Dark and light streaks in India-China relations

india china

  India and China, home to two of the world’s oldest civilizations, have had peaceful relations for thousands of years, but in modern times this relationship has evolved into a complex combination of co-operation and conflict, It is significantly influenced by the complexities arising  out of  their geographical proximity, historical heritage and present regional-geopolitics. After India gained independence from British rule in 1947 and the Communist Party of China emerged victorious and established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the relations between the two countries faced ups and downs periodically. Misunderstandings and mistrust creeped up preventing the resolution of some of the problems left over by history. The border dispute began as soon as China started to reunite all its territories into a republic and acted as would any sovereign power.

China could solve its border problems by negotiating with other neighbours. But with India it could not resolve them amicably through diplomatic channels. Even now, the india -China border is not yet fully demarcated.“China has borders with 14 nations, and except for India, it has resolved its disputes with all, including Russia. India has borders with six countries, and excluding Bhutan, it has disputes with all five.” Subramaniam Swamy, Ex-Union Minister summarised the issue 20 years ago. It remains the same even now. There was no reason for hostility but the harmony of the relationship between them has vanished. On the one hand, the two countries are developing economic cooperation with each other and on the other hand, there are frequent border disputes that prevent the development of good relations. There is some conflict between the two in international objectives and  strategies.  There is a kind of competition in giving aid and cooperation  with third countries. The influence of international situation and influence of the hegemo nic forces at that time also significantly influenced the relations between the two countries.  These influences became a major topic of discussion.

Historical Background: The Harappan culture spread from India to China as early as the 1st millennium BC. There are indications that the Indian sport of chaturanga may have reached China as early as the third century BC, from which Chinese chess emerged. The Indian epic Maha bharata of the 5th century B.C. contains references to the “Chinese Qin Kingdom”. Chanakya (350-283 BCE), the prime minister of the Maurya Empire, mentioned Chinese silk textiles in his Arthashastra.

Buddhism spread from India to China in the 1st century AD. Trade relations through the Silk Road served  to promote economic relations between the two regions. Many Indian scholars and monks travelled to China, for example, Bodhidharma, (464–495 A.D.), a prince of the Pallava dynasty   went to China  and founded Zen Buddhism. Many Chinese scholars and monks also visited India. Xuanzang  the author of “The Great Tang Records on the Western Regions” was a student of Nalanda university.The Cholas had strong trade relations with the Chinese Song Dynasty under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola. In the 8th century, an astronomical table written by Aryabhatta the Indian astronomer and mathematician (476–550) was compiled, translated and included into a Chinese astronomy and mathematics book during the Tang Dynasty in 718 AD. Chinese Admiral Zheng  during Ming Dynasty regime visited several Indian kingdoms and ports, including the Malabar coast, Bengal, Ceylon, the Persian Gulf  and Arabia with a range of seven naval forces. During his voyages he generously distributed Chinese silk, porcelain and other goods.

Bengal sent twelve diplomatic missions to Nanjing between 1405 and 1439. On the other hand, the ports of Mangalore, Honavar, Bhatkal, Barkur, Cochin, Kannanur,Machili patnam and Dharmadom provided safe harbors to traders coming from China. China took from Vizianagaram. Products such as jewellery, semi-precious stones, rhino horn, ebony, amber corals, cotton and spices were exported from Vijayanagar empire. Chinese techno logy was used for the production of sugar during Tipu sultan’s reign in Mysore. The sandalwood fromhere was exported to China. In the early 1780s, Tipu  was impressed  by the silk garments gifted to him by the Qing ambassador and  determined to introduce and produce it in his kingdom.

In the north, the Sikh Empire merged Ladakh with the state of Jammu in 1834. In 1841, they occupied parts of western Tibet. Chinese troops defeated the Sikh army in December 1841, entered Ladakh and laid siege to Leh. During this time, as the Sikhs were caught in tensions with the British, and  Chinese were in the midst of the first opium war, neither side was willing to continue the conflict. In September 1842, the two sides signed an agreement. This has prevented violations or interference within the borders of the other country. Throughout this period, the Silk Road not only served as a major trade route between India and China, but also contributed to the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia.Such a strong cordial bond existed between India and China from ancient times

The British Raj: After the entry of the British imperialists in Asia and India the situation changed. As a processes of expansion of their business, empire and authority, the British provoked numerous conflicts and regional wars between the ethnic groups and kingdoms. They took side of a section, widened the divisions between the tribes, created instability and changed the rulers as per their need and advantage.The East India Comp any exported the opium grown in India to China and turned them into opium addicts. Later the British fought two opium wars against China using Indian soldiers [sepoys] in the British Indian army. Indian sepoys were also used in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During The Second World War, both India and China played a key role in defeating the aggression of the Japanese Empire.

