The Sino-Indian Border Dispute

The Sino-Indian Border Dispute

Author: S. Shaalini, VITSOL, Chennai.


India is a diverse country with various culture and traditions with boundaries of almost 15106.7 Square Km, and it is the world’s second most populous country with a population of 1.380 billion and is the seventh largest country in the world by area. Similarly, China with a population of around 1.4 billion and covering approximately 9.6 million Square Km, is the world’s fourth largest country by area. These two countries are economically important countries in the world,and unfortunately they are frequently engaging in border dispute and an attempt has been made through this article to analyze the history of the border dispute,nature of the current dispute,violations of agreements if any, how the present trade-off is important for both the countries and suggestions available for resolving the same has been made.In addition, the opinions of other countries on this border dispute have also been highlighted.


India officially known as the Republic of India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and follows the Democratic style of Governance.On the other hand, China which is popularly known as Republic of China is a country in East Asia, which follows Unitary one-party Socialist Republic.Early in 1914[1]The McMahon Line is the demarcation line between Tibet and the North-east region of India proposed by British colonial administrator Sir Henry McMahon at the 1914 Simla Convention signed between British and Tibetan representatives. It is the legal boundary amongst China and India.


Dispute Root:

After the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the year 1949,China announced that it would be occupying Tibetin early 1950.When India shared a letter of protest for the China’s move and proposing negotiations on the Tibet issue, China was even more active in deploying troops.

In 1954, China and India concluded the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, under which, India acknowledged Chinese rule in Tibet. It was at this time when former Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru promoted the slogan “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai”(India and China are Brothers)

Also, in the same year, Nehru leading a revision in the maps of India to show definite boundaries on all frontiers; however, Chinese maps showed some 120,000 square kilometers of Indian territory as Chinese.

When Dalai Lama was accommodated at India when he fled from Tibet, China’s leaders felt humiliated and blamed that India is the main culprit for China- Tibet unrest. China’s perception of India as a threat to its rule of Tibet became one of the most prominent reasons for the Sino-Indian unrest. This is continuing even today and remain as threat all the time.


Tibet is the border for Ladakh and Ladakh is also known as Little Tibet. It was serving as crossroads of several important trade routes and hence the territory has a rich history of commerce. But when china closed the borders in 1960 with Central Asia and Tibet, commerce took a big hit.

The Current India- China border dispute is a dispute on the identity of territory. The reason for the dispute is that the identification of the international boundary line between India and China on the basis of the country which had exercised Sovereign control over the border territory on historical material at a relevant time.

As the dispute remain unresolved, suddenly China has announced that it is moving 20 martial art trainers to the Tibetan plateau to train its forces.

Close to 20 people have died in clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the disputed eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.This clash is classified as the most serious clash since 1976 and also in terms of fatality, it is considered as the worst clash since 1975.The Galwan valley refers to the land that is existing between steep mountains that buffet the Galwan River. The river has its source in Aksai Chin, on China’s side of the LAC, and it flows from the east to Ladakh, where it meets the Shyok river on India’s side of the LAC.

 Line of Actual Control(LAC):

India and China had to fight war 60 years before over a border dispute that ended with an uneasy truce in 1962 . When there was no formally negotiated border along the unfriendly stretch of land high in the Himalayas that separates the two nations, the cease-fire established a 2,100-mile-long Line of Actual Control( LAC ). Since then, an uneasy peace has held.Also, the Line of Actual Control (LAC)Originally known as the Cease-fire Line is a loose demarcation line that separates Chinese-controlled territory  from Indian-controlled territory in the Sino-Indian border dispute.


Tensions have been escalating since late April, when China sent thousands of troops into the disputed territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), bringing artillery[2] and vehicles in violation of [3]bilateral agreements. Their refusal to leave the disputed areas, including the Galwan Valley inside Indian territory, has triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights in key border areas

Crux of Violation / What led to the current standoff?

The following facts highlights how china has breached the contract and violated the terms of 1993, 1996, and 2013 border agreements:

  • On June 15, 2020 Indian and Chinese troops brawled for several hours in the Galwan Valley, using stones and sticks with nails embedded in them to beat each other, killing 20 Indian soldiers and injuring at least 76 more. China has not disclosed how many casualties its troops suffered.
  • China violated 1993 treaty that dictates that both sides will maintain limited border deployments, whereas, it has amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the LAC.
  • China has blamed India and the its troops for the deadliest clash.
  • The spark for the recent tensions seems to have been a road to a remote air force base that the Indian Army is building through mountain passes in the Galwan Valley, which military analysts say is fully within Indian territory. Experts say that the Chinese are determined to frustrate India’s efforts to upgrade its military positions.


