As India and China with increasing frequency grunt and growl at each over their territorial rights, an RTI reply has said that there is actually no ‘Line of Actual Control’ between the world’s two most populous nations.
The RTI revelations were in response to a query filed by Pune businessman Prafful Sarda to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which was later transferred to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) seeking details of the LAC.
The reply was an eye-popper: “There is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the border areas between India and China.”
The government admitted in its April 2018 reply that from time to time, on account of the difference in the perception of the LAC, “situations have arisen on the ground that could have been avoided if we had a common perception of the LAC”.
The government said that it regularly takes up an transgression along the LAC with China through established mechanisms like border personnel meetings, flag meetings, meeting of the Working Mechanism for Consultation & Coordination on India-China Border Affairs, and of course the diplomatic channels.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party government has been claiming that it has protected the country from Chinese incursions in Arunachal Pradesh and in Ladakh region. However, since by its own admission, there is no mutually-accepted LAC, then which areas it has actually secured and what is the real ground situation currently,” Sarda urged.
Interestingly, much later, the Army Headquarters had declined to give details on ceasefire violations along the LAC and the June 2017 Doklam (Donglang, as referred by China) skirmishes, on grounds of exemption under the RTI Act 2005, Sec. 8(1)(a).
This Section reads that the government is not obliged to give to citizens any “information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence”.
“As far as the Line of Control (LoC — between India-Pakistan) is concerned, the government has admitted to around 320 ceasefire violations (2004-2013, during the UPA tenure), which shot up to more than 11,625 from 2014 – February 2021. Why can’t it enlighten the people and Parliament similarly on the figures of LAC ceasefire violations on the India-China borders,” demanded Sarda.
The Indo-Chinese border has been a cause of concern in the past over five years with several stand-offs with casualties and alleged fatalities that the world is watching anxiously amid apprehensions of a major flare-up between the two most-populous nuclear-powered nations.
Among the recent border disturbances along the LAC include: Doklam (June 2017), Galwan Valley skirmishes (June 2020) with reports of fatalities, clashes near Sikkim (January 2021), allegations of cross-firing in the air (September 2021), and the Tawang fisticuffs (December 2022) with injuries.
The much-vexed India-China border is around 3,500 kms long on the frontline Union Territories of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, comprising the undisputed McMahon Line.