Republic of China: The struggles of the Chinese people against monarchy resulted in the emergence of the Republic of China in 1912. Its founding president, Sun Yat-sen,  [1866-1925] regarded India as a fellow Asian country subjected to harsh Western exploitation. He often called for a Pan-Asian United Front against unjust imperialism. In his speech in 1921, Sun said: “Indians have long been oppressed by the British. Now they have responded with a change in their revolutionary thoughts. There has been progress in their revolutionary spirit and they can no longer be subjugated by Britain.”  Noble Lauriat Rabindranath Tagore visited several major Chinese cities, to promote world peace through traditional spirituality in 1924. He reminded them through his lectures about Asian values. Sun Yat-sen invited him to Canton. Jawaharlal Nehru visited China in 1939 as guest of honour of the ROC government. He felt that India and China were “brotherly countries from the beginning of history” and that their “old friendship needed to be transformed into a new friendship of two countries that love freedom”. A team of Dwarkanath Kotnis and four other Indian doctors went to China in 1938 to provide medical assistance to people and red army which had been battered by the war in the fight against Japan’s expansion in Southeast Asia,

The Chiang Kai-shek, the president of ROC from 1928 along with his wife visited British India in 1942 and met Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The Chiangs were committed to support the Indian independence movement, and Mrs Soong Mei ling Chiang wrote later to Nehru: “We will do everything that we can, to help you gain freedom and independence. Our hearts are drawn towards you,  and with our visit the bond of affection between you and us has been strengthened…. When you’re depressed, when you’re tired… Remember that you are not alone in your struggle, because we are always with you whole heartedly.” The Chiangs sought the help of US President Franklin Roosevelt to convince Winston Churchill to grant independence to India during the war. Roosevelt suggested that india’s territory should be divided into two, while Chiang advised Roosevelt that the best course of action would be to “restore complete independence” to India.

After India’s independence: After India’s independence in1947,diplomatic relations with the ROC were established. On 1st October 1949, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army defeated the Kuomintang (ROC ruling party) in the Chinese revoluyionary  Civil War and established the People’s Republic of China [PRC]. On January 26, 1950, India became a democratic republic and recognised PRC. India was one of the first non-communist countries to recognize the PRC as the only legitimate government representing both China and Taiwan.

India and China are the two major regional powers in Asia, the two most populous countries, and gradually they emerged as the fastest growing major economies in the world. The raise in their diplomatic and economic influence increased the importance of their bilateral relations, but they failed to resolve their border issue. Contemporary India-China relations are riddled with border disputes.This has resulted in three major military conflicts-the Indo-China War in 1962, the border clashes in Nathu La and Chola in 1967,  and the Sumdorang Chu standoff in 1987 were noted significantly.

In 1950s, relations between India and people’s China began on a promising and harmo nious note. Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai [“Indians and Chinese are brothers”] was the basis for the relation. The allies of India and China formed India China Friendship Association [ICFA] in 1951at Calcutta in February and at Mumbai in May.’Ahmed Abbas, Mulkaraj Anand, R.K.Karanjia and G.P. Hathi Singh went as an unofficial delegation and partici pated in the National Day of China and toured there for six weeks.

On May 16, 1952, the China-India Friendship Association was established in Beijing. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence proposed by The Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Enlai were signed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in April 1954. In October 1954, China and India signed a treaty on Tibet through which India recognized Tibet as part of China as indisputable. China agreed to the continuation of previous trade arrangements. An attempt was made to restore the direct proximity between the people of China and India in culture and literature. The Indian painter Beohar Ram Manohar Sinha  was sent to China on a government of India fellowship in 1957 to establish a cross-cultural and inter-civilization bridge. Eminent Indian scholar Rahul Sankrityayan, diplomat Natwar Singh and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan visited the PRC.

Border disputes: In 1954, India published new maps showing its borders including many undefined, undemarcated areas as its territories without any agreement with China. This was not accepted by China. There were [and still continuing]  two major territorial disputes between India and China. The McMahon Line, a fictitious line extending from Bhutan in the west to Myanmar in the east is said to have determined the border between  the then British India and Tibet. But now that Tibet is an integral part of China, our government says that the line is the border between China and India. China claims that the line has never been recognized by them as a border and that it was unilaterally imposed by Britain in the Simla Convention of 1914.

In the western sector, the Aksai Chin Plateau was shown in the indian territory inherited from the British Raj, so the Indian government argues that it belongs to us. China claims that geographically and historically it was part of the Chinese state. Chinese maps show it as Chinese territory since the 1940s. India registered a nominal protest in 1956 when it realises that china has been building a road through this region.  Does not this mean that the area had been under Chinese control earlier to 1962 war.

In a letter to Nehru in January 1959 PRC Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, clearly stated that the McMahon Line, defined by the 1914 Simla Convention, was not legally accepted by any government in China. In March 1959, when the Tibetan spiritual head, the Dalai Lama, fled Tibet, India gave shelter to his group as refugees. Relations between India and China deteriorated further after India granted asylum to Dalai Lama. India has moved further its posts step by step. This is what historians have analysed as the “forward policy ” of Nehru. The PRC accused India of acting as a threat to its sovereignty in Tibet and the Himalayan region and that India was pursuing expansionism.During this time, both the United States in the name of anti-communism and Soviet Russia, which was at loggerheads with China, supported India and encouraged a war.

The border disputes led to a war between the People’s Republic of China and India on October 20, 1962. The border clash led to India’s defeat as the PRC pushed the advancing Indian troops to 48 km down from the area which they claim as  their land. But  China unilaterally announced a ceasefire on November 21, even though it was at an  advantageous position militarily and withdrew its military to about 20kms on their side from LAC. Both the countries have agreed to the proposals of Srilanka for de-escalation and restoration of peace at the boarders. After the 1962 war, relations between the PRC and India deteriorated completely, ambassadors were withdrawn. Sino-Soviet relations also deteriorated, and Sino-Pakistani relations improved.

