india’s relations with china
Cultural and economic relations between China and India date back to ancient times. The Silk Road not only served as a major trade route between India and China, but is also credited for facilitating the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia. During the 19th century, China’s growing opium trade with the East India Company triggered the First and Second Opium Wars. During World War II, India and China both played a crucial role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan.
Relations between contemporary China and India have been characterised by border disputes, resulting in three military conflicts — the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Chola incident in 1967, and the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish. In early 2017, the two countries clashed at the Doklam plateau along the disputed Sino-Bhutanese border. However, since the late 1980s, both countries have successfully rebuilt diplomatic and economic ties. In 2008, China became India’s largest trading partner and the two countries have also extended their strategic and military relations. Apart from trade and commerce, there are some other areas of mutual interest on which China and India have been cooperating of late. In the words of Rejaul Karim Laskar, a scholar of Indian foreign policy, “Currently, the two countries are cooperating on a range of international like trade, climate change and reform of the global financial order, among others, to promote common interest”.
Despite growing economic and strategic ties, there are several hurdles for India and the PRC to overcome. India faces trade imbalance heavily in some favour of China. The two countries failed to resolve their border dispute and Indian media outlets have repeatedly reported Chinese military incursions into Indian territory. Both countries have steadily established military infrastructure along border areas. Additionally, India remains wary about China’s strong strategic bilateral relations with Pakistan, while China has expressed concerns about Indian military and economic activities in the disputed South China Sea.
In June 2012, China stated its position that “Sino-Indian ties” could be the most “important bilateral partnership of the century”.That month Wen Jiabao, the Premier of China and Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India set a goal to increase bilateral trade between the two countries to US$100 billion by 2015.
Bilateral trade between China and India touched US$89.6 billion in 2017-18, with the trade deficit widening to US$62.9 billion in China’s favour. In 2017, the volume of bilateral trade between India & China stands at US$84.5 billion. This figure excludes bilateral trade between India & Hong Kong which stands at another US$34 billion.
Mao Zedong viewed Tibet as an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. Mao saw Indian concern over Tibet as a manifestation of interference in the internal affairs of the PRC. The PRC reasserted control over Tibet and to end Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism) and feudalism, which it did by force of arms in 1950. To avoid antagonizing the PRC, Nehru informed Chinese leaders that India had no political ambitions, territorial ambitions, nor did it seek special privileges in Tibet, but that traditional trading rights must continue. With Indian support, Tibetan delegates signed an agreement in May 1951 recognizing PRC sovereignty but guaranteeing that the existing political and social system of Tibet would continue.
Nehru sought to initiate a more direct dialogue between the peoples of China and India in culture and literature. Around that time, the famous Indian artist (painter) Beohar Rammanohar Sinha, who had earlier decorated the pages of the original Constitution of India, was sent to China in 1957 on a Government of India fellowship to establish a direct cross-cultural and inter-civilization bridge. Noted Indian scholar Rahul Sankrityayan and diplomat Natwar Singh were also there, and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan paid a visit to PRC. Between 1957 and 1959, Beohar Rammanohar Sinha not only disseminated Indian art in PRC but also became skilled in Chinese painting and lacquer-work. He also spent time with great masters Qi Baishi, Li Keran, Li Kuchan as well as some moments with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Consequently, up until 1959, despite border skirmishes, Chinese leaders amicably had assured India that there was no territorial controversy.
In March 1959, the Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetan people, sought sanctuary in Dharmsala, Himachal Pradesh. Thousands of Tibetan refugees settled in northwestern India. The PRC accused India of expansionism and imperialism in Tibet and throughout the Himalayan region. China claimed 104,000 km² of territory over which India’s maps showed clear sovereignty, and demanded “rectification” of the entire border.
Border disputes resulted in a short border war between the People’s Republic of China and India on 20 October 1962. The border clash resulted in a defeat of India as the PRC pushed the Indian forces to within forty-eight kilometres of the Assam plains in the northeast. It also occupied strategic points in the Aksai Chin and Demchok regions of Ladakh, before declaring a unilateral cease-fire on 21 November. It claimed that it withdrew to twenty kilometers behind its contended line of control. India disagreed with the claim.
