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Calculated Political Tension at China-India Mountain Border

By Amit Ranjan

May. 3 – In the Himalayas, two great powers are blaming each other for stirring tension. India says Chinese troops crossed the Line of Actual Control, the de facto border there. China claims it was merely responding to earlier intrusions carried out by Indian border guards. We don’t know who is speaking the truth. But “calculated” political tension has emerged.

The root of the Sino-Indian border dispute lies in the 1914 Simla Accord, signed by India’s British rulers and demarcating the border with Tibet. This “McMahon Line,” named after India’s foreign secretary at the time, is recognized by India but disputed by China which insists that Tibet was not a sovereign power. China invaded and conquered Tibet in 1950.

A brief war between China and India in 1962 failed to settle the border issue. An area of some 125,000 square kilometers remains in dispute although the area of “real” conflict is the 95,000 square kilometers south of the McMahon Line.

China and India set up a joint working group in 1988 to try to resolve the issue. Special representatives were appointed in 2003 to advance the process. Fifteen rounds of talks took place before the representatives last met in December of last year. No concrete plan to solve the conflict has yet emerged.

Since the end of the Cold War and China’s emergence as an economic power, the government in Beijing has resolved many of its border disputes expect those with India, Japan and in the South China Sea. In many of the cases where it did compromise, it agreed to transfer land to neighboring countries. Its unwillingness to do so with India and its refusal to honor a century old treaty suggest that China wants to keep this border issue alive.

The last time Chinese border guards entered Indian territory was in 1986 at Sumdorong Chu in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh state. They vacated their position in 1995.

The porous Himalaya border and lack of clear demarcating features makes incursion an almost everyday incident. Their frequency depends on the status of the bilateral relationship.

The genesis of the present crisis likely lies in India’s increasing presence in Southeast Asia, especially its improving maritime relations with Vietnam, as well as an emerging alliance with the United States. China might interpret both moves within the context of the American “pivot” to the region and feel increasingly boxed in by powers that are hostile to its own designs.

Buddhist unrest in southern China could also play a role. The number of Buddhist self immolations is rising. There have also been reports of unrest in Sichuan Province. Usually, Tibetan protests are violently suppressed by Chinese security services.

The political headquarters of Tibet’s refugees is situated in India’s northwestern city of Dharamshala. China tends to believe that all Buddhist political activity is orchestrated by the Dalai Lama there, the Tibetans’ religious leader. India does nothing to stop him and may therefore be held partly responsible for the uprisings by policy makers in Beijing.

This article was originally published by the Atlantic Sentinel, May 1, 2013

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of or Asia Briefing Ltd.

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2 Responses to Calculated Political Tension at China-India Mountain Border

  1. Carlos de Souza says:

    Since when has India become a “great power” ???

    Easily one of the poorest countries in the world today, India has more than 800 million people living in abject poverty.

    Merely because of her huge population of 1250 million, India’s economy may be the third or fourth largest in PPP terms. But, India’s per capita GDP will rank in the bottom 10% of all nations.

    Some great power indeed.

    Btw, I am an Indian but not a blind, jingoistic one.

  2. alexander says:

    Any larger country has poor people. it is impossible to become every one rich with a size of India or China. China catched the global industrial oputsource because of that. Indian economic reforms started in 1990 where as china started during 70’s. The The results of the economic reformsm since from 2000 and it is continuing with out much impact of global econmic recession.

    What is meant by poor? India is implementing several wefare schemes but failed to reach to the one who is suffering. But now they changed and implementing direct money transfer scheme. Please know how many developing countries doing like this in the world?.

    India is not poor country. Percentage of People are poor because of inefficent system and Corrupt leaders. improvment of system is going on and it will become better system for sure. 850 million is wrong assumption and which is not true. No nation can develop in over night.

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