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“Why China retained Aksai Chin and gave up Southern Tibet?”

(Remarks of  Mr D S Rajan, Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies:

Given below is the English translation done by the writer, Prof. B R Deepak, of the contents of a Chinese language blog, last appeared at the website…/6_1.html dated 18 December 2010. The blog has been under the column ‘Military Observer’ of the website. The writer finds that it has already been in circulation for quite some time; it has been dispatched by the PLA Ground Forces Forum initially in mid 2009 and sometime in 2010 under a title “Next round of Sino-Indian War: China’s Armored Forces can overrun the heart of India within 24 hours”.  The December 2010 write-up   argues that Mao Zedongs’ decision to retain Aksai Chin and give up ‘Southern Tibet’ and Tawang was a wise move, for the geographical advantage of the former is far greater than the latter. Besides, it maintains that Pakistan is an important force in the containment of India, and China must support and protect Pakistan.

In our website, the CCCS has been bringing to the notice of the viewers similar ‘jingoistic’ articles in the Chinese language. It  wishes to emphasize that the opinions expressed in the blog and those reported earlier, are from  individuals and that it will not be appropriate to link these  blogs either with the website, or the Government of the PRC or  the Chinese communist party. Important however is that at least some sections in the Chinese society are holding such views which are sensitive to Sino-Indian relations.  The viewers are requested to understand the contents of the following in that context. )

Translation begins

Entire India is within the reach of medium-range firepower of China’s Second Artillery Force. To be blunt, if there is another round of war between China and India, the Chinese armored forces can over run the heart of India [New Delhi] within 24 hours. However, what stops the Chinese army from doing so?

Nowadays many people maintain that it is important to stabilize the situation in China’s surrounding; it is important to create an environment of peace and security for China’s economic development, therefore, they are in a rush to resolve the border dispute with India, even at the expense of some territorial interests. This may be beneficial for Chinese economy in the short run, but will have grave consequences for China’s national security and economic development in the long run.

The resolution of the border issue cannot be simply gauged from the angle of conflict, but has to be viewed from the respective strategic heights of these two countries, for the ownership of these territories is related to the long term national interests and power projections and contractions of India and China.

Presently the disputed territory between China and India is primarily the Southern Tibet [Arunachal] and Tawang in the Eastern Sector and Aksai Chin in the Western Sector. China is in the possession Aksai Chin, while India has occupied Southern Tibet and Tawang. Whereas Aksai Chin is a high altitude, barren and scarce in resources place, Southern Tibet and Tawang is a low-lying region with suitable climate and extraordinarily rich in resources; it is one of the most fertile regions in Tibet. Therefore, many people in China hold the viewpoint that in the wake of the Sino-Indian war, it was a huge mistake to keep the deserted Aksai Chin and part away with the Southern Tibet and Tawang. It is in this context that many in China argue that in order to resolve the border issue India must hand over this territory, i.e. China relinquishes the Aksai Chin and get back Southern Tibet and Tawang. However, these people have failed to understand the impact of these few pieces of territories to the national interests of India as a whole.

Although, Eastern, Southern Tibet and Tawang are rich in resources, but, its biggest flaw is it is easy to attack but hard to defend. Had China retained southern Tibet and Tawang in the wake of border war victory, it would have rendered itself in an extremely passive situation. Southern Tibet and Tawang are adjacent to the Indian plains; India would have easily reinforced its armies for a counter attack. Southern Tibet and Tawang are far from mainland China and not well connected to the Tibetan hinterland. Therefore, it would have been extremely difficult for China to mobilize a large number of troops to this area in a short span of time. Even if China had held to the territories at the expense of its military courage and sacrifice, it would have been proved detrimental to the national strength of China in a long run. India is different from small countries like Vietnam; it is a big nation with huge population. We may shut up small countries for many years with a one-time heavy blow, but India is a different case. Even if it is defeated, it is capable of reinforcing large numbers of troops quickly and stage a comeback. Since Southern Tibet and Tawang are closer to its plains, troop movements and logistics would be easy for India compared to China. A long-term see-saw type war with India in this region would seriously deplete China’s national strength, which also does not conform to China’s strategic requirements. At that time, China’s strategy was to defend eastern China from the US and Japan, and stabilize western China with Central Asia, and the southwest China as the rear front of China. Therefore, it was China’s strategic requirement to stabilize the rear areas. A long drawn war with India in this region would have thrown Tibet and Sichuan in the forefronts of the battle for a long-long time, thus converting the rear fronts of China into the frontlines. In such a scenario, China’s strategic rear, would have reduced to the Hunan and Hubei, and would have not only resulted into long-term instability but would have also seriously impacted on the economic development of China. Therefore, considering overall national interests of China, to give up the possessions of southern Tibet and Tawang in the wake f 1962 victory, was a wise move.