Relations between the PRC and India deteriorated during the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s while the China–Pakistan relations improved and the Sino-Soviet relations worsened. The PRC backed Pakistan in its 1965 war with India. Between 1967 and 1971, an all-weather road was built across territory claimed by India, linking PRC’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan; India could do no more than protest.
Top-level dialogue continued with the December 1991 visit of PRC premier Li Peng to India and the May 1992 visit to China of Indian president R. Venkataraman. Six rounds of talks of the Indian-Chinese Joint Working Group on the Border Issue were held between December 1988 and June 1993. Progress was also made in reducing tensions on the border via mutual troop reductions, regular meetings of local military commanders, and advance notification about military exercises. In July 1992, Sharad Pawar visited Beijing, the first Indian Minister of Defence to do so. Consulates reopened in Bombay (Mumbai) and Shanghai in December 1992.
In 1993, The sixth-round of the joint working group talks was held in New Delhi but resulted in only minor developments. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and Premier Li Peng signed a border agreement dealing with cross-border trade, cooperation on environmental issues (e.g. Pollution, Animal extinction, Global Warming, etc.) and radio and television broadcasting. A senior-level Chinese military delegation made a goodwill visit to India in December 1993 aimed at “fostering confidence-building measures between the defence forces of the two countries.” The visit, however, came at a time when China was providing greater military support to Burma. The presence of Chinese radar technicians in Burma’s Coco Islands, which border India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands caused concern in India.
In 2006, China and India re-opened Nathula pass for trading. Nathula was closed 44 years prior to 2006. Re-opening of border trade will help ease the economic isolation of the region. In November 2006, China and India had a verbal spat over claim of the north-east Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. India claimed that China was occupying 38,000 square kilometres of its territory in Kashmir, while China claimed the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as its own.
In 2007, China denied the application for visa from an Indian Administrative Service officer in Arunachal Pradesh. According to China, since Arunachal Pradesh is a territory of China, he would not need a visa to visit his own country. Later in December 2007, China reversed its policy by granting a visa to Marpe Sora, an Arunachal born professor in computer science. In January 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited China to discuss trade, commerce, defence, military, and various other issues.
Until 2008 the British Government’s position remained the same as had been since the Shimla Accord of 1913: that China held suzerainty over Tibet but not sovereignty. Britain revised this view on 29 October 2008, when it recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet through its website. The Economist stated that although the British Foreign Office’s website does not use the word sovereignty, officials at the Foreign Office said “it means that, as far as Britain is concerned, ‘Tibet is part of China. Full stop.'” This change in Britain’s position affects India’s claim to its North Eastern territories which rely on the same Simla Accord that Britain’s prior position on Tibet’s sovereignty was based upon.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao paid an official visit to India from 15–17 December 2010 at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He was accompanied by 400 Chinese business leaders, who wished to sign business deals with Indian companies.
In September, 2014 the relationship took a sting as troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have reportedly entered two kilometres inside the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Chumar sector. The next month, V. K. Singh said that China and India had come to a “convergence of views” on the threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
In more modern times, China and India have been working together to produce films together, such as Kung Fu Yoga starring Jackie Chan. However, disruptions have risen again due to China building trade routes with Pakistan on disputed Kashmir territory.
On 16 June 2017 Chinese troops with construction vehicles and road-building equipment began extending an existing road southward in Doklam, a territory which is claimed by both China as well as India’s ally Bhutan. On June 18, 2017, around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers, entered Doklam to stop the Chinese troops from constructing the road. Among other charges, China accused India of illegal intrusion into its territory, across what it called the mutually agreed China-India boundary, and violation of its territorial sovereignty and UN Charter. India accused China of changing the status quo in violation of a 2012 understanding between the two governments regarding the tri-junction boundary points and causing “security concerns”, which were widely understood as at its concerns with the strategic Siliguri Corridor. India media reported that on 28 June Bhutan issued a demarche, demanding China to cease road-building in Doklam and maintain the status quo.
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