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Perspectives

June 24, 2009
Sino-Indian border dispute bogs down Asian economies

During the recent economic downturn, many have heralded the accelerated rise of the Asian giants — India and China — while others have expressed skepticism about the ascendancy of these non-Western powers.

At the same time, renewed fears of a Sino-Indian confrontation have surfaced, especially in the disputed Kashmir region. Kashmir is a lingering reminder of the painful partition that India and Pakistan experienced in 1947.

Pangong Tso is a lake divided between India and China. Photo: Luv Puri

Luv Puri is a journalist who has reported on the Jammu and Kashmir conflict from both sides of the Line of Control for The Hindu newspaper. He comments on Sino-Indian border tensions.

China and India have often been portrayed as the major drivers of the future. Ties between the two Asian giants have deep historical roots, and in the recent economic meltdown each has proved its economic worth.

But quite apart from grand economic plans and new global alignments, a different reality is taking shape in both India and China (which are both nuclear-armed). The Chinese and Indian strategic communities are stoking fears about each other, which may hold back economic success by diverting state resources to perceived military threats.

Both countries have demonstrated their resilience and self-reliance. These two countries constitute the bulk of the increasingly powerful BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China). The BRIC heads of state met recently in Russia, indicating their rising ambition to leverage their enhanced economic clout and influence geopolitics.

But in May, India sent three army divisions — 60,000 soldiers — to its northeastern border with China. India is also strengthening its presence along the Chinese border, in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. Last November, India decided to reactivate an important air strip last used in the 1962 Indo-China war. Indian military officers described this as an attempt to “match” the Chinese.

In December 2007, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony visited the Indo-China border and stated that he would “vigorously” pursue steps to develop the frontier areas. He said, “It is an eye-opener for me. There is no comparison between the two sides. Infrastructure on the Chinese side is far superior. They have gone far in developing their infrastructure.”

The Chinese swear that they have no evil designs against India, and that their policy is defined by the desire for peaceful co-existence. In Ladakh, Chinese officials stated that the main purpose of building a major road was to improve transport and communication within its territory, as the area connects the Chinese states of Tibet and Xinjiang. An editorial in the China-based “Global Times” stated:

India’s current course can only lead to a rivalry between the two countries. India needs to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China.

Indian soldiers in Ladakh next to the Line of Actual Control. Photo: Luv Puri

China and India are still embroiled in the same boundary dispute that set off the war between the two countries in 1962. The two countries share a border of more than 2200 miles, but ever since the war, they have followed a policy of non-confrontation. High-level diplomatic ties were restored with Indian Prime Minister’s Rajiv Gandhi visit to China in 1988.

However, other thorny issues between the two countries remain intractable. China claims ownership over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and refers to the area as part of south Tibet. While India describes Arunachal as integral to its territorial sovereignty, China rationalizes its claim by emphasizing the Sino-Tibetan ethnic origins of the people there.

The Sino-Indian Joint Working Group (JWG) was formed in 2003 to resolve the various issues relating to the border disputes, but little progress has been seen.

Trade between the two countries has increased exponentially over the years. Last year, trade grew by 33 percent. But if the Asian economic miracle is truly going to materialize, the two countries will have to manage their border disputes and geo-strategic insecurities.

– Luv Puri

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Comments

13 comments

#13

China is such a country whose any words can not be trusted and remedial action is always required to be prepared.

#12

I suspect some of the anguish Inds ‘ feel about Chin is more a rivalry and the shame of lagging behind. China is challenging itself . India should do the same. If China had not move forward, Indian. would be still asleep. Thank China for the inspiration.

#11

I trust China because she says very little but does so much. They know they are not perfect , so they refrain from criticising other countries. I quote an official in an interview with BBC. Question. ‘ China ‘s aiding African countries with corrupt government is wrong.’ Answer ‘We have problems with our own corruption , how can we go around lecturing others not to be corrupt.’ unlike countries who talk a lot and do so little for its people . With Corrupt MP s in UK and lying presidents in US .

#10

If India were to fight a war they will surely win. With 40 % illiteracy and around the same number in poverty . These people with nothing to live for would like the honour to act as human shield for the Indian army. With a shield of 500 million people , China needs 1000 atomic bombs to kill all of them. Last I heard China only got a few hundred nuclear bomb. Yes , India is truly a superpower. Only the US can annihilate the human shield but there is still another 700million Indians to deal with.

#9

@drew can u trust India for dealing with Burma . India has diplomatic relations with North Korea. Deals with Iran. Friendly with US which supports pakistan.
Bully smaller States like bangla desh , nepal and holding on to Assam despite their wish for independence. Allowing hindu majority to kill christians with impunity. Need I go on.

#8

it was china who has evil designs against all democratic countries, they supplied nuclear tech to North Korea, Pakistan and other volatile countries. As a result, the entire region is in threat and living in fear. China cannot even become a regional power although some might say they are already but its just a illusion. China is mistrusted throughout the world and everyone is cautious of buying chinese products. The chinese economy and state will crumble in next few decades just like USSR due to social and economical problems growing already in china. The reason is simple natural law; anything big is unsustainable. unfortunately, the clever chinese dont understand this law.

India as a peace lover will do anything to get ride of communism in china, we still did not forget what china has done to us in 1960s. We are not agianst the china’s public who are innocents and live in darkness of chinese communism. When india becomes superpower, we will definitely do anything to free this people. Beware china, we are coming after you

#7

India has huge ambition and a volatile country. Frankly speaking, I’m afraid more of India than China. While China’s policy is of caution, India is more reckless. None of India’s neighbors trust India, well maybe except Bhutan. Few years ago, I read in article that India is interested in Malacca strait, that is very bad news for South East Asians

#6

India has problems withh all its neighbors, Its about time India look to the future, avoid conflicts/wars with its neighbors. Stop terrorism and join teh civilized world. 6 decades of wars and conflicts with all its neighbors had got India nothing and will get nothing.

#5

Looks like India wants a 1962 repeat. This time India might lose the whole of Assam, Sikkim, Ladakh and even Kashmir might go to Pakistan. China might even claim part of Himachal Pradesh because of the Dalai Lama’s presence in Dharamsala!

#4

“the history speaks itself ! no one needs to clarify on the part of sino-India relationship . may b trusting an indian is fool’s act for those who r illiterate in civilization “.

#3

Never trust an Indian. He says one thing in the morning and quite another in the evening. The Chinese know the Indians well and will take care of any Indian plans in a way that India will think for another fifty years before looking towards its northern borders.

#2

Never trust the Chinese. They will sell their mothers if they get a profit. (They are already selling their daughters to American adopters by the thousands).

They invaded Tibet and than attacked India in 50’s and 60’s under the false pretext of defense. India cannot trust China after that back stabbing invasion. China still occupies huge Indian territories. India is the only counter power to China in Asia and with U.S. help, the Indians will achieve a far superior military force.

It’s a shame that the Chinese maintain friendly relations with a terrorist state like Pakistan. This evil policy will come back to haunt them some day.

If the Chinese were really smart, they would recognize that India is their natural Asian ally as both ancient civilizations have so much in common. But China has tasted blood by occupying humble Tibetans for 60 years and the growing hungry carnivore only wants more.

#1

India is NOT sending three Mountain divisions to the eastern frontier. They are RAISING three additional divisions for that part of the world. 5 Mountain Division; 17 Mountain Division and 23 Mountain Division have been there since 1963

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