In 1965, the PRC supported Pakistan in its war with India. In late 1967, there were two more clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the disputed border in Sikkim, known as the Nathu La and Cho La clashes. Between 1967-1971, the PRC constructed  a road through the Aksai Chin territory under their control to connect their Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region to Pakistan. India perceives it as unlawful and unjustified and this remained as a constant irritant in the relations.In addition India has accused China of  providing ideological, economic and other assistance to tribals and dissident groups in northeast India,fuelling anti-India sentiment among them and instilling unrest in the border areas. Both the accusations created a very strong ill feeling against China among many Indians and it was hyped periodically by Indian rulers.

In August 1971,India signed an agreement of peace, friendship and  cooperation with the Soviet Union. In December 1971, India got involved in the conflict between East and West Pakistan and played a key role in the creation of Bangladesh severing the Pakistan.The PRC strongly condemned India for this interference and indirectly threatened to intervene on behalf of Pakistan. In October 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China in the United Nations. There PRC denounced India as a “tool of Soviet expan sionism”. It is well-known that throughout this period, India was steeped in the soviet settlement while claiming to be non-aligned. There was no ray of anyimprovement of relations with China

The Janata Party came to power after Indira Congress that  imposed a state of emergen cy in 1975,was defeated in the 1977elections. It started restoring India-PRC relations with Morarji Desai as prime minister. Ofcourse, the two countries resumed their envoys in 1976. Mr. KR Narayanan, who later became president of India was sent as ambassador to China then. In 1978, the then Indian Foreign Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a historic visit to Beijing. This prompted the two countries to formally restore full scale diplomatic relations in 1979. The two countries hosted each other. Mount Kailash and Mansarovar Lake in Tibet, a home to Hindu deities, have been opened for annual pilgrima ges.The two countries have restructured diplomatic and economic relations.Indira Gandhi, who took office again [1980-84], approved a plan in 1980 itself  to increase the deploy ment of troops along the Line of Actual Control. India undertook the development of infrastructure in the disputed areas.

During that time there were many attempts from Chinese side not to lose momentum of good relations again. In 1981 the Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Huang Hua, made a historic visit to New Delhi. As a continuation from December 1981 to November 1987, India and the PRC held eight rounds of border talks.The PRC put forward its “package proposal” and suggested improving relations with mutual adjust ments  and  concessions, which India rejected  saying there were no specific rules in the proposal. This reminded the Nehruvian policy which did not agree for the proposals of “give and take and settle the issue”by Mr.Zhou En Lai earlier.That was described by many scholars and diplomats, as a golden opportunity missed by India for settlement of border

In February 1987, India granted statehood to Arunachal Pradesh a disputed region, which was formerly treated as the North East Frontier Agency [NEFA] and deployed armed forces there.The PRC treats it as south Tibet and hence as its territory. So,China opposed the conversion of the disputed area into an Indian state. it is not accepting India’s claim over Arunachalpradesh. That’s why till now, it has been issuing only staple visas and not stamped visas for people from so called Arunachal Pradesh. This is its declared policy and is followed regularly. Indian government treats it as a security question and rakes high emotional tensions against China in Arunachal Pradesh whenever a visa is issued in this form. The latest issue of three wushu players from Arunachal Pradesh getting  ‘stapled visas’ by the Chinese embassy ahead of the World University Games in Chengdu and India rejecting it made the players not to participate in games. Of course, this is not first time it has happened. China is issuing stapled visas from 2009 for people from Arunachal Pradesh.  No solution is worked out for this issue.

Indian External Affairs Minister N.D. Tiwari and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Beijing in December 1988 and held talks to de-escalate mutual tensions. With Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China, the two sides issued a joint statement emphasizing the need to restore friendly relations on the basis of Panchsheel. A fair and reasonable solution to seek a mutually acceptable solution to the boundary dispute was stressed. Both agreed to set up a joint working group on the boundary issue. Few bilateral agreements on scientific and technical cooperation, direct air travel, communications and cultural exchanges were signed. This supports the attitude that relations must be improved inspite of border issue.

High-level discussions continued with the visit of PRC Prime Minister Li Peng to India in 1991December and the visit of Indian President R. Venkata Raman to China in May 1992. The India-China Joint Working Group on the boundary question held six rounds of discussions from December 1988 to June 1993. Progress has been made in de-esca lating tensions along the border through exchange of prior information about military exercises. Consulates in Mumbai and Shanghai  were reopened in December 1992 after the july 1992 visit of Sharad Pawar, the first Indian defence minister to visit Beijing.

In September 1993, Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao and Chinese Premier Li Peng signed the Boundary Agreement on maintaining peace and tranquillity at the borders, cooperation on cross-border trade and environmental issues, radio and television broad casting, ensuring confidence-building measures, reduction of armed forces along the Line of Actual Control. The talks were held in New Delhi in February to discuss advance information about the upcoming military exercises. In 1995, an agreement was reached to set up two additional contact points along the border to facilitate meetings between military personnel, after discussion by a group of Experts from India and China. Both sides were seriously involved in preventing aerial intrusions. These talks further eased the tensions.

Meanwhile, In 1998, India conducted a nuclear test. In that context, Defence Minister George Fernandes declared that “in my opinion on national security, China is the enemy No.1.” He claimed that India had developed nuclear weapons against China’s nuclear weapons.Hence, China criticized India’s nuclear tests and again some unwarranted irksomeness erupted between both but the dialogue continued. In 2003, China officially recognized India’s sovereignty over Sikkim. China took the decision thinking that the goodwill action would facilitate resolving the border issue.

