Libmonster ID: IN-1297
Author(s) of the publication: T. SHAUMYAN

The signing of the Russian-Chinese friendship treaty gave a new impetus to discussions about the Russia - India-China triangle as a potential counterweight to US hegemony and the formation of a unipolar world. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that each of the three countries has its own foreign policy ambitions, its own vision of the problems of world development, and, finally, they are still weighed down by the weight of the past. Thus, in India - China relations, the issue of border and territory remains a matter of dispute, which led to increased confrontation and direct military actions in the early 60s. Beijing is also unhappy with the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees staying in India.

Over the past decade, the two sides have reached an agreement on confidence-building measures in border areas. However, the border problem has not been resolved, and under unfavorable circumstances it can turn out to be a "time bomb".

India and China are divided by the Himalayan region, which traditionally includes the territories of Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, form a geographical and ethnic community at the turn of two great civilizations - Chinese and Indian - and are connected by historical and religious ties. Interaction between the territories located on both sides of the Himalayas is carried out only through high mountain passes and narrow valleys of mountain rivers. Peculiar geographical conditions made it difficult to create means of communication both between the states of the region themselves and with the outside world, and their de facto isolation led to the preservation of the feudal-theocratic system of power and socio - economic backwardness, and this, in turn, put the regions of the Himalayan region in a position of dependence on their great neighbors - India and China.


The Himalayas are a natural, almost inaccessible border zone between two geographical, geopolitical and civilizational areas. The mountain ranges of the Himalayas and Karakoram, stretching from Ladakh to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, separate Hindustan from Tibet and other parts of China and form the main watershed between rivers flowing south towards India and north towards Tibet. Tibet is a recognized center of world Buddhism, where pilgrims from various parts of Asia and other regions of the world traditionally flocked. This circumstance, as well as the special strategic position of Tibet in the center of the Asian continent, at the junction of the borders of the largest Asian empires, played an important role in turning the Himalayan region in the past into an object of intense struggle between the Anglo - Indian colonial authorities and the Manchu dynasty that ruled in China.

The actual drawing of the border line between India and China is extremely difficult due to the peculiarities of geographical conditions and the low population of the border areas. If we ignore purely political considerations, it is the lack of a clear demarcation line on certain sections of the Himalayan border that initially formed the basis of the ongoing border dispute between India and China.

When making territorial claims to India, the Chinese side claimed that historically no legal definition of the border line had ever been made, that the entire border was the result of the expansionist policy of British imperialism. According to the Indian side, the entire border line is defined either by treaties and agreements, or by tradition, although it is not always demarcated on the ground. Be that as it may, there was a traditional border line adopted by both sides, through which pilgrims and merchants passed for centuries. At the same time, both India and China actually exercised political, military and administrative control over those parts of the disputed territories that they considered vital for ensuring their own security.

The border between India and China with a total length of about 3,500 kilometers runs along the world's highest Himalayan range and is divided into three sections.

The western section- about 1,600 kilometers long-is the border of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir with Xinjiang and Tibet, which starts from the Karakoram Pass in the very north of Kashmir and runs to the border with Tibet in the Spiti region. The situation on this section of the border is complicated by the fact that approximately one-fifth of it is the border of China with the part of Kashmir under the jurisdiction of Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan, in accordance with the agreement with China signed in March 1963, transferred to it part of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which India considers its own. Therefore, the border settlement process in this area affects Pakistan-China relations, which can only complicate the path to reaching agreements. In general, according to India, China "occupies" about 33 thousand square kilometers here. This territory is Aksai Chin, which was occupied by China in 1955-1959 and secured as a result of military operations in 1962. Due to its sparsely populated nature and inaccessibility from the Indian side, this area has no economic value for India, while the question of its belonging is a matter of its prestige, national sovereignty, and restoration of the "honor of the nation". For China, the real value of this territory lies in the fact that a section (about 100 kilometers) of the strategic Xinjiang-Tibet road built in the mid-fifties passes through it. In the same area, the parties are contesting sections of the border between Tibet and Ladakh from the Changchenmo Valley to Spiti, as well as certain territories in the Chushul and Demchok districts.

