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Editorial of the Day: Slow Steps to India-China Border Tranquility (The Hindu)

Slow Steps to India-China Border Tranquility Background

India- China Border:

  • India and China have a disputed boundary that stretches for about 3,488 km, running through the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The boundary, called the McMahon Line– de facto boundary between China and India in the Eastern Sector, has been the subject of controversy between the two nations.
  • Prior to China’s “liberation” or occupation of Tibet in 1950, India and China did not share a common boundary and it was ultimately the India-Tibet boundary that subsequently transformed into the India-China boundary.
  • Since 1954, China has been claiming large tracts of territory along the entire border, including Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir, some areas in Uttarakhand, and the entirety of Arunachal Pradesh.

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Understanding the Border Disputes between the Two Nations

Western Sector – Aksai Chin

  • In 1865, Johnson line which put Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir was not presented to China at that time as it did not control Xinjiang then.
  • By 1890, China re-established its control over Xinjiang and claimed Aksai Chin following which the Macartney Macdonald line was agreed to by the British government.
  • However, the Chinese government did not respond to the note to this effect in 1899 and the British took that as Chinese consent.
  • Post 1947, India used the Johnson Line as the basis for its official boundary but in 1950s China built a road falling south of this line in the Aksai Chin region.
  • Intermittent clashes along the border resulted in Indo-China war in 1962, the consequence of which came the existing line known as Line of Actual Control (LAC).

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Eastern Sector -Arunachal Pradesh

  • In the Shimla Accord (1913-14), the boundary between Tibet and British India was denied by negotiations between British India, China and Tibet.
  • This boundary- MacMohan Line is still disputed by China. However, China accepts the line as its boundary with Myanmar provided by the same agreement.

Middle Sector (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand)

  • In the Middle Sector, the dispute between the two nations is a minor one.
  • Here the concern is regarding the precise alignment to be followed in the Barahoti plains regarding which both sides have exchanged maps on which they broadly agree.

Other Challenges along the Border:

  • Smuggling: Large scale smuggling of Chinese electronic and other consumer goods take place through these border points.
  • Inadequate infrastructure: The area is characterized by high altitude terrain and dense habitation. While China has built massive rail road linkage on its side, the Indian side of the border lacks robust infrastructure till recent times.
  • China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): China’s CPEC passes through parts of Jammu & Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan. India faces a possible threat because of the fact that China can use CPEC to mobilize troops in case of conflict.
  • Water disputes: China recently cut off the flow of a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, to build a dam as part of a major hydroelectric project in Tibet and is also working to dam another Brahmaputra tributary, in order to create a series of artificial lakes. China has also built six mega-dams on the Mekong River, which flows into Southeast Asia, where the downstream impacts are threatening.

Decoding the Editorial

  • India and China have seen to be moving towards a new method of dispute resolution to maintain peace and tranquility along their disputed border.
  • The historic agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2013 between the two nations were no longer effective in Ladakh after the Chinese massed troops in Tibet and established blockades at six points on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to prevent Indian troops from patrolling the border in 2020.
  • Also, a clash at Galwan resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers, the first such losses on the LAC since 1975.
  • A clash in 2022 at Yangtse, north-east of Tawang now indicates that new measures may be necessary across the entire LAC, not just in Ladakh.

Attempts taken to ease the Border Situation

  • Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC): WMCC on China-India Border Affairs was convened earlier this year to discuss the border issues and the possible solution.
  • Disengagement in four points: Over the past three years, there have been efforts to separate the two sides in six areas.
    • Four of these areas, including Galwan, Pangong Tso, Gogra Post, and near Jianan Pass, have been successfully separated.
    • However, two important areas of Depsang Bulge and the Charding Ninglung Junction in the Demchok area, almost covering 1000 kilometres, have not been resolved yet.
  • Other measures to restore normalcy:
    • No- Patrol Zones: The author contends that the no-patrol zones could be confined to the places where the two sides have overlapping claims.
      • No-patrolling zone refers to an area where neither side is allowed to patrol.
    • Zone of actual control: Suggestions have been made on lines that the “zone of actual control” could replace the “line of actual control” in some areas that had no obvious geomorphological features or population.
      • Other areas, too, could be delimited as a “border belt” if they did not require population adjustment.
      • But whether or not the idea would work will depend on the intentions of both parties.

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Way Forward

The border dispute between India and China is a complex and longstanding issue that requires diplomatic efforts and a willingness to find mutually acceptable solutions. The following steps can be taken to effectively manage the border:

  • Dialogue and Diplomacy: Both the nations should work towards building mutual trust and confidence by exchanging views, holding consultations and implementing confidence-building measures.
  • Demarcation of the border: The two countries should work towards finalizing the border demarcation process through diplomatic negotiations.
  • Confidence-building measures: Confidence-building measures such as regular high-level talks, joint military exercises, and cultural exchanges should be undertaken to reduce tensions along the border.
  • Enhance border infrastructure: Both countries should invest in border infrastructure to ensure better connectivity and communication between the two sides. This can help in effective management of the border and also aid in the development of the border regions.
  • Joint management of natural resources: The two countries can explore the possibility of joint management of natural resources such as water and minerals along the border that can reduce tensions and build cooperation between the two sides.
  • Border Trade: The two countries can also explore the possibility of border trade to enhance economic cooperation and reduce tensions along the border.

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What is the full form of CPEC?

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

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