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A Line of Actual Control (LAC)


The Indian PM and Chinese President agreed on the sidelines of the 15th BRICS Summit to intensify efforts for expeditious disengagement and de-escalation along the LAC in eastern Ladakh.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Line of Actual Control (LAC)
  2. Contrast with Line of Control (LoC) in Relation to Pakistan
  3. Disagreements Regarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC)
  4. Controversy Surrounding Claim Lines in Ladakh
  5. Current Efforts to Address LAC Differences
  6. Legacy Issues Requiring Resolution in Ladakh

Line of Actual Control (LAC)

  • The Line of Actual Control (LAC) serves as the boundary between areas controlled by India and those controlled by China.
  • Three Sectors: The LAC is divided into three main sectors:
    • Eastern Sector: Covers regions like Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
    • Middle Sector: Encompasses Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
    • Western Sector: Spans across Ladakh.
  • Differing Lengths: India claims the LAC to extend 3,488 km, whereas China’s claim is around 2,000 km, indicating a disparity in their perceptions.
  • India’s Claim Line: India’s claim line is based on official maps released by the Survey of India, incorporating Aksai Chin and Gilgit-Baltistan. This diverges from the LAC, suggesting that LAC isn’t India’s precise claim line.
  • China’s Claim Line: For China, the LAC is considered its claim line, except in the eastern sector where it asserts ownership over the entirety of Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet.

Contrast with Line of Control (LoC) in Relation to Pakistan

  • Origin of LoC: The Line of Control (LoC) emerged after the 1948 ceasefire line established by the UN post the Kashmir War.
  • Formalization of LoC: In 1972, the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan designated it as the LoC.
  • Legal Standing of LoC: The LoC is delineated on a map endorsed by the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries, holding the status of a legally binding agreement.
  • LAC as a Concept: In contrast, the LAC remains a concept without mutual agreement, lacking delineation on a map or physical demarcation on the ground.

Disagreements Regarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC)

  • Origin of Disagreements: The most significant disagreements over the LAC are concentrated in the western sector. The LAC’s basis can be traced back to two letters sent by Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1959. This followed Zhou Enlai’s initial mention of such a “line” in 1956.
  • Post-1962 War Chinese Claim: After the 1962 Sino-Indian War, China asserted that it had pulled back by 20 km from the 1959 LAC. This alignment coincided with the so-called McMahon Line in the eastern sector.
India’s Response to China’s LAC Definition
  • Rejection of LAC Concept: India rejected the concept of the Line of Actual Control in both 1959 and 1962, primarily due to its being a line established by China.
  • Critique of Chinese Line: India criticized the Chinese-defined line as a collection of disconnected points on a map that could be interpreted in various ways.
  • Basis of Line: India argued that the line should not include gains made through the 1962 aggression, emphasizing that it should be rooted in the actual positions as of September 8, 1962, before the Chinese military attack.
  • Vagueness and Potential Consequences: The vague nature of the Chinese definition left room for China to pursue gradual alterations on the ground using military actions.
Chinese Position During the Doklam Crisis
  • Doklam Crisis: In the 2017 Doklam crisis, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson called upon India to adhere to the “1959 LAC.”

Controversy Surrounding Claim Lines in Ladakh

  • Historical Background: Aksai Chin, situated in the Ladakh province of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, was not a part of British India despite being under the British Empire’s influence.
  • Boundary Clarity: While the eastern boundary was well defined in 1914 through the Shimla Agreement (which established the McMahon Line), the western boundary in Ladakh remained undefined.

Current Efforts to Address LAC Differences

  • Acceptance of LAC Concept: In 1993, India formally accepted the concept of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing, following Chinese Premier Li Peng’s visit to India in 1991.
  • Peace and Tranquility Agreement: Both countries signed the Agreement to Maintain Peace and Tranquility at the LAC. However, the reference to the LAC in the agreement didn’t specify whether it referred to the LAC at the time of signing or the LAC of 1959 or 1962.
  • Resolution through Joint Working Group: To resolve differences in specific areas, India and China established the Joint Working Group to clarify the alignment of the LAC.

Plans for De-escalation in Eastern Ladakh

  • Disengagement Scope: The exact extent and locations of disengagement along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh are not immediately clear.
  • Phased Disengagement Modalities: Modalities for phased, limited disengagement have been prepared since 2020. Discussions between the Corps Commanders of India and China aimed to address flashpoints along the LAC.
  • Progress in Galwan Valley: Talks led to progress as both sides agreed to withdraw troops and dismantle temporary structures in the Galwan Valley.
  • Creation of Buffer Zones: Disengagement resulted in the establishment of buffer zones, preventing both sides’ troops from accessing areas they previously patrolled. This helped in reducing tensions.

Legacy Issues Requiring Resolution in Ladakh

Depsang Plains Issue

  • Location and Significance: Depsang Plains are situated near the strategically vital Daulat Beg Oldie region.
  • Origin in 2013: The Depsang Plains issue emerged in 2013 when China conducted an 18-km incursion into the area.
  • Incomplete Withdrawal: Although both nations agreed to withdraw from their positions at that time, Chinese PLA troops did not fully vacate the region.

Demchok Issue

  • Location and Problem Area: Demchok, found in the southern part of eastern Ladakh, faces issues primarily at the Charding Ninglung Nullah (CNN) junction.
  • PLA Interference: In several instances, the Chinese PLA hindered Indian graziers at the Saddle Pass within India’s perceived Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the CNN junction.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024