China’s claim on Galwan is a brazen lie – Claude Arpi

The Galwan river is named after Ghulam Rassul Galwan, a Ladakhi adventurer who was part of Francis Younghusband's expedition to Tibet. The Galawans were a clan of horse traders originally from Kashmir.
Claude ApriBeijing has systematically refused to tell India where the LAC lies in Ladakh. Isn’t it strange then that it speaks of a line that its government refuses to define? – Claude Arpi

On June 19, 2020, the Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian provided what he called a step-by-step account of the Galwan clash; it is obviously an account with Chinese characteristics, mixing wishful thinking with the hard facts. One of the ‘wolf-warrior’ diplomats, Zhao Lijian stated that the Galwan Valley is located “on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control in the west section of the China-India boundary”.

How can Zhao speak of a LAC? China has never shown their maps of the famous line; in March 2002, Beijing’s representatives presented their ‘perceptions’ of the LAC during a meeting of China Expert Group; hardly 20 minutes later, they withdrew the maps, never to be shown again. Since then, Beijing has systematically refused to tell India where the LAC lies in Ladakh. Isn’t it strange then that Zhao speaks of a line that his government refuses to define?

Litany of half-truths

To come back to Zhao’s statement, it describes the different phases of the shocking June 15 incident, exonerating the Chinese troops of any blame. It went amiss for the 43 PLA soldiers who lost their lives. While accusing India of “unilaterally building roads, bridges and other facilities in the Galwan Valley region” Zhao asserted that Galwan has always belonged to China; the Chinese propaganda has been repeating that Galwan area and the Aksai Chin have been Chinese since time immemorial.

It is far from true. No Chinese national has ever set a foot in the area till the mid-1950s and it is only due to India’s weakness at that time that Mr Zhao can make this outrageous claim today. Some classified documents from the Russian archives about the annexation of Xinjiang were recently published by the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center in the US; they shed some light on the issue.

Evidence of deceit

Charles Kraus, the program’s Deputy Director wrote: “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army invasion in October 1949 of Xinjiang, the vast ‘province’ bordering the Mongolian People’s Republic and Soviet Central Asia, was a stunning development.”

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong announced from the rostrum of Tiananmen Square in Beijing the birth of the People’s Republic; the Great Helmsman immediately moved to annex the territories in the west of the Middle Kingdom. In less than two months, the PLA annexed Xinjiang and closed down the Indian Consulate General in Kashgar. India’s observatory post connecting with Central Asia was no more. Delhi was told that the new regime would have to renegotiate all its former agreements, a position untenable in international law; but in 1953, Nehru announced in the Parliament that India had to close its Consulate in Kashgar because “nothing could be done about it”.

The capture of Xinjiang was a great military feat and a strategic coup; the doors to Northern India were suddenly open to China. By taking over Xinjiang, Mao controlled the Middle Kingdom’s western borders and trade with Central Asia; he also came for the first time in contact with the Indian frontiers, particularly the Aksai Chin area, witnessing the present tension. Kraus concluded: “The invasion was military cunning combined with political skill and, frankly, dumb luck. But it also couldn’t have happened without the aid of the Soviet Union.” Mao’s strategic vision and his ‘dumb luck’ helped to prepare the background for the contemporary events in Galwan, Hot Springs or Pangong Tso areas. Several ominous signs on the 1950 horizon should have forced the Indian government to read beyond the Chinese rhetoric and the Chinese Premier’s assurance of eternal friendship with India. It would not be.

Western Tibet was being invaded a year later; as the two new provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet needed to be linked, a road across India’s territory in the Aksai Chin was started in 1953-54; Delhi chooses to close its eyes. In 1956, a first map of the Chinese ‘perceptions’ was published by China. In a note written in 1963, the Indian government explained: “Territorial claims were put forward for the first time by the Chinese Prime Minister in September 1959, [was] based on a Chinese map published in 1956. In December 1959 [Zhou] affirmed the boundary on this map as the correct boundary claimed by China…. Since then the Chinese claim line has varied according to China’s bargaining convenience and the progressively increasing extent of occupation of Indian territory through force.”

Flimsy declarations

In 1960, Beijing produced another map engulfing large parts of Ladakh; Delhi probably did not realise the implications, thinking that China was still a ‘friend’. The line had moved hundreds of kilometres from Kashgar and Hotan which had only been occupied a decade earlier. Then in July 1962, the first clash took place in Galwan; on July 26, South Block wrote Beijing: “The Chinese forces have established several new posts and resorted to aggressive patrolling in Indian areas, which lie west of even the 1956 Chinese map claim line”. After months of correspondence; with each side accusing the other, Mao decided to attack India before the winter. The rest is history. Today Beijing says that Galwan always belonged to China. What a blatant lie! – Daily-O, 30 June 2020

› Claude Arpi is a French-born author, journalist, historian and tibetologist who lives in Auroville. He is the director of the Pavilion of Tibetan Culture at Auroville.

