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‘India should revisit its 1954 treaty with China to meet its Tibet border dispute challenge’

(TibetanReview.net, Nov12’21) – India’s Former Foreign Secretary Mr Kanwal Sibal has said Nov 11 that the country’s border issues with China arose because of its acceptance of Tibet as a part of China in 1954 and it should take a relook at this source of the dispute. His remarks came amid report that China had greatly increased its military construction and deployment activities in occupied Tibet’s border with the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

The 1954 treaty was the first between India and China by which the former formally recognized Tibet as an autonomous region of china. Although it was mainly a trade agreement of limited duration, it also laid down five principles of peaceful co-existence between the two countries and was known more popularly as the Panchsheel Agreement.

“If we want to challenge China over its sovereignty claims, we should take some steps with regard to Tibet. It is because of their occupation of Tibet that we have the current challenges. We went ahead to accept in 1954, that Tibet was a part of China. The belief was that if we hand over Tibet to China, they would not come down to the Himalayas. It was also the assumption that China would not militarise Tibet, the way it has done now… So, if we want to begin to open our options, we must start talking about Tibet,” timesnownews.com Nov 11 quoted Sibal as saying said in a discussion with Dr Maroof Raza, Consulting Editor, Times Now.

Speaking at the Times Now Summit 2021 in New Delhi, Sibal has called China a difficult country to assess due to controlled press, with the leadership making “’standard, formula-oriented statements”.

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Sibal’s remarks came amid reports that China has been rapidly building up its troop presence along the 240-km stretch of the Line of Actual Control adjoining Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh over the past one year besides accelerating the construction of roads, bridges and helipads.

“During the past one year, China has increased the presence of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), improved its infrastructure and surveillance capability along the border with Himachal Pradesh,” hindustantimes.com Nov 12 quoted the state’s director general of police Sanjay Kundu as saying in Shimla that day.

The report gave specific details about road constructions, building of a new Chinese army accommodation structure, and numerous other Chinese army activities, including helicopter breaches of Indian air space in the area.

The report noted that Kinnaur, and Lahaul and Spiti districts shared a 240-km boundary with Chinese occupied Tibet, comprised by an 80km stretch in Chumar in Lahaul and Spiti and 160km from Daroti to Mumri Dogri in Kinnaur district.

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Meanwhile, taking note of the latest Pentagon report on China, which said a large 100-home civilian village had been inside disputed territory between occupied Tibet under Chinese control since 1959 and Arunachal Pradesh, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said Nov 11 that such construction activities had been going on in the past several years along the border areas and India had not accepted “such illegal occupation” of Indian territory and the “unjustified Chinese claims”.

However, this appeared to contrast with India’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat’s position. Gen Rawat has said hours later at an event that “these villages … are well within Chinese side of the LAC” and “they have not transgressed anywhere on our perception of the Line of Actual Control”.

“Chinese building villages along the LAC is true. But what I wish to come out with is, Chinese are building villages possibly for billeting and locating their civilians, or for the military in the future, all along the Line of Actual Control, particularly after the recent face offs that we’ve had. But this present controversy that has erupted that Chinese have come across into our territory and have built a new village is not true…” the indianexpress.com Nov 12 quoted Rawat as saying.

He has further said: “These kind of so-called villages which are well within their side of the LAC, they have not transgressed anywhere on our perception of the Line of Actual Control. There are different perceptions. We are very clear where the Line of Actual Control lies because we have been told that this is your alignment of the Line of Actual Control and this is the territory you are expected to defend.”

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