patrol parties too.

India now terms these intrusions as transgressions because of the differing perception about the LAC.


Also read: China believes India wants Aksai Chin back. PLA has likely secured 40-60 sq km in Ladakh


Current standoff is the worst since Kargil

China has now brought forward at least 5,000 troops along the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Transgressions have been reported at multiple locations in eastern Ladakh — three in the larger Hot Springs area and one in the ‘Finger’ area of Pangong lake.

The current events are different from how things unfolded in 1999, but the fact that the troop build-up and transgressions are happening at multiple locations makes this the worst border tension India has seen since the Kargil battle in 1999.

While some compare it to the 2017 Doklam standoff, it should be remembered that Doklam was in Bhutanese territory and the current transgressions are in an area that India considers its own.

Incidentally, the troop build-up by China along the LAC also goes against the 1993 agreement.

Article III of the 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas says, “Each side will keep its military forces in the areas along the line of actual control to a minimum level compatible with the friendly and good neighbourly 66 relations between the two countries”.

But no numbers were mentioned in the agreement and what constitutes the “minimum level” had remained undefined, according to a paper published by the Observer Research Foundation.

However, Article V of the 1996 Agreement between India and China on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas says that aircraft cannot fly within 10 km of the LAC. It only allows “unarmed transport aircraft, survey aircraft and helicopters” to fly up to one km of the LAC.


Also read: China believes India wants Aksai Chin back. PLA has likely secured 40-60 sq km in Ladakh


LAC will be in news in future too

The LAC will continue to be in the news for some time as the difference of perception remains on both sides.

The special representatives-level talks on the boundary question between India and China will have to reach a consensus before these patrol clashes can be brought to an end.

The last round of the special representatives-level talks, the 22nd edition, happened in New Delhi in December 2019 between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and State Councillor and China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi.

Until the border disputes are not resolved by India and China, tension level at the LAC will continue to heat up from time to time.

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6 Comments Share Your Views

6 COMMENTS

  1. The immediate question is does the bilateral agreement of 1993 still stand after the abrogation of Article 370 and declaration of Ladakh as a union territory ? China has made it clear both in the UN and in bilateral talks at Chennai that it does not recognize the erstwhile j&K State as a union territory and as such if ladakh is a union territory this implies that a new bilateral agreement needs to be negotiated as the old agreement in the eyes of China is no longer valid.This could be China’s rationale for its current intrusions which are a clear violation of the 1993 agreement as a Chinese helicopter prevented the helicopter of an Indian General from flying over the Panong area. This was a clear military use of air power on the LAC. The problem is that the Modi government is extremely shortsighted and behaves as if India and USA are the only counties that exist and China , Pakistan,Nepal,Bhutan,Srilanka, and Maldives are insignificant and can be ignored. Modi would have never abrogated Article 370 if he had read the book “Destined for War” by Graham Allison or even consulted Professor Allison on phone. After all Allison was a student of Kissinger and advisor to three US presidents Reagan ,Clinton and Obama and so even the most conceited person will hesitate to call him stupid.. With the abrogation of Article 370 Modi has declared Aksai Chin which China considers as its jugular as an integral part of the Union of India.Now neither country can go back on its position and only time will tell what direction this dispute can take.Of course the Supreme Court may restore Status Quo by declaring abrogation of Article 370 invalid.

  2. India does not want to start a war. However if war does come its way, from the Chinese side, it will be bad for both countries, as it does not mean that China will have an easy military victory. It will cost both nationa dearly, more so for China, as it will divert their attention from the Sputh China Seas and embolden nations there.

  3. When the MEA says that it was prepared for the long haul, what it essentially means is “this is the new LAC/LOC”. At this rate I believe, to visit the UT of Laddak after 15 years one will have to apply for Chinese visa. No country, except for India, will give back territories which it has captured.. And that too in this case, without even firing a single bullet.

  4. Chengez- point is , China crossed over 3 km by surprise during pandaemic. Their forces around 5000 remain held up eye ball to eyeball . Either China settels the over all dispute by force or returns back . Chinese started it & they need to maintain their image.
    Last 30 days seeing Indian response China wants talks & that leads to Statusquo.

  5. True China has achieved the goal .indian are back foot .
    They will never dare to go for any military solution.
    They will beg to China and keep on begging to USA and Russia for their honorable survival.

  6. China has already achieved what it wanted……make India beg for talks…….World has seen Indian with 1.3 million army dare not throw out Chinese intruders….IAF Chief who was threatening Pakistan with 24/7 response dare not utter a single word…..Same with all the super patriotic Indian media & retired Generals incl Good ol Bakshi….what more could have China wanted to achieve by using such limited military action on Indian land??

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