Indo-Tibetan border has been a matter of dispute right from the time when China illegally occupied Tibet with the connivance of our first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. This dispute led to the disastrous 1962 war where an ill-prepared Indian armed force had to face defeat due to the blind foreign policy of Nehru government. The ghost of 62 war has continued to haunt India till now. What is generally not talked about is the loss of Indian territories near Manasarovar lake – even the Indian maps show only the Chinese Occupied Ladakh region but not the Indian enclave of the Minsar village near Manasarovar lake.
But the claim ends not just with the Minsar village (about 300 sq miles) near Manasarovar. Till 1684, western Tibet province of Ngari was very much a part of Ladakh kingdom. Kailash and Manasarovar were part of this province. Tibet invaded Ladakh in 1680s and the western Tibet province of Ngari was ceded as a result of the peace treaty of Tingmosgang signed in 1684. However, the revenue village of Minsar near Manasarovar lake was retained by Ladakh under the treaty.
When Ladakh became a part of the Dogra kingdom, Minsar also came under the rule of Dogras and remained a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir till independence. This huge victory could not satisfy the Dogra general Zorawar Singh as he wanted to set right the capture of Kailash and Manasarovar by Tibet in 1684. Hence, he invaded Ngari and occupied Taklakot bringing Kailash and Manasarovar under Indian rule again in 1841. Tibetans sought the help of the Chinese empire and the combined forces defeated the Dogra forces during the winter of 1841. General Zorawar Singh was killed in a battle near Taklakot and the Dogra forces were forced to retreat. The Chinese-Tibetan allied forces laid siege to Dogra forts in Ladakh with even Leh being threatened. Dogra forces from Jammu repulsed the invading forces and inflicted a crushing defeat on them at Chushul and the war ended with the Treaty of Chushul in 1842 in which the existing Indo-Tibetan border between Ladakh and Tibet was confirmed. Minsar continued to remain under the administration of Jammu and Kashmir state under Dogra dynasty – with annual revenue being collected by the Dogras from that village.
Minsar-Manasarovar-Kailash forms a holy circuit of pilgrimage for the Hindus. Kailash is seen as the earthly abode of Shiva. Manasarovar lake is believed to have been created by Brahma. For the Sri Vaishnavas, it is one of the 108 Divya Desams (Vaishnava Kshetras) since the teertham (sacred lake) associated with Tiruppiruthi Divya Desam is Manasarovar – visited by Tirumangai Azhwar in 8th century CE. While Kailash and Manasarovar remain as primary pilgrimage spots in the minds of the general Hindu masses, Minsar is almost forgotten. The lime deposits on the banks of the hot springs near Minsar village are considered as remains of ashes of Bhasmasur who was given a boon by Shiva and when the asura supposedly tried to attack Shiva himself, he was tricked to kill himself by Vishnu. As late as 1950, Hindu pilgrims to Manasarovar and Kailash used to visit Minsar as well – where they used to bath in the holy hot springs and use the lime deposits as bhasma prasada.
When China occupied Tibet in 1950, the Indian government did not care to support the independence of Tibet which was a buffer state between India and China. Moreover, the Nehru government did not even try to recover Ngari which belongs to India – more than Tibet ever belonged to China. The Chinese claim that any land – which they can claim to have been remotely under their suzerainty in distant past – belongs to them. Using such logic, Ngari and Khotan belong to India as these lands remained under our rule for a long period. Several more prefectures in Xinjiang can also be claimed by us using the same logic. But Ngari is the last land lost by us and thus, we have the greatest claim on that land – especially since our holy centres of Kailash and Manasarovar remain in that province.
Not only did Nehru lose an opportunity to reclaim our lands, his government did not even protect our enclave within Tibet – the holy Minsar village which is also a place of pilgrimage for Hindus of India. Jammu and Kashmir government under his friend, Sheikh Abdullah, even recommended that we should give up the village to Chinese Communists. After all, why would Sheikh Abdullah care about a place of Hindu pilgrimage? Nehru government and the subsequent governments have turned a blind eye towards the loss of our enclave in Tibet – let alone talk about reclaiming Ngari for ourselves.
The loss of Ngari meant that Kailash yatra was stopped by the Chinese for almost 2 decades before it was restarted in 1981. And the yatra was stopped by the Chinese in 2008 when there was an uprising in Tibet against Chinese colonialism. One of the holiest pilgrimage spots of Hindus is held ransom by the Chinese Communists who treat the Hindus and their pilgrimage with contempt. Now, we hear that the holy place has been converted into a missile base by the Chinese army – heaping insult over injury. That the Tibetan Buddhists also consider Kailash-Manasarovar as holy matters next to nothing for the Chinese Communist Party leadership who might actually consider it as a case of killing two birds with one stone.
Considering all these developments, India must stop playing the defensive game with China. We should claim not only the Aksai Chin occupied by Chinese but also Minsar and later the entire Ngari. Han Chinese leadership do not listen to pacifism. Only aggressive stance combined with the strength to follow through can put them in their place – else, they would try to bleed us through a thousand cuts – both territorially and psychologically. We wish that the Indian government takes up the case of Minsar – which rightfully belongs to us. We should also target Ngari – as it belongs to us both historically and spiritually. Let us stop losing further lands. The Chinese government seems to think that Hindus do not care about loss of land and it is high time that we proved them wrong. We should reclaim all our historical lands and build a buffer around our core territory. The Chinese achieved it post 1949 whereas we failed to do it and in turn have lost more lands. We should set the policy straight at least now – better late than never.