India believes that any meaningful settlement requires China to liberate areas occupied by Chinese advance troops in 1960 and later.

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The central section is the border of the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh with Tibet, running along the Himalayan Range from the Sutlej River to the border with Nepal. Its length is about 640 kilometers. From India's point of view, the issue of the border line in this area was resolved by the signing of the 1954 agreement on trade and relations between India and the Tibet region of China, which marked six passes - Shipki, Mana, Hiti, Kungri Bingri, Darma and Lipu Lek-through which traders could move and pilgrims from one country to another, which gave reason to consider them borderline, and the border-established 1 . The Chinese side considers such a system of reasoning "untenable", justifying its position by saying that during the negotiations on signing the agreement, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Hanfu, in an interview with Indian Ambassador to China Ranganathan, said that "in the current negotiations, the Chinese side does not want to touch on the border issue" 2 . According to China, in the central part of the border, India, since 1954, in addition to "inherited from the British colonialists areas of San and Chunsha", has captured several more settlements, as well as the Shipki pass. Thus, China disputes India's ownership of about 2 thousand square kilometers of territory in areas important for the implementation of mountain passes between the two countries-Spiti, Bara Hoti, Nilang and Shipki crossings, and as an argument in favor of its version of the central section of the border, it claims that these areas were traditionally under the control of local authorities in Tibet, and their population is almost entirely made up of Tibetans3 .

The eastern section is the border of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (until 1973-the North-Eastern Border Agency, then - the union territory, and since 1987-the state), passing mainly along the so-called McMahon Line between the borders with Burma and Nepal. Its length is about 1,100 kilometers. This border line was named after the British representative at the trilateral Anglo-Tibeto-Chinese conference in Simla in 1913-1914. The Chinese side considers the Simla Convention illegal. It raises the question of a completely different border line, running at the foot of the Himalayas south of the McMahon line for about 100 kilometers, and claims an area of about 90 thousand square kilometers. In addition, China claims that India has set up border posts in some areas north of the" illegal " McMahon line.

The McMahon Line runs along the Himalayan watershed. To the south was the 19th-century border territory of Assam, located in the Northeast of British India and inhabited by warlike mountain tribes. In 1873-1876, the British drew the so-called Outer and Inner Lines in Assam. The outer line followed a watershed and was considered an international border. The inner line ran along the foothills of the Assamese Mountains and separated the Assamese plain from the tribal belt, but this did not mean that the territory between the two lines was outside the jurisdiction of the British, who regarded the Inner Line as an administrative rather than an international border.

In 1913, at the Anglo-Tibeto-Chinese conference convened in Simla to determine the status of Tibet, British representative Sir Henry MacMahon proposed dividing Tibet into an Inner-dominated by China-and an autonomous Outer Tibet-as a buffer between China and the British possessions in India. The British representative marked the border between Inner and Outer Tibet with a single red line on the map, and the border of Tibet with Assam and Burma, which coincided with the Outer Border Line. The Chinese representative at the talks, Yi Wangchen, put his initials under the text of the trilateral convention and the attached map with a line drawn by G. McMahon. However, the Chinese authorities in Beijing categorically refused to ratify this agreement on the basis of a strong disagreement with the border line between Inner and Outer Tibet, and at the last moment even declared Tibet's ineligibility as a vassal of China to participate in the international conference. The section of the MacMahon Line that established the border of Tibet

page 28

with Assam and Burma, there was no doubt on the Chinese side.

Moreover, in 1960, the Burmese-Chinese border agreement was signed, according to which China officially recognized the Burmese section of the McMahon Line as the international border.

However, the Chinese side claims that the traditional" familiar " border line between China and India runs along the southern foothills of the Himalayas, and the territory disputed by India, whose population consists of Tibetans and related nationalities, has long belonged to China.