2004 was a milestone in Sino-Indian bilateral trade, which for the first time exceeded the $10 billion mark. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set a target of increasing India China bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015. Wen visited Bangalore with a group of hi-tech entrepreneurs and noted that the 21st century would be an Asian century, opening up avenues for cooperation in high-tech industries. In 2005, China and India signed a ‘Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity’. However, the strategic coordination between the two countries is very low in practise and high on papers.China was given observer status at the 2005 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit. While other countries in the region were willing to consider China for permanent membership of the SAARC, India has expressed reluctance.

On the other hand in 2006, after 44 years India and China reopened a way  for trade and human traffic at Nathu La, which was earlier part of the Silk Route. The move was intended to boost the region’s economy and play a key role in growing Sino-Indian trade. Between 2008-2021, China became India’s largest trading partner.Trade between them had been gradually expanding despite an argument that the trade deficit in India is high and that it is beneficial to China.

In January 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited China to discuss trade, defence, military and other issues. At the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited India from December 15 to 17, 2010. During the visit, Premier Wen Jiabao reminded that “India and China are two highly populated countries with ancient civilizations and the friendship between the two countries has a 2,000-year-old history of friendship”.

In April 2011, at the BRICS summit held in China, the two countries agreed to resume defence cooperation. At the BRICS summit in New Delhi in March 2012, Chinese Communist Party General Secretary and Chinese President Hu Jintao had said that “china’s undisputed policy is to enhance China-India friendship, enhance strategic cooperation and seek joint development”. In April 2012, in response to India’s test firing of the Agni-5 missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Beijing, the PRC appealed to “maintain the pace of hard-earned cooperation and not resort to actions that would hinder it”.

The 2013 standoff in the Depsang area lasted for three weeks, then eased on May 5,2013. A few days earlier to this clash, the US announced its Indo-Pacific region strategy and stated that China should be encircled from all sides to contain it and it is India‘s duty to irritate China from Himalayan side. This entrusted duty on india was the  hidden reason for Depsang standoff. It was resolved only after India agreed to demolish the ‘live-in bunkers’ on its side, China too agreed to withdraw its troops. In late November 2013, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visited Arunachal Pradesh and in his speech he said that the region was “an integral and important part of India” and it angered the Chinese side.

After Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India in 2014, Xi jinping visited Ahmadabad and New Delhi In September 2014, the Chinese President and the Indian Prime Minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in New Delhi on the opening of a new route for India’s pilgrimage (Kailash Mansarovar Yatra) to theTibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. In a joint statement issued on 19 September, at the end of Xi’s three-day visit declared that both are committed to a new partnership and make this developmental partnership a core component of the Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity”.

But India remained away from the road and belt initiative proposed by China, an infrastructural development programme and a cultural connecting bridge fanning through roads and marine routes up to Afican continent. There is China Pakistan economic corridor [CPEC] was also a part of that programme. India opposed it citing the question of India’s security.

Displeasures and differences have increased again between the two countries. Else  where US was redoubling its attempts to stall progress of China in trade and international affairs by fostering groups against China. India has been getting closer to the US, Japan and Australia since Modi came to power but not severing from China.India has been trying to seize the opportunity of strategic competition between China and the US and become a major power by itself.  USA for the present is promoting India as a contender to China and Indian ruling class is prepared to be a “pawn” in the US strategy if it contains China and establishes India’s authority in Asia.

On June 16, 2017, Chinese troops started extending the existing road in Doklam towards the south in their territory and on June 18,around 270 Indian soldiers entered Doklam with weapons and two bulldozers to prevent Chinese troops from constructing the road  accusing that it is posing a threat to India’s security. China alleged that India had illegally intruded into its territory.India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj stressed that if China unilaterally alters the status quo of the tri-junction point between China-India and Bhutan, it will become a challenge to India’s security.

In fact, a process of demarcating the boundary between China and Bhutan had been initiated earlier but got stuck up. Bhutan had clarified that it would sort it out with China and bilateral discussions were underway. This independent stand of Bhutan irked India that felt it was its prerogative and interfered without any provocation. China said  “India has no right to interfere in or impede the boundary talks between China and Bhutan.” On August 2, 2017, The Chinese Foreign Ministry has published a document stating that Indian border troops have illegally crossed the border and demanded that India must withdraw The document also stated that China had informed India in advance of its plan to build the road” as a reflection of China’s goodwill”. On August 28, China and India reached a consensus to end the border standoff.  In 2018 Modi and  Xi Jinping met in China’s city Wuhan for two days and both tried to mend the ways to restore and improve relations. As a mark of their cooperation the two countries agreed to coordinate their development programmes in Afghanistan in the areas of health, education and food security. Although coordination has been achieved in certain programmes, there are still differences on many issues. It is a riddle that both countries cooperate on international, third party schemes also at times  and again fall apart even in bilateral issues.

It seems as if their relation build up and trust making are going one step forward and two steps back wards without making real progress. Despite so many principled steps from China and positive responses from India, both are miles away from solutions regarding their interrelationship.A conflict of purposes and advantages is playing a key role. It is evident that USA is conducting a tirade of anti-China programmes not to lose its influence and hegemony over the world, and India is slowly walking into the fold of US to raise its own position as a super power in the Asian region. This desire forces Indian rulers to stand against China. This mindset is influencing the relations to a large extent.

In 2019, India reiterated that it would not join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, saying it would not accept a project that would pose a concern to India’s territorial integrity. On October 11, 2019, President Xi Jinping met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Mahabali puram in Tamil Nadu for the second informal meeting. He also announced that the relations between the two countries should be given a new lease of life with new trends in trade. Between 2014 and 2019, Modi and Xi met 18 times. While they appear interested in solving their problems, the contradictory understandings between the two remain far from consensus.

