(10 Points) Importance of Ladakh for India and China – The L.A.C. between India and China. There is a stalemate in Ladakh along the Line of Actual L.A.C. along with other sites. The history, geography, strategic location and cultural linkages of Ladakh significantly affect India, China (Tibet) and Nepal. At the same time, the two countries also consider it important to have a political and strategic edge over each other.
China claims Ladakh
In July 1958, China’s official monthly magazine ‘ China Pictorial ‘ was described as part of China’s East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and a large part of the Ladakh region. After that, China was constructing a road to connect parts of Ladakh with Koshinjiang (an autonomous region in China) and Tibet.
After the New Chinese map issued by China Pictorial, the two countries began their dealings with Ladakh. Till the Indo-China War of 1962, letters were exchanged between Jawaharlal Nehru and his Chinese counterpart Zhou En Lai. It is because of this war that there is a clear demarcation of the ELAC passing through Ladakh.
There are many issues between India and China over this very dry, cold, extremely high altitude and rare vegetation area. Regarding this area, the then Prime Minister Nehru said in the Lok Sabha in August 1959:
“The very large area of eastern and north-east Ladakh is practically barren, where not even a single piece of grass rises. “Prime Minister Nehru
Importance of Ladakh
The importance of Ladakh for both India and China lies in complex historical processes, which made the region a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. China’s interest in the region began after the occupation of Tibet in 1950.
Economically, the importance of the region is linked to the fact that it was located at the entry point between Central Asia and Kashmir and was important for the Collection of Objects (Entrepot). The Woolco of Tibetan Pashmina shawls was transported from Ladakh to Kashmir, at the same time, through the Karakoram Pass, Yarkand and Kashmir was a prosperous trade route to The Chinese Turkestan.
Integration of Ladakh with Jammu & Kashmir
Until the invasion of Dogra state in 1834, Ladakh was almost a single Himalayan state similar to Bhutan and Sikkim. However, Ladakh was historically and culturally more connected to neighbouring Tibet. In terms of language and religion, both are connected and have a shared history politically.
The research paper titled ‘ Ladakhi history and Indian Nationhood ‘ says that Ladakh was part of the Tibetan Empire until the assassination of King Langdarma in 742 A.D. It then became an independent state, although its boundaries changed from time to time during its history. The majority of it is in western Tibet.
After the Sikhs acquired Kashmir in 1819, Emperor Ranjit Singh’s ambition was to conquer Ladakh. Still, in Jammu, the Sikh Dogra Samat (Feudatory) Gulab Singh started the work of integrating Ladakh with Jammu and Kashmir.
During that, the British East India Company, which was establishing itself in India, initially did not take an interest in Ladakh. However, intending to drag a large part of the Tibetan trade, the British had shown enthusiasm for the Dogra invasion in the region.
In May 1841, Tibet invaded Ladakh as a state of the Qing dynasty, hoping to merge Ladakh into the Chinese imperial dynasty, resulting in the Sino-Sikh War.
In this war, the China-Tibet army was defeated and the Treaty of Chushul was signed, which further agreed not to make any change or interference in the borders of the other country.
After the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46, the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including Ladakh, came under British occupation from the Sikh Empire. The State of Jammu and Kashmir was mainly constructed by the British as a buffer zone for talks with the Russians.
Consequently, efforts were made to delimit the border of the state of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Still, the demarcation became complicated after the region came under Tibetan and Central Asian influence. According to Ramchandra Guha in the book ‘ India after Gandhi ‘, “Indians asserted that in most part the border was determined by the Treaty and tradition while China argued that it had never actually been restricted. “
History of Ladakh
- Ladakh is the highest plateau in India, with the majority of which is more than 3,000 metres high. It is located between the Karakoram Mountains in the north and the Himalayan mountains in the south. It has borders with China in the north and Tibet in the east. It is strategically important because of the border situation.
- Godwin Austin (K2, 8.611 m) and Gasherbrum (8,068 m) are the highest peaks. Ladakh is a high latitude desert, as the Himalayas stop the monsoon. The rivers are flowing for a while, while the rest of the time is frozen. The Indus is the main river here.
- Most people in the eastern part are Buddhists and most people in the western part are going to believe in the Muslim religion. About 50 km from Leh. The far-away Hemis Gonpa Monastery is the largest religious place of Buddhists. The annual Hemis festival in honour of Padma Sambhuv (Guru Rinpoche) is held at the beginning of June. In Tibetan Buddhist legends, they are called ‘Second Buddhas’.
- The subforests of Sarpat Willow and Poplar can be seen in the valley. In summer, trees like apples, apricots and walnuts bloom. Around the first century, Ladakh was part of the Kushan state. Buddhism spread from Kashmir to Ladakh in the second century.
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China’s interest in Ladakh after the occupation of Tibet in 1950 A.D.
After the merger of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China in 1950, China’s interest in Ladakh increased. This was followed by the Tibetan uprising in Lhasa in 1959, especially when he was granted political asylum in India after the Dalai Lama’s election.
The conflict between China and India escalated due to the methods used by China to deny the existence of Tibet and to crush the insurgency. The road constructed by China in Ladakh in the year 1956-57 was important for controlling Tibet. In the absence of such a supply route, the Khampa Revolt, which started in eastern Tibet, could have reached alarming levels.
If China’s position weakens in any way in Tibet, the Ladakh region could have proved to be the key to strengthening China’s grip in Tibet. The road construction from Ladakh had disturbed the Nehru government. Nehru had said that despite having China, Tibet should have autonomy.
Nehru knew that after the commencement of road construction, the original Chinese region called Shinjiang would be connected directly with Tibet. The Indo-China War occurred in the year 1962 after the diplomatic talks failed.
The current cause of the impasse
By 2013, India’s infrastructure growth in this sector was minimal. It accelerated after 2013 and by the year 2015, the sector became a major security sector.
The second major reason was the decision to abolish the special status of Kashmir on 5th August 2019. From China’s point of view, if India has made Ladakh a union territory, it will now try to prove its control over the entire region.
Moreover, it is also important that over time, Xinjiang, which is part of Aksai Chin, has become very important to China for internal reasons.