After giving a number of other arguments, the Chinese leadership comes to the conclusion that the entire Sino-Indian border, neither in the western, central, or eastern sections, has not been established.


Undoubtedly, the nature of the territorial dispute, the actual differences, the forms and methods of argumentation of the parties regarding the passage of the border line or the ways and means of its establishment were quite contradictory in themselves. They were determined by the peculiarities of traditional approaches to solving existing problems, the nature of the political culture inherent in the social and political life of India and China.

Since the mid-1950s, China began to publish geographical maps on which a significant part of the territory of India, as well as Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, parts of Mongolia and the USSR were designated as Chinese. About 130,000 square kilometers of territory in Aksai Chin and the McMahon Line area were incorporated into the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.

India qualified such publications as "cartographic aggression" and continued to publish maps with its own version of the border line. The issue of these publications was raised with Zhou Enlai during a visit to China by Indian Prime Minister J. P. Morgan. Nehru in October 1954. The Chinese premier explained that this is a reprint of outdated maps, and the Chinese government simply did not have the time to make the necessary amendments to them. 4 Later, in a letter to the Indian Prime Minister dated January 23, 1959, Zhou Enlai officially stated for the first time that the India-China border had never been formally defined, that there were no treaties and agreements signed by the Chinese central Government and the Government of India regarding the border between the two countries .5

The situation in the area of the India-China border became much more complicated due to the fact that in the spring of 1959, as a result of the aggravation of the internal situation in Tibet, scattered Tibetan protests against the Chinese authorities escalated into the Yuan uprising, which was suppressed by the Chinese troops. The Dalai Lama and more than six thousand Tibetans fled through the high mountain passes to India and other neighboring countries. To this day, the Tibetan high priest is in exile in Dharamsala, northern India, and there are more than 100,000 refugees outside of Tibet. The decision of the Indian leadership to host the Tibetan spiritual and secular leader and tens of thousands of refugees, based on humanitarian considerations, caused a sharp protest from the Chinese side, despite the fact that the Indian authorities continued and continue to declare the recognition of Tibet as part of China.

The subsequent course of the Indo-Chinese conflict has shown that it can hardly be regarded as purely territorial: as it escalated, it became more and more politicized, and the problem of resolving it gradually moved into the realm of big politics.

Despite the exchange of notes and inr-

page 29

with numerous messages, personal contacts, and conversations between J. R. R. Tolkien and others. Nehru with Zhou Enlai, border clashes, air violations, etc. continued. The tension gradually increased, and the parties failed to prevent an armed confrontation. In total, according to Indian data, from June 1955 to July 1962, more than 30 armed conflicts occurred in the border area. In the summer and autumn, bloody skirmishes became more frequent. On September 8, Chinese troops crossed the McMahon line in the Thagla area, and on September 20, a massive invasion of Chinese troops began along the entire border line in its Western and Eastern sections. As a result of military operations between 1959 and October-November 1962. China additionally occupied more than 14,000 square kilometers of territory, mainly in Aksai Chin, which India considered its own. Ambassadors were recalled from both capitals. The Indian Parliament passed a resolution on the need to liberate all the territories occupied by China, which remains in effect today.

The situation on the border was extremely unfavorable for India. In some areas, Chinese troops have advanced 80-100 kilometers. Only from 20 to 25 October, 2.5 thousand Indian soldiers were killed (the Chinese side did not publish data on its losses). J. Nehru, in an address to the Indian people, said that the country faces the most serious threat since the declaration of independence .6

The actions of the Chinese armed forces have caused serious concern in the world. Contrary to Beijing's predictions, the Soviet Union did not support its ally, China, in its conflict with India. Moscow has called for a ceasefire and the start of negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The Soviet position was highly appreciated in India.

