Cartographic mess

The Manmohan Singh government must take effective control of India’s relationship with China. Sino-Indian diplomatic affairs are too sensitive to be handled at lower levels of the government. Over the last one year or so, a number of media reports suggested serious problems on the bilateral front, particularly relating to the disputed boundary between the two neighbours. These were serious enough to prompt the Union home ministry to contemplate action against their authors. Whether any action has since been taken or not, what the ministry’s reaction suggests is the government doesn’t have full control over information flow on China matters. On the contrary, if that is not true, then it is open to interpretation that the government might be indulging in some diplomacy through the media.

The latest in New Delhi’s messy China diplomacy is a damaging news item on Monday that, quoting a purported official report, claimed India might have lost ‘substantial’ land due to China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir during the past two decades. This is apparently the conclusion drawn by field officials at a meeting they held under the chairmanship of Leh commissioner A K Sahu. There is a question of credibility about this conclusion as it is pointed out that the maps of the LAC area maintained by various agencies differ from one another.
It is imperative for the government to throw light on the report’s veracity. As such, the report is shocking. For, over eight years back New Delhi and Beijing had exchanged their respective maps, delineating their respective positions on the LAC’s course in the northern sector, of which Ladakh is a part, of the disputed boundary. What this presupposes is that the government has no clarity about the LAC in the region. Second, if the Chinese had indeed captured territory over the last ‘two decades’, it must have been known to the government. What is the true picture? It is important to have clarity on these issues not only to promote peace and tranquility along the LAC, but also to create favourable conditions to eventually find an amicable and honourable settlement of the dispute. India cannot hope to find an honourable settlement if it seen as losing land to China even in times of peace.

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