China should forget Arunachal or get ready for more lathi charge!

A bird’s eye view of the Tawang, Sikh Regiment jawans thrashing PLA jawans

By Pradeep Kumar

ITANAGAR, Dec 29: Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh, where Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed on December 9, has long been a theatre for contentious border scuffles. It was Tawang sector which had witnessed month-long 1962 India-China war. The clash was at Yangtse, 25-km aerial distance from Tawang.

On 21 November 1962, about six decades ago, China unexpectedly announced a unilateral cease-fire and since 01.12.1962 withdraw its troops 20-km north of McMahon Line,i.e., the Line of Actual Control (LAC) existing between the two countries as on 07.11.1959. With this announcement, the brief Sino-Indian border conflict came to an end since India did not challenge the Chinese PLA. All Chinese troops were withdrawn by 01.03.1963.

What did China gain by the conflict is intriguing? At the very outset it must be admitted that the conflict was an outstanding success for Chinese arms. China demonstrated once again, as it had done in Korean War, that the PLA was not an army that could be trifled with. It was for the first time that the Chinese had projected their power into the sub-continent and beyond the Himalayan crest.

But the end result was not as gratifying as has been assessed. For one, the Chinese leadership, because of international situation rapidly turning adverse for China, thought discretion to be the better part of valour and prudently decided to withdraw their troops north behind the McMahon Line. The Soviet Russian assessment was probably quite accurate when Khrushchev taunted the Chinese in a report to the Supreme Soviet on 12.12.1962 thus: ‘China had desisted from further hostilities apparently because India had started to receive support from the US and British Imperialists who were supplying it with arms. Therefore China realized that if the armed conflict continued it might turn into a large scale war.’ Hence, the Chinese took the decision to withdraw unilaterally from territory south of the McMahon Line.

The population there consists mainly of Monpas, adherents of Tibetan Buddhism with a distinct local ethnic identity. With all attention on two militaries clashing, it is not easy to forget the trauma that a border skirmish imposes on the local people. It is vital to note that the Tawangpas, as they call themselves, are only Indians who have lived under foreign occupation in 1962 after gaining Independence from colonial rule. But they are staunch Indians to greet each other with Jai Hind.

Various Chinese media reports on Tawang clash suggest that Beijing is determined to accelerate the frequency of border standoffs. But, Beijing should be aware that it is not what it was in 1962. The lathi charge by Sikh Regiment soldiers at Yangtse is the beginning and Beijing should be ready for much more, if it maintains its ‘dog-tail policy’ against India!

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