Does China Really Own Arunachal?

Posted on October 13, 2009 in Politics

Anshul Tewari

Since the news of China’s “strong” dissatisfaction over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh during electioneering came out, I have been pondering over the basis of China’s allegations and claims of owning Arunachal Pradesh, which is the easternmost state of India.

I can recall studying about the border conflict between India and China. The India-China border along Arunachal Pradesh is separated by the McMahon Line, an imaginary border now known as the Line of Actual Control.

India and China fought a border war in 1962, with Chinese troops advancing deep into Arunachal Pradesh and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian troops.

The border dispute with China was inherited by India from British colonial rulers. China has never recognised the 1914 McMahon Line and claims 90,000 sq km, nearly all of Arunachal Pradesh.

India accuses China of occupying 8,000 sq km in Kashmir.

Where did China go wrong?

One of the main causes of the Sino-Indian War of 1962 was India’s discovery of a road China had built through Aksai Chin, shown as Chinese on official Chinese maps. Beginning in 1954, India had shown on its official Survey of India maps a definite boundary line awarding Aksai Chin to itself, despite no military or other occupation of the area. Before 1954, Indian maps had shown undefined and indefinite boundary lines in this area. The China National Highway 219, connecting Tibet and Xinjiang, passes through no towns in Aksai Chin, only some military posts and truck stops, such as the very small Tianshuihai (el. 4,850 m (15,900 ft)) post. The road adds to the strategic importance of the area.

Aksai Chin is currently administered by the People’s Republic of China as a part of Kargilik County in Kashgar Prefecture in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

India claims that this 8,000 sq km of Aksai Chin originally belonged to India and that China stole it.

Where did India go wrong?

In 1913-1914 representatives of China, Tibet and Britain negotiated a treaty in India: the Simla Accord.

This treaty’s objective was to define the borders between Inner and Outer Tibet as well as between Outer Tibet and British India. British administrator, Sir Henry McMahon, drew up the 550 mile (890 km) McMahon Line as the border between British India and Outer Tibet during the Simla Conference. The Tibetan and British representatives at the conference agreed to the line, which ceded Tawang and other Tibetan areas to the British Empire.

The Chinese representative had no problems with the border between British India and Outer Tibet, however on the issue of the boder between Outer Tibet and Inner Tibet the talks broke down. Thus, the Chinese representative refused to accept the agreement and walked out. The Tibetan Government and British Government went ahead with the Simla Agreement and declared that the benefits of other articles of this treaty would not be bestowed on China as long as it stays out of the purview. The Chinese position since then has been that since China had sovereignty over Tibet, the line was invalid without Chinese agreement. Furthermore, by refusing to sign the Simla documents, the Chinese Government had escaped according any recognition to the validity of the McMahon Line.

Thus, technically speaking, the McMohan Line does not exist for China because till date there is no official treaty signed between the Indian and the Chinese governments.

This confusion as to who does Arunachal belong to has led to further confusions and thus the recent controversy of China’s anger on the PM visit to Arunachal.

But what is the truth? What is the reality? I still wonder…

What do you think? Does Arunachal belong to India or China? Voice yourself, post a comment or mail us your views at