The Indian government which decided to ban 59 apps which does not affect the revenue of the Chinese Government, but it is also a major setback for many internet and Chinese technology companies who have global ambitions. This also disrupted Chinese ambitions for digital silk route at least in India for the time being.

India vehemently reacted that China should stick on to the June 22, 2020 plan which asks China to adhere to the de-escalation and disengagement which eventually lead to reduction in military buildup along LAC.

China’s reaction for the applications that have been banned by India is that the action of India have violated (WTO) world trade organization rules. As a retaliation nature, in China, Indian newspapers and websites are disabled.

China also voiced that it is India’s responsibility to uphold “the legal and legitimate rights” of international investors.

Also, UK raised concerns in parliament over China’s bullying behavior with India in the border dispute.

The New York Times called the Galwan Valley stand-off the “worst clash in decades” 


  • Key Indian exports for China are chemicals, engineering goods and electronics.
  • Due to this Stand off, India is expected to run with a trade deficit of 54 billion dollars.
  • Total trade between India and China are 110 Billion dollars.
  • 82 billion dollars or 17% of the country’s Import are from China.
  • China accounts for 30-80% of the total imports of 26 major items.


  • Tariff and non-tariff barrier views might be considered
  • High tech/skill products will be more difficult to substitute.
  • High cost of Import substitution will affect pharmaceuticals and automobile industries in India.


The present deadlock can be resolved by adhering to the following important treaties[4]:

1993Maintenance of peace and tranquility along the LAC  Since Border demarcation is yet to be made, till both countries have final determination on boarders, this agreement may be followed for the framework for Border security. Going by the frame work, both countries have agreed to reduce their troops at border and maintain friendly relation. Further, both countries have agreed to update force movement at boarder.  
1996Confidence building measures in the military field along the LACAs a confidence building measure, both countries have agreed to disclose their military position at border whenever border exercises happen and also agreed to reduce their troops. Further, upon invitation, each country can observe troop movement of other country and also movement if any on their respective territories.  
20052005 protocol on the modalities of confidence- building measures in the military field along the LACThis agreement seeks to implement previous agreements on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas of 7 September 1993 and on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas of 29 November 1996. The parties agreed on modalities to implement the confidence building measures including through procedures for exchange of information regarding troop movements and the conduct of bi-annual meetings on border issues. They also agreed to resolve any agreement violation or need for clarification through diplomatic channels.
2012Establishment of a working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairsTo maintain peaceful and good relationship with each other, the discussion was in such a way that peacefulness is ensured in the border for better and important development of bilateral relations.Also, the way to increase the level of mutual trust and empathetic of personnel at border were considered. Further, it was agreed for exchange of visit or enhancing the cooperation between the two country’s forces  
2013Border defense cooperation agreementThis agreement deals with the ways by which border tensions can be avoided. This will also define the restrictions for use of Military capability to attack other country at LACnor tail patrol each other.  


Today the whole world is suffering from COVID-19 PANDEMIC and India is no exception to that. Our country is fighting for managing and coming out of COVID Crisis and trying to stimulate the economy which has gone to tailspin owing to COVID.In this crisis period, our country is getting continuously disturbed from neighboring/bordering countries like Nepal, Pakistan and China.

On the part of China, which has just passed a contentious new law for Hongkong amidst major criticism from all developed countries and also in the midst of criticism from all global countries for pandemic spreading, trying to divert global attention from the above crisis by indulging in exerting pressure on the Indo-China border.. China is aware that India is important to them as the large consumer market in the world for their trade and any disturbance in the bilateral trade will have cascading effects in both the countries.

Keeping the above sensitivity into account, both countries have initiated dialogues to break the impasse and trying to move ahead. Since this issue is of global importance, USA too offered helping hand to resolve the dispute.

As a citizen of India, we would like to have a peaceful living and harmonious relation with our neighboring nations and continue our journey on focusing on growing our country’s economy.

[1] Claude Arpi (2008). Tibet: The Lost Frontier. Lancer Publishers LLC. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-1-935501-49-7.

[2]artillery-weapons that the military used mainly for attack

[3] bilateral agreement–Bilateral agreements exist when both parties involved in a contract make a promise, or have a responsibility to uphold.

[4]Treaties: A formally concluded and ratified agreement between states.


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