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China: Position Paper on Sino-Indian Border Dispute

A comprehensive position paper in Chinese language, in six parts, captioned ‘China – India Border Dispute’ has been published in a party-affiliated website in China on 25 January 2011. The web post is still available for viewing.

The website, which  focuses on studies relating to the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is being managed by a premier think tank in the country – the Institute of Contemporary China Studies (ICCS). The ICCS, which works closely with the authoritative Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), was established on 28 June 1990 with the approval of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and is receiving ‘political guidance’ from that Committee’s Secretariat. The President of the ICCS is Zhu Jiamu, who also functions as CASS Vice President and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Against this background, the importance of the paper, apparently intended to educate the Chinese population on the Sino-Indian border issue, can be well understood. The paper may also serve as a tool for analysts outside China to understand the Chinese thinking at high levels on the subject of Sino-Indian border. With this in view, the Chennai Centre for China Studies (CCCS) thought it worthwhile to translate its contents into English for the benefit of the researchers worldwide. Annexed below is the translation done.

The position paper carries an introduction to the Sino-Indian border issue, attaching adequate reference material for the benefit of readers. The topics covered include the origin of the issue, China-India border talks and their focal points and “Chinese counter attack in self-defence in 1962”.  Interestingly, it also throws light on the concerns being felt by China over India’s approach towards the border issue.  What should not be missed in any case is that the paper conveys its assessment in a subtle manner, choosing to quote to a large extent, from what the state-controlled media in China have said on the Sino-Indian border issue, without referring to any official document.

Prominent themes of the paper are that the Sino-Indian border has never been formally demarcated, the PRC does not recognise the McMahon line and Arunachal Pradesh state and a solution to the border issue is still eluding due to India’s persistent acceptance of the McMahon line.  On what China and India should do in the current period, the paper stresses the need for the two sides to promote ‘framework’ negotiations. Its call for “a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution” to the border issue is in conformity with Beijing’s official stand.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s observations in an article on the border issue (foreign ministry website, 7 August 2009), carried in the paper look important. The article especially describes the length of the border as about 2000 kms.  Significantly, the article appeared on the eve of 13th round of Special Representatives talks.  Analysts in India, contrasting China’s position with that of India describing the length as 3488 kms, consider that the Chinese version of border length is of recent origin and that it amounted to China’s exclusion of border portion relating to India’s Jammu & Kashmir state, indicating a change in Beijing’s position on the Kashmir issue.  Chinese experts like Prof Hu Shisheng of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, on the other hand justify China’s stand on border length by arguing that the western section of the border is disputed which needs to be settled by India and Pakistan and hence that section cannot be considered as part of China’s dispute with India. Whatever may be the case, with the Chinese foreign ministry itself coming out with its position on border length in 2009, various other channels in China confirming the same in the subsequent period and India obviously questioning the Chinese stand, the two sides, in future border talks, may have to face the tough question of how to reconcile their differences on this count. It is not known whether the issue was discussed the 14th round of Special Representatives talks (Beijing, November 2010).

On India’s approach towards the border issue, the paper identifies areas of concern to China; an attached analysis of the paper puts India’s despatch of additional troops to Northeast on the top of the list. It points out that the strength of the Indian troops in the border now exceeds that of China and that India’s moves are not conducive to establishing mutual political and military trust. It sees dangers of border clashes erupting as a result.

Secondly, through the paper, China seems to be signalling to India its sensitivity over the matter of Tawang’s political status. Describing Tawang region as a focal point of border talks, the paper’s reference material states that China – India talks should aim at solving two parts of the border issue – the strategic aspect of the disputed territories and the politically sensitive aspect of migrants – settled areas under which category Tawang falls.

