Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

China’s new land boundary law fits in with its expansionism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chumbi Valley

Mains level : Paper 2- What China's new boundary law mean for India?

Context

The latest in the series of aggressive Chinese actions is the use of lawfare through the passing of the “Land Boundary Law” on October 21 which became effective this week.

Background of the Chinese approach

  • The last residue of the Qing dynasty was wiped out in the 1911 revolution when China was established as a republic.
  • The republic was again overthrown in 1949 by the Chinese Communist Party.
  • Three successive Chinese governments in China refused to delineate or demarcate the boundary with either Tibet or India.
  • British archival records, many declassified points to attempts made by Imperial Britain to formally formulate a boundary with China.
  • Yet, all three regimes were united in their refusal to accept a formal limiting of China’s territorial expanse and kept their response ambiguous.
  • Even during the Simla Convention of 1913-14, when the Republic was ascendant in China, there was a vehement refusal to recognise any demarcation of boundaries between Tibet and China.

Strong-arm tactics against India

  • Having operated from a maximalist position to settle its borders with 12 of its 14 neighbours so far, China has attempted to use the same strong-arm tactics with both India and Bhutan.
  • It has offered to forgo its claims in the larger parts of North Bhutan in lieu of gaining a relatively smaller area in West Bhutan.
  • Threat to Siliguri corridor: This seeming magnanimity is calculated to expand into the Chumbi Valley in the South, threatening the narrow and strategic Siliguri corridor in India.
  • In its latest move, China has made a new claim on Sakteng sanctuary in Bhutan which may form a launchpad for future operations against Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • China has also strengthened its collusion with Pakistan.
  • There is a deliberate attempt by China to physically link with Pakistan in the Northern Areas by removing the Indian wedge of DBO, the doorway to the Karakoram Pass.
  • A Training Mobilisation Order (TMO) issued by Xi Jinping in January 2020 called for “confrontational training” for its troops and officers to assess their preparedness, especially in light of the new reforms undertaken by the PLA.
  • These factors seem to be the tactical beginnings of China’s grand strategy which also saw China flexing in the South China Sea and Taiwan, almost simultaneously.

China making use of lawfare and implications for India

  • The latest in the series of aggressive Chinese actions is the use of lawfare through the passing of the “Land Boundary Law”.
  • Formalises and legalises land Chinese grab: The law formalises and legalises China’s geographic creep towards Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh and parts of eastern Ladakh and creates conditions for using newly-constructed border villages close to the LAC for claiming sovereignty over disputed areas.
  • The import of the law is most critical for India but will affect China’s disputes with other countries too.
  • What China has done, therefore, is convert a territory dispute over borders into a sovereignty dispute which precludes any give or take of territory.
  • China will attempt to settle its Han population in the Tibetan regions, reversing established demographic patterns and at the same time.
  •  Future negotiations over territory, if they occur, will then refer to the Border Defence Cooperation Agreements of 2005 and 2012 which call for border settlements to be done keeping in mind the local population in the border regions.

Way forward

  • A deliberate thought process needs to be evolved to offset our disadvantages as purely military actions may not solve the situation in the long term.

Conclusion

What emerges clearly is that by adopting the Land Boundary Law, in conjunction with its physical actions on the LAC, China has consolidated its position in eastern Ladakh and kept possibilities open in Arunachal Pradesh.

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