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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

after Kashmir ... it should be retrieval of 'Aksai Chin'

Long ago, immediately after the World Cup 1983, West Indies toured India and first one dayer was played at Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium, Srinagar.  Krish Srikkanth played a rather sedate knock and to our disappointment jumped out to Roger Harper to be caught in the deep.  He top scored in India’s 176 – WI were halted by badlight and won the match by a revised target worked out later as 81 in 22.4 ! ~ they had already scored 108 by then.  Srinagar was to host another One dayer in 1986 this time against Aussies before militancy ruled out any game at that venue.

Rare courage and strategy ~ what Nation has not seen in 72 years since Independence .. .. the Government on Monday (5.8.2019)  revoked some provisions of the Article 370 to take away Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, and proposed bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, a decision that seeks to redraw the map and future of a region at the centre of a protracted militancy movement.  A great moment of celebration for the Nation indeed. 

have you read of : William H. Johnson, a British surveyor active in the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia. He is noted for the first definition of the boundary of Ladakh in the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has come to be called the 'Johnson Line'. After retiring from the Survey of India, Johnson was appointed as the Governor of Ladakh, in which position he served until his death.

When Jamyang Tsering Namgyal (popularly known as JTN), the thirty-three year old MP from Ladakh, rose to speak in Parliament at around 3.30 pm on the bills and resolutions moved by home minister Amit Shah, not many had any particularly high expectation from him. About twenty minutes later, when the first-time MP finished his speech, he won all-round appreciation, including from the BJP leadership, colleagues, peers in Parliament and those outside who were watching the proceedings on television. He made his mark as a parliamentarian and has become a star in the BJP's ranks.

Namgyal's speech was full of facts and historical references; it was solid in terms of both substance and oratory.  The Ladakh MP particularly lashed out at Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference, who had earlier spoken on how the move would further alienate Kashmiris and create unrest among the people. Responding to Namgyal's speech, BJP members sitting around him, as also home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh and minister for textiles and women and child development Smriti Irani, laughed and thumped their desks. Namgyal also mentioned anecdotes from Ladakh and Jammu, and the agitations he participated in during his student days, to buttress his arguments. On more than one occasion, he said that his knowledge about the region does not come from books but from his first-hand knowledge, which is rooted in ground realities.

Social media erupted on abrogation of special status for Kashmir and immediately some were writing on ‘Katcha theevu’ ~ to me the comparison is invidious – katchathivu is not occupied; its original residents were not wiped out in any genocide nor evicted and .. Govt has not been spending lakhs of crores and more importantly, the security implications too are different – here is another that the Nation should be worried about – again a Congress legacy – Nehru’s making.

Because of its 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) elevation, the desolation of Aksai Chin meant that it had no human importance other than as an ancient trade route, which provided a temporary pass during summer for caravans of yaks between Xinjiang and Tibet. For military campaigns, the region held great importance, as it was on the only route from Tarim Basin to Tibet that was passable all year round. The Dzungar Khanate used this route to enter Tibet in 1717.  One of the earliest treaties regarding the boundaries in the western sector was signed in 1842. Ladakh was conquered a few years earlier by the armies of Raja Gulab Singh (Dogra) under the suzerainty of the Sikh Empire. Following an unsuccessful campaign into Tibet in 1840, Gulab Singh and the Tibetans signed a treaty, agreeing to stick to the "old, established frontiers", which were left unspecified.

Aksai Chin  is a border area between China and India, disputed by China and claimed to be part of its territory.  In 1962, China and India fought a brief war in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.  Aksai Chin covers an area of about 37,244 square kilometres (14,380 sq mi). The area is largely a vast high-altitude desert with a low point (on the Karakash River) at about 4,300 m (14,100 ft) above sea level. William Johnson, a civil servant with the Survey of India proposed the "Johnson Line" in 1865, which put Aksai Chin in Kashmir.  This was the time of the Dungan revolt, when China did not control most of Xinjiang, so this line was never presented to the Chinese. The 1962 war strengthened the hold of China.

Home Minister Amit Shah on 6.8.2019  asserted in Lok Sabha that Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Aksai Chin are part of Jammu and Kashmir and that Kashmir Valley is an integral part of the country. Moving a resolution for abrogating some provisions of Article 370 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019, Mr. Shah said there has been a long-standing demand for giving Union Territory status to Ladakh which was fulfilled by the Narendra Modi government. “Kashmir is an integral part of India, there is no doubt over it. When I talk about Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are included in it,” he said. Dismissing the Opposition’s charge that introduction of the bill and the resolution were a violation of the rights of the people, Mr. Shah said nobody can stop him from introducing a resolution on Kashmir in Parliament.

To recall past history, Nehru perhaps got the shock of his life when India came under attack even as all of us were chanting ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai.’ About the loss of Aksai Chin, Nehru is reported to have said in Parliament “not a single blade of grass grows there.” Mahavir Tyagi, a senior Congress leader, pointed to his bald head and said: “Nothing grows here … should it be given away to somebody else?”  a few years after the war, Lt Col Saigal's book was published . Although the events he describes are decades old, there is considerable public interest currently in Sino-Indian affairs and ‘The Unfought War of 1962’ would be a good read.   The basic thesis of the author was comforting to two powerful forces: the politician and the administrator. His thesis is that the 1962 debacle was largely a military failure, and not significantly due to either the Chinese armed superiority or the bungling of political leadership. He wrote : "In a nutshell, it will be incorrect to say, as had been written by many, and stated by Jawaharlal Nehru in Parliament, that the Indian Army was at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the Chinese Army." ~ then was the setback due to lack of stronger political will !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
7th Aug 2019.

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