PLEASE NOTE: FORCE no longer has an office at 110, Sector 37, Noida. All future correspondence should be sent to E-19, Ground Floor, Sector 3, Noida 201301, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Force Magazine

Land Shark

China’s claims on Tawang Tract has serious strategic implications

Maj. Gen. Sheru Thapliyal (retd) By Maj. Gen. Sheru Thapliyal (retd)

In more than half a century, the old boundary dispute between China and India, Tawang Tract, had not figured as a disputed area in the Eastern Sector. It was suddenly brought centrestage by the statement of Chinese ambassador to India, San Yuxi, just prior to the visit of the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in April, 2005. The Chinese have realised that with India being in de facto control of the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh, it will not concede Chinese claim over it. China has, therefore, cleverly laid claim to Tawang Tract, which if conceded, will not only offer China an entry into Assam plains but also give it complete control of the strategic Western Kameug district. In the process, it will also turn on its head the complete norms of laying down a boundary in the mountains. The boundary in the Eastern Sector is along the McMahon line, which follows the Himalayan crestline between Tibet and India. Since Tawang is south of the crestline, its claim by China is an afterthought and clearly aimed at pressurising India.

Tawang Tract, which extends from the Tibetan plateau north of McMahon line to the foothills till Dirang was not made de facto Indian territory until 1951 when Major Ralingnao Khating of the Indian Frontier Administrative Service established Indian control over Tawang. Till then it was being loosely controlled by a Lhasa appointed head Lama. It may be pertinent to mention here that in 1947, the present Dalai Lama wrote to the government in Delhi claiming Tawang and adjoining areas as part of Tibet. It is only recently that the Tibetan government in exile has formerly abandoned its claim. The Chinese have found this fact to be a convenient stick to beat India with.

Gen-Sheru-Thapliyal Tawang district is bound in the north by Tibetan autonomous Region (TAR) with Bum La Pass 47 km away on the McMahon Line. Important Chinese cantonments of Le and Tsona Dzong are located very close to the border. Tawang district is inhabited by Monpas who are quite different in appearance as well as language from their Tibetan brethren in the north. All communications to the West to the disputed area of Kheuzmane on Thagla Ridge pass through Tawang. Towards the south, slopes fall sharply to Tawang Chu river and then rise again to the Sela ridgeline.

Strategic Importance of Tawang: Should Tawang be ceded to China as a part of a deal whereby they renounce their claim to the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh, it would mean giving away the entire west Kamang district to China with serious strategic implications, which would be as follows:

• All communications to Khinzmane sector on Thag La Ridge via Lum La pass through Tawang. With Tawang in Chinese hands, they can choke off supplies to Indian forces deployed to the west of Tawang on the McMahon Line and render these untenable.
• By virtue of their control over Tawang, the Chinese have an easy entry point into Eastern Bhutan and thereafter to the Assam plains. They would never sever complete Northeast from the rest of India should they undertake an offensive through Eastern Bhutan.
• Se La, which is the only dominating feature between Tawang and Dirang will be lost to the Chinese. Indian defence line will then have to rest on Bomdila Ridgeline which can be bypassed from the West and the Chinese can reach the Assam plains without encountering any Indian defences.
• Occupation of Tawang by the Chinese will foreclose an Indian option of an offensive action through Bum La to threaten Le and Tsona Zong.
• Indian Army’s deployment to the east of Tawang will also cease to exist because lines of communications pass through Tawang Tract. This would open up a number of possibilities for the Chinese to infiltrate into Bomdila.

[View Full Story]
Comments(0) Share

  © 2015 FORCE ARROWHEAD MEDIA PVT. LTD. All Rights Reserved. Private Area | Link Directory | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Sitemap