Before going into the territorial dispute of Arunachal Pradesh (claimed by China as South Tibet) it’s important to know the history of this disputed state. It has various influences by Tibetan, Burmese, and Bhutanese cultures. In the 16th century, the most important heritage of the state- Tawang Monastery was built. This is one the most important sites for the Tibetan Buddhists. The area is assumed to have been populated by Tibetans during those times. In 1912, the border between Tibet and India was not quite delineated. Neither the Mughals nor the British Raj was controlling the region. During that time Qing dynasty ruled both China and Tibet and by 1913 their era came to an end which paved way for China’s sovereignty claim on Tibet. By 1914 it was the time for deciding the borders between Tibet, India and China. It came to be known as Simla convention. British India negotiated hard and got Tibet to accept the region of Tawang and the area south of it belonged to India. Thus the whole area to the south of Tibet came to be later known as, which is now called Arunachal Pradesh.

A map produced in the year 1864 shows Tibet as a separate country. But China claimed it was hers.
However here is a map of China and Tibet in the year 1892. That sort of puts the state in part India/Burma

   ORIGIN OF THE DISPUTE:                

  So what is the dispute all about? It all started way back in 1914 during the Simla convection. The representatives of Tibet and British India came to a conclusion that Tawang belongs to the Tibet and area south of it belongs to India. The border was formulated by Henry McMahon and it became to be known as McMohan line. It separated the Tibetan region of china and Arunachal Pradesh. But the Chinese representatives were not happy with the result of Simla convention. The Chinese representatives withdrew from the meeting and since then they refused to accept the accord resulted out from the Simla convection. After the meeting the border was not fully enforced, Except for Tawang.

The Shimla Convention

In 1935, a British administrative office ruled out that India could start using the region (Claimed by China as South Tibet) in her maps. China never recognized Tibet’s independence and took the territory under its control by using military aggression during the time period of Mao Zedong, nor the 1914 Simla convection. Meanwhile during 1947 British left India without solving the border issue. During 1950 china took over Tibet. Thus according to China, Tawang region belongs to her. This is due to the fact that China especially wants to hold on to the monastery as that is a leading center of Tibetan Buddhism in India. Thus the border dispute started for India and China over the ownership of Arunachal Pradesh which even paved way for serious number of conflicts between both the Indian and Chinese armed forces. In the year 1962 on October 20th, thus happened Sino-Indo war. It lasted for one month before China unilaterally declared ceasefire and ended the war. In a synchronized move People’s Liberation Army of China invaded Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.

China captured nearly 43000 square kilometres of land in which are called as Aksai Chin. It is of the size of Switzerland.


                        The outbreak of war in 1962 between China and India did only cause much widespread of hate towards each other. China refused to acknowledge the sanctity of the McMohan line and illegal claims over Aksai Chin two countries signed what is known as Panchsheel agreement. Although signing these agreements never made these land ownership dispute to be settled peacefully. India made maps showing Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as a part of her. On the other hand China made maps claiming ownership over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. The then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in year 1961 said that China would give up its claim over Arunachal Pradesh if India forfeits its claim over Aksai Chin. But Nehru the then prime minister of India declined this offer. If he had accepted that offer, today there would not been so called Border disputes between India and China. In the year 1961 India launched its forward policy. Its objectives were to create outposts behind advancing Chinese troops to cut supplies forcing them to retreat. Thus low scale military operations by both the Indian armed forces and the Chinese armed forces lead to a big scale war and also gave birth to a strategy called Salami Slicing.

Salami Slicing/Cabbage Strategy

According to military terms salami slicing refers to divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition. With it an aggressor can influence and eventually dominate a landscape piece by piece. Thus salami slicing means small, stealth military operations against enemies’ lands which over a period of time results in accumulation of lager territory gain. In this fashion, the opposition is eliminated “slice by slice” until it realises, usually too late, that is virtually gone in its entirety. This strategy is also called as Cabbage Strategy.  

China’s Execution of this Strategy and Counter Strategy by India:

When this strategy is applied and matched with Chinese intentions, it can be found that China has been doing it way back for a long period of time. China annexing Tibet, part of territory along the Himalayas, claiming sovereignty over Aksai Chin, and whole of Arunachal Pradesh. All these may not be called as absolute salami slicing, but still in other aspects the ultimate aim of the strategy is to gain dominance over the enemy’s landscape. That’s what China is being doing for a long period of time.

On March 26, 2019 China has recently destroyed 30,000 world maps printed in the country for export for not showing Arunachal Pradesh as a part of South Tibet. China routinely objects Indian leaders visiting Arunachal Pradesh to highlight its stand. According to Liu Wenzong, professor from the department of International Law of China Foreign Affairs University was quoted saying that Sovereignty and Territorial integrity are the most vital things to a country. “Both Taiwan and South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) are parts of China’s territory which is sacred and inviolable based on international law”. China also firmly opposed the Modi’s visit to South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) during early February this year. China strongly remarked the Modi’s inauguration of various infrastructure development projects in South Tibet worth Rs. 4000 crore. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that China’s position on the China-India border question is consistent and clear-cut. The Chinese government never recognised a so called territory named Arunachal Pradesh. There is also a claim that there had been incursions along the border of Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese military have entered the Indian Territory in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh and constructed a wooden bridge over Doimru Nala. This claim of intrusion has been reported false by Indian army. Another claim states that last year October around 10 Chinese troops had entered approximately 14km inside India, in an area located near the banks of Mathu and Emra rivers in Dibang valley. Those troops had set up their camp and had stayed there for several hours before heading back.