The paper identifies a third area of China’s dissatisfaction- India’s mindset on the border issue. It sees four factors affecting India’s mindset- fixation with ‘status quo’, inheritance of colonial legacy,   expectation of a quid pro quo from China and belief that ‘control’ provides legitimacy to ‘action’. Elaborating them, a reference report linked to the paper said that the border issue remains unsolved, for which India’s fixation with its ‘recognising the status quo thinking’ is responsible. Another source quoted by the paper said that  as an inheritor of British colonial legacy, India wants China to accept the “McMahon line” as well as the India- advocated border line in the Western sector based on the principle of ‘watershed delimitation’. On ‘quid pro quo’, the linked report  stated that India gave up its privileges in Tibet, albeit per force, as a result of the 1954 trade and transport agreement between China’s Tibet and India, but expected China to provide a return by way of accepting the “McMahon line”.  This was followed by India’s ‘forward policy’. On the last mentioned factor, a comment attached to the paper, alleged that India, as a demonstration of its faith in the dictum of ‘ Who so ever is in control, that person’s actions are justified’ , is “occupying, establishing  administration in, sending  migrants to and militarising”  the disputed territories.

India’s official interlocutors, who are in direct touch with the Chinese side, may be well aware of the Chinese perceptions regarding the Sino-Indian border issue. However, the contents of the paper may deserve their attention as an additional authoritative input on the issue.  What looks important is identification of areas of concerns by China on India’s approach to the border issue, important among them being  Chinese feelings that India’s military build up in northeast is a security threat to the PRC.  Needless to say that India, while formulating its required responses, may have to factor the Chinese fears, conveyed through the publication in question which is close to the CCP leadership.

(The writer, Mr D.S.Rajan, is Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies, Chennai, India.Translation done by him.


Translation of a position Paper in Chinese language, dated 25 January 2011, carried by the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated website (‘Guo Shi Net –National History Net). ( first edition of the Paper appeared on 25 June 2010).

China-India Border Issue

Author:  Editor of the Guo Shi Net       date of Issue 25.01.2011    Source: Guo Shi Net

People’s Daily Net (renmin wang) carried an article on 14 October 2009 captioned “Do not provoke incidents in the territory under dispute between China and India”. The article said that according to Indian reports, India’s Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh recently went to “Arunachal Pradesh” and gave speeches at election gatherings. The activities of Indian leaders in that disputed region disregarding the serious concerns of the Chinese side caused strong Chinese dissatisfaction and on 13 October 2009, the Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded the Indian side to attach importance to Chinese solemn and just concerns and not to provoke incidents in the disputed territory.

China-India border has never been formally demarcated. The stand of the Chinese Government towards the Eastern section of the disputed border has been consistent and clear. Holding of activities in the region repeatedly by Indian leaders, can only hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. It will also not be beneficial to finding a solution of the China-India border question.

Everybody knows that basically the so called  ‘Arunachal Pradesh” has been set up encompassing the three regions of China’s Tibet – Menba, Luoyu and Xia Zayu, which are under illegal Indian occupation.  These three regions are located between the illegal “McMahon Line” and the China-India traditional and customary border; they have always been China’s territory. In 1914, the colonialists through their secret concoction of illegal “McMahon line”, attempted to incorporate these three regions of China into India’s territory.  Chinese governments since then did not recognize the same. The Indian authorities announced the setting up of so called “Arunachal Pradesh” in February 1987. The Chinese side many times made solemn and just statements that it   absolutely does not recognize the illegal “McMahon line” as well as the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh”.  India is clear about this.

According to Indian reports, elections were held in certain regions of the country including the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh” on 13 October 2009. At a time when India faced a situation of   growth decline, food price inflation and most serious drought in 40 years, the leaders of the ruling Congress party quickly resorted to holding elections in some regions. Indian reports further said that the Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh said at an election meeting in the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh”  “the Congress party had an emotional attachment towards Arunachal Pradesh”.

It should be pointed out such talks of Indian leaders in the disputed territory about “attachment”, are extremely irresponsible.

In November 2008, the then Indian Foreign Minister Mukherjee, while visiting the so-called ”Arunachal Pradesh” said that “ the state of Arunachal Pradesh” is an inseparable part of India’s territory. The Chinese side in its open statement deeply regretted Mukherjee’s irresponsible remarks. India’s current leaders should have learnt a lesson, but with in less than one year since then, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid a visit to the region. Such behaviour is really puzzling.

