Line of Actual Control (LAC)

News: India and China exchanged sharp statements blaming each other about LAC, with New Delhi describing China’s Line of Actual Control (LAC) claims as “untenable” and Beijing saying it “did not recognise” the Union Territory of Ladakh.

What is Line of Actual Control?

The LAC is the boundary that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory. India takes into consideration the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese takes into consideration it to be only around 2,000 km. The boundary divided into three areas, the eastern area which stretch Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the middle area in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and the western area in Ladakh.

The alignment of the LAC in the eastern area is along the 1914 McMahon Line, and there are minor disputes about the positions on the ground as per the principle of the high Himalaya watershed. The middle area is the least dispute.

The major disputes are in the western area where the LAC emerged from two letters written by Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959, after he had first introduced such a ‘line’ in 1956.  In his letter, Zhou said the LAC consisted of “the so-called McMahon Line in the east and the line up to which each side exercises actual control in the west”. 

After the 1962 War, the Chinese argued they had withdrawn to 20 km behind the LAC of November 1959. Zhou clarified the LAC again after the war in another letter to Nehru: “To put it concretely, in the eastern area it coincides in the main with the so-called McMahon Line, and in the western and middle areas it coincides in the main with the traditional customary line which has consistently been pointed out by China”. During the Doklam crisis in 2017, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson obligated India to obey by the “1959 LAC”.

What was India’s reaction to China’s designation of the LAC?

India denied the concept of LAC in both 1959 and 1962. Even during the war, Nehru was unambiguous: “There is no sense or meaning in the Chinese offer to withdraw twenty kilometres from what they call ‘line of actual control’. What is this ‘line of control’? Is this the line they have created by aggression since the beginning of September?”

When India accepted the LAC?

Shyam Saran has revealed in his book How India Sees the World that the LAC was discussed during Chinese Premier Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where PM P V Narasimha Rao and Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquility at the LAC. India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993 and the two sides signed the Agreement to Maintain Peace and Tranquility at the LAC. 

Is the LAC also the claim line for both countries?

Not for India. India’s claim line is the line seen in the official boundary marked on the maps as released by the Survey of India, including both Aksai Chin and Gilgit-Baltistan. In China’s case, it corresponds mostly to its claim line, but in the eastern area, it claims entire Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet.

But why are these claim lines controversial in Ladakh?

Independent India was transferred the treaties from the British, and while the Shimla Agreement on the McMahon Line was signed by British India, Aksai Chin in Ladakh province of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was not part of British India, although it was a part of the British Empire. Thus, the eastern boundary was well defined in 1914 but in the west in Ladakh, it was not.

A G Noorani writes in India-China Boundary Problem 1846-1947 that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s Ministry of States published two White Papers on Indian states. The first, in July 1948, had two maps: one had no boundary shown in the western sector, only a partial colour wash; the second one extended the colour wash in yellow to the entire state of J&K, but mentioned “boundary undefined”. The second White Paper was published in February 1950 after India became a Republic, where the map again had boundaries which were undefined.

In July 1954, Nehru issued a directive that “all our old maps dealing with this frontier should be carefully examined and, where necessary, withdrawn. New maps should be printed showing our Northern and North Eastern frontier without any reference to any ‘line’.

How is the LAC different from the Line of Control with Pakistan?

The LoC emerged from the 1948 ceasefire line negotiated by the UN after the Kashmir War. It was designated as the LoC in 1972, following the Shimla Agreement between the two countries. It is delineated on a map signed by DGMOs of both armies and has the international sanctity of a legal agreement. The LAC, in contrast, is only a concept – it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map or demarcated on the ground.

Source :- Indian Express

UPSC Topic: International Relation

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