China and India are the two most populous countries and fastest-growing major economies in the world. Growth in diplomatic and economic influence has increased the significance of their bilateral relationship. The relation between two countries occasionally shows the signs of Peace and cooperation but often affected by tension and mistrust. The two Asian powers with the potential to make big contributions towards regional peace and development have been the sources of regional tension and insecurity to some extent. Besides their internal conflicts, several external factors like the interplay of interests, moves by neighbors also might affect the relationship between the two.
Never in history did India have great power like China on its borders. In the past, India has relied upon a combination of diplomacy and capacity building to prevent strategic surprises/attacks. But the present Government has demonstrated a greater firmness in dealing with China, while simultaneously seeking stronger business ties. India deals with China with confidence and candor. This is the new normal in the relationship. India and China engage, cooperate, and compete simultaneously. Even as China has become India’s largest trading partner, India has not lost sight of the issues of contention.
Though there are many areas of conflict between two countries like water dispute, Tibet and Dalai lama, Doklam issue and one of the major area of conflict is Border dispute since India and China share a border at three different sectors namely Western sector- This comprises Aksai chin sector which originally was part of Indian state Jammu & Kashmir but claimed and administered by China as part of its autonomous Xinjiang region. The two nations have its own accepted demarcation Johnson line – India’s accepted demarcation and Mc Donald line – China’s accepted. Central sector – Although Sikkim is recognized as India’s sovereign by China and initiated trade at Nathu La pass, but the Doklam fiasco could mean trouble at all ends. Eastern sector- Arunachal Pradesh border is formally known as North-East Frontier agency which is claimed by China as its own territory is the major disputed area covering 90000 sq.km. During the 1962 war, the People’s Liberation Army occupied it but they announced a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew respecting the international boundary(Mcmohan line). However, it has continued its claim over territory, now almost the whole Arunachal Pradesh is claimed by China as it’s territory.
Despite the efforts taken like Shimla agreement(1914), Panchsheel agreement(1954), Joint Working group for confidence-building measures(1989), India-China Agreements regarding the Line of Actual Control(LAC), Agreement for Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the LAC(1993), Confidence-building measures in the military field(1996) and so on for resolving Border disputes between two countries, the tensions at the borders prevailed. The recent Catastrophic incident at Galwan Valley is proof that efforts taken to resolve border disputes and maintain peace and cooperation between two countries were in vain.
The clash occurred in the Galwan Valley was the worst violence on the India-China border since 1967, claiming the lives of 20 Indian soldiers. The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that the entire valley is located on the Chinese side of LAC. Strategically, the river has its source in Aksai Chin on China’s side of LAC and it flows east to Ladakh where it meets the Shyok river on India’s side of LAC. This Galwan standoff has impacted trade relations with China, raising the demand from Indians to boycott Chinese goods including Chinese food items in restaurants. This might not be a good approach toward bilateral relations between the two countries.
However, boundary negotiations have reached a point where political will on both sides is required for a solution. Therefore, the two countries need to be mindful of the strategic aspect of the relationship and recognize that their rise can be mutually supportive.