China and India are important neighbors. They are also developing big powers. For the two sides, highly significant would be to find a political solution to the border issue and protect peace and tranquility in the border regions. Presently, they, on the basis of the political parameters and guiding principles with respect to solution of the border issue, must make efforts to promote the process of framework negotiations and seek a formula for   fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution. But, prospects of realizing such aspirations will recede further if the solemn and just Chinese concerns are not given importance and incidents in the disputed region are provoked.

1. Background Material carried an article on “China and India to maintain border tranquility together”, 9 August 2009. The article said that the 13th round of Special Representatives of China and India on the border issue was held at New Delhi on 7-8 August 2009. State Councillor Dai Bingguo, the Special Representative from the Chinese side, and National Security Adviser Narayanan from the Indian side, in a frank and friendly atmosphere, had a deep exchange of opinions on solving the China-India boundary question.

2. China-India Border Dispute: Origin

Chinese Foreign Ministry Net, 7 August 2009 report:

The total length of China-India border is about 2000 kms. The border falls into three sectors- Eastern, Middle and Western. The total area of the region disputed by the two sides is about 125,000 sq.kms- about 90,000 sq.kms in the Eastern sector, about 2000 sq.kms in the Middle sector and about 33,000 sq.kms in the Western sector.

China-India border issue is a historical legacy. In 1914, British colonialists concocted the illegal “McMahon line”, which all successive Chinese central governments do not recognize. India, after its independence in 1947, not only inherited the parts of China’s territory occupied by Britain, but also further occupied a large stretch of   Chinese territory. In 1953, India extended its occupied territory unto “McMahon line”. In 1954, with its occupation and irrational view as basis, India, in its maps, unilaterally changed the hitherto used terminology of  “undecided border” as that of  “ decided border”.  In accordance with such a changed position in the maps, India, in 1959, formally made its territorial claim on the Aksai Chin region of China’s Xinjiang. In April 1960, Premier Zhou Enlai paid a visit to New Delhi and held talks with Prime Minister Nehru. As India persisted with its irrational stand, the two sides could not reach an agreement during the visit. Official-level meetings between the two sides, which followed, also could not yield results. In October 1962, India launched an all- out armed attack on China, attempted to forcibly grab territory; in return, China was compelled to carry out an attack in self-defence. Since then, for a considerably long period of time, peace prevailed basically in the China-India border.

In February 1987, India established the so called “Arunachal Pradesh state’ comprising Chinese territory south of “McMahon line” illegally occupied by it. The Chinese side many times made solemn and just statements that it absolutely does not recognize the illegal “McMahon line” and the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh state”. It also demanded India’s withdrawal of all of its military personnel operating from points set up across the line.

In December 1988, Indian Prime Minister Gandhi visited China. Both sides stated that while seeking a way, acceptable to both the sides, for solving the border issue, they must also develop ties in other fields and make efforts to create atmosphere and conditions beneficial to solving the issue. Also, the two sides agreed to establish a vice-foreign minister level Joint Working Group to deal with the issue.

Till today, the Vice-Foreign Minister level Border Affairs Joint Working Group of the two countries has held more than ten rounds of talks. Both the sides are unanimous in considering that the border issue must not become an obstacle to development of bilateral ties in other spheres and that it should be solved through peaceful dialogue. In 1993, the two governments signed an agreement on “Maintaining Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the China-India Border Area” and set up an Experts Group to discuss ways for enforcing the agreement’s stipulations. These marked some positive developments.  In November 1995, the two sides dismantled their respective army sentry posts operating very close to Wangdong sector in the Eastern border. This led to more stability in the border situation. In November 1996, during the visit to India by President Jiang Zemin, the two governments signed an agreement on “Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Area”.  This marked an important measure adopted by China and India to establish mutual trust. The agreement’s signing and enforcement has helped in the matter of further protecting peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control and created a good atmosphere for a final solution of the border question.

3. Points Of Focus in the China-India Border Issue:

Jilin City Evening News carried an article captioned “Tawang region is the focal point of the China-India border issue” on 12 November 2008. The article said that the Tawang region in the eastern sector is the biggest focal point of China-India border issue. Britain, while it ruled India, pushed the China-India traditional and customary line towards North and fixed the “McMahon line” which never received the acceptance of the successive Chinese governments. After India attained independence in 1947, it sent troops to occupy Sela in the eastern sector.  In 1951, India occupied Tawang. In 1953, it occupied 90,000 sq kms of territory in the Eastern sector. In 1954, the Indian government made “McMahon line” as the country’s border. The article added that in 1986, in an attempt to legalize its occupation, India elevated the status of “Arunachal centrally administered region” to that of a “province”.

