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LAC: China's Untenable Claims (30 September 2020)

LAC: China's Untenable Claims (30 September 2020)

Why in News:

India on Tuesday said it had never accepted the unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC).


Amid the ongoing standoff along the LAC in Ladakh, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has asserted that India never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC), adding that the position has been consistent and well known including to the Chinese.


In the last few months, the Chinese side has repeatedly affirmed that the current situation in the border areas should be resolved in accordance with the agreements signed between the two countries.

Since early May, India and China have been engaged in a standoff in Ladakh sector of the LAC that has taken bilateral ties to an all-time low. Both sides have mobilised more than 50,000 troops each in the region and are now preparing to dig in for the harsh winter.

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed on June 15 in a brutal clash in Galwan Valley, which also resulted in unspecified Chinese casualties. Troops of both sides have also fired warning shots on several occasions since late August, the first time arms have been used along the LAC since 1975.

Summary of the Debate

China’s 1959 LAC Claim:

  • The LAC is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory.
  • India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.
  •  It is divided into three sectors:
    • Eastern sector which spans Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim
    • Middle sector in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh
    • Western sector in Ladakh.
  • Shimla Convention, 3 July 1914: It gave birth to the McMahon Line that separated Tibet from India.Since signing the Shimla Convention, the Chinese never raised any formal objection to the McMahon Line until January 1959.
  • Nehru statement, 1950: China didn’t say a word even in 1950 when Nehru said, on the basis of the 1914 agreement, that “the McMahon Line is our boundary” and “the frontier from Ladakh to Nepal is defined chiefly by long usage and custom”.
  • Zhou Enlai Letter, 1959: The major disagreements are in the western sector where the LAC emerged from two letters written by Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai to PM Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959.
    • In January 1959, Zhou’s letter contested the McMahon Line for the first time, he also called McMahon Line a British policy of aggression that cannot be considered legal.
    • In his letter, Zhou said the LAC consisted of “the so-called McMahon Line in the east and the line up to which each side exercises actual control in the west”.
  • After the 1962 War, the Chinese claimed they had withdrawn to 20 km behind the LAC of November 1959.

India’s response:

  • Until 1950, India was not open to negotiating the border, but as it increasingly saw the Chinese begin to follow a line that existed before the McMahon Line was formulated.
  • Right from the 1993, India has been talking about taking the initiative to demarcate or at least come to some kind of an agreement on a working LAC on Map and on ground but the Chinese have desisted from it because they know, keeping this fuzzy is always to their advantage.
  • Indian had always respected and abided by the LAC but it has never accepted the so-called unilaterally defined 1959 Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • India said that the Chinese furtherance of the so-called 1959-line proposal ran counter to several agreements that were framed to reach a common understanding of the LAC alignment.