In April 2013, there was tension between China and India over their Himalayan border. Chinese troops had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and set up camp in the Indian-claimed territory. Indian forces responded by setting up their camp 300 meters opposite the Chinese facility. This incident once again attracted attention to the drawn-out Sino-Indian border dispute. China and India have failed to resolve their border issues since India gained Independence in 1947. There have been flares in their relations due to land disputes, but the last military infraction was in 1991. India and China are both aware of their dependency on each other as far as trade goes and have tried to settle the issues by diplomatic means, but both sides fear a hostile move by the other and make strategic moves to strengthen themselves while also delicately trying to maintain peace.
China shares its border with twenty countries with India being its second largest neighbor. The India and China dispute is over territories covering 125,000 km2, which can be divided into the eastern, middle and western sectors (Garver 2011). The eastern sector is now called the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh and includes the McMahon Line running from the tri-junction between Bhutan, India and China from the west to Brahmaputra River in the east, largely along the crest of the Himalayas. The controversy over the boundary between the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet is exacerbated due to the added controversy of the status of Tibet (Garver 2011).
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: Disputed area of Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan
Aksai Chin is the western sector of the disputed territory. It covers an area of approximately 33,500 km2 currently falls under Chinas administration. Aksai Chin falls within Karakoram pass and is bordered by La dwags, Tibets Ngari Prefecture and Himachal Pradesh (Zhang & Li, 2013).
The middle sector is smaller in size compared to the rest. It begins at the China, India, and Nepal tri-junction all the way to the Tibet, La Dwags and Punjab tri-junction. Its border is approximately 450 km long, with only 2,000 km2 of disputed land (Zhang & Li, 2013)
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2: Disputed area of Aksai Chin
Origin of the Dispute
Sino-India border disputes stretch back into history. Since both countries cannot agree on the border location, the Sino-Indian border has never been officially drawn. During the British rule of India, the Sino-Indian border moved the countries traditional border into Chinese territory. China refused to honor Indias claims on territories that were originally Chinas before the British rule. Indias claim to the disputed areas is largely based on the Johnson and the McMahon lines. In 1846, Great Britain implemented a strategy for securing the northern frontiers of India with the main move being the annexation of Kashmir. The Johnson line is as a result of a survey of the Kashmir area carried out by W.H. Johnson, a civil servant of the Survey of India. The boundary put Aksai Chin in Kashmir and was referred to as the Johnson Line (Zhang & Li, 2013). The McMahon line came about in the 1913-1914 tripartite conference where the chair; Sir Henry McMahon and a Tibetan delegate signed a bilateral agreement with a new borderline known as the McMahon line. The Chinese central government later rejected the McMahon line since as they say; the delegate had no authority from the central government to sign the agreement. The British, however, began using the McMahon Line on the Survey of India maps in 1937 and at the time of India gaining independence in 1947; the McMahon Line was Indias Northeast border. The new government of independent India adopted the McMahon Line as the legitimate border while China protested the legality of the line. The then new Peoples Republic of China took over Tibet in 1951 and India in turn, feeling threatened by the Chinese military presence in Tibet which was literally at its back door, took administrative and military control of the Eastern sector and a little later of Tawang, the center of Tibets Buddhist culture. Tibet protested Indias control of Tawang, but the PRC was silent on the matter, which India took to mean the PRC recognized the authority of the McMahon line. At this point, both countries calmed down, and there was peace on the Sino-Indian border (Zhang & Li 2013).
In 1954, China and India signed the first declaration of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, The five principles include: non-aggression between the two, reciprocated respect for the other's territorial integrity, non-interference in the other's internal affairs, equality and in so doing achieve peaceful co-existence and benefit each other. (Richards, 2015)
Reasons for the Long-Standing Dispute
Tibet plays a central role in the Sino-Indian dispute mainly because of the non-congruent narratives as to its ownership. The Chinese central government is especially sensitive as to any ambiguities concerning the ownership of Tibet and is unwilling to secede any part of it while India also refuses to back down. Tibet provides incentives for both parties to be unyielding in their border negotiations, especially with its large strategic value, thus making a resolution of the border dispute unlikely. One of the foremost causes of conflict between regional rivals is the pursuit of buffer zones. Tibet according to Norbu, has been viewed historically by the Chinese as an open backdoor to China for India (Richards 2015). After gaining its independence; Tibet has naturally aligned itself with India, which brings us to the other reason the Chinese are unwilling to settle in the Tibetan region. The Chinese fear that in the case of a Sino-Indian war which would force Tibet to ally with either India or China and the natural choice would be India (Richards 2015). This would bring Indian forces to within 100 km of central China and Sichuan province. Tibet protects China from any possible Indian attacks through the Tibetan plateau. India, on the other hand, has interests in Tibet for security reasons and the water concern. China has put up an extensive network of airstrips and airbases throughout the Pakistani borders, Tibetan plateau, Nepali, and right up to the Indian. In recent years, China has deepened its ties with Pakistani. India therefore fears a possible Chinese intervention in the instance of a war with Pakistan. China recently blocked Indias initiative to add Masood Azhar the leader of a Pakistan-based anti-India terror group because of its ties with Pakistan (Allen 2013). Tibet also offers China a lot of control of the Brahmaputra River, that supplies water to most of the Indian parts. China has been constructing dams off the Brahmaputra but has promised to keep the dams off the river course to prevent interference with it is the course. Should China, however, go back to its word and dam the Brahmaputra River in Tibet, it could result in famine in Northeast India (Singh 2012).