I Feng net carried an article captioned “Focal Issues in China-India Border Talks”.  The article said that China-India talks should in the main solve two parts of the border issue- firstly the territorial aspect generating strategic concerns and secondly, the politically sensitive aspect of migrants- settled areas. Tawang region is one falling into ‘politically sensitive’ category. It is also a region disputed very much by China and India. Tawang is also the birthplace of Sixth Dalai Lama and till today, the Tibetan Buddhist monastery there is considered sacred. No doubt, Tawang is thus the focal issue of China-India border talks. The article added that at the same time, from China’s point of view, Tawang is the gateway for the world outside to enter Tibet. On its part, India considers Tawang is they key junction   for entering into Northeast region. Under these circumstances, Tawang is a difficult subject for the sides to talk. The question is how to solve the presence of 7 million Indian migrants in Tawang region.  Should colonizers rule Tawang or should they be thrown out? The article said that this question is worth considering.

4 China-India border Self-Defence War

On 4 June 2009, People’s Daily Net carried an article entitled “20 October 1962: China-India Border Self-Defence War”. The article said that since 1961, the Indian troops had been intruding into the Western and Eastern sectors of China-India border. They established bases for aggression. The proposals of the Chinese government to solve the border issue through talks were rejected by India. On 10 October 1962, China-India border situation worsened due to violation of border by the Indian troops. On the forenoon of 10 October 1962, the invading Indian troops launched an attack on the Chinese border troops in Chedong region, killing 11 Chinese soldiers. Next day, 22 Chinese soldiers were either wounded or killed. The Chinese government on that day lodged a strongest and most serious protest with its Indian counterpart. It also protested to India about intrusion of Indian aircraft into the Chinese airspace over Lhasa and other places of China’s Tibet. From 17 to 20 October, India launched fierce attacks against Chinese border troops in the Eastern and Western Sectors. Under compelling circumstances, the Chinese border troops had to launch counterattacks in fronts in both the sectors.  Seeking a peaceful solution of the China-India border question, the Chinese government announced on 21 November 1962 that from that day the Chinese border troops would ceasefire along the entire front in the China-Indian border. From 1 December 1962, the Chinese border troops started withdrawing to positions 20 Kilometers away from the China-India Actual Line of Control as it stood on 7 November 1959. The Chinese government returned to the Indian side all arms and ammunition captured and all detained Indian soldiers. 5.China-India Border Talks

Southern Daily Net published an article entitled “Zhou Gang: The crux of the China-India border talks lies with India” on 13 August 2009. The article highlighted the 15 rounds of China-India Vice-Foreign Minister level Joint Working Group meetings on the border held before 2003 and acknowledged the role played by former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in contributing to such progress. It took note of the significance of the agreements reached by China and India in 1993 and 1996. The article however admitted that China-India ties reached a low after the 1998 nuclear tests by India, but positively viewed the agreement on setting up of  “China-India Constructive and Cooperative Partnership” and on “appointment of special representatives to discuss the border question”, concluded during Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to China in 2003. It focused on the 13th round of talks between the two Special Representatives at New Delhi on 7-8 August 2009, acknowledging the consensus reached by the two sides on ‘working together to protect border tranquility’. The article quoted an unidentified Chinese diplomat as saying that the 13th round ended with two important results – agreement to avoid military incidents in the border and reiteration of the “political parameters and guiding principles” as a way to solve the border dispute.


But China-India differences on the specific contents of some guiding principles are still serious. Where do the issues lie? published an article entitled “ Indian troops in China-India border is 100,000; Strength already exceeds that of People’s Liberation Army”, on 15 July 2009. The article stated that India has announced additional dispatch of its 60000 troops to areas close to the region disputed by China and India. Putting together the original strength, the total number of Indian troops deployed in China-India border exceeds the figure of 100,000.