China's actions have not received the support of almost any state in the world. Nor did his calculations for the anti-Indian rebellion of the border tribes come true. On November 21, 1962, the PRC leadership announced a unilateral cease-fire from November 22 and the beginning of the withdrawal of Chinese border detachments to 20 kilometers from the McMahon line. According to Beijing's proposal, in the Central and Western Sectors, Chinese troops were to be withdrawn 20 kilometers from the line of actual control, while Indian troops were to remain in positions 20 kilometers from this line.7 In the Eastern Sector, Indian troops were to take up positions 20 kilometers south of the McMahon line. Under Beijing's proposal, India and China could establish posts with non-military personnel on either side of the line of de facto control. Indian reaction to these proposals was negative, as from a political point of view, the Chinese proposals did not provide for the establishment of an Indian military presence in areas east of the line of de facto control in the Western Sector and in certain areas in the area of the McMahon line. The parties did not find an acceptable basis for further negotiations. At the initiative of the Prime Minister of Ceylon, S. Bandaranaike, the Foreign Ministers of the six non - aligned countries - Ceylon, Egypt, Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, and Burma-met in Colombo on December 10, 1962, where proposals were made to the Governments of India and China for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. These proposals provided for the withdrawal of Chinese troops in the Western sector for 20 kilometers and the transformation of the liberated territory into a demilitarized zone. In the Eastern Section, the McMahon Line was to become the line of actual control (except for two disputed areas, which could be resolved during further negotiations).

In general, the proposals of the Colombo Conference provided a real basis for reducing the level of confrontation and further negotiations. The Indian government accepted them without reservations, while the Chinese government accepted them without reservations.

page 30

"a preliminary basis for further consultations. The main thing was that active military operations along the border had stopped. China retained more than 36,000 square kilometers of territory that India considered its own.

The situation on the Indian-Chinese border after the cessation of active hostilities during the second half of the 60s was far from stable. Nevertheless, both sides gradually came to the realization that the long-standing state of semi-war, the constant tension in the areas along the Himalayan border, required excessive military, moral and material efforts.

The process of restoring ties, which began in the first half of the 1970s, was not smooth. A serious "irritant" for China was the events in and around Sikkim in 1973-1975, when the Indian government, at the request of the forces opposed to the Maharaja, decided to include Sikkim as the 22nd state of India and introduced Indian military units there. China accused India of "expansionism" and "annexation".

Among the events of the late seventies, one can note the visit to Beijing in February 1979 of the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of India (now Prime Minister of the country) A.B. Vajpayee, during which the existence of fundamental differences in the approaches of the parties to the territorial problem was confirmed. For India, its settlement was an indispensable prerequisite for further normalization of relations. The Chinese side considered it possible to postpone it until better times and develop relations in other areas. Therefore, the discussion of the border-territorial problem allowed only to "unfreeze" it and agree on the need to think about ways and means of solving it. Deng Xiaoping, Deputy Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, in an interview with K. Kumar, editor of the Indian magazine Vikrant, in June 1980, repeated the option of a compromise solution to the border-territorial issue, the so-called "complex deal": India recognizes the status quo in Aksai Chin, and China - the "McMahon line" as the international border. The Indian leadership and the Indian public again reacted to this proposal as unacceptable, since by accepting it, India would have to abandon the demand for the return of "occupied territories"approved by the Parliament in 1962.

In June 1981, during the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister to Delhi, the Indian side agreed to discuss the border-territorial issue without Beijing fulfilling the precondition of the unconditional release of the "occupied" Indian territory. Since December 1981, regular meetings of official delegations of the two countries have been held alternately in New Delhi and Beijing to discuss issues of bilateral relations, primarily border - territorial issues.

At the fourth round of negotiations (New Delhi, October 1983), the Chinese side again expressed its preference to consider the problem "in a package", while India advocated a "sector-by-sector approach", that is, considering the situation in each sector separately .8

According to India, China should adopt the "McMahon Line" on the Eastern Section as an international border. The issue of the Central Section does not cause serious disagreements. As for Aksai Chin, India believes that China could release part of the territory captured during the 1959-1962 military operations, and the use of the road can be granted to it on a concession basis. The parties agreed not to change the existing situation and not to use force to defend territorial claims.

