The Invisible-Border War

NEW DELHI – A half-century after the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the border between China and India remains undefined and a constant source of friction between the world’s two most populous countries. Following three weeks of fighting in 1962, it was agreed to draw a Line of Actual Control (LAC). But, five decades later, the map has yet to be delineated. As a result, both sides routinely send patrols up to the point where they believe the LAC should be – the latest episode being a three-week incursion by Chinese troops into Indian-held territory that began in April.

Face-offs in the no-man’s land that lies between where China and India each envisage the LAC are so common that the militaries of the two countries have developed a modus vivendi, whereby one side tells the other to withdraw peacefully. Both sides have routinely abided by the informal protocol that has evolved over the years.

But not this time. In the area of Daulat Beg Oldie, near Depsang Plains, in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, a patrol of about 15 People’s Liberation Army soldiers crossed into Indian-held territory and set up camp for an extended stay.

Stretching from the strategic Karakoram Pass, near Pakistan in the north, the LAC runs south, along the ridges of the eastern Himalayas to the ancient Buddhist monastery town of Tawang. After that, it traces the old McMahon Line drawn in 1914 – and rejected by China as an imperial dictate – to demarcate British India from what was then Tibet. The LAC then meanders until the point where India, China, and Burma meet.