A national map is as sacred, inviolable, sacrosanct, important, respected & historic as its National Flag that symbolizes a given Nation. Rests firmly upon these two aspects is the sovereignty of Nation-States. Boundaries & the Land within these represent the National Identity, Culture, Pride, Civilization, History, Self Respect, Self Esteem & Affluence.

A Nation is like a human body with an immune system: repelling alien ‘invaders’ that may penetrate into the interior. Borders are geographic boundaries that make Nation States political entities within the framework of respective legal jurisdictions. Without maps, we would be ‘spatially blind’.

Even after 73 years of having attained freedom, the National Boundaries of India continue to be nibbled by unscrupulous neighbors distorting the look of the country’s map.

The ‘salami-slicing’ continues unabated. While China has continued to do so in the past, the latest is an attempt by Nepal that has carried out cartographic invasion on Indian territory of Limpiadhura, Kalapani & Lipu Lekh & has also claimed some land on Bihar. This ‘jugalbandi’ of Dragon & Nepal smacks of rogue & vicious intentions.

In a recent development, Nepalese Authorities prevented Bihar Water Resources Department workers from carrying out construction work at an embankment on the Lal Bekia River in the Dhaka Block of East Champaran District in Bihar.

It is sad indeed that a common Indian is ignorant about the Indian Map & location of National Frontiers. The single big tragedy of the nation has been the fact that South Asia, with particular reference to India, had remained a Media Blind Spot for almost three decades after her independence. The fallout of this accrued into little or no knowledge of our people about our own country & her Frontiers.

The changes in our National Boundaries took place as a result of the India Independence Act 1946. This British Act, in itself, was destructive, in that, it was based on the partition of India & Pakistan based upon the Two Nations Theory. The Britishers wanted that 562 small States of India break into smaller Nations somewhat on Middle East pattern. The British finalized the division of the Indian Subcontinent on 3 June 1947.

Radcliffe divided Punjab & Bengal based on religion. The Boundaries of India were drawn & India & Pakistan were born on 14/15 August 1947 respectively. The first manipulation of Indian Map began from here. We inherited the boundaries & this remained the basis of the existence of our Nation-State.

Geography, history & neighbors cannot be changed. It would be appropriate to state here that there are no permanent friends or foes between Nations. What remains of paramount importance are ‘supreme national interests’- that too keep on changing/ improving/deteriorating based upon changed geo-strategic & geopolitical environments, situations, circumstances & relationships.

The British drew Johnson Line in Karakoram Area, Durand Line in Afghanistan & Mc Mahon Line in erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) – now Arunachal Pradesh. These were thus depicted on maps. Both China & Pakistan have been accepting these Lines based on their conveniences, likes & whims & fancies. Well, when India itself is not serious about her National Boundaries, who else but India alone has to suffer & pay a heavy price. And, she continues to undergo these sufferings over the years. India can no longer remain a mute spectator to this ‘makeshift’ of her National Frontiers & must take immediate & appropriate measures to put a permanent halt to these grave & illegal irregularities. Remember that maps are the foundations upon which are based Treaties, Geographical Acceptances, Agreements & Understandings between the Nation States.

After the J&K Operations of 1947-48, Karachi Agreement came into being on 27 Jul 1949. It was signed by representatives of the United Nations, India & Pakistan. The biggest blunder both on national & strategic fronts was a joint delineation of Line of Control (LC) up to Point NJ 9842 ONLY & NOT BEYOND; glaciated terrain notwithstanding, no meaningful description for further survey beyond this Point was inserted in the subject Agreement. This led Pakistan to claim areas up to Karakoram Pass. India was left with no choice but to take pre-emptive action.

This lack of foresight & strategic vision was corrected by the Indian Army when it landed in Siachen Glacier by helicopters on 13 April 1984 & since then remains deployed in the highest battlefield of the world along Saltoro Ridge. The daily expenditure of maintaining troops in this area is about Rs 5 crores per day.

It may be recalled that one more alteration in Indian Map was claimed by Pakistan in the Area of ‘Sir Creek’ in Gujarat – part of erstwhile Sindh Province now under Pakistan. Prior to this, there was no problem between the Rao of Kathiawar & Ruler of Sindh.

