India-China Border Dispute

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

Since early May 2020, India and China have again engaged in a military standoff. This time, the centre of the army tension is in Pangong Tso, Ladakh. The Chinese government has objected to the improvement of infrastructure by India in the Galwan River valley area. India has been building roads in this region, and the Chinese military thinks this to be a step in India attacking China. Both countries have deployed extra military force on the Indio-China border to tackle if the situation gets worse.

Military-level talks were held at the Chushul-Moldo region on June 10. The meeting was to discuss a plan to reduce the number of troops deployed on the border by both nations. The Indian defence minister, Rajnath Singh, has stated that these military-level talks with china were ‘positive,’ and both countries have discussed plans to withdraw their troops from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Background

Both the Asian nations have engaged in a border dispute from the Twentieth century over the sovereign control of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim. The boundary between India and China is ambiguous in many places, causing the dispute.  British India and China agreed upon the Johnson line in 1865. This line puts the Aksai Chin area under Jammu and Kashmir, India. The Chinese denied following this line after Xinjiang became a part of China. China claimed the Aksai Chin area as its own. India continued to follow the Johnson line till its independence. In 1954, Nehru decided to establish a well-marked border between India and China.

  For the border on the east, a conference was held in 1913-14 between British India, China, and Tibet called the Shimla conference. Henry McMohan drew a boundary between Tibet and India, which is known as the McMohan Line. China disagreed on the more-detailed boundary line, and India and Tibet signed the border without China. China argued that Tibet is not an independent state and thus lacks powers to enter into a treaty. India justified this line based on the position of Himalayas, and these regions were heavily influenced by India. China wanted to acquire Indian areas in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tibet because the dynasty that ruled China once had control over these areas.

Facts of the issue

The 1050s

China builds roads connecting Tibet to its Xinjiang province in the 1950s, and part of the road went through Aksai Chin, which was Indian territory. India came to know about this issue in 1957. Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, argued that the Aksai Chin is a part of India as per the Johnson Line, and he explained that it had remained with India for a long time, thus giving China no right to build anything in the area. The Chinese side argued that Aksai Chin was a part of China under the Macartney-MacDonald Line. Officials from both sides met and held talks to resolve the issue. The two countries failed to reach a unanimous conclusion.

1962 war

China won the 1662 Indo-China war held at Aksai Chin and Assam frontiers. China had more strength and weapons than India, then. The major causes of the war included disputes about the border between the two nations and the fact that conflicts between India and China when India gave refuge to Tibetan Dalai Lama in 1959.

1967

Chinese forces launched a dual attack on India in 1967. The first attack at Nathu La pass in September 1967, and the second one at Cho La pass in October of the same year. India fought the opponent’s forces and emerged victorious and managed to protect its territory from falling into the hands of the enemy.

Line of Actual Control (LAC)

In 1993, India adopted the LAC. It is a line which roughly demarcates the area controlled by the Indian government and Indian are under the Chinese control. China extended its power during the 1962 war to the Aksai Chin and Gilgit Baltic regions of Jammu and Kashmir, India. In 2015, during his visit to China, PM Narendra Modi urged the Chinese government to clarify the LAC. The proposal was rejected by China.

2013-15

Both countries continued to engage in military standoffs during this period. China kept invading India beyond LAC. This led to tensions between the militaries of both countries, but troops of both nations always withdrew back before anything escalated. China also opposed the development of Indian territory close to LAC.

Doklam Standoff of 2017

This standoff close to the Doka La pass has been the most prolonged standoff between both the nations. The dispute emerged as China started building a road in Doklam, a region considered to be disputed by India and Bhutan. Under an agreement between China and Bhutan, both countries were required to maintain the status quo in the area. The Chinese authorities claimed that India had obstructed a road being built on the Chinese territory. India defended itself, stating that both countries have to maintain the status quo as per the agreement. This dispute continued from June 16 to August 28, when both the countries decided to call back their troops.

Legal provisions:

The international law in border disputes sates that countries involved in the conflict should maintain a status quo. While this status quo for Chinese authorities refers maintain the Line of Actual Control (LAC), keeping their troops in the Chinese occupied Indian regions, for India, status quo means observing the traditional boundary between the states, thus pushing back the Chinese forces back to the Johnson line. International law also requires an in-depth study of the maps issued by both the countries involved in a border dispute. There is no precise official map available from both sides, which can be considered to resolve the issue.

