Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s new Border Law and India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : LAC disputes

China’s new law on land borders has come into effect on January 1.

Key takeaways of the Border Law

China passed the law for the “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas”.

  • Sacrosanct nature of Borders: Under the law, “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are sacred and inviolable”.
  • Border defense: It mandates the state to take measures “to strengthen border defense, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas.
  • Habitation near borders: It seeks to improve public services and infrastructure in such areas, encourage and support people’s life and work there.
  • Consultations with neighbors: The law asks the state to follow the principles of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighboring countries.

Why did China bring it?

Several factors may have led to China’s move.

  • Aggressive actions: The new law is a tool the Chinese government will use if it wants, as its actions have been aggressive even before this law.
  • Maritime assertion: This law reflects Beijing’s renewed concerns over the security of its land border while it confronts a slew of unsettled disputes on its maritime front (in the South China Sea).
  • Land boundary issues: The confrontations on the Sino-Indian borders in recent years may have reminded Beijing about this law.
  • Fear of radicalization: Afghanistan under the Taliban may become a hotbed for terrorism and extremism that could spread to Xinjiang amongst Uyghurs.
  • One-China Policy: China officially (constitutionally) claims mainland China and Taiwan as part of their respective territories. It has similar assertions for Hong Kong.

Does it concern India?

  • No specific mention: Although the law is not meant specifically for India, it is bound to have some impact.
  • May hamper disengagement:  The date for the round meeting is still awaited, amid concerns that the Chinese delegation can use the new law to try to bolster their existing positions.
  • Possible misadventures: The new law provides for the construction of permanent infrastructure close to the border. This has been observed in Arunachal Pradesh.

What impact can it have on India-China relations?

  • Onus on China: The view is still divided. Much depends on China’s actions, regardless of the new law.
  • Unilateral action: The new law might be the latest attempt by China to unilaterally delineate and demarcate territorial boundaries with India and Bhutan.
  • Maintain status-quo: The new law will make China dig its heels in, on the ongoing standoff as well as for the resolution of the larger boundary issue.
  • Permanent demarcation of borders: There is also a possibility that Beijing appears to be signaling a determination to resolve the border disputes on its preferred terms.

Recent mis-adventures

  • China has been building “well-off” border defense villages across the LAC in all sectors, which the new law encourages.
  • President Xi visited a village in Tibet near the border with Arunachal Pradesh followed by renamings.
  • China has constructed a bridge in Eastern Ladakh connecting the North and South Banks of Pangong Tso.


  • The law only “states the obvious” as “every country is in the business of protecting its territorial integrity.
  • The big question is what your territory is, and there we don’t agree with each other.


[RSTV Archive] India-China Ties Post-Galwan

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