During COVID-19 pandemic, India offered assistance to China initially and Chinese Foreign Ministry said “We thank and appreciate India’s support for China’s fight against the NCP (Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia). India’s acts of goodwill fully demonstrate its friendship with China”. China was one of the first nations to offer help to India during 2nd covid wave and exported one lakh oxygen concentrators, 80000 ventilators,and 10 crore masks by May 2020. Most of the goods were sent to hospitals, local governments and relief agencies. Inspite of this assistance Indian government rejected China’s offer  to provide public health and financial assistance in later stages and took part in an anti-China campaign along with the US. The people were made to belive that China may unleash another biological weapon against india through its exports and so india should not accept any medicines, equipment or vaccines from China

India inaugurated the 255km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road, built along the LAC, in 2019.China objected the road seeing it as a threat to its interests in the region. Another major deterrent was India’s unilateral move in August 2019 to repeal Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which gave a autonomous state to the former Jammu and Kashmir state, by this the state was divided and was brought under central rule including the disputed areas in Ladakh region. China saw India’s move as unilaterally affecting its territory and strongly denounced the move at the UN Security Council.

Since the summer of 2020, armed standoffs and clashes have escalated at several places along the entire India-China border. On May 10, 2020, 11 soldiers were injured when Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed at Nathu La in Sikkim. Following the clashes in Sikkim, tensions escalated between the two countries in Ladakh. The troops have been engaged in the standoff at several points along the 3,500km LAC, most of which remains undemarcated. On the night of June 15/16; 20 Indian soldiers and some PLA soldiers lost their life in the physical assault and face off combat. Bilateral agreements have banned carrying guns and opening fire at the LAC which was followed by both sides. But Guns rang as warning bells in these clashes for the first time after four decades

PM Modi said that the sacrifice of our soldiers will not go in vain. The Indian Foreign Minister told the Chinese foreign minister that China’s actions in Galwan were pre-emptive and that the dispute was triggered after “the Chinese side sought to erect a structure in Galwan valley on our side of the LAC”. Later Modi said in a televised speech that “Nobody has intruded into our border, neither is anybody there now, nor have our posts been captured,” adding that “India today has such capability that no one can even dare to look towards “an inch of our land.“ The actual situation was  unveiled clearly in an unwitting confession by General V.K. Singh [the Retd 24th Army Chief and current Union Minister] when he said “ With China our border has never been demarcated. Over a period of time, there have been transgressions where China says this is my perception of the Line of Actual Control. Similarly, none of you come to know how many times we have transgressed that as per our perception. We don’t announce it, Chinese media doesn’t cover it, right. But let me assure you, if China has transgressed ten times, we must have done it at least 50 times, as per our perception.” He also added that Galvan clashes took place after a mysterious fire in a chinese tent at LAC”. Even Rajnath Singh,the defence minister said several times that both countries have different perceptions on the actual line of controle and try to protect the land as per their perception. Jaishankar minister of foreign affairs later said that “ the India-China position is “very complicated.” He also said that normally, the army is not deployed at LOC but after 2020, it was changed and both sides have done “forward deployment.””We have to resolve this forward deployment issue,” he added. It is clear that India and China must find a way to step back from potential confrontation in the western Himalayas.  “The right and wrong is very clear and the responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said. Does this mean that our soldiers have entered the land of China? Most of the times the leaders of  opposition and official party alike make announcements which  are jingoistic, to spin the pseudo nationalistic and patriotic feelings but not to tell the truth.

After the Galwan Valley clash, the Confederation of All India Traders, has called for a boycott of Chinese goods. It was echoed across India by other sections also. The Indian government on June 29 banned 59 widely used Chinese mobile phone apps. Cancelled trade agreements in railways, took steps to prevent FDI and capital import from China. On August 19, The Times of India reported that the Ministry of External Affairs of India had said that visas granted to Chinese businessmen, academics, industry experts and advocacy groups required prior security clearance. Thus, a diplomatic dispute entered the relations and there are no visa issues to tourists even now. In this dark ness Only few sane voices, few diplomats and retired army personal are warning that the nation must be told about the true nature of border disputes and people must be prepared for an amicable settlement without undue emotional charging. They rightly quote Modi “it is not an era of wars,“  and request him to extend  this precept to China and Pakistan also  and settle the problems with political will. Some of them suggest that a strong leader like Modi only can put the derailed train on track. But he is thinking in other way.

On 27th October 2020, India signed a cooperation agreement with the United States for information-sharing and defence cooperation to counter China’s military might. After Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in 2022 which attracted worldwide attention and reaction and was condemned widely as America’s intervention in the internal matters of China, India’s Ministry of External Affairs responded by saying to “avoid unilateral actions to change the status quo, reduce tensions and make efforts to maintain peace and stability” but did not utter a word to the effect that Taiwan is a part of the Chinese state. The recognition of “One China” is the basis for china to establish diplomatic relations with anyone. India was one of the first states to recognise this but did not reiterate the”One China”policy since 2010.

Since September 2022, India and China have started withdrawing their troops from the point of conflict along the Line of Actual Control. However, the situation at the Line of Actual Control is not yet normal. Modi and Xi spoke at the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 25, 2023. They are said to have shared opinions. While Xi jinping stated that improving Sino-Indian relations would serve the common interests of both countries and the people, Modi is reported to have stressed on maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas during the meeting. LAC is very important to be respected. The border tensions have often led to military stand offs and have had a wide-ranging impact on bilateral relations. There is still a lot of work to be done towards improving bilateral relations between the two countries.

