Dogra rulers and their run-ins with China

Harbans Singh

Archaeologists know Akhnoor, in Jammu, because the final Indus valley settlement within the North. This was the purpose from the place timber from increased reaches was floated down the Chenab for downstream settlements. In the historical past of the previous state of Jammu and Kashmir, this was the place the place, within the shadow of the Akhnoor Fort, on the banks of the mighty Chenab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh utilized Raj Tilak to the Dogra basic Gulab Singh and anointed him the Raja of Jammu.

Raja Gulab Singh, first ruler of the Dogra dynasty.

On this June 17, the Dogras celebrated the 199th Raj Tilak ceremony, from whence started a journey that added a brand new chapter to the historical past of the subcontinent. The first half of the 19th century had witnessed the autumn of the Gurkhas, the Marathas and the Jats whereas battling the British for supremacy. In the meantime, the Sikhs attained such heights of energy and splendour that Lahore attracted folks from far and large. However, their downfall was as swift as their rise — by 1946 they too have been a spent drive.

Dogra forces captured Mantalai Standard, the flag of the Chinese Imperial Army, in a battle in Tibet

From among the many remaining Indian princes rose the person who was to form the future of the area. Ambitious however cautious, Gulab Singh took approval of the Lahore Durbar for his bold campaigns within the snowbound mountains with Ladakh (Tibet-i-Kalan, i.e. the larger Tibet) as his first goal. He had realised that the occupation of the Himalayan kingdom wouldn’t solely give him the monopoly over Leh’s flourishing entrepôt frequented by retailers from Tibet, Sinkiang (current day Xinjiang) and Kashmir but additionally the management over an essential route between Tibet and Kashmir, which was used for the profitable pashmina commerce. This mission started in 1834 below the command of his most trusted and intrepid Dogra General Zorawar Singh. It claimed hundreds of lives, together with that of the overall throughout the Lhasa marketing campaign in 1842. In 1841, the current day battalion of the 4th Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, then commanded by General Zorawar Singh, captured Mantalai Standard, the flag of the Chinese Imperial Army in a battle in Tibet. It continues to be in possession of the JAK Rifles. Eventually, with the overall killed and the military annihilated, the biting winter and snow halted the march of the Jammu drive in the direction of Tibet.

On June 17, the Dogras celebrated Raja Gulab Singh’s 199th coronation day. Photo courtesy: Amar Mahal Jammu

Farsighted and versatile

It was in these adversarial circumstances that the farsightedness and suppleness of Raja Gulab Singh got here to the fore. Unlike earlier examples, he didn’t search reprisals at the same time as he re-established management over Leh, and accepted the boundaries of his ambition. The Tibetans and the Imperial Court of China, alternatively, too, realised the futility of waging a warfare on this excessive finish of their empire at a time when it was dealing with a larger risk within the type of the primary Opium War. As a consequence, each the events entered right into a treaty, signed at Chushul in 1842. It was agreed that the standard boundary between Tibet and Ladakh can be revered and commerce would observe the standard route between Lhasa and Leh, opening up new commerce pursuits for the Jammu kingdom. For the subsequent 120 years, that is the place the boundaries of Ladakh remained, however the truth that the border areas of such lands have been inhabited by peregrinating populations for whom cultural identities have been stronger than political ones.

Beyond Ladakh

While conquering Ladakh, Raja Gulab Singh appeared westward in the direction of Baltistan, generally known as Tibet-i-Khurd, i.e. the little Tibet, and introduced it below his management in 1840, laying the muse of future growth by his successor to take management of the commerce routes to Kashgar (Xinjiang) and central Asia. It should be stated that Kashmir didn’t determine in his plans because it was a part of the Sikh empire. However, a mix of circumstances, which generated quite a lot of warmth and dirt, made him purchase it after paying the indemnity that the Lahore Durbar was unable to pay. In 1846, the journey of a soldier within the Sikh military reached its pinnacle with the Treaty of Amritsar between him and the East India Company, bestowing upon him the title of Maharaja.

Soon, these conquests and acquisitions shaped the geostrategic pivot that was very important for the pursuits of Tsarist Russia, decaying however nonetheless formidable Imperial China and Great Britain. It continues to be so besides that the previous rivals are identified by new names. Had the Partition of the subcontinent not taken place, India would have been a significant participant within the politics of the area spanning two continents. But with the Partition started the primary section of the dismantling of the legacy of Maharaja Gulab Singh, when Pakistan occupied the strategic area of Gilgit after the British engineered a revolt of Ladakh Scouts, and Baltistan. What adopted is wrapped in enigma and historians are but to elucidate the rationale why Indian Army marching by means of Kargil after crossing Zoji La in November 1948 moved in the direction of Leh slightly than take the street to Skardu the place the State forces had held out towards the Pakistani siege until 14th August 1948. Thus, we cry over spilt milk after we protest over the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) since we had displayed no intent to recuperate the world from Pakistan.

The closing section of dismantling Maharaja Gulab Singh’s legacy was almost accomplished final 12 months when, on August 5, 2019, Ladakh acquired a separate entity as a union territory, and Jammu was left within the prickly and uncomfortable embrace of Kashmir as one other union territory. With the proud achievements of the Dogra dynasty receding to the pages of historical past, this 199th Raj Tilak celebration is a reminder of the ruthless march of time which reduces Alexanders and Chandraguptas to mere dates and landmarks.

—The author is the writer of ‘Maharaja Hari Singh: The Troubled Years’ and ‘Karan Singh: Jammu and Kashmir 1949-1967’

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