During the fifth round of negotiations held in Beijing in September 1984, officials claimed a" convergence " of positions took place: the Chinese side agreed to discuss the problem in sectors 9 .

During the sixth round of negotiations (4-11 November 1985, Delhi), the parties first began to address specific issues of territorial delimitation, starting with the Eastern section of the border. China again refused to recognize the McMahon Line as an international border, but only as a "ceasefire line", and Sikkim as part of Indian territory .10

On December 19-23, 1988, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi paid a visit to China, during which it was decided to form a Joint Working Group at the level of Deputy Ministers to find a solution to the territorial issue .11


The first meeting of the India-China Joint Group on the Border Problem was held in Beijing on July 1-4, 1989. The main task of the group was defined as finding ways to resolve the border-territorial problem, reducing the level of military confrontation along the border and creating an environment of peace and tranquility in the border areas, which should help solve the border problem as a whole .12 At the beginning of 1990, there was a significant mutual reduction in the number of troops on both sides of the border, especially in its Eastern sector. India has reduced its presence from 18 to 9 divisions (each Indian division has 12 thousand soldiers, the Chinese - about 9 thousand). The number of Chinese troops was increased to approximately the same level as the Indian side13 .

In late August and early September 1990, the second meeting of the joint Indian - Chinese working group on border and territorial issues was held in Delhi. An important result of its work was the creation of a mechanism through which the leadership of the military personnel of the two countries in the border areas will be able to constantly maintain direct contacts for the peaceful resolution of specific issues that arise while the border and territorial problem as a whole remains unresolved.

An important stage in the process of normalizing relations was the visit of then Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to China. During a summit meeting in Beijing on 7 September 1993, Narasimha Rao and Li Peng signed the "agreement on the maintenance of peace and Tranquility along the Line of De facto Control" 14, essentially an agreement on confidence-building measures, which was regarded by experts as the first important arms control agreement signed by two Asian countries without the participation of " third forces".

The agreement noted the agreement of the parties to resolve the border issue "through peaceful and friendly consultations", contained an obligation to respect the line of actual control, refrain from the use or threat of use of force and jointly exercise control over the situation in the border area. It provided for reducing the military presence of the parties in the border area "to the minimum level necessary for maintaining friendly and good-neighborly relations" and in accordance with the requirements of "mutual and equal security". The agreement referred to the establishment of confidence-building measures and called not to conduct special military maneuvers in pre-defined zones and to inform the other side about the conduct of military maneuvers in the border area. A special mechanism was created in case of incidents. Finally, it was announced that all the agreements reached were not affected in any way.-

page 31

We will discuss the positions of each of the parties on the border issue. Further, they discussed the need for effective control measures and provided for the creation of an expert group consisting of representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, as well as other departments, to clarify the passage of the line of actual control and specify confidence and security measures.

At its meetings, the Expert group develops a mechanism for actions in case of unintentional violations of airspace, considers the problems of mutual reduction of the armed forces to ensure "mutual and equal security", issues related to mutual information on conducting military exercises, etc. Recognition of the principle of "mutual and equal security" is a serious step forward in discussions on ensuring stability in the region.

It was decided to hold regular meetings twice a year between the commanders of the border troops ' units in the eastern and western sectors for mutual exchange of information, solving emerging problems, etc.The so-called "hotline"was opened for the exchange of up-to-date information, the possibility of establishing immediate contacts as an important mechanism in case of a crisis situation.

On November 28-December 1, 1996, during the official visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to India, the parties signed an agreement on confidence-building measures in the military field along the line of actual control, which was a further development of the document signed in 1993. The Agreement contains 12 articles. Article one can be regarded as a kind of non-aggression pact. It states that "neither side will use its armed forces against the other side." The Parties confirm their commitment to the line of actual control, although they note that there are still differences in the interpretation of individual sections of it. Therefore, it is necessary to speed up the process of determining it and exchange maps showing the positions of each of the parties as soon as possible. Such an exchange of cards has already taken place.


