GS Paper 2:
Topics Covered: India and neighbourhood relations.
China’s new law on land borders has come into effect from the new year. While some feel India should worry about its border areas, others note that China’s actions have been aggressive even without it.
About the law:
It is called the law for the “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas”.
- Under the law, “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are sacred and inviolable”.
- The state needs to “take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines these”.
- The law encourages the development of villages for civilians in the border areas.
- The law also asks the state to follow the principles of “equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues.
- The law lays down four conditions under which the state can impose emergency measures, including border shutdown.
Rationale behind the law:
- This law reflects Beijing’s renewed concerns over the security of its land border. It also underscores the imperative for Beijing to exert greater control over its somewhat porous land border.
- The law “reflects Beijing’s thinly-veiled worries about the stability of its hinterland bordering Central Asia” as the withdrawal of the US forces and Taliban takeover “aggravated Beijing’s concerns that Afghanistan may become a hotbed for terrorism and extremism that could spread to Xinjiang”.
- Domestic politics too may have been a contributing factor, bolstering President Xi Jinping’s standing in the lead-up to the 20th Party Congress later this year when he would secure a third term.
Does it concern India?
Although the law is not meant specifically for India, it is bound to have some impact.
- China and India share a disputed 3,488-km boundary, the third longest among China’s 22,457-km land boundaries with 14 countries, after the borders with Mongolia and Russia.
- There is a growing suspicion that China may have been stalling further negotiations on the standoff in eastern Ladakh for this new law to come into force. The Corps Commanders last met in October.
- The new law also prohibits construction of permanent infrastructure close to the border without China’s permission. Both, India and China have been building new roads, bridges and other facilities faster since the standoff began; in fact, China had objected to India’s workers even before.
What impact can it have on India-China relations?
Much depends on China’s actions, regardless of the new law.
- Some experts feel the new law will make China dig its heels in, on the ongoing standoff as well as for resolution of the larger boundary issue.
- Others feel the new law is only a tool China government will use if it wants, as its actions have been aggressive even before this law.
Overall, the new law is the “latest attempt by China to unilaterally delineate and demarcate territorial boundaries with India and Bhutan”.
Concerns and challenges ahead:
- The border standoff in eastern Ladakh remains unresolved.
- China has renamed several places in Arunachal Pradesh as part of its claim on the Indian state.
- The Chinese Embassy in Delhi has written to Indian MPs, including a minister, who had attended a dinner reception hosted by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
Sources: Indian Express.