To take maps as evidence for resolving border disputes, it must be proved that the cartographer of the maps did a detailed study of the geography and border between states, and the maps should be accurate even on a larger scale. This favours India. The Indian claims on the boundary between the two nations rest on the natural border, i.e., the Himalayas. The concept of the natural barrier also supports Indian claims to the boundary between India and China. However, only these rationales cannot decide the international border between any countries. Surveys should be carried out, the information should be gathered from the local inhabitants, and cultural and administrative facts should be combined before reaching any conclusion.

India-China relations:

Both India and China have a history of relationships with each other, which is as old as 2000 years. Both countries are among the first civilizations of the world. Being neighbouring countries, the relation between India and China has been diplomatic, economical, and cordial. Both countries are part of the Asian continent, thus share some common culture. Also, both were part of the ancient silk-route, therefore, connecting their ties even more. China and India are both very populous countries and both gain independence at the same time. India was among the first countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China and establish diplomatic relations with it.

India and China are the fastest-growing economies of the world, have trade relations with most of the world. Both have a strong manufacturing sector and are both big markets also. China has made repetitive attempts to invade and occupy Indian territory and managed to be successful some of the time. China is slowly emerging as a world power, dominating the world. It is trying to defeat the USA. India is a threat to Chinese power because of the rapid economic developments and its significant population. Also, India’s popularity, power, and relations with other countries have increased manifold, threatening China. Most of the world supports India now.

Critical analysis:

China seems to be quite desperate to expand its territory and take away from India important areas like Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. It cites that these areas were part of the Chinese empire before being a part of British India. China has support from Pakistan and recently, Nepal. The Jammu and Kashmir area is critical for India to retain as it has been part of the Indian culture for centuries, and the Himalayas in the region serve as a defensive line, protecting India from attacks by China. This recent military standoff of 2020 can be a sign of China to show the world that it still stands strong after the Covid-19 pandemic, as the Coronavirus emerged from China, and now, many countries have filed legal and compensation claims against the state. The world is against China right now. The pandemic has hindered the Chinese economy and has had a brutal impact on its relations with other countries. The removal of article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, which provided the state with its unique powers, may have also angered the Chinese authorities. The Home Minister of India, Amit Shah, also said in a parliamentary meeting that Aksai Chin remains to be a part of the Indian territory. This declaration may have bothered China. These border disputes can also be seen as a part of China’s ambition of world domination because of the way it is invading and occupying India and the way it is asserting control on the South China Sea.

Conclusion:

There exists no clearly-marked border between China and India. While India follows the Johnson Line and the McMohan Line, China is inclined towards the Macartney-MacDonald line. Both countries do not want to let go of the disputed areas, but the Chinese dream of acquiring every piece of land that may have been a part of the Chinese empire once is not practical. This border issue should be resolved with diplomatic and military level talks, and a clear boundary between the nations is a must. War or the involvement of the army between these two very populous and powerful countries is not a viable solution to resolve the issue. Both the countries should sit and hold meetings and should come to a solution to end this dispute forever, without the use of force.

Author: Yashvi Aggarwal from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.

Editor: Silky Mittal, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

Sino-Indian bilateral relations

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

Geographically, India is surrounded by the countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar etc. Some of these countries have good relations with India while some does not have that. In the paradigm of international and strategic relations, India’s relation with China has oscillating. The bilateral relations of India and China, which is also known as Sino – Indian Bilateral Relations has seen various ups and downs throughout the time.

Sino – Indian bilateral relations has enveloped many issues consisting of border issues, strategic issues, political issues etc. Recently, Sino – Indian Bilateral Relations have completed 70 years and this occasion has been the matter of various debates and discussions amidst the corona virus pandemic.

Introduction – 70 years of diplomatic relation between India and China

Recently on the April 1st, 2020 India and China has completed 70 years of their bilateral relations. This bilateral relation has gone through winds and rains in all these 70 years. On the day of April 1st, 1950 India and China established their bilateral relations. India became the first non – socialist or rather non – communalist country to establish the relations with the People’s Republic of China. Since the day, the phrase of “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai (Indian and Chinese are brothers)” has become the watchwords.

