Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

Indian Army and PLA clash near Arunachal Border


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: LAC

Mains level: LAC skirmishes


The Indian troops deployed in the area of face-off in Tawang sector gave a befitting response to the Chinese troops and the number of Chinese soldiers injured in the clash is more than the Indian soldiers.

Increased clashes at LAC

  • In January 2021, Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a face-off in a disputed stretch in Nakula area of North Sikkim.
  • In 2017, troops of India and China were engaged in a 73-day stand-off in Doklam tri-junction area which even triggered fears of a war between the two neighbours.

What is LAC- the Line of Actual Control?

  • The LAC is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory.
  • India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.
  • It is divided into three sectors: the eastern sector which spans Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the middle sector in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and the western sector in Ladakh.
  • The LAC is only a concept – it is not agreed upon by the two countries, neither delineated on a map nor demarcated on the ground.

When did India accept the LAC?

  • The LAC was discussed during Chinese Premier Li Peng’s 1991 visit to India, where PM P V Narasimha Rao and Li reached an understanding to maintain peace and tranquillity at the LAC.
  • India formally accepted the concept of the LAC when Rao paid a return visit to Beijing in 1993 and the two sides signed the Agreement to Maintain Peace and Tranquillity at the LAC.
  • The reference to the LAC was unqualified to make it clear that it was not referring to the LAC of 1959 or 1962 but to the ‘LAC’ at the time when the agreement was signed.
  • To reconcile the differences about some areas, the two countries agreed that the Joint Working Group on the border issue would take up the task of clarifying the alignment of the LAC.

Issues with LAC

  • India’s claim line is the line seen in the official boundary marked on the maps as released by the Survey of India, including both Aksai Chin and Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • In China’s case, it corresponds mostly to its claim line, but in the eastern sector, it claims entire Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet.
  • However, the claim lines come into question when a discussion on the final international boundaries takes place, and not when the conversation is about a working border, say the LAC.

Why is LAC so disputed?

  • The delineation of the LAC has also not been done based on the accepted norms of control.
  • This has resulted in the existence of a number of areas of differing perceptions all across the LAC which is the primary cause of conflict.
  • China has changed its documented stance and has been looking for justifications for the conflict escalation.

Worry for India

  • China is developing infrastructure in the Indian-claimed areas.
  • Moreover, it is being developed at an unprecedented pace by China in these areas.
  • These are potential sovereignty markers which will be a restricting factor for future negotiations.


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