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INDO-CHINA STANDOFF 2020: Another South Asian Flashpoint

The recent Indo-China Standoff in 2020 has again brought up the harsh reality of India China relations when it comes to LAC. Soldiers of both India and China have been involved in clashes, and this again seems to be another flashpoint in South Asia.

Historical Background

India established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1950. Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong considered Tibet as a fundamental part of PRC. The previous government of the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-shek also viewed Tibet as Chinese territory, however, was impotent to re-assert control. Mao Zedong views Indian concern over Tibet as a demonstration of interference in the internal affairs of the PRC.

The PRC regain control over Tibet and in order to end Tibetan Buddhism as well as feudalism, which they did by armed force in 1950. To avoid alienation, Nehru briefed Chinese leaders that India had no territorial or political interests and not seek any special privileges in Tibet but traditional trading must continue. Tibetan delegates signed a treaty with Indian support in 1951 in which they recognized PRC’s sovereignty but undertaking that existing social and political system of Tibet would resume.

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Panchsheel Treaty Between India and China

China and India signed the Panchsheel Treaty in which there were Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence in April 1954. These principles are listed as:

  1. Mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of both countries
  2. Non-aggression by both countries
  3. Equality and mutual benefits
  4. Non-interference
  5. Peaceful co-existence

India issued new maps that contained the Aksai Chin region inside the boundaries of India. When India came to know that China built a road across the region, border confrontations and Indian protests turned out to be more perennial.

Source: BBC News

The people’s Republic of China accused India of imperialism and expansionism in Tibet and all over the Himalayan region. Border disputes arose and that resulted in a short border war between India and PRC in October 1962. India faced defeat as PRC pushed Indian forces to 48 km of Assam plains. It also established strategic points in the Demchok region of Ladakh and in Aksai Chin. Later in 1967 tensions raised as an outcome of Nathu La and Cho La conflicts and military statements at the Himalayan.

Relations deteriorated between India and PRC during the 1960s and early 1970s, at the same time Pakistan-China relations were improving and Sino-Soviet relations aggravated. PRC supported Pakistan and backed it in the 1965 war with India.

The all-weather road was built over territory professed by India between 1967 and 1971, linking the Xinjiang region with Pakistan. India could only protest. The PRC continued to campaign against India, supplied financially, ideological assistance to the dissident groups especially to the tribes in north-eastern India. The PRC charged with India of assisting Khampa rebels in Tibet. Colombo acted as a chief negotiator between the two countries and both accepted Sri Lanka’s proposals.

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Indian soldiers in 1984 began patrolling the Valley named Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh. This Chinese occupation surprised Indian troops and then India’s Chief of the Army Staff, General K. Sundarji airlifted brigade to region. In 1987, China’s reaction was almost identical to that in 1962. Many Western diplomats started predicting war. However, Foreign Minister of India N.D. Tiwari and PM Rajiv Gandhi arrived in Beijing to negotiate mutual de-escalation.

In 2009, Asian Development Bank formally acknowledged Arunachal Pradesh as part of India, an approved loan to it for development project over there. China pressurized on the bank to terminate the loan but India succeeded in acquiring the loan with the support of Japan and the United States. China expressed rancor at the Asian Development Bank.

India restates that they would not join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, stating that they cannot acknowledge a project that ignores concerns regarding its territorial integrity. Several disruptions have occurred due to China’s building of trade routes with Pakistan.

Tensions arose when Chinese troops began expanding an existing road southward in Doklam. This territory is declared by China and India’s ally Bhutan. In 2017, Indian troops with weapons and bulldozers came into Doklam to stop the Chinese construction. China charged with India of illegal intervention into its territory and violation of the UN Charter. However, both states agreed to disengage their troops and made a consensus to end the border stand-off.

In 2018, two countries agreed upon coordination in development in Afghanistan related to education, food security, and health.

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Recent Stand-off 2020

Why tensions have escalated?

Recently, China and India, both countries are engaged in border disputes again at Galwan Valley, Ladakh where India built a road. China professed Galwan River as a part of Chinese territory and the construction is against the Chinese interests. The clash formally began in the first week of May at certain locations along with Line of Actual Control (LAC). Another major reason is linked to India’s unilateral decision last year to revoke Article 370 of the constitution of India, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and a certain amount of autonomy and fundamental rights.

This special status was abolished by revoking Article 370. Jammu and Kashmir include disputed areas in the Ladakh zone. China had condemned and denounced India’s unilateral action at the United Nations Security Council last year. China contemplates the Ladakh region crucial for its access to Central Asian states and the CPEC project with Pakistan because they have invested billions of dollars in it.

Claims by each side

Calling it a “deliberate provocation” on India’s part, Chinese Spokesperson Zhao said: “The rights and wrongs are very clear and the responsibility rests entirely with the Indian side.”

China says that Galwan Valley completely falls under Chinese territory. Chinese Foreign Ministry spoke person Zhao Lijian said in a statement on Friday that “The Galwan Valley, which is part of the disputed Ladakh region, is located on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which is a de facto border between the two Asian rivals.”

India-China Border

India’s foreign ministry spoke person Anurag Srivastava responded and accused China for making “exaggerated and untenable claims” on the sovereignty of Galwan Valley.

Considering the situation, United States President offered mediation between China and India. China had rejected Trump’s offer to mediate saying that there was “no need for a third-party intervention.”

The June 15, 2020 event in disputed area of Galwan Valley, left twenty Indian soldiers dead as there was intense military standoff and buildup of troops. China has yet to formally announce its casualties. Meanwhile, Chinese army and Indian army also negotiating on LAC to alleviate the tensions.

Critical Analyses

The reaction of the public in India is increasing as the public is protesting and burning Chinese flags. Citizens and trade associations are calling out the Indian government to boycott Chinese products and goods. China is the biggest trading partner in India.  

In addition, India is a disagreement with their two neighbors – a long-standing rival Pakistan, and Nepal.

India and Nepal have enjoyed good relations in the past, but recently find themselves in what experts had called a “cartographic war over border regions.”

Recently, Nepal’s Parliament approved a new map for their country, which contains land influenced by India.

The major power on one hand, that is China in the region is against India. While on the other hand, other neighbors also disposed to India negatively. This is an utmost policy failure from India’s side.

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