Chinas land dispute with the Kingdom of Bhutan also has implications in the Sino- Indian dispute. The kingdom of Bhutan, located in the Himalayas is considered a non-entity to China but the land falling under dispute has great strategic implications that strengthen its dominance over India. Bhutan has three geographic features that make it invaluable in both the India and Chinas perspectives. First, Bhutan has no sea access and borders the two countries only making it impossible to access another country without passing through either Chinese or Indian land or airspace. It is, therefore, important that Bhutan maintain its sovereignty since any more overdependence on either country could as well make it a district in the country. Second, Bhutan controls some Himalayan passes; key overland routes for the two great powers. Third, Bhutan forms a buffer for the Siliguri Corridor, which is the narrow tract of land connecting Indias Northeastern states to the rest of the world. India, therefore, fears that Chinas underlying motive in the disputed area is the strategic dominance of the Western corner (Richards 2015). Chinas proposition to exchange parcels of land with Bhutan brings China within 500 kilometers of the Siliguri corridor with a complete view of the Indian border. India suspects that China will use this deal as the move that will eventually lead to interference in the Siliguri Corridor (Richards 2015).
Lately, there have been incursions into contested territory along the border by both sides. Both countries have increased their military presence along the border. India has upgraded its military presence near the disputed eastern border. It also set in motion to increase their troops by 90,000 men and increase the divisions in the Eastern sector by four. It has also stationed about 120,000 troops in the eastern sector who are backed up by Sukhoi-30 MKI squadrons. China, on the other hand, has deployed 300,000 troops with six divisions of CRF stationed at the city of Chengdu. The troops have 24-hour operational readiness with the support of airlift capable of transporting the troops to the border area within 48 hours (Krishnan 2013).
The last military activity on the border that was considered deadly was in 1991. There have however been repeated incidents and incursions that continue to aggravate the Sino-Indian relationship. Chinas activity on the border has however been more offensive compared to Indias activity, which has been mostly defensive. China aggression has proceeded well into the Indian border for instance in arresting an Indian intelligence team miles inside the Indian border and firing at Indian military positions without provocation. Since 2008, the Chinese military has crossed over the Line of Actual Control (LAC). According to the Indian government, the Chinese made 400 incursions into Indian Territory in 2012. As a defensive measure, India has stepped up its patrol of the border and is developing infrastructure along the border. When detected, the troops return to their side of the border with the Chinese government either failing to issue a statement on the matter or denying its occurrence. However, in the April 2013 event, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) refused to return to their side of the border, instead setting up their tents on the Indian side. When the Indian government protested, the soldiers increased their tents and a sign saying, You are in Chinese side. Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry insisted that it stayed within negotiation terms and denied that troops had crossed the LAC (Krishnan 2013).
The incursions and incidents in the Sino- Indian dispute are usually relatively inoffensive, and do not provoke a strong reaction from either government. Although this helps to keep tension low, the Indian media has criticized its governments Indian foreign policy establishment for taking these acts of aggression lying down, which give China the upper hand. The Indian media fears that in the case of an all-out breach, India would be forced to accept Chinas conditions from the tone set. When China objected to Indias developing infrastructure in Ladakh, for example. The Chinese PLA soldiers entered Indian territory and forced villagers to stop work on canals, roads, and even bus shelters. The Indian government responded by putting a stop to infrastructure projects in the region, thus giving China the upper hand (Zhang & Li 2013).
Is there any hope for a resolution of the Sino- Indian border dispute? The two countries have had many conventions to discuss this matter, and there have been small solutions but a final resolutions seems evasive. China has successfully negotiated border disputes with all of its twenty neighbors except Bhutan and India, with the Bhutan situation being at...
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