Some additional factors of dispute

The Tibet issue: China regards Tibet as an indivisible part of the territory of its kingdom. Historically Tibet was a part of Qing dynasty kingdom from 1720. The territorial integrity of the lands of the five races, Manchu, Han, Mongol, Hui, and Tibetan into one great Republic of China was continued. The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China adopted in 1912 specifically established frontier regions of the new republic, including Tibet, as integral parts of the state.

After the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, some areas comprising the present-day Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) became a de facto independent from the rest of the Republic of China under Tibetan government control by 1917. Some areas with high ethnic Tibetan populations remained under the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) or local warlord control. The Government of the Republic of China, led by Chiang Kai-shek, referred to Tibet as the territory of China. However, he was unable to gain control of the region. The PRC restored control over Tibet in the 1950s and ended the feudal domination there. At that time, the Nehru govern ment clarified that there are no political aspirations for India in Tibet. The Chinese leaders were informed that India did not want special powers in Tibet, but their traditional trade rights should continue. Tibetan representatives signed an agreement in May1951 recognising the sovereignty of the PRC. But since the 1913 Simla Agreement, the British government has been arguing that China has suzerainty [ protectorate] power over Tibet but not sovereignty power. However, on October 29, 2008, Britain amended this view.  The Foreign Office officials said that “As far as Britain is concerned, ‘Tibet is part of China. Full stop.” This factor calls into question India’s argument of its right over the north-eastern territories. India’s claims were based on Britain’s earlier stance on Tibet’s sovereignty. They have been thrown into a dilemma with this. Today Tibet internationally is recognised as part of China. it is not listed by UNO   in 2008 list of territories to be decolonised. Ignoring all this history, the Indian media portrays China as an aggressor over Tibet and criticises China whenever they need it. China is totally opposed to this attitude.

Military Exercises: China and India are conducting joint military exercises titled ‘Exercise Hand-in-Hand’.The exercise was started in 2007. The second, third, fifth and seventh editions of the hand-in-hand were held in China in 2008, 2013, 2015 and2018 respectively, while the fourth, sixth and eighth editions were held in India in 2014,2016 and2019 respec ively. These joint exercises  created a sense of trust and transparency between the two. But the bilateral military exercises between India and China came to a halt after2019. In turn, the exercises with the Quad countries are continuing.This step indicates not only deteriorating relation with China but also the improving ties with Quad. In a bid to strengthen the ties with its western political allies the so called Democratic group, India has also strengthened the”Look East” policy, and was converted into an “Act East” policy under the Modi regime. Such geo-connectivity measures are a part of the western strategy to improve relations with the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and such other countries and portray India as a strong competitor to China.

Conflict of interests: Some issues from the outset have hindered the reconciliation between the two countries. Iindia’s constant accusations that China is funding separatist groups in northeast India and trying to destabilise India is totally slanderous China feels. China’s strong strategic bilateral relations with Pakistan, adds to India’s hostility towards China. India’s hostage for anti-China activities from Tibetan exiles and Dalai lama is a constant Irritant to china. India’s military and economic activities in the South China Sea, and India’s support to US efforts to trap China in the Asia-Pacific region are not compatible with  friendship, China condemns. There are also many differences in the  world vision. They cumulatively act as hindrance to the attainment of harmony between the two. Not only that, the South Asian region today became the main stage for the ongoing competition between China and India.

Tripartite and multilateral relations: India-China relations are being influenced not only by their bilateral issues but also by their other relations. United States and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) have an important role to play in the developments of China-India relations. Japan is also part of Sino-Indian relations with programs such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue [Quad].In the wake of the 2017 Doklam standoff and the 2020 Galwan Valley clashes, the US-based think tank [Centre for Foreign Relations] explained that quad activities have increased significantly. Since 2020, beyond the group’s regional cooperation four navies have conducted their first joint exercises in November 2020.

The China-Nepal-India Economic Corridor (CNIEC) was proposed by China in April 2018.This is an extension of the China-Nepal trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network that India has accepted. While China and Nepal have expressed positive responses to the CNIEC, India has been indifferent. This is because India thinks that CNIEC will end India’s monopoly on Nepal’s transport points.

The Middle East, Latin America and Africa are the competing regions for both countries. The Middle East is important for both countries in terms of energy security and fuel source.In Africa,China and India are engaged in a wide range from development to peace keeping. In South Asia and Southeast Asia, China is challenged by India .The balance of power between India and  China  is visible in these triangular relations.

India, the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union on 9th September 2023on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi signed a MoU( a Memorandum of Understanding) to establish the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.”This is largely seen as a plan of USA to compete BRI of China, india which opposes BRI  now becomes a partner in new  scheme.

China is proceeding with new initiatives and thoughts for establishing a new world order in place of the present order of exploitation and hegemony. Xi jinpimg first outlined at the UN in 2021 the Global Development Initiative (GDI), to usurp the international dialogue on the global development agenda.In April 2022 he proposed and further articulated in a February 2023 a concept paper, of the Global Security Initiative (GSI). the GSI is a manifesto for an alternative system to the current “rules-based” international order led by the US and its partners. These initiatives are an attempt to present a more comprehen sive vision of a new world order and formulate the ideological backbone for a global governance system. Xi Jinping, in High-Level Meeting in Beijing of World Political Parties  in march 2023 proposed the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI).Xi stressed that tolerance, coexistence, exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations play an irreplaceable role in advancing humanity’s modernization process and making the garden of world civilization flourish, as the future of all countries is closely connected nowadays. US policymakers, European and Indo-Pacific partners have to understand these crucial features of Chinese new initiatives which benefit the world and mend their ways instead of rising competition.

