Top ten bilateral issues between India-China
Beyond Doka La: 10 irritants in India-China relation
Both nations have several similar attributes and problems including large population, huge rural-urban, rising economy and conflict with neighbours.
India and China are the two ancient civilisations, who have had centuries of cultural exchanges but in modern times, their relationship has been more adversarial than friendly.
As big economic and military powers, India and China are key strategic players in the world. Both nations have several similar attributes and problems including large population, huge rural-urban, rising economy and conflict with neighbours.
India and China have fought a full-scale war and a low intensity armed clash. China had upper hand in the 1962 war when Indian government decided not to use Air Force. In 1967, China suffered more loss before backing off in Sikkim sector.
Now, both countries focus on enhancing their economic prowess and become the world leader. So, what are the irritants between India and China that keep them engaged as adversaries?
India and China share about 3,488-km long border, which is yet to be fully delineated. The border is classified under 14 divisions. There is a Line of Actual Control in Aksai Chin of Ladakh region that China captured during 1962 war.
China still lays claim over 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh calling it South Tibet. However, this claim seems to be more a bargain point for China, which could have established its control over large part of the state during after 1962 but it decided to go back to McMohan Line.
Besides the eastern and western sector, there is a middle sector in Uttarakhand where China stakes claim over an area of about 10,000 sq km. All these remain unresolved even after several rounds of talks since 1986. But, the border has largely been peaceful.
Border disputes between India and China are attributed to two main factors: British colonial legacy and contrasting understanding of maps.
The border between India and China lies in the highest altitude zones of the world. The Himalayas are the tallest mountains and the Tibet is the highest plateau of the world. The terrain is rugged and remained unscaled for long.
Both countries see their borders at different points on the ground and both are committed to build infrastructure till the last mile. The result is seen in complaints of incursions. The matter gets complicated as the two nations are militarily very strong.
China has deployed about 3 lakh soldiers in the eastern sector while India has stationed about 1,20,000 soldiers in the region. India has further created a new Mountain Strike Corps of over 90,000 soldiers. Half of the Mountain Strike Corps will be deployed along India-China border.
THE DALAI LAMA AND TIBET
China occupied Tibet in 1950. Tibet had declared independence from China in 1913. A Seventeen Point Agreement was signed and Tibet legally merged with China. India has accepted the merger. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a formal announcement during his visit to Beijing in 2003.
Chinese occupation of Tibet was not welcomed by the masses and the former spiritual kingdom saw an uprising. China responded with force. The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959. Indian government granted him and his followers political asylum. China accused India of fomenting trouble in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama formed a Tibetan government in exile, which still functions without any real authority over the people. Protests are often staged by Tibetans against China in India and many other countries. China objects to the Dalai Lama’s free movement in India and abroad in general and his visit to Arunachal Pradesh in particular.
ARUNACHAL PRADESH AND STAPLED VISA
Upping its ante against India, China began the practice of issuing stapled visa to residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. India has lodged strong protest with China saying by resorting to these tactics Beijing is questioning its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Two years later in 2011, China stopped the practice of issuing stapled visa for the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. But it continues for people living in Arunchal Pradesh.
BHUTAN AND NEPAL
China has been critical of India’s role in and its relationship with Bhutan and Nepal. India has a long tradition of cultural and trade exchanges with both Nepal and Bhutan. India has a security arrangement with Bhutan for protection of its borders.
Nepal has been dependent on India for all practical economic purposes. India facilitates its external trade. Only recently Nepal under former Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli signed a pact with China ending Kathmandu’s singular dependence on India for foreign trade.
There is an ongoing face-off between Indian and Chinese forces near Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction at Daklam plateau. Indian forces are in eyeball-to-eyeball encounter position with the Chinese troops near Doka La.
STRING OF PEARLS
China has an undeclared policy of String of Pearls to encircle India. This involves building of ports and naval bases around India’s maritime reaches. China has been active in the Indian Ocean and attempting to encircle India.
China is present at Cocos Island in Myanmar, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Marao Atoll (Maldives) and Gwadar (Pakistan). Interestingly, China is the only other country than India to have a fully functional embassy in Male.
India, on the other hand, has been trying to develop closer arrangements with the countries surrounding China. India has been able to forge friendly relationships not only with Japan, South Korea and Vietnam but also with the central Asian neighbours of China.
RIVER WATER DISPUTE
China is historically involved in river water sharing disputes with almost all its neighbours including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
Brahmaputra river water sharing is the major flashpoint between India and China. China has been building dams after dams in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra which is called Tsangpo in Tibet. India has objected to it but there has been no formal treaty over sharing of the Brahmaputra water.
Further, China has not been forthcoming in sharing the details about water level in the Brahmaputra, which puts a large tract in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam to the risk of sudden and huge flood.
India is now planning to build nearly two dozen dams on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries to deal with the flood problem.
NUCLEAR SUPPLIERS GROUP
India has been pushing for entry into the exclusive club of nuclear fuel suppliers – Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It is a body of 48 nations which have an understanding to supply nuclear fuels to nuclear power nations.
All these nations have ratified the Non-proliferation Treaty, which India has not signed. India calls it discriminatory.
China has been blocking India’s attempt to entry to this exclusive club on one or the other pretext. Observers say that China is building a case for Pakistan by blocking India’s entry. Pakistan has also applied for entry into the NSG.
While India has been unequivocal in condemning terror outfits and identified Pakistan as the biggest source of terrorism, China has defended Pakistan at every single forum.
China has blocked India’s attempt at the UN for sanctions against Jash-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar. India has been campaigning for sanction against Masood Azar, who has allegedly masterminded several terror attacks in India.
China calls Pakistan its all-weather friend and has huge investment in that country. China is building China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC), which passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India has objected to the CPEC.
India considers building of the CPEC as China’s interference in India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. But China has not deterred from going ahead.
China has also developed Gwador port near Karachi to facilitate its maritime trade with West Asia and North Africa. It also gives China a hold in the north Indian Ocean near India’s boundaries.