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India-China relations

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests


Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

 Direction: There were multiple articles on India-China relations. We have tried to club them all together.

 Context: Indian and Chinese troops clashed in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector, beating up each other with sticks and canes, in their closest encounter since the deadly Galwan incident in eastern Ladakh in June 2020.

The incident came days after China expressed objection to Operation Yudh Abhyas, an India-US joint military exercise at Auli in the Uttarakhand hills, claiming it to be a violation of 1993 and 1996 border agreements.

What is the origin of the border dispute with China?

  • After the communists took over in China, they withdrew from all international agreements citing them to be “unequal treaties” imposed on it during its “century of humiliation”, and demanded a re-negotiation of all its borders.
  • The LAC separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory. It is divided into three sectors: the Eastern Sector (Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim), Middle Sector (Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) and Western Sector (Ladakh).
  • In the Eastern Sector, the alignment of the LAC is along the McMahon Line, named after Sir Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of British India. He drew the 890-km line as the border between British India and Tibet (a part of the 1914 Shimla Convention Between Great Britain, China, and Tibet). China now doesn’t comply with this.

What is China’s so-called claim on Arunachal Pradesh, and on what grounds?

  • China claims around 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh — the entire state — as its territory. It calls the area “Zangnan” in the Chinese language and makes repeated references to it as “South Tibet”.


Issue of recent Cyber-attack:

  • The probe into the cyberattack on some servers at AIIMS in Delhi has found that the IP addresses of two emails, originated from Hong Kong and China’s Henan province.


India’s reaction:

  • China’s latest transgression on the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh led to calls for snapping trade ties to teach Beijing a “lesson”, but official data show that India’s imports from the country have jumped to a record high over the last 30 months.


India and China have taken different paths to development

Political systemIndia is the world’s largest multi-party parliamentary democracy.  China is a one-party authoritarian rule.
Development Strategy in the Initial years.India undertook the policy of closed trade. This was to give a thrust to domestic industries and reduce dependence on foreign products and companies. Thus, India followed the Import substitution strategy.Great Leap Forward (GLF) strategy aimed at the high-scale industrialization of the economy. Rural communities were allowed to undertake collective cultivation. Urban communities were encouraged to undertake industrialization.
Economic reformsEconomic reforms started in 1991.

India’s reforms have scaled back state-run industries drive by Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization.               

Economic reforms started in 1978.

China’s reforms have created a pseudo-free-market command economy.

External relationsIndia is a masterful exponent of soft power compared to hard power. India’s best brand ambassadors are its companies, executives, academics and film stars.The economic diplomacy approach characterizes China’s relations with the world. China is stronger than India in its common hinterland in Asia and is gaining prominence in Africa and central Asia.


Recent divergences

  • Development Diplomacy vs Debt trap diplomacy
    • China is often accused of “debt-trap diplomacy” – strategically trapping recipient countries with loans they can’t repay. When recipients default, China can seize strategic assets, thus extending its leverage E.g. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port.
    • India is using soft power and developmental assistance. It is steering more than 500 development projects across 64 countries focusing on the empowerment of local communities through capacity building.
  • China following 9 – dash lines vs India’s call for open and free navigation.


Rising Influence of China in the region:

  • China has invested hugely across the IOR littoral states to secure its own interest through various projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, ‘Maritime Silk Road’, and String of Pearls.
  • Economic Investment: Pakistan and Sri Lanka are seeing a rising inflow of Chinese FDI.
  • Comprehensive strategic partnerships with Thailand, Myanmar, Mozambique, and South Africa.
  • Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) platform for financing infrastructure construction in Indian Ocean countries.
  • Military Base– China is building a military base at Gwadar in Pakistan, a naval base
    at Cox Bazaar Bangladesh, based in Djibouti.
  • Mineral Exploration– China-Africa Cooperation (investments in mineral smelters)
  • Military exercises– China participates in various joint military exercises in IOR.
    China, Russia and Iran held naval exercises.


Impact on Indian Interest

  • Regional Maritime Security.
  • Affects India’s Neighborhood first policy
  • Disruption of international shipping lanes
  • Economy & trade in the Indian Ocean
  • Threatens Energy Security
  • Loosing strategic projects-
    ü India’s failure to develop the Chabahar port project in Iran might be China’s gain.
    ü Lost Hambantota Port to China.
  • Minerals, Metals and Ores– Ocean drilling, seafloor resources exploration and
    development can be affected.

Way forward:

The Global balance of power has shifted to the east in recent years. The concept of the Asian Century gained credence following the rapid economic growth of China and India since the 1980s, which propelled both of them to the ranks of the world’s largest economies. Thus, a rules-based Multi-Polar World Order creates an enabling ecosystem.


Insta Links:

India China Relations

Mains Link:

Q. ‘China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as tools to develop potential military power status in Asia’. In light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbour. (UPSC – 2017)