The BJP regime is not responding to such new initiatives  with responsibility or positive vision due to its apprehension and preconceived prejudices. It has not only continued the diplomatic attitudes of the Indian Congress regime but also more strongly strengthened its strategic partnership with the United States. they use mass media, sporting events, and scientific breakthroughs to raise the pitch of collective emotion and project the image of a united and resurgent people. The people who want to catch up with the West in development and are dissatisfied with the present development are made to feel superior to west in the realm of culture and philosophy. Invoking their great ethnic or racial past they sought grandeur.“Bharat, the Mother of Democracy,”a book was presented by Modi ’s government to visiting dignitaries at the recent G-20 meet to project India as a “Vishwa guru”. The book promotes the ancient Hindu sages and kings as apostils of equality, inclusivity, and harmony and the present clan of rulers as heirs to distinguished ancient civilization.

Opposing China was made as a symbol of patriotism. Jingoistic overtones became the order of the day. Home Minister Amit Shah declares in parliament that “PoK is ours,Aksai chin is ours, they are part of JK, we will get them, and you will see this in future”  during the debate on re-organization of JK, repealing Art 370 in August 2019. Leaders like Rahul Gandhi are proving their patriotism by abusing China louder than Modi and accusing Modi as soft and timid in fighting China. Rahul Gandhi contends that “the (indian) government was sleeping while China was preparing for war”. In these dramatic demonstrations, fact, friendship, reason and logic are being sacrificed. Our ruling parties seem to think that it is better to maintain hostility towards China and to follow America’s footsteps without attempting any solution for mutual problems.

Economic relations: Economic relations between the two countries have grown despite political and strategic differences. Centralized efforts have been made such as the “Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement” to institutionalise India-China economic relations. China is now India’s largest trading partner. Growing Chinese investments in so-called  security fields  are seen as suspicious in India.

In 2007, Tarun Khanna wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “The simplest, and most powerful way to combine China and India, is to focus on hardware in China and software in India.” In the 2009 book “Getting China and India Right”,  the authors suggested a “China plus India” strategy to reduce the size of India-China, complementary strengths, and the risk of unilateralism, but in the name of national security and defence, we are alienating some  companies.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s crucial visit to China in May 2015. at the India-China Business Forum in Shanghai, “building 50 million homes by 2022”, “developing smart cities and mega industrial corridors”, refining the FDI policy and modernising railway systems together will be taken up”,  he said. Bilateral trade reached $89.6 billion in 2017-18. In 2017, the volume of trade stood at $84.5 billion. [India and Hong Kong had  another USD 34 billion trade in the same period. ] The Commerce Ministry said India imported goods worth $65.3 billion from China and exported $16.6 billion in the fiscal year ended March 2020. But contrary to previous cooperation promises in 2020, Modi imposed a ban on imports of Chinese products.The Modi government has formulated a phased manufacturing programme to promote India-based cellphone assembly and manufacturing.  According to a 2021 survey published by ThePrint, 43% of Indians  have not purchased ‘Made in China’  products after the Galwan clash. But things are changing rapidly. In this era of globalization, connectivity between economies has become inevitable. Development is not possible without regard to others. In 2022, the total value of trade with China is $135 billion.In the first half of 2023 itself imports from China reached  $ 66 billion.China tops the list of Indian imports  with a share of  16% followed by the US with 6% of total  imports. Due to international sanctions on Russia after the war in Ukraine, Indian oil refineries are using the Chinese yuan to pay for Russian oil imports as an alternative to the US dollar.

As emerging powers, India and China have often collaborated on global issues such as climate change, trade negotiations, and reforms in international institutions. Forums such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation have paved the way for such cooperation, but their differing stance on other issues such as terrorism and security  indicates the complexities involved.

Let us recall the agreement and common understanding between external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on 11 th September 2022 that “our troops should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions”. Their agreement indicated an accomplishment of not just bilateral diplomatic reflexes but of practical intelligence. The 19th round of China-India Commander-level meeting, held on 13&14 August 2023, is a sign of progress in Sino-Indian relations. The military talks were conducted just 10days ahead of the BRICS summit in South Africa which both PM Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping are scheduled to attend. This round of talks concluded with a joint statement saying “India and China agreed to resolve the remaining issues in an expeditious manner and maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations through military and diplomatic channels”, “In the interim, the two sides agreed to maintain the peace and tranquillity on the ground in the border areas,”

Rumours were spread that there would not be any exchange between Modi and Xi at BRICKS summit. But fruitful dialogue took place between them. The west is playing a mind game and taking care that India and China do not come near to an accord. The Western game is to mock at BRICS as an inconsequential club but now against their wish the pendulum of BRICS has swung to the other way and accelerating toward a “de-dollarisation” process. In this situation “India became a beacon of hope for the Western media as a potential dissenter who might derail the process”. India is treated by many as a “reluctant BRICS traveller”. This is at a time when the United States’ morbid fear of being overtaken by China has peaked that the global hegemony of the West will be buried and wants India to prove its sub servient nature to US. It is to be decided by India now which way it wants to travel.

