Sino-Indian border problem is on the most important issue since historical ages. Both of them have a great history of spiritual development and religious practices. There are shreds of evidence of cultural exchange and trading for the first few centuries. Invasions from Islamic regions stopped every interaction and exchange between India and China. However, both of them suffered from European colonisation during the 18th and 19th century. They have been politically isolated from each other up till last seven decades.
They have been vital parts of various trade routes joining the Middle East, Europe, and Eastern countries. In the current time world heavily relies on these two countries for manufacturing on various goods. Today, on the global level both of these countries account for about 33 percent and 25 percent of manufacturing items respectively.
British rule limited trading options between China and India but in an early 20th century, post-independence both of them resurged and marched towards becoming superpowers of Asia. India and China relinked on the basis of sympathy, mutual problems, and admiration. In 1941, the Japanese invaded Chinese territory and caused a great deal of damage to Chinese people medically. Indian national Congress sent a medical team to China which was led by Dr. Kotnis.
After getting independence, the Indian government achieved a diplomatic peace with the Chinese government in 1948. This did not sustain for a long period of time and in 1949 nationalist Kuomintang government was defeated by the military. The communist party People’s Republic of China was set up on the first day of October 1949 and India despite of being a democratic country, recognized it.
Border disputes between India and China
The India-China borders can be broken down into three sectors:
1. Western Sector or Aksai Chin Sector: The region is claimed by the Chinese government post-1962 war as an autonomous part of Xinjiang region which is originally supposed to be the part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
2. Central Sector: It is the less disputed section of the Indo-China border but recent Doklam standoff and Nathu La Pass trading issues have brought distress at all levels.
3. Eastern Sector or Arunachal Pradesh: McMahon Line had differentiated India and China in this sector but in 1962 war the People’s Liberation Army covered 9000 sq. km. area. The announcement of unilateral ceasefire made them step back on the international borderline. However, China has been claiming that area as their own and recently they have started to claim whole Arunachal Pradesh as their own.
Border conflicts after the India-China War of 1962
• Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh in North East are the three reasons of the war and after a 1-month long war, China succeeded in gaining control over Aksai chin .
• In 1967, there were two major occasions of conflicts at Cho La and Nathu La Pass. All these occasions were in favour of India as they stop and send back Chinese army.
Agreements and initiatives to resolve the border disputes
• Shimla agreement 1914: McMahon line was established and was accepted by Tibet and British Indian authorities. Chinese authorities have been against this from 1914 till today as they believe that Tibet was not a sovereign authority with no power to conclude any treaties.
• Panchsheel agreement 1954: It was a pact to respect each other’s territorial boundaries and sovereignty but since 1962 China has rarely honoured the agreement.
• 1989 CBM: Confidence Building Measure policy was aimed to settle disputes mutually and peacefully.
• The Line of Actual Control: India consider Aksai chin as a part of India and China as theirs, both of them follow a different line of control but in 1993 PM Narasimha Rao agreed to maintain peace along LAC which separates Jammu and Kashmir from Aksai Chin.
• 2003 Principles for Relations & Comprehensive Cooperation: It was a three-step process where both sides prepared their maps and exchanged for each other’s approval. China accepted India’s authority over Sikkim.
• CBM in 2005: Both nations agreed to implement modalities in CBM along LAC.
• Coordination along Border: In 2012 both countries common terms for working methods regarding Indo-China border.
The long-standing issues between India and China and their changing dynamics
Though there have been always a troublesome relation between India and China, 2017 was a historical year in that regard. India took a firm stand against China and made China stand down in the issue of Doklam plateau. Both sides considered it as a win-win situation to resolve it peacefully.
• Border issue: Since 1950’s India and China has been fighting for the boundary regions. China does not believe in McMahan line and claims part of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin also it helps Pakistan to develop POK which is again the part of India. There have been many treaties or pacts to solve this peacefully but none has been successful until now. There are reports which suggest that China is interfering with Tsang Po-Brahmaputra river waters by diverting the flow and polluting water downstream region around Arunachal Pradesh.
• Dalai Lama: There are several thousand Tibetan refugees whom India has provided shelter and accommodated them nicely. Dalai Lama, the spiritual Tibetan is keen to accept India’s offer to provide a home to him. China is not happy with this and it is constantly making threats to stop this as it is afraid that, Tibetan people will change their opinions in favour of India.
