A new book reproduces original Chinese maps that contradict Chinese propaganda.
The book reveals Chinese intelligence admissions that Beijing never maintained any army base, customs office or other government function in the disputed area until 1983.
Claude Arpi digs deeper.
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On August 1, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, chairman of the Central Military Commission and president of the People's Republic of China, presided over a grand function to celebrate the 90th founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army, PLA.
From the rostrum of the Great Hall of People, he solemnly affirmed: 'The Chinese people love peace. We will never seek aggression or expansion, but we have the confidence to defeat all invasions. We will never allow any people, organization or political party to split any part of Chinese territory from the country at any time, in any form.'
The message was probably for India.
He urged the PLA to focus on war preparedness and forge an elite and powerful force that 'is always ready for the fight, capable of combat and sure to win.'
'All thoughts must be put on combat, and all work should focus on combat so the military can assemble, charge forward and win any time,' he said.
Meanwhile, the standoff continues on the ridge near the tri-junction of Tibet-Bhutan and Sikkim; for nearly two months, Indian and Chinese soldiers have faced-off here.
A day after Xi's speech, the Chinese government released a note titled: The Facts and China's Position Concerning the Indian Border Troops' Crossing of the China-India Boundary in the Sikkim Sector into the Chinese Territory.
There was nothing new in the note though most surprisingly, Beijing has ignored the Bhutanese and Indian notes released on June 29 and 30 respectively. It did not answer Thimphu's and Delhi's arguments.
However, the ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson in Beijing continued to insist on the 'unequal' treaty of 1890 (signed without the knowledge of the Tibetans), forgetting other agreements of 1895, 1904, 1908 and more importantly the Simla Convention of 1914, to which China had participated during several months.
In this context, it is interesting to look at a book, containing Chinese Intelligence maps, which was recently published.
Written by Ben Keiler (probably a nom de plume), it is titled Spying Against India (Chinese Military Intelligence from 1962 to 2012) Volume 1 and available on Amazon Kindle (external link).
Though it is difficult to verify the veracity of the content, it complements a map that's been circulating on Bhutanese Web sites.
A chapter entitled: The Western Territories of Bhutan explains that the above map is a copy of a Top Secret Chinese Intelligence map.
The copy was probably published to hide the embarrassing fact (for China) that Beijing knew that there were Indian and Bhutanese camps inside the area, which is today so vociferously claimed by China.
The book Spying Against India reproduces the original maps, along with the translation of the accompanying texts and provides its own comments.
The text on this map translates to:
'Luling (also called Ru-ling) area is located on southeast of the Rinchengang town, in the lower part of the Dro-mo (Lower Chumbi Valley).'
'The area includes some of the small rivers in the east of Dromo Machu, Charthang river and Luling river.'
'The size of the area is around 340 sq km, and there are more than 40 grasslands (pastures).'
'The source (of income) comes from the products of the forest; it is pretty marvelous.'
'According to some historical documents, before 1843, China put border stone pillars on the hill of Ha-la, which is the source of the Luling River.' (My note: Nobody has ever heard of these 'pillars').
'The western part of the Ha-la Mountain's range was in the past the pastoral area of the nomads of the Dro-mo (Chumbi).'
'In 1954, the Bhutanese army permanently settled at Charthang for the whole year. There were around 100 troops occupying the area.'
'In 1960, the Bhutanese soldiers came again and set up an observation post at Ha-rar with more than 20 soldiers. There were sent from the pasture ground of Charthang.'
'In 1973, the people of the Dro-mo (Chumbi) restored their control over the border area and managed to send their animals grazing like before in the upland region of Lang-ma.'
'Moreover, in 1975, we (China) established a forest park in the Langma's upland.'
'In 1983, we (China) set up a civil administration.'
'Now, the soldiers and nomads of Bhutan do not enter the lower part of Lang-ma's upland grassland by crossing the Phu-tren pass as before.'
This particular Chinese Intelligence map provides an overview of the disputed areas in Western Bhutan with textual 'classified' explanations.
The map is said to have been compiled by Chinese intelligence some 30 years ago.
The original maps with the positions of the Bhutanese and Indian armies were obviously not published in China, as they contradict Beijing's version of the historical background of the present standoff with India near the trijunction.
The above map provides the details of the previous map.
The present standoff between the PLA and Indian Army is taking place in the southern part of the map.
The legend for the map is interesting:
The top text shows what the Chinese consider the international border.
The second text is what India and Bhutan consider as the location of the border.
