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Did you realise that Yeh Jo India Hai Na, it has become a little smaller and China just got a bit bigger? It is now clear we have lost control of the land on our side of the Line of Actual Control at Depsang, at the Galwan Valley, at Pangong Lake in Eastern Ladakh and at least 3 areas along our border with China in Arunachal Pradesh as well. The first step to getting any of this land back, would be for the Indian government to categorically accept that contrary to the PM’s ‘no intrusion’ remarks, substantial incursions have taken place while this government looked away. How else will all this land-grab make it to the negotiation table?
Click on the player below for the podcast.
But first, here is an updated list of the great Chinese land-grab:
The first is close to the northern end of the LAC in East Ladakh at Depsang. My colleague Nishtha Gautam reports that the Chinese army now controls a crucial Y-junction near the ITBP’s Burtse camp, about 15 kilometres within India’s side of the LAC. It’s also known as ‘Bottleneck’ because ITBP soldiers headed for Patrol Points 10, 11, 12 or 13 must cross this junction. Earlier, both armies patrolled the area, but the Chinese have stopped the ITBP from going past this point since April.
Did the Indian government take it up with China then? Or now? We have no answers.
Instead, sources say the ITBP has been told to avoid clashes and simply not patrol points 10,11,12 and 13. Also, the Chinese have done this before – they occupied this same Y-Junction-Raki Nallah area in 2013 as well but were pushed back in 21 days. But this time, even after 90 days, they are still there. Also, note that control over Depsang allows China to threaten India’s crucial Daulat Beg Oldi airbase, 30 kilometres to the north and a lifeline for our troops at the Siachen Glacier.
India’s presence at Depsang keeps our forces within striking distance of the Karakoram Pass that China controls.
China’s second land grab is at the Galwan Valley – exactly at Patrol Point 14 where India lost 20 of its soldiers within days of the clash. Even as generals and diplomats were in talks, the Chinese set up a larger camp with gun positions in place of the observation post that Indian troops destroyed on 15 June. That is what the latest satellite images and ground reports show. And since Patrol Point 14 is on India’s side of the LAC, this is an intrusion. Also note that at the negotiation table, China has already moved the goalposts by shifting their perception of the LAC. They now claim all of Galwan river valley, right up to its meeting point with the Shyok river. Control of the Galwan hilltops will allow China to threaten India’s critical Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi Road. So is this a land-grab India can accept? No!
China’s third land-grab is on the north shore of Pangong Tso, that’s been talked about a fair bit, and is well-documented too. The Chinese army now controls the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8, eight kilometres to the west of the LAC that passes through Finger 8. The Indian Army’s patrols are now stopped at Finger 4 and it is no longer allowed to patrol till Finger 8. Forty square kilometres of Indian territory is no longer in our control. China has built army posts all over the former no-man’s land, on the ridges, and along the lake. Latest reports in The Indian Express say China has now also built a Helipad at Finger 4.
While Indian Army sources claim to have “matched” the PLA’s additional deployments of troops, artillery guns and armoured vehicles at every sector along the LAC in Ladakh, the fact is that China has occupied strategically critical chunks of Indian territory and wants us to accept it all as the new status quo.
Now, let’s shift our attention 2,000 kilometres east – to Arunachal Pradesh.
China claims all of Arunachal as Chinese territory, a claim India rejects. Arunachal’s northern borders, also known as the McMahon line, are India’s borders with China, which it expects China to respect. But as journalist Rajeev Bhattacharya, writing for The Quint reports – China has intruded into Indian territory in Arunachal as well. Bhattacharya lists three substantial intrusions, about which successive Indian governments have done almost nothing.
China’s fourth land-grab is at Arunachal’s Anjaw district. Apart from many new roads and increased troop deployment on the Chinese side, the PLA has also occupied Indian territory at Chaglagam, constructing a bridge over a stream. Also, since 2009, the Chinese have occupied a feature known as Hundred Hill at Kaho, which locals re-confirmed to Bhattacharya in 2019 as well.
Just west of Anjaw is the Dibang Valley district, which is China’s fifth land-grab. Here, too, right along the border, an area called Andrella Valley has been occupied by China.
China’s sixth land-grab has happened in the Upper Subansiri district at Asaphila, Longju, Disa, and Maja. Local officials say the PLA has advanced across the border bit by bit since 1980 and is now 50 to 60 km inside the Indian territory.
Ironically, these land-grabs were highlighted in 2019 by Arunachal’s BJP MP Tapir Gao but his own senior colleague and former Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said then – ‘No Intrusions’.
One hopes Rijiju’s claim is not demolished by facts on the ground just like the PM’s ‘no intrusion’ remark. The other problem in Arunachal is that the border areas at Anjaw, Dibang Valley and Upper Subansiri have poor or no roads and the Indian Army has very few posts there.
The Chinese land-grabs are happening where the Indian Army is absent. But why is the Indian government in denial about Chinese intrusions in Arunachal? We don’t know. Is there a plan to up the Army’s presence in these areas? We don’t know.
Yeh Jo India Hai Na, it is struggling to deal with China’s systematic land-grab in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, and the more we hesitate the more we stand to lose.