Sino-Indian border dialogue

By K.N. Pandita

The long border between India and China has remained un-demarcated in the sense in which international borders between two neioghbouring countries are usually drawn. The McMahan line drawn by the British during the days of their colonial empire was not accepted by the Chinese in very clear terms. Soon after the independence of India, China raked up the border issue. Nehru had hoped that cooperation between the two rising powers of Asia would usher in a golden period of world history and lay the foundation of mutual understanding and cooperation between the two Asian giants for other countries and powers to emulate.  

But realpolitik does not support dreams and visions. “Chini-Hindi bhai bhai” slogan could not stand the test of time and collapsed with its birth. Thereafter, border dispute between the two countries became a major irritant in their good relationship. Beijing extended its groundless claims over India’s north-eastern border especially the Arunachal Pradesh. Even now China stakes claim to Arunachal Pradesh. Only recently Beijing refused to issue visa to an India military officer from Arunachal Pradesh who was to be part of Indian military delegation to China. China has already illegally occupied a big chunk of Indian territory in Aksaichin region. Additionally China entered into a deal with Pakistan to grab nearly 5,000 square kilometers area from the territory of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan. Chinese troops have been making illegal forays into Indian territories in Ladakh area, and have indirectly been accepting Pakistan’s contention that J&K is a disputed territory. Chinese embassy in New Delhi issues visa to Kashmiri citizens on a separate sheet of paper despite protests by the Indian government. After building the Karakorum Highway over the area of J&K illegally occupied by Pakistan, and in fact belonging to India, China has brought in thousands of troops into Gilgit-Baltistan region under the occupation of Pakistan thereby posing serious threat to the security of our country.  In addition to all of these hostile activities, China is opposing India’s candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. On strategic plane, China has built formidable naval presence close to the Indian shores and has strong presence in the sea ports of Sri Lanka and Gawadar along Makran coast of Pakistan. China is working hard to stonewall Indo-Myanmar relationship and her patronage of Pakistan and helping her to become a nuclear power show that China is fuelling rivalry with India in almost all areas of international relationship.

As against this, India has been sticking to international standards of relationship with China doing nothing to hurt the interests of a big neighbor. India vigorously supported China’s permanent membership of Security Council.  She acknowledged, albeit mistakenly, the suzerainty of Beijing over Tibet, something of which we are repentant today. India providing asylum to Dalai Lama and thousands of his Tibetan Buddhist refugees is taken by China as an affront to her aggressive and belligerent policy. But in doing so India has only followed her age-old tradition of providing shelter to those persecuted in their native places. Providing asylum to Dalai Lama and his people is completely within the provisions the United Nations and the Human Rights Charter. Panchsheel formula offered by Nehru long back as the solid foundation for bilateral relationship was a strong indication that India wanted good relations with China away from political rivalry that usually bedevils friendship between two big countries.

Despite these harsh ground realities, India has agreed to begin a process of dialogue with China for reducing border and other tensions or irritations in their mutual relations. The 15th meeting of the Special Representatives has just concluded in New Delhi and the next meeting will be held in China. The two sides have expressed that they would keep a close watch on efforts to build understanding on border issue. Though our past experience with the Chinese tells us to deal with them with utmost caution yet we welcome and support the basic philosophy of resolving bilateral issues through peaceful means of a process of dialogue. But we need to talk from a position of power and responsibility and not as a petitioning state. China must reverse her policy of harming India’s legitimate interests. India has to be cautious and she must remember the warning of Nehru that the Chinese word has two meanings; one for them and the other for the listener.

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