The third is the 'illegal' McMahon Line (in Eastern Bhutan, not shown on this particular map)
The fact that this area is shown in a separate colour (green), along with the captions, clearly demonstrates that the area was already disputed 30 years ago.
Yet today, China pretends that the area has always been Chinese territory!
This map, marked Document 67, shows that the royal army of Bhutan and the Indian Army were in control of the area in the 1980s. The key to the map is:
Blue circle: Permanent base of the Royal Bhutan Army
Blue triangle outlined: Observation post of the Royal Bhutan Army
Blue triangle: Checkpoint of the Royal Bhutan Army
Light brown circle: Indian Army base.
Not a single post occupied by the Chinese army is marked; the PLA was nowhere to be seen 30 years ago.
These facts contradict the Chinese propaganda: As admitted by Chinese intelligence, Beijing never maintained any army base, customs office or other government function in that area until 1983.
Further, according to Spying Against India:
'If we go to the map (marked) as Doc 67 (above), we see the 1987 reality as reported by Chinese military intelligence: There are four bases by the Bhutanese army and one by the Indian Army in that area alone. Those bases are located along the border and there is not one single Chinese base.'
The author of the book further comments:
'First no Tibetan from Yatung (in the Chumbi Valley) or any other Chinese lived there or even went there.'
'After some 20 years after the arrival of the Chinese army in Yatung, they start to send local Tibetans as 'nomads' with their cattle into that area to stake a claim. If those Tibetans are not expelled for some 10 years, they open a small civil administration post, which could be only an unmarked tent operated during summer.'
'Again if that civil administration station is not demolished they start to make propaganda to claim this area has been Chinese territory since ancient times.'
Perhaps more interesting is the Chinese description of the place where the conflict is presently going on. Here is the translation of the text:
'Tunglang (Doklang) area is located in the south, moreover the valley of Tunglang river is an area of more than 100 sq km.'
'Northern parts of that area are plain with lots of lakes and there are more than 30 small and big grassland.'
'Southeast are mostly forest with steep mountains and deep valley.'
'According to the historical documents, Tunglang grassland is the summer pastoral area of the people of Lower Dro-mo (Lower Chumbi) region, and the army of India and Bhutan both are not entering into the Tung lang area. They just observed the nomads and people from a big stone'
'From 1975, China's armies went around very carefully, almost once every year. .'
'Generally after we (the Chinese) reached near to the Lhamasi through Shismo, we [China] returned back.'
'In 1983, the boundary line of our observation was expanded towards the south and later it was getting nearer to the observation post of the Bhutanese army in Dung-Tsona in South of Trae grassland.'
The author of the book rightly notes:
'The names and areas of those disputed territories are not identical in China and Bhutan. Therefore, if the Chinese talk about Tonglang it's not identical in size and geographical location to what the Bhutanese and Indians called Doklam.'
He points out at the contradiction in the Chinese intelligence documents:
'A second and different Chinese story appears is in Doc 67 where Chinese intelligence marks one base of the Bhutanese army clearly inside that very area and two more at the border.'
The book Spying Against India also says that in Doc 70, we can see the deployment of Bhutanese and Indian army units in western Bhutan in 1987.
The first battalion of the Bhutanese army defended the area close to the border with Sikkim.
'In that location they made sure the Chinese army could not take any shortcut through Bhutanese territory and cut-off and encircle the Indian border defence in the northern areas of Sikkim.'
'The 2nd, 3rd and 5th battalions were positioned to defend the area between Yatung and the capital Thimphu.'
'The 6th battalion serves as reserve force and can be deployed in any direction. The Indian troops are intermixed with the Royal army of Bhutan to strengthen the defence but also to make sure the Chinese army cannot enter any area of Bhutan without fighting the Indian Army. This mix makes sure the Chinese cannot only target the Bhutanese army and grab more land without killing Indian soldiers.'
This was in 1987.
All this shows that the situation is far more complicated than the one presented in the recent Chinese statement.
In other words, the PLA has blundered in entering Bhutanese territory, a place that a few decades ago, China did not claim as its own. Today, at best for Beijing, it is 'disputed'.
It also illustrates clearly the Chinese method of claiming new territories: They first send grazers; if not objected to, the grazers visit every year; then a small patrol is sent; the following year a tent (representing the Civil Administration) is planted.
After a few years, it becomes 'Chinese territory administrated by China since immemorial times.'
And then Xi Jinping says: 'No one should expect us to swallow bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security or development interests.'