Read Servant of Sahibs by Ghulam Rassul Galwan on the Internet Archive.


One Response

  1. M. S. Golwalkar

    How the RSS predicted China’s true colours – Makarand Paranjape – Daily-O – 1 July 2020

    Allergic as many in the left-liberal former establishment may be to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the latter’s assessment of the Chinese aggression is worth paying attention to. But such was the Congress propaganda against the RSS that its views, let alone being considered seriously, were deliberately ignored.

    So for all these years, most Indians were kept entirely in the dark about early warnings received from the RSS on China. On an examination of the documents, most impartial observers will come to the inevitable conclusion that, once again, the RSS was right about China and the Congress wrong. First, briefly, let’s look at just how wrong the Congress was. It is well known how our first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s rose-tinted and utterly delusional notions of Indo-Chinese friendship were shattered by China’s 1962 war with India. It is said that he died a broken and disillusioned man following this debacle. Nehru imprudently ceded both territorial and diplomatic advantages to China as a result of which India lost 38,000 square km (14,700 square miles) of territory in Aksai Chin in the 1950s. Since then, some 680 sq km according to some estimates, were lost during the last two UPA governments (2004-2014).

    The ghost of 1962

    One of Nehru’s greatest blunders was to pass up in favour of China our one and only early chance of being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. His ambitions to play a bigger role on the world stage as the leader of a pan-Asian coalition against the imperialist West made him completely misread the fire-breathing dragon next door. Congress carried on his policy of appeasing China. Is it any surprise, then, that deals between the Congress and the Communist Party of China or funding from Chinese entities to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation are surfacing?

    Let us now look at the early warnings of the RSS on China. As early as 1951, M.S. Golwalkar or “Guruji,” the RSS Sarsanghchalak, issued a statement of importance to the press at Shimoga, Karnataka: “China is expansionist by nature and there is every possibility of the Chinese committing aggression on Bharat in the near future.” He was addressing the Chinese occupation of Tibet. He believed that Nehru had committed a Himalayan blunder, which the British had forestalled for so long.

    According to C.P. Bhishikar’s book on him, Guruji warned of the China-sympathisers in our midst, who would act as a fifth column in the event of Chinese aggression. That is exactly what happened, with the then undivided Communist Party of India coming out in support of the invaders.

    A Himalayan blunder

    E.M.S. Namboodiripad, senior Communist leader and former Chief Minister of Kerala, wrote: “We are not prepared to become blind to the reality that it was the class policy of the … ruling classes of our country that made them allies of the Tibetan counter-revolutionaries, thus initiating the process of deterioration in the India-China relations. We were and are not prepared to give up our view that the responsibility for the Chinese offensive of October 1962, should be shared also by the Indian ruling classes who adopted a very provocative attitude in the weeks preceding the Chinese onslaught.”

    On December 23, 1962, after India’s defeat, Guruji in a speech at the Ram Lila Maidan, said, “I regret to say that despite repeated warnings, the Government preferred to ignore such a grave possibility. … Even an ordinary person like me had, nearly ten years ago, referred to the systematic efforts the Chinese were making to enter our territory and entrench themselves in it. … But our leaders were so lost in the goody-goody slogans of world-fellowship, Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai … that they did not even think of addressing themselves to so serious a problem as this” (Shri Guruji Samagra, translated from Golwalkar’s collected works in Hindi, vol. 10, pp 149-150). In the middle of the war, Guruji also emphasised that “we must establish very close and cordial relationships with Nepal … if we don’t succeed in this, our difficulties are going to increase.”

    How prophetic! On the 50th anniversary of the Indo-China war in 2012, the RSS passed a resolution calling for “a comprehensive national security policy vis-a-vis China” in Chennai during its Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal (ABKM): “It is universally acknowledged that the debacle of 1962 was essentially the making of the political and diplomatic leadership of our country….” Even more perceptively, it pointed to the huge Chinese build-up of on the border, including “a network of airbases, missile launching pads, cantonments, and other physical infrastructure.”

    Congress’s RSS phobia

    The resolution demanded setting up a mountain strike corps in addition to “comprehensive military technological superiority.” It warned against China’s “deep penetration … in sectors like energy, information and communication technology, industry and commerce in Bharat and its designs to divert our river waters.”

    Not just that, the ABKM also underscored “the threat from China in the field of cyber technology and communications.” Perhaps, the only thing not anticipated was the possibility of a virus attack! Why was such a comprehensive and insightful report ignored? Only because of Congress’s deep prejudice and phobia of the RSS. Better late than never for these facts to come to light. We can be sure that the present government will not make the mistake of ignoring them.


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