In the following years many agreements and treaties were signed by both the countries. The bilateral relation of both country also became evanescent after 1962 border conflicts but they were restored later on. From the aspect of international relations and business both India and China are seen as the ocean of opportunity for various markets because of their enormous populations. During the second informal summit at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu last year in October, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to hold 70 events – 35 each in India and China to embark this occasion but it was later called off due to global pandemic of corona virus.

These 70 years of Sino – Indian bilateral relation of have been the fluctuating. There have been various agreement and disagreement regarding various issues between these two countries. Border and Trade issues have played its role too. Though India and China have seen ups and downs in these 70 years, both these countries are of opinion that the cooperation and camaraderie would always be in their collective benefits.

That’s why despite the issues and dissents both these countries have always been allies to each other or at least they have been trying to do so if not have done so. To understand how the bilateral relations of India and China first we have to understand the bilateral relations of earlier times and then how this relations developed eventually.

History of Sino-Indian bilateral relations:

As mentioned above on the date of April 1st, 1950 India became first non – communist country to establish the relation with the People’s Republic of China. Since then the phrase “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” has not lost its virtue. In 1954 Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited India and on the day of April 29th, 1954 India signed the Panchsheel agreement with China which is also known as the FIVE PRINCIPLES OF PEACEFUL EXISTENCE. The principles included in this agreement are as follow,

  1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,
  2. Mutual non-aggression,
  3. Mutual non-interference,
  4. Equality and mutual benefit, and
  5. Peaceful co-existence.

It was first formal enunciated and signed agreement between these two countries which essentially dealt with the trade and intercourse between the Tiber region of China and India. If Sino – Indian bilateral relations are properly analyzed it tell that the Tibet region kept China and India geographically apart for thousands of years and then this region became the reason of mutual distrust and disdain. China invaded Tibet in 1950 and since then India and China are sharing the common border.

Till mid-20th  century India and China had very little and confined bilateral relations. Their bilateral relations begin to see the daylight after India’s independence in 1947 and after the communist revolution in China in 1949. But the region of Tiber always remained an object of conflict. The then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was of the opinion that Tibet should remain independent. China’s opinion was something contradictory to this, if not opposite. This caused dubiousness on the part of China.

Though Prime Minister Nehru accepted the suzerainty of China over the Tiber, he always had this opinion that Tibet should remain autonomous. Amidst all these developments China showed no concern for MacMohan line which was demarked in the Shimla Convention in 1914 by the then British and Tibetan representatives. China disregarded this agreement by opining that it was imposed by “imperialists”.

Amidst this, India and China entered into Panchsheel agreement followed by various visits of leaders of both countries. But when India provided the asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959, China tightened its grip on the Tibet region. This led both the countries to the war of 1962.

Sino – Indian wars:

On the day of October 20th, 1962 China launched a war against India which came to be known as the Sino – Indian war of 1962. India never suspected that China would ever start a war and as the result this war became the conflict of 10000 to 20000 Indian soldiers against the 80000 Chinese soldiers. This war continued for 1 month and ended on November 21st when China declared ceasefire. When we analyze the circumstances of the war it tells us that the main issue which led to the Sino – Indian war of 1962 was that of the Tibet.

In this time, on one hand India was very concerned about its relations with China that it did not even attend the conference for the conclusion of peace treaty organized by Japan just because China had not been invited. But on the other hand India was very eloquent of its opinion to the Tibet issue and India was of opinion that the Tibet should remain autonomous. India went to the extent that when China announced that it would be occupying the Tibet, India did send a letter of protest offering the negotiations for the issue. In the meantime China sent its troops on the Aksai Chin border. Though at the time of Panchsheel agreement India did acknowledge the sovereignty of China over Tibet.

However, things did not stop here. In July, 1954 the then Prime Minister Nehru wrote a memo directing a revision in Indian maps to show definite borders on all frontiers. But the Chinese map showed 1, 20,000 square kilometers Indian territory as Chinese territory. As a response to which the then Premier of China, who happened to be the first premier of the People’s Republic of China told that there were some errors in the maps. But at this time, when Dalai Lama had been given asylum in India, the top leader of China Mao Zedong felt humiliated. This tension exacerbated when China openly stated that the Lhasa rebellion of Tibet was caused by India. In this way China’s perception of India as threat to their rule in Tibet led to the war of 1962. This is how the issue of Tibet became the essential cause to Sino – Indian war of 1962.