Conversely, it was a genius move to keep Aksai Chin. Although Aksai Chin’s terrain is extremely inhospitable but very important. It is located at the high grounds in Central Asia, close to the capital and central cities of India. Its geographical advantage is far greater than southern Tibet and Tawang. If we say that Southern Tibet and Tawang are two pieces of fat meat, then Aksai Chin is ghost tower of Central Asia, and a pointed sword stabbed at the heart of India. In the event of hostilities between India and China, China’s heavy equipment units could rumble down through the Aksai Chin, and easily run over New Delhi, the Indian capital city. Subsequently sweep across Mumbai etc. India’s economic centers, and defeat India once again. Moreover, Aksai Chin is closer to the disputed area between India and Pakistan. In the event of an India-Pakistan war, China can effectively support Pakistan and render India between Scylla and Charybdis. Therefore, Aksai Chin is like a Damocles sword hanging over India’s head. The possession of such a sword by China can easily put a powerful enemy to death, and India is aware of this, that’s why she has repeatedly asked China to cede Aksai Chin. Similarly, Aksai Chin is a high ground in Central Asia, overlooking all the Central Asian countries. The Central Asian countries could also be tamed from here. It can withstand the infiltration of various forces from Central Asia. It is because of China’s possession of the Aksai Chin that India has been on defensive all these years irrespective of its military development. Aksai Chin has firmly contained India, ensured the southwestern rear front of China and the security of Xinjiang for decades. At the same time, it has constrained a great deal of manpower and resources in India and staved off its development.

Therefore, we have to see the value of Aksai Chin keeping in mind the overall interest of the country. Its value is much higher than the value of Southern Tibet and Tawang. An iota of territory here is more than a yard in the southern Tibet and Tawang. In order to eat a few pieces of fats in Southern Tibet and Tawang, China will shed a whole lot of meat in Aksai Chin. By holding Aksai Chin, India has been perpetually enslaved to China. Therefore, to give up southern Tibet and Tawang and resolutely hold out Aksai Chin realized the strategic vision of a great man, Chairman Mao Zedong. Conversely, those who are advocating giving up Aksai Chin and regaining Southern Tibet and Tawang are people who cannot see beyond their nose.

Some in China are of the view that since peace and development along with building harmonious relations with neighboring countries is the trend of the times, therefore, Aksai Chin is not relevant and could be abandoned. I believe these people are too naïve. In today’s world even though the economic development and peace has become the theme of the time, however, this world essentially remains a jungle where weak is devoured by the strong. The show of economic, political and military power amongst the nations have never ceased for a single day. There are no permanent friends and foes, even the real brothers fight when there is division in the family, the instances of friends turning enemies are simply too many. The impression from our ties with former Soviet Union, Albania and Vietnam are too indelible.

Therefore, ones national interests are supreme. At moment there are many people impatient about resolving the Sino-Indian border issue. Their acts are not only dangerous but also inappropriate. To make it clear, the current status quo at of Sino-Indian border is extremely beneficial for China. The boundary problem has contained India for decades; India has wasted huge resources on it, and has enabled China to develop peacefully for decades. As long as the status quo is maintained, over the next few decades India would be forced to remain defensive, would be forced to further waste huge manpower and national resources. At the same time Pakistan is also containing India, therefore, it would be impossible for India to catch up with China in decades to come. China enjoys enormous strategic advantage over India vis-à-vis the current status quo; China can easily subdue India, and India would not be in a position to pose  real threat to China in coming decades.

Therefore, there should be no doubts in our minds that as regards the border issue, China should have a clear strategic advantage at any given point in time, and whenever it comes to the strategic advantage, we must not give it up at any cost or else there would be enormous troubles ahead. In the light of this, China must consider the following points while formulating its strategy against India. 1. Aksai Chin is the high ground for China to deter Central Asia; it is also a vital pressure point for India. China must not give up an inch of land in Aksai Chin. 2. Pakistan is an important force in the containment of India. It is also an important bridgehead for China’s control over Central Asia as well as a shield for stability in Xinjiang. Therefore, China must protect and help Pakistan. With Pakistan on our side, China will have a foothold in the Central Asia.

Tanslation ends

(The writer, Dr. B R Deepak, is Associate Professor in the Centre of Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He could be reached at

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