On one side Karachi Agreement was being signed, on the other, Chiang Kai Shek & his Kuomintang Forces were being driven to Formosa – now Taiwan. Communist Army of China established its supremacy in 1949. At this juncture when China was masquerading its friendship overtures with India, it had already commenced cartographic invasions upon India. The Indian Intelligence Apparatus had apparently failed!

It is sad but true that it was India that brought into prominence & center stage Chinese image in the comity of nations with particular reference to Bandung Conference & advocated for her a permanent seat in the United Nations. Today, India is paying price for this folly & ill-advised action.

India was singing a lullaby of Panchsheel to Mao Zedong of China while China was grabbing the Indian Territory in Aksaichin (J & K). The Indian Government & her intelligence agencies remained in dark & were clueless as to when such a huge area was silently captured by China. The full facts came to be known only after the 1962 Sino-Indian War when China also thumped its claims in Indian Territories in Himachal-Uttarakhand Border, Barahoti (Chamoli District) & N.E.F.A.

Today, if you look at the top of the Indian Map, you find it reduced to a triangle shape. Out of 22,65196 Sq Kms Territory of J & K, only 21,01513 sq km area is now left in India’s possession.1,20848 sq km area is illegally occupied by Pakistan whereas 37,555 Sq Kms Area is under illegal occupation of China. Pakistan deceitfully handed over 5280 Sq Kms of Shakshagm Valley (Indian territory ) to China in 1963. This was beginning of a big conspiracy – the after-effects of which are being seen in Ladakh Sector today.

A resolution to the effect that all these areas shall be taken back was passed on the floor of Parliament more than four decades back but it has remained more of a political stunt!

As if the above was not enough, Nepal has carried out a cartographic invasion recently by unilaterally changing its map by adding illegally Indian Territory comprising of Limpiadhura, Kalapani & Lipu Lekh near the India-China-Nepal Trijunction. A few days back, Nepal has also preferred claim on some land in East Champaran of Bihar as well. In the past, Bangladesh had also raised similar claims. These were ironed out.

The nexus of Pakistan-China-Nepal-Bangladesh is instrumental in creating internal & external security challenges to India. China has begun its imprint in the Indian Ocean & has cast a ring around India by obtaining port facilities in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Karachi & Gwadar. The fear is that China may try to infringe upon Indian Waters in the Indian Ocean & Arabian Sea! This is worry-some.

India’s relations with all her neighbors except Bhutan are not cordial. Consequent to Osama’s death, South & South West Asia have now become the Centre of Gravity of the entire world. Recent happenings in South East Asia & Indo-PACOM Region have added a new dimension to it. The latest is that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeu has talked of moving part of NATO Forces to Diego Garcia. Unless the US can work with India to fulfill its considerable military potential, Washington will be left with fewer options to frustrate China’s ambitions to become the predominant military power in the Indo-Pacific.

Pakistan – a Failed & Terrorist State is on the verge of collapse & so is Afghanistan. Nepal may soon join this elite club! All this is extremely dangerous to Indian security dimensions.

India will have to display her diplomatic acumen by increasing strategic cooperation with the US, Russia, France, UK, Australia, Germany, etc, & at the same time bring to rails her relationships with neighbors.

Economy is strength. India will have to boost her GDP growth and double the Defence Budget ensuring a large scale upgrade of Border infrastructures.

Can we remain mute spectators to such cartographic invasions that recur with alarming regularity!

Let us not forget – “FORTUNA FAVET FORTIBUS”!

Dr. Mohan Bhandari

Let. Gen. (Dr) Mohan Bhandari, also known as the Thinking General, was born in August 1946. A veteran of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the general has spent a number of years combating counter-insurgency/terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir and various other parts of the country.

He is the proud recipient of three Presidential awards presented for his exceptional services to the nation. He was the Indian Army’s face for both print and electronic media.

The general is a rare mix of a successful soldier, erudite scholar, a powerful orator, a prolific writer, and a gifted painter. At present, he is a visiting faculty member at the Academic Staff Colleges of the UGC, universities, and schools of instructions.

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