The agreement stipulates that in accordance with the principle of "mutual and equal security" in the future, the "ceiling" in the level of military presence will be determined taking into account natural conditions, communications systems and other infrastructure, and the time required for the entry and withdrawal of troops and weapons. Types of offensive weapons are determined, the withdrawal of which will be considered a priority. The parties also agreed to "avoid conducting large-scale military maneuvers involving more than one division (15,000 troops) in the immediate vicinity of the line of actual control" and inform the other side "about the type, level, planned duration and area of maneuvers" if more than 5,000 troops participate in them. The number and type of military aircraft were also restricted, the use of chemical agents was prohibited, and other restrictions were imposed on the use of explosive devices in the two-kilometer zone along the ceasefire line.

In order to "expand contacts and cooperation between military personnel", it was planned to meet representatives of the two countries at the border, expand communication links, and establish contacts between the authorities of the border areas at the middle and top levels. In the event of a violation of the airspace due to "unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters", etc., the other party should provide all possible assistance and facilitate the return of aircraft and personnel. Finally, it provided for the establishment of a Sino-Indian Joint Working Group on the Border Issue to" consult each other " and take concrete measures to resolve emerging issues .15

The establishment of the joint working group was perhaps the most important development in recent years, as it proved to be an effective body for implementing confidence-building measures. Thus, the group organized regular meetings of military command representatives from both sides in the eastern, central and western sectors to study the situation on the ground and prevent the occurrence of excesses. A hotline has also been set up for consultations in case of unforeseen circumstances. The two sides agreed to withdraw their troops from four border posts in the Wangdong region, where they were located dangerously close to each other.

President of India K. R. Narayanan paid a visit to China in May 200016 . The parties took the discussion of the border issue "seriously "and reaffirmed their commitment to a" fair and reasonable " solution based on mutual understanding, cooperation and mutual concessions. This is a long process that will require patience and time.

Thanks to the implementation of the confidence - building measures agreement, the situation on the India-China border has remained "almost peaceful"over the past decade. This suggests that after time has elapsed, a mutually acceptable solution to the problem can be found. However, when discussing India-China relations in general, it should not be forgotten that in the territorial dispute with China, India considers itself an aggrieved party and continues to adhere to the point of view that China has seized part of its territory. Therefore, according to New Delhi, the future of bilateral relations largely depends on whether the policy of improving relations with India remains one of the priorities of China's foreign policy. Indian "realists" are undoubtedly aware that in the foreseeable future it is unlikely that Beijing will voluntarily return the territories that India considers its own. Therefore, we can only talk about maintaining the status quo along the border, and the agreements adopted by the parties on confidence-building measures along the line of actual control create the necessary conditions for this. Moreover, India and China's experience in negotiating and finding compromise solutions can be used to solve border-territorial problems in other regions of the world.

The whole question is to what extent the absence of a final agreement on such an important bilateral issue will affect the process of "connecting" the Chinese and Indian "peaks" of the emerging Russia - India - China triangle. Most likely, for the sake of establishing their global positions, the parties will show their readiness to keep the border problem in a "frozen" state until better times.

1 India-China Agreement. China-South Asian Relations. 1947-1980 / Ed. By R.K. Jain. Vol 1, pp. 61-64.

2 Ibid.

3 Letter from Premier Zhou Enlai. In the same place.

4 China-South Asian Relations. Vol 1, pp. 80-81.

5 Ibid., pp. 105-108.

6 Ibid., p. 208.

7 Ibid., pp. 237-239.

8 The Hindu, 31 October 1983.

9 The Times of India, 31 October 1983.

10 Ibid., 5-12 November 1985.

11 Prime Minister Rajive Gandhi Visit the People's Republic of China, 19-23 December 1988.

12 The Times of India, 2 July 1989.

13 Ibid., 1 February 1990.

15 Ibid.

16 Swaran Singh. Sino-Indian CBMs:

Problems and Prospets. "Strategic Analysis", New Delhi, July 1997.


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