- GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations
- GS-3: Challenges in managing the borders
China’s new land border law and Indian concerns
Context: On October 23, China passed a new land law for the “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas” which will come into effect from January 1.
The law is not meant specifically for the border with India; however, the 3,488-km boundary remains disputed, and some experts feel it could create further hurdles in the resolution of the 17-month-long military standoff.
Do You Know?
- China shares its 22,457-km land boundary with 14 countries including India, the third longest after the borders with Mongolia and Russia.
- Unlike the Indian border, however, China’s borders with these two countries are not disputed.
- The only other country with which China has disputed land borders is Bhutan (477 km).
The Chinese law
- It states that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are sacred and inviolable”, and asks the state to “take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines it”.
- The state can take measures “to strengthen border defence, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas, encourage and support people’s life and work there and promote coordination between border defence and social, economic development in border areas”.
- In effect, this suggests a push to settle civilians in the border areas.
- However, 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”
Implications on India
- The announcement of a law that makes China’s borders “sacred and inviolable” at a time of prolonged ongoing discussions to resolve the standoff in eastern Ladakh, may create further hurdles in arriving at lasting solution.
- The PLA is now “bound to protect the integrity, sovereignty of the border”, and saying “that PLA is going to pull out from A, B, C, D areas, will make this much more difficult”.
- Overall, it will make negotiations a little more difficult, a pullout from balance areas less likely.
- China has been building “well-off” border defence villages across the LAC in all sectors. China is trying to change the facts on the ground not only through military but also civilian presence. The “dual civil and military use” of border villages is a concern for India.
- Some experts think the law is just words — what has impacted the ties is not domestic Chinese legislation, but their actions on the ground.
Connecting the dots: