Indo-China Border Dispute

Nayan David

Aug. 07, 2020

Six decades ago, India and China went to war over a border dispute that ended with an uneasy truce in 1962.While no border has ever officially been negotiated along the forbidding stretch of land high in the Himalayas that divides the two nations, the truce established a 2,100-mile-long Line of Actual Control.Since then, an uneasy peace has held. But every time there is a flare-up of violence, the world watches anxiously.

Six decades ago, India and China went to war over a border dispute that ended with an uneasy truce in 1962.While no border has ever officially been negotiated along the forbidding stretch of land high in the Himalayas that divides the two nations, the truce established a 2,100-mile-long Line of Actual Control.Since then, an uneasy peace has held. But every time there is a flare-up of violence, the world watches anxiously.

 Brief of important dates in the dispute:

1. Nehru’s 1959 Beijing visit
India inherited its border dispute with China from its British colonial rulers, who hosted a 1914 conference with the Tibetan and Chinese governments to set the border.Beijing has never recognised the 1914 boundary, known as the McMahon Line, and currently claims 90,000 square kilometres (34,750 square miles) of territory – nearly all of what constitutes India’s Arunachal Pradesh state.The border dispute first flared up during a visit by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to Beijing in 1959.Nehru questioned the boundaries shown on official Chinese maps, prompting Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to reply that his government did not accept the colonial frontier.

2. 1962 Sino-Indian War
Chinese troops poured over the disputed frontier with India in 1962 during a dispute over the border’s demarcation.It sparked a four-week war that left thousands dead on the Indian side before China’s forces withdrew.Beijing retained Aksai Chin, a strategic corridor linking Tibet to western China.India still claims the entire Aksai Chin region as its own, as well as the nearby China-controlled Shaksgam valley in northern Kashmir.

3. 1967 Nathu La conflict
Another flashpoint was Nathu La, India’s highest mountain pass in northeastern Sikkim state, which is sandwiched between Bhutan, Chinese-ruled Tibet and Nepal.During a series of clashes, including the exchange of artillery fire, New Delhi said some 80 Indian soldiers died and counted up to 400 Chinese casualties.

4. 1975 Tulung La ambush
This skirmish was the last time shots were officially reported to have been fired across the disputed border.Four Indian soldiers were ambushed and killed along the dividing line in Arunachal Pradesh.New Delhi blamed Beijing for crossing into the Indian territory, a claim dismissed by China.

5. 2017 Doklam plateau standoff
India and China had a months-long high-altitude standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam region after the Indian army sent troops to stop China constructing a road in the area.The Doklam plateau is strategically significant as it gives China access to the so-called “chicken’s neck”– a thin strip of land connecting India’s northeastern states with the rest of the country.It is claimed by both China and Bhutan, an ally of India. The issue was resolved after talks.

6. 2020 Ladakh confrontation
India on Tuesday said 20 of its soldiers were killed after a violent clash with Chinese forces a day earlier in the strategically important Galwan Valley on the Himalayan frontier, a dramatic escalation that represents the first combat fatalities between the Asian powers since 1975.The clash follows weeks of low-level tensions after several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in a high-altitude fistfight on the border at Sikkim state in early May.Within days, said Indian officials, Chinese troops encroached across the demarcation line further west in Ladakh region and India then moved in extra troops to positions opposite. On 16th June, India revealed that those efforts had gone badly wrong, with both sides blaming each other.Beijing confirmed there had been casualties in this clash but gave no further details.

 Detailed Background of the dispute:
Around 1947 at the time of independence, Aksai Chin was within the Indian border. After Indian independence in 1947, the government fixed its boundaries in the west, which was the Aksai Chin, in a way that resembled the Ardagh–Johnson Line. India's basis for defining the border was “chiefly by long usage and custom.”. Unlike the Johnson line, India did not claim the northern areas near Shahidulla and Khotan. From the Karakoram Pass, the Indian claim line extends northeast of the Karakoram Mountains north of the salt flats of the Aksai Chin, to set a boundary at the Kunlun Mountains, and incorporating part of the Karakash River and Yarkand River watersheds. From there, it runs east along the Kunlun Mountains, before turning southwest through the Aksai Chin salt flats, through the Karakoram Mountains, and then to Pangong Lake

During the 1950s, the People's Republic of China built a 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) road connecting Xinjiang and western Tibet, of which 179 kilometres (111 mi) ran south of the Johnson Line through the Aksai Chin region claimed by India. Aksai Chin was easily accessible from China, but for the Indians on the south side of the Karakoram, the mountain range proved to be an complication in their access to Aksai Chin. The Indian position, as stated by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was that the Aksai Chin was "part of the Ladakh region of India for centuries" and that this northern border was a "firm and definite one which was not open to discussion with anybody".

In 1960, based on an agreement between Nehru and Zhou Enlai, officials from India and China held discussions in order to settle the boundary dispute. China and India disagreed on the major watershed that defined the boundary in the western sector.
The Nathu La and Cho La,1967 clashes were a series of military clashes in 1967, between India and China alongside the border of the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim, then an Indian protectorate.The Nathu La clashes started on 11 September 1967, when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) launched an attack on Indian posts at Nathu La, and lasted till 15 September 1967. In October 1967, another military duel took place at Cho La and ended on the same day.

In 1975, 4 Indian soldiers were killed at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh. In April 2013 India claimed, referencing their own perceptionof the Line of Actual Control (LAC) location, that Chinese troops had established a camp in the Daulat Beg Oldi sector, 10 km on their side of the Line of Actual Control. Chinese officials denied any trespassing having taken place.Soldiers from both countries briefly set up camps on the ill-defined frontier facing each other, but the tension was defused when both sides pulled back soldiers in early May.

On June 16, 2017, the Chinese brought heavy road building equipment to the Doklam region and began constructing a road in the disputed area.Previously, China had built a dirt road terminating at Doka La where Indian troops were stationed.They would conduct foot patrol from this point up till the Royal Bhutanese Army (RBA) post at Jampheri Ridge. The dispute that ensued post June 16 stemmed from the fact that the Chinese had begun building a road below Doka La, in what India and Bhutan claim to be disputed territory This resulted in Indian intervention of China's road construction on June 18, two days after construction began. Bhutan claims that the Chinese have violated the written agreements between the two countries that were drawn up in 1988 and 1998 after extensive rounds of talks. The agreements drawn state that status quo must be maintained in the Doklam area as of before March 1959. The Chinese military claimed that India had halted construction of a road that was taking place in Chinese sovereign territory. On June 30, India's Foreign Ministry claimed that China's road construction in violation of the status quo had security implications for India. Following this, on July 5, Bhutan issued a demarche asking China to restore the status quo as of before June 16.Throughout July and August, the Doklam issue remained unresolved.
2020 June Clash

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in Monday night's incident. It happened in Galwan Valley in the disputed Ladakh region.China accused Indian troops of crossing the border twice, "provoking and attacking Chinese personnel".
India soldiers killed in clash with Chinese forces, both sides insisted that no shots were fired. Indian officials gave accounts of fighting with bare hands, iron rods and stones.There were reports of Chinese casualties, but no official confirmation.Military officials from both countries later met to "defuse the situation", the Indian army said.

The military superpowers have been arguing for decades over territory in the high-altitude, largely uninhabited region. Their armies come face to face at many points along the 3,440km (2,100-mile) shared border.The confrontation came after tensions bubbled up in recent months over a new road India built in Ladakh, along the Line of Actual Control which divides the sides. That angered China, which deployed troops and built infrastructure of its own in disputed territory, bringing the two sides' forces in closer proximity and heightening the risk of clashes.