• NSG: India has climbed a lot higher since its independence and has emerged as a superpower. India is keen to get a place in NSG and all other members except China are ready to give India NSG status.
• Masood Azhar: India believes that he is the mastermind behind the Jais-e-Mohannad terrorist group and wants to declare him as the most wanted terrorist. In UNSC 14 members amid all 15 members voted in the favour of India but China was the only one to use Veto and vote against India’s demand.
• BRI: China has allocated a huge amount of money and resources in this project (CPEC) which entirely passes through Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Aksai Chin and POK. India’s authority over these areas is always declined by Chinese officials. The Chinese government has invested a great number of resources in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but India is not interested in this project as it is concerned about the adverse effects of the BRI.
• Doklam: China attempted to construct a lot of infrastructural projects in the region and also allocated army for the sake of their protection. The original motive behind this was to pressurize India and acquire the Doklam region. India took a firm stand and did not allow China to succeed in their plan. This is why China is not very supportive of the current Indian government.
• Territorial distress: Constant movements along the border by PLA and their intrusive movements are generating panic situations. PLA is trying to invade Indian land by constructing bunkers and military camps to claim the land as theirs.
• India-Nepal Relations: UML party won in Nepal and has allowed China to invest across Tibet-Nepal border which has opened doors for China to interfere in the Indo-Nepal relationship.
• Neighbourhood ties: India has always been kind to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. China made Sri Lanka grant them permission to use Hambantota port. China is using this port to increase their naval strength in the South Asian Region. China has pressurized Maldives to cut ties with India. Likewise, China is trying to turn our neighbouring countries against us. They are trying to isolate us in a hope that India will fall in front of China.
The reasons for the issues
• China was the whole and sole superpower amid Asian countries but India has emerged as another superpower and challenged China’s monopoly in Southern Asia and also on the Global level.
• South Asian oceans and seas are potential sources of energy resources like poly-metallic nodules and hydrocarbons. China wants to exploit most of these resources.
• Southern Asia holds key trading routes and strategic position in connecting the rest of the world.
• China wants to undermine Indian market as many International companies are moving out of China and relocating to India.
• India has become one of the key players of this Multi-polar world and has good relations with Russia and the USA which are prime competitors of China.
• India’s attitude and stand are getting stronger with the time and India is not afraid of China in any sector.
Some Plus points:
Despite all the tension on the border regions, export and import between India and China have increased with the time. There are sectors like mobile industry, LED industry, and other e-commerce platforms. China has supported India at the BRICS summit to declare Pakistan based terrorist groups. China and India have submitted a joint pitch to the WTO regarding agricultural subsidiaries to the developing countries. Both of the countries have a lot of potentials to develop and prosper if they work together.
There is a complete absence of mutual trust and China grabs every opportunity to undermine India. Since last decade there has been increasing tensions on all the boundary fronts. India has gained a lot of superior status in terms of ammunition and army and at the same time, Beijing has become more assertive to expand their boundaries. This has increased the need to solve the border problem as soon as possible.
How can these issues be addressed?
• SAARC: Maintaining a good position in the SAARC, India has always been supportive of other countries and tried everything to support their development. India should use this platform to refresh and renew trust with China.
• Strategic Agreements: Indo-China agreements have not been implemented properly. Instead of focusing on smaller pieces, both should focus on the whole picture to resolve their differences with a fresh point of view.
• Economical treaties: To maintain economic stability in the South Asian region both the nations should endorse the Free trade agreement and Friendship & Cooperation treaty.
• Competitive coexistence: India and China both should respect each other’s demands and should participate in mutual initiatives like BRI, SCO etc.
• Mutual Interest: Instead of fighting on terrestrial boundaries, they should focus more on the common interests like the fight against terrorism, trading, fighting against religious and social problems.
Two sides must make peace as it will certainly help both the nations to rise on the global level. Both of them should go to the root causes of the problems and resolve them mutually. Indo-China relationship has never been built on the trust so it is high time they should endorse policies which are based on the shared trust. Clear and continuous communication with 100% transparency is necessary to maintain peace and happy bilateral relationship as dreamt by PM Modi as “Inch (India and China) towards Miles (Millennium of Exceptional Synergy)”. Indo-china relationship is important for not just countries but the people of the South Asian region too.