Let Good Sense Prevail
DBO is the northern and western tip of the old MaCartney-MacDonald line whose southern tip is at Demchok. Till 1933 this was British India’s boundary. Then Military Intelligence agents reported the entry of Russians into Xinjiang. The Army then pushed up the border to include all of Aksai Chin to give India a buffer in the area. There was no understanding with any of the authorities on this. British Indian, Russian, Xinjiang and Chinese. It was an arbitrary line. The first map in the new Indian Constitution shows no border on this sector. (see the photo pasted below)
Clearly we have an undefined border here, and the Chinese have been provocative. That is the situation now.
But there must be reason also in India on Aksai Chin. Good sense would suggest we adopt the militarily suitable old MaCartney-MacDonald alignment, very close to where the Chinese are now and what they claim. In the past the Chinee have offered to trade this line for the McMahon line in the east. We did not accept, becuase there was so much ignorance of history in our public discourse. As is now. (See my book “India-China Relations: The Border and Beyond” for a detailed discussion on this.) The Indian Army is extremely comfortable with the line and has been urging the political masters to take a call on it. Even yesterday Lt.Gen. Jamwal, the last Northern Army Commander said on television that it is a political decision that must be taken soon. Only then will there be progress on the talks between the interlocutors. (See photo pasted below to get a grasp of this line and its maintainability.)
About DBO, culled from Wikipedia: “Daulat Beg Oldi lies at the easternmost point of the Karakoram Range in a cold desert region in the far north of India, just 8 km south of the Chinese border and 9 km northwest of the Aksai Chin Line of Actual Control between China and India. Other than Siachen Glacier military bases, it is India’s northernmost built-up area. The nearest inhabited town is Murgo to the south, which has a small population of Baltis who primarily depend on apricot farming and yak rearing.Temperature plummets as low as -30 C in the winters. The weather deteriorates frequently with strong icy winds lashing much of DBO. DBO has very little if any vegetation or wildlife. Communication is possible only through INMARSAT (satellite) phones.
The place is named after Daulat Baig Oldi, a 16th century Yarkandi nobleman who is supposed to have died at this place after descent from the Karakoram Pass, which is 17 kilometers to the northwest on the Indo-Chinese border. This route was used by caravans of traders traveling between India and Central Asia. It used to be a stopping point for the caravans traveling along the Silk Road. India and China sealed their borders after the 1962 India-China War, ending most of the cross-border trade. In modern times, the place has not been known to have any permanent civilian population. Daulat Beg Oldi Advanced Landing Ground.
“The Indian Army maintains helipads and a gravel air strip here, the highest airstrip in the world. Routine sorties are carried out using An-32 aircraft to provide relief and supplies to the troops stationed nearby. The base was established during the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962, with the first landing by Squadron Leader C.K.S Raje who set a record for the world’s highest aircraft landing at the time. It was operated with American-supplied Fairchild Packets from 1962 to 1966, when it had to be closed down suddenly when an earthquake caused loosening of the surface soil, making the area unsuitable for fixed-wing aircraft. Work was undertaken to make the airfield operational again, and was marked on 31 May 2008, when an Indian Air Force AN-32 landed.”
By Mohan Guruswamy