However, in the war of India and Pakistan which took place in 1971, China backed out. China happened to be considered as the long standing ally of Pakistan but due to their lack of control on the Sino – Indian border at that time led to the ceasefire of China. These circumstances deteriorated the Sino – Indian bilateral relations. However in the year of 1976, India and China restores its relations and the bilateral ties improved eventually. In the year of 1988, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the China and initiated the process of normalization of bilateral relations.

Recent developments:

Recent developments in Sino – Indian bilateral relation have been moderate, if not good. There are still many issues including Kashmir, China’s initiative of One Belt One Road, China’s usage of its veto power in the matter of Masood Azhar and the most recently Doklam issue. Both the countries have opposed each other on many aspects while enveloping these issues.

In 2013 Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated one of the most ambitious foreign policy of China and he called for building a Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st century Maritime Silk Road which collectively referred to as the One Belt One Road initiative of Chia. The plan is to connect the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. This road will connect the Chinese coastline to South East Asia, South Asia, Gulf and East of Africa. On this road China will build enormous infrastructures which will include various SEZ, e – commerce ports, trade liberalization and policy co – ordination. 

Now it is suspected that by alluding other countries to different economic incentives and long term loans, China wants its economic and territorial dominations in these region. Even, China is expected to build the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor as the extension to OBOR initiative. China is expected to connect Kashgar in Xinjiang in China’s far west with the Port of Gwadar in the province of Baluchistan via a network of highways, railways, and pipelines. This route will help China in its transport with Middle – East countries via land route which goes through Pakistan.

India is opposed to initiative from very beginning. Because one part of this road goes through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and India suspects that this road can be used to strategize against India. So this issue has become the tussle between India and China.

Recently China’s stand on Doklam issue and India’s substantial opposition to China’s stand has become the new issue of conflict. People’s Liberation Army started a road construction in Doklam area which is a part of Bhutan region but China considers it as its own territory. On the same time India and Bhutan both were of opinion that Doklam is the part of Bhutan region. In meantime both the countries sent their armies to the Doklam border and the international community was worried about the war. China bulldozed an Indian bunker stationed in Doklam and it accused Indian military for entering in its territory. As the result to which, China closed the pilgrimage of  Man Sarovar through Nathu La pass which was better alternative to the Lepu Lekh route via Uttarakhand.

Even China’s political stance on issues like Masood Azhar and China’s political stance on has been the matter of worry for India. Both these countries have initiated many negotiations and talks but none has proved to be fruitful. Despite these border and other political issues, India and China are very important to each other from the economic aspects. That’s why both these countries always try to find the solution to their problem and try to work with co – ordination.

Effect of COVID – 19 on the Sino – Indian bilateral relations:

Though, on the official level China has extended its helping hand to India and showed its willingness to help India in fighting this crisis. But there is a debate that this crisis will be resulted into unwanted circumstance for Sino – Indian Bilateral Relations. China had been suspected in silencing the voice of doctors who tried to warn the world about this crisis. Moreover the lack of transparency has always been there in China’s behavior.

China is alleged to have silenced the WHO about the crisis, to which U.S President Donald Trump has publically excoriated WHO. Though India has not made any controversial remark regarding neither this issue nor China’s alleged conspiracy in the said virus. Still it is believed that the corona crisis is going to affect not only Sino – Indian bilateral relations but also the relations of other countries with China. Now what actually comes out of this crisis will be answered by the time.

Probable way forward:

After the hit of pandemic of COVID – 19, many financial and banking institutions have made ominous remarks on the upcoming economic crisis which might be worse and deepening than the 2008 world crisis. In this time, the thing which these countries would need the most is co – operation and interdependency. It will be difficult for any country to come out of the economic crisis on their own. They will need the market of other countries. So when the interdependency and mutual co – operation is the need of an hour every country should come together for better economic prosperity. Not even a single country should be indulged in any kind of conflict of issues with another country because one mistake will cost enormously to human kind.

Conclusion:

As the concluding remarks, India and China are the most populous country in the world. They have ultimate and substantial capacities for emerging as the world leaders on all frontier be it economical, be it technological or any other for that matter of fact. But this will need the co – operation and camaraderie of both the countries. So it will be beneficial for both the countries if they remain collaborative and harmonious in their bilateral relations regardless of their political stance and opinion.

Author: Akshat Mehta from Institute of Law, Nirma University.

Editor: Arya Mittal from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.