Since there a poor development of infrastructure in the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh it helps easily to identify loopholes and let China to press in. Due to lack of even basic roads in the larger parts of border areas in India makes it difficult for security forces to maintain and prevent illegal encroachment of the Chinese inside Arunachal Pradesh.

The main reason why Chinese are always one step ahead because they keep their goals and objectives dynamic using this strategy. Not only their aim is to annex many parts of Indian territories but also develop their own infrastructure for the annexed lands. Thus they are adding their own unique elixir with this strategy to form the Grand Strategy of Salami Slicing (through diplomatic and military means). That is China aims captures Arunachal Pradesh then its infrastructure will develop leading it join the ambitious project of China that is one belt one road initiative. Thus India will lose another big piece of strategic land once again like it lost a part of Kashmir. China has assiduously built an extensive network of railway lines, logistics hub, and other infrastructure in the entire Tibet autonomous system to sustain over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) include five to six “Rapid reaction” forces there. So as the dish suggests SALAMI, China aims to rip India slice off slice thus peeling away our land piece by piece.

Whereas India has floundered in playing the catch-up. Only 27 “Strategic all weather roads” (963km) of the 73 (totalling 4643km) identified for construction along the LAC over 15 years ago. Moreover construction of 14 strategic railway lines for the western and eastern fronts has not even kicked off till now. India must raise Tibet issue to counter China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh by adopting a weak foreign policy towards China. After decades of neglect, India builds roads along China border in Arunachal Pradesh. India will follow the bridge over the Brahmaputra by building a 2000km highway in the state at a cost of $6 billion. Lt. Col. P. Khongsai said that Chief of Eastern Command, Air Marshal R.D. Mathur and Chief of the Eastern Command Lt. Gen. Anil Chauhan will jointly inaugurate the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Vijay Nagar, the remotest Circle of Changlang disctrict in Arunachal Pradesh located along the Indo-China Border. Along with it comes ALG launched at seven other places like Pasighat, Mechuka, Walong, Tuting, Ziro, Along and Tawang. The vijay nagar is completely cut off as there is no motorcycle road to reach a remote location. So every necessary step has been made to keep immense surveillance 24/7. There was a memorandum of Understanding between the Arunachal Pradesh government and the ministry of Defence in 2009, which took up infrastructure development of the pasighat and other ALGs located at different altitudes in the hilly state at an estimated cost of Rs. 1000 crore. To ensure faster movements of troops in Tawang, a strategically located town in Arunachal Pradesh bordering China, the government plans to build a tunnel which will go through the Sela Pass. This was announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley while presenting the union budget. Even the Indian Air Force to operationalise air field in Arunachal Pradesh near China border Vijaynagar is situated in a remote corner of the state and is not connected with any motor able road.

The 2000km Highway connecting all the strategic places along the border of Arunachal Pradesh

Army Chief Bipin Rawat had recently pointed out China’s strategy of taking over Indian Territory as Salami Slicing, and it is something India has to look into this threshold. Adequate infrastructure in border areas will deter Chinese from intruding into India and laying claims over disputed territories.


There are two important components in slicing. One is the thing which is being sliced. Other being the thing by which it is sliced. So when one takes control of any one of this then there will be end for China’s Salami Slicing spree. So let the thing which is being sliced be Arunachal Pradesh. And the thing used to slice could be a blend mixture of Chinese politics and military tactics in the border. Before jumping to a conclusion one should know what makes this slicing so easy for China. Arunachal Pradesh, when analysed it has rough terrain and dense mountain vegetation which makes slow progress for infrastructure development of road and rail networks in the Indian part of the state’s territory. A Chinese scholar Wang Tao Tao has termed China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh as meaningless. In reality it’s just a chicken rib for China. For both the country it’s a huge economical, management and political losses since border land are NO MEN’S LAND. In today’s term it is hard for China to actually go war with India for these chicken ribs. Moreover the area is always prone to threats which cannot provide superior strategic depth to China unlike the Aksai Chin. So it can be assumed that this dispute is a trump card for China to trade Arunachal Pradesh with that of Aksai Chin. Also this dispute never ends because the border is still not recognized by China. In these areas the border lies a few meters while other areas it stretches for more than a mile. So to reduce the standoffs caused by border issue, A Border Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed. It ensures nothing resides permanent in border areas and the patrols do not confront each other. If at all there is a standoff it must cease to exist immediately. Over the period of three decades 21 rounds of peaceful settlement of border dispute has been made but all went in vein due to one or the other bargaining. So in my opinion the dispute prolongs to divert India from Tibet support. The two countries are gripped strongly by nationalism, bordering on jingoism, which makes give and take, so vital in the resolution of such vexatious disputes, extremely difficult. This badlands is mixed up with more of Indian culture and Indian nationalism and even the local public are in support of India than China. Nevertheless the Chinese dragon is being given a tit-for-tat treatment by the Indian elephant.

Note: This article was originally presented by the author in form of visual presentation and dedicated this to Jaswant Singh Rawat, MVC (unsung hero Sino-Indian war 1962) during a National Symposium held at Guru Nanak College, Chennai on 27th September 2019. The original visual presentation is available for download.


Published by The Viyug

Th Viyug (A Strategic & Defence Research Publication) is an digital and print media publication producing cutting edge analytical research papers, opinions, rebuttals and other forms of writings on various disciplines of international affairs.

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