By Manali Joshi
The chief reason for India-China dispute is China’s denial to recognise the McMahon Line marking the territorial boundary between the two nations. China claims large tracts of land of Arunachal Pradesh as being a contiguous part of Tibet.
This age-old dispute started in the late 1950s when China occupied Tibet, and as a consequence of which, claimed a large part of Ladakh under the Tibetan region. It occupied approximately 38,000 square km of Aksai China—a remote part of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir—and built a highway (National Highway 219) through it to connect with its eastern province of Xinjiang. This act of China was considered as an illegal occupation of land by India. Moreover, China has gone ahead to claim the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh and has refused to acknowledge any border dividing Tibet, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
China’s interest in Tawang
Tawang is a small district in Arunachal Pradesh which is a border between Tibet and Bhutan. The town is famous for its monastery built in 1681 by the Tibetan Lama Lodre Gyatso. It was done in accordance with the wishes of the fifth Dalai Lama, Nagwang Lobsang Gyatso. China, even though officially stakes claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, it is the district Tawang in which it is more interested. It cites the monastery as an evidence to prove that the district once belonged to Tibet and wants New Delhi to return it in order to help settle the clamour. A Tibet wire service quoted a senior Chinese diplomat saying, “We don’t recognise the entire Arunachal state as being a part of India, but Tawang is particularly special. It has longstanding historic links with Tibet and it is important for us to be able to settle the border problem.”
The McMahon Line
In 1912, a new Republic of China was formed after renunciation of the throne by the Qing Emperor. However, the Tibetans asserted their independence and forced the Chinese troops based in Lhasa to return to the mainland via India. A year later, Tibet declared independence from China.
In order to ensure that the unrest did not affect India and to secure its boundaries, the then British ruling government decided to convene a meeting with Tibet and China. The aim of the tripartite meeting was to negotiate and settle a treaty defining the borders and various other issues. The result of the accord gave China most of Tibet, and the boundary was defined between the regions which was later known as the McMahon line. The British, and subsequently the Government of India, saw this as the official border with Tibet. While the 1914 treaty was recognised and followed by the three parties, Beijing defaulted in performing its part of the treaty. China denied the acceptance of the treaty saying that the provincial government of Tibet had no right to be a signatory to any such accord. Following such denial, it went ahead to claim large tracts of land surrounding Tibet, including Aksai Chin in the west and Arunachal Pradesh in the east.
Crossing the border
In June 2017, Doka La became the site of a stand-off between the armed forces of India and China following an attempt by China to extend a road from Yadong further southward on the Doklam plateau. India, unlike China and Bhutan, does not have a claim on the Doklam plateau. However, it supports Bhutan’s claim on the territory. This is because a treaty was signed by Bhutan and India in the year 1949, wherein Bhutan agreed to let India guide its foreign policy defence affairs. The same treaty was then superseded in 2007 by a new friendship treaty which made it mandatory for Bhutan to take India’s guidance for foreign policy and to allow India to help in providing greater sovereignty to Bhutan. Thus, India charges China of violating this peace agreement by constructing the road on Doklam plateau. On 18 June 2017, Indian troops apparently crossed into the territory in dispute between China and Bhutan in an attempt to prevent the road construction. India criticised China for crossing the border and attempting to construct a road, while China criticised India for entering its territory.
In April 2017, China reiterated that Arunachal Pradesh is not a part of Indian territory and claimed it to be a disputed part of the Sino-Indian border. The statements were made following the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to the region. Moreover, it was observed that the weekly editorials of China have been writing harsh editorials stating that the people of Arunachal Pradesh have been living hard lives under the illegal ruling of the Indian government. Lu Kang, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson, confirmed that their position over boundary issue will never be changed and the fact that local government of Tibet has been exercising effective administration of eastern section of the boundary. Considering all the above issues which have been prevalent since ages, it seems difficult to achieve a mutually consented peace agreement over the boundary issues considering the expansionist foreign policy of China and rightful ownership of the land by India.