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Need to stabilize bilateral relations with China

  • Published
    28th Jul, 2023
Context

India and China spoke for “need to stabilise bilateral relations “at the G20 Summit in Bali held eight months ago.

  • Recently, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, has mentioned that both the countries’ at the conclusion of G20 dinner hosted by the Indonesian President, exchanged courtesies and also spoke of the issues with Line of Actual control (LAC) and restoring their bilateral relations.



Marking the India-China border:

  • The border between India and China is not clearly demarcated throughout.
  • Along certain stretches of its 3,488-km length, there is no mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • India, following Independence, believed it had inherited firm boundaries from the British, but this was contrary to China’s view.
  • China felt the British had left behind a disputed legacy on the boundary between the two newly formed republics.
  • The India-China border is divided into three sectors:
    • Western: The boundary dispute in the Western Sector pertains to the Johnson Line proposed by the British in the 1860s that extended up to the Kunlun Mountains and put Aksai Chin in the then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
    • Middle: In the Middle Sector, the dispute is a minor one. It is the only one where India and China have exchanged maps on which they broadly agree.
    • Eastern: The disputed boundary in the Eastern Sector of the India-China border is over the McMahon Line.

India-China Conflict near LAC:

  • China claims about 90,000 sq. kmof India’s territory in the northeast, including Arunachal, while India says 38,000 sq. km of land in China-occupied Aksai Chin should be a part of Ladakh.
  • There are several disputed areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC),including in Himachal, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
  • It started when India (Indian Army) objected a road construction by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China in the Doklam plateau which China claims to be a part of its Donglang region. However, India and Bhutan recognise it as Doklam, a Bhutan territory.
  • Later, China accused Indian troops of entering in its territory and India accused the Chinese of destroying its bunkers (People’s Liberation Army bulldozed an old bunker of the Indian army stationed in Doklam).
  • Thereafter China stopped the passage pilgrims heading toward Kailash-Mansarovar through the Nathu La pass, Sikkim. The route is a better alternative to Lepu Lekh route via Uttarakhand and had been opened for pilgrims in 2015.

Area of disputes:

  • Patrolling Point 15 (PP15) in Hot Springs and PP17A near Gogra Post were among the four friction points between India and China.
  • The other two being PP14 in Galwan Valley and the north bank of Pangong Tso.

Reason behind such face-offs:

  • Overlapping claims: Face-off and stand-off situations occur along the LAC in areas where India and China have overlapping claim lines.
  • The LAC has never been demarcated. Differing perceptions are particularly acute in around two dozen spots across the Western (Ladakh), Middle (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), Sikkim, and Eastern (Arunachal Pradesh) sectors of the India-China border.
  • The boundary in the Sikkim sector is broadly agreed, but has not been delineated. Face-offs occur when patrols encounter each other in the contested zones between overlapping claim lines.
  • Not adhering to rules of patrolling: Protocols agreed to in 2005 and 2013 detail rules of engagement to prevent such incidents, but have not always been adhered to.

Agreements between India and China:

  • Shimla agreement of 1914:To demarcate the boundary between Tibet and North East India, a convention was held at Shimla in 1914, representatives of all three i.e. Tibet, China and British India. After the discussion, the agreement was signed by British India and Tibet but not by the Chinese officials. Presently India recognises the Mcmahon line, as agreed by the Shimla convention, as the legal boundary between India and China. However, China rejects the Shimla agreement and the Mcmahon line, contending that Tibet was not a sovereign state and therefore did not have the power to conclude treaties.
  • Panchsheel Agreement of 1954: The Panchsheel doctrine clearly indicated the willingness to ‘Respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’. Although we have come a long way since, from 1962 war to the cold peace era of 1962-1989, to the revived tensions of the present, the intent of the doctrine was well directed. It must have acted as a safeguard against any such disputes arising at the first place.
  • In 1989, India-China formed a Joint Working Group for Confidence building measures (CBMs) and agreed to mutually settle all border disputes.
  • India-China Agreements regarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC): The LAC is the effective military border which separates Indian controlled areas of Jammu and Kashmir from Aksai Chin.
    • It is to be noted that this border is not a legally recognised international boundary, but rather it is the practical boundary.
    • Conventionally, India considers the Johnson line of 1865, marked by a civil servant W.H. Johnson, which put Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • On the other hand, China recognises the Macartney-Macdonald Line as the actual boundary which puts Aksai Chin in Xinjiang region of China.
    • In 1993, when the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao visited China, ‘The Agreement for Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the LAChas been signed between India and China.
    • In 1996an agreement took place on Confidence Building Measures in the military field along the LAC.
  • In 2003India and China signed a Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation and also mutually decided to appoint Special Representatives to explore the framework of a boundary settlement from the political perspective. The India-China relations received a major boost in 2003. China recognised India’s sovereignty over Sikkim. This was also followed by a framework of Guiding principles and political parameters to improve bilateral ties. It proposed a three-step resolution to the border disputes:
  • bilateral agreement on the laid down principles.
  • This was to be followed by an exchange of maps between the two countries.
  • Once satisfied with the markings, the final demarcation of borders was to take place.
  • In 2005a protocol was agreed on Modalities for the implementation of Confidence Building Measures in the Military field along the LAC.
  • In 2012India and China agreed on the establishment of a working mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India China borders.

Way forward:

  • From the recent incidents, although the possibility of an India-China armed conflict cannot be ruled out, any kind of military conflict is not in the interest of any country. 
  • The need of the hour is realising that our ‘strategic partnership’ could serve us both and help see Asia emerge as the core of world economy.
  • This dream of ‘India-China Millennium of Exceptional Synergies’ that our Prime Minister envisions, however, needs magnanimity and willingness on part of both the nations.
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