India has all along been taking the pretext of the Chinese military superiority to justify its dispatch of additional troops to the border. But in fact, according to the data given by Pakistan’s “Asian Defence Review”, the strength of the deployed Indian troops in the border region has now already exceeded that of the Chinese army. Besides, India has also attained a partial superiority. Therefore, during the sensitive period of China and India holding new rounds of border talks, the unilateral Indian moves to send additional troops to the border will seriously erode into the mutual political and military mutual trust between the two nations. Such methods of India will not only be least beneficial to solving the border issue but will also greatly increase the dangers of eruption of border clashes between China and India..

On 7 August 2009, Chongqing Evening News carried an article entitled “China and India will today negotiate on the border; Indian attitude is the bottleneck”. The article said that during the last more than 60 years, China-India border issue was negotiated several times, but it still remains unsolved. The main reason for this is India’s fixation with its “recognizing the status quo” thinking with respect to finding a solution.

6.The following  factors fetter the Indian mind:

“ India- the natural successor to colonial legacy.”

Firstly, India inherited the colonial legacy and after its independence, insisted that China-India border has already been demarcated. India took the stand that if China needed negotiations, it must accept the “McMahon line”. In the Western Sector, New Delhi’s position was that China should accept the India-advocated borderline based on ‘delimitation according to watershed principle’.  The Chinese responded to this by affirming that China-India border has never been demarcated and that the Chinese government does not recognize the illegal 1914 Simla Convention agreement over “ McMahon line”, reached by the British, Indian and the local Tibetan representatives behind the back of the Chinese government.

“ India’s giving up its  privileges expecting China’s quid pro quo.”

Secondly, India refused to give up the privileges acquired from the colonial Britain, even after China’s  “peaceful liberation of Tibet”. The Nehru government encouraged the Dalai Lama to flee Tibet and seek Tibet independence from outside. After the China-India agreement on 29 April 1954 which provided for trade and transport between China’s Tibet and India,  India was forced to give up its privileges in Tibet, but the Nehru government thought that through signing the 1954 agreement, the  Chinese government recognized the status quo  in the China-India border, in other words, completely accepted the  “McMahon line delimitation”. This reflected the expectation of India, which gave up its privileges in Tibet, for a Chinese quid pro quo. Such a mindset naturally drove the Nehru government to aggressively implement a “forward policy” which eventually led to the 1962 border conflict.

“India’s belief- whosoever is in control, that person’s action is justified”.

Thirdly, India believes that “whoever controls, he is justified.” Under this thinking, in the past few decades, India has been trying to do “a fait accompli”, forcing the Chinese side to recognize India’s actual administrative jurisdiction rights over the disputed territories. India has been resorting to unilateral actions in the disputed border region in the Eastern sector. Such actions have manifested in ‘occupation of, establishment of administration in, populating and militarizing the disputed region’. India sent people to occupy the disputed territories, even using force to drive out Tibetan local administrative officials. It strengthened its administrative control and organizational setup in the occupied areas and continuously sent migrants to such areas. Also, India continued strengthening of its border defense units in the disputed territories under its control.

On 10 August 2010, carried an article entitled “The two sides to protect tranquility in the border, but where the border talks are stuck?” The article said that the crux of the China-India border problem basically lies with India’s stubbornness in persisting with the “McMahon line”. This line is absolutely not acceptable to China. Chinese Academician Professor Zhao Gancheng said that in 1987, India set up “ Arunachal Pradesh” state and in this way, attempted to create within the country an image of a done-deal. But such a step has limited the policy options for the Indian government. Under the ‘done deal’ situation, there can be uproar and accusations in the Indian media and public opinion if somebody within India views the formation of “Arunachal Pradesh state” as illegal or expresses opinions in favor of talks. Other Connected Material

The People’s Daily Net carried the views of netizens in China on certain remarks made on China by India’s three service chiefs. India’s Naval Chief has openly recognized that India is not a match to China in military strength. Indian senior Naval commander Das, while talking to China’s “International Herald Monitor” admitted China’s military superiority vis-à-vis India. Senior Army officer Banerjee pointed out that India requires catching up with China. The Indian Air Force Chief said that India is worried about how China will use its military strength.


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