The meeting between Modi and Xi was held on the sidelines of the BRICS summit on Aug 23,2023. Mr. Xi stressed that improving China-India relations would serve the common interests of both count ries and peoples and that it would contribute to peace, stability and development in the world and the region. Both sides should keep in mind the overall interests of their bilateral relations. He said that the border issue should be properly viewed so that peace and tranquillity in the border area can be jointly maintained. PM Modi highlighted India’s concerns on the unresolved issues along the LAC in the western sector of the India-China border areas. Mr. Modi had underlined that the “maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas and observing and respecting the LAC are essential for the normalisation of the India-China relationship.” As per the Indian foreign secretary’s briefing to press PM Modi and President Xi agreed to direct their relevant officials to intensify efforts at “expeditious disengagement and de-escalation” of tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Shortly after this the media engaged in anti-China propaganda with a violent disinformation and misinterpretation to tarnish the cordiality.

On August 28, China’s Ministry of Natural Resources, released its 2023 edition of its “standard map”, that included Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin region, Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea, and stated that “This map is compiled based on the drawing method of national boundaries of China and various countries in the world.” US is building an Indo-Pacific Alliance, an Asian NATO, against China. That is the international context of the Chinese map. Indian reporters twisted it as if China claimed Indian territories freshly and there was a big furore, and diplomatic protests. China on Aug 30 clarified: “The release of the 2023 edition of the standard map of China is the country’s normal exercise of sovereignty in accordance with the law. It’s hoped that relevant parties will treat it objectively and not over-interpret it,”

Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar also said: “It is not something which is new. It started in the 1950s. I think this doesn’t change anything.” China reiterated its claim in a routine exercise. India also condemns and protests it for diplomatic record as usual.

On31Aug,2023- US, Indonesia and five other countries including UK and France, commenced a massive, two-week long, military exercises [Super Garuda Shield 2023] on Java island. Commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, Gen. Charles Flynn, said the 19 nations involved in the training are a powerful demonstration of multilateral solidarity to safeguard a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” China envisions them as a threat, accuses the US is building an Indo-Pacific Alliance similar to NATO. US magazine TIME reported “US is beefing up alliances across Asia” so as to contain China. India is participating as an observer in the US plus 18exercise. Our media which magnifies and distorts every incident to spread hatred and enmity against China would not show any concern about such military exercises and presence of warmonger US in this area is not treated as a threat.

Conclusion: India-China relations are a mixture of competition and cooperation. The complexities of this relationship are based on the geopolitical aspirations and regional mobility of the two countries. While the mutual economic need provides a platform for friendship, unresolved border issues and strategic mistrust pose significant challenges. It wants to expand the area. The neighbouring countries are in favour of China, which is supporting them in every possible way. In terms of diplomacy, India is second only here. As the world enters a growing phase of multi- lateralism, the trajectory of India-China relations will have significant implications not only on the region but also on the wider global system. Therefore, it is  important for the two countries to engage in constructive discussions, resolve their differences and explore areas of common interest. However, China is inclined towards continuing friendly cooperation without stopping until the border issue is rationally resolved. However, India has maintained that normal relations will not be possible until the border issue is resolved. It is linking the border dispute with other issues. This attitude is jeopardising the relations between the two countries. It requires political will and trust to resolve amicably the boarder issue. Otherwise, any number of talks will be futile

As soon as the time comes for a bit of rapprochement with China, or a little progress is made  in the negotiations, the anti-China propaganda in the country gets unfolded, some incidents at borders are reported  thereby inciting national frenzy.  Could it be only a pure coincidence? On the one hand, India trades with China at a tune of $135 billion annually, and on the other hand, China’s initiatives in multilateral cooperation mechanisms such as BRICS and SCO  are hampered. How is it possible to embrace the US and its allys  on the one hand which implement plans to contain China, and on the other hand proclaiming as voice of global South which is consolidating in alliances such as  BRICS,  to oppose US hegemony? What is aimed at being in the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organi sation on one side and simultaeniously join the US led QUAD meant for stalling China.  How is it possible to have conflicting ambitions simultaneously?  One has to doubt the sincerity of either of the two. PRC is providing a counterweight to the long-held hegemony of the American empire. China’s unprecedented economic growth over the past four decades has been achieved with its policy of opening up underpinned by the principles of cooperation and win-win development and noninterference in the internal matters of other countries. In spite of vicious propaganda and depicting China as a debt trap it stands as centre of hope for the new pattern of development. For example, China has been the largest trading partner of Africa for 14 consecutive years. The successful BRICS summit in Johannes burg proves that China’s initiatives are widely welcomed by countries in the Global South and hence it would be a prudent move for India to reconsider its stance and enhance rapport. Thenonly it can represent and act as voice of the global south as declared by PM Modi.

Even if the boundary question is resolved, Sino-Indian relations will not blossom fully.  Economic and trade relations, people-to-people exchanges, cooperation in climate and development projects, cooperation in multilateral institutions such as the SCO and BRICS, strict anti-hegemonic opposition for regional peace and stability are much required. The attitudes of the two countries on a range of issues such as world peace-stability also determine the light in Sino-Indian relations. One has to remember that in this saga of neighbourly relations “The history of peace is much longer than the history of discord.”


 Dr.S.Jatin Kumar is a national council member of India China Friendship Association [ICFA] and contributed to countercurrents.org earlier. The present essay is submitted to draw attention of democrats and patriots for genuine discussion and response on the occasion of National conference of ICFA being organised in Hyderabad on 14th and 15th of October  2023

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