India-China border disputes
The India-China border has been witnessing tensions over the past month, with incidents reported in at least four different locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The incidents range from Naku La in Sikkim to Ladakh, in the Galwan valley and in Demchok, have reportedly been escalated with a buildup of troops by both sides. Let us see the India-China border disputes in detail.
Why do face-offs occur?
- 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.
- Protocols agreed to in 2005 and 2013 detail rules of engagement to prevent such incidents, but have not always been adhered to.
What is behind the latest tensions?
- The stand-off in Galwan valley, according to reports, was triggered by China moving in troops and equipment to stop construction activity by India. India says that it was well within India’s side of the LAC.
- The LAC was thought to be settled in this area which has not seen many incidents in the past, but China now appears to think otherwise. The northern bank of Pangong lake has, however, been a point of contention where there are differing perceptions of the LAC.
- The incident in Sikkim is somewhat unexpected as the contours of the LAC are broadly agreed to in this sector. The broader context for the tensions appears to be a changing dynamic along the LAC, as India plays catch-up in improving infrastructure there.
- China has enjoyed an advantage in infrastructure as well as terrain that is more favourable to mobilisation.
- Previous agreements between the two countries have recognised both sides’ need for “mutual and equal security”, implicitly taking into consideration the different — and more difficult — terrain on India’s side that hinders mobilisation from depth.
What is the state of boundary negotiations?
- The 22nd round of talks between the Special Representatives, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s State Councillor Wang Yi, was held in Delhi in December 2019. Both “agreed that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries” and “resolved to intensify their efforts to achieve a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution”.
- In 2005, an agreement on political parameters and guiding principles completed the first of three stages of the talks. The current, and most difficult, stage involves agreeing a framework to resolve the dispute in all sectors.
- The final step to resolve India-China border disputes will involve delineating and demarcating the boundary in maps and on the ground.
What are the prospects of a settlement?
- The likelihood appears remote. The main differences are in the Western and Eastern sectors. India sees China as occupying 38,000 sq km in Aksai Chin.
- In the east, China claims as much as 90,000 sq km, extending all across Arunachal Pradesh. A swap was hinted at by China in 1960 and in the early 1980s, which would have essentially formalised the status quo.
- Both sides have now ruled out the status quo as a settlement, agreeing to meaningful and mutual adjustments. At the same time, the most realistic solution will involve only minor adjustments along the LAC, considering neither side will be willing to part with territory already held.
In some sense, Beijing appears to view an unsettled border as holding some leverage with India, one of the many pressure points it could use to keep India off-guard. Until that strategic calculus — and China’s broader view of its relations with India — changes, the stalemate will likely endure. The broader context for the face-offs appears to be a changing dynamic along the LAC, as India plays catch-up in improving infrastructure. China has enjoyed an advantage as its terrain is more favourable to mobilisation.
Source – The Hindu
QUESTION – China appears to use a non-demarcated border as a strategic leverage against India. Discuss the statement in context of the recent border tensions along the LAC.