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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 50 New Delhi December 3, 2016

India and China in Relations with East Asia and the World

Monday 5 December 2016

On an invitation from the Yunnan University (China), the author went to Kunming (capital of Yunnan, China) in the last week of July 2016. He had been asked to speak on the theme of India-China relations and related subjects. He presented the following paper to a select group of six Chinese scholars from universities and research institutes in Kunming. After an hourlong presentation the scholars debated the subject for another two hours. The author clarified at the outset that he did not represent the Government of India and his views and conclusion were his own.

by V. C. Bhutani

India and China are civilisational states which contain in them numerous communities defined by ethnicity, culture, religion, history, and geography. It is important that as modern states they should organise their mutual relations and relations with other countries in a manner that promotes goodwill and does not provoke thoughts of undermining or hurting each other —or any other state. In any case, both are at a stage in history when they are engaged in development activities for their peoples. This hardly leaves scope for anything other than peaceful ways of conducting their foreign relations and their mutual relations.

Both have suffered at the hands of colonial powers and both achieved national independence at about the same time—1947/1949. Since then both have been engaged in building a better life for their respective peoples. As in any bilateral relationship there have been ups and downs and there has been one outright war in 1962 because of a disputed boundary. The boundary problem remains and still awaits solution.

They were both placed in a specific environ-mental situation in which they sought to build relations with other countries. It is all right for both to claim that their relations with other countries are not intended to cause hurt to the other countries but there is hardly any doubt that the choices that the two countries made in the past and those that they will make in the future shall have implications for the security of each other.

There is much that can be said for the case of each country in the matter of the boundary problem, which has numerous offshoots in several directions. For more than half-a-century these questions have been studied and debated by officials and scholars in both the countries and in other countries. The result has been an enormous corpus of writing on the subject which throws light on the problem from many points of view. By now everything has been studied in detail and people in both countries have a sound understanding how the problem can be resolved. If officials were left alone, unhampered by instructions from governments, there is no doubt that they shall be able to hammer out a boundary settlement in a reasonable time. The two governments need to take a political decision that the boundary question needs to be resolved.

Nothing much shall be gained by entering into endless debates on the minutiae of ideas and considerations that must govern boundary- making. Perhaps a beginning may be made by taking up the current ground situation and by examining how the current ground situation can be made the basis, with modifications perhaps, of a settlement. The point is that the two countries should decide that a boundary settlement is desirable.

There is no point in appealing to history of thousands of years to argue the case for either side. That kind of an effort shall prove endless and useless from a practical point of view. Considerations of national prestige and people’s expectations need to be laid aside by both in the interest of better relations between the two countries and for bringing about adjustment in their foreign policy choices, with due regard for their concerns and interests. Besides, this is a world in an age when international relations cannot be governed by any old or new hegemon seeking to dominate the world. It may be nearer the mark to work for better relations, eschewing ideas like one-upmanship or pulling each other down.

As oriental civilisations, China and India have little affinity with Western ideas of demo-cracy. Because of India’s historical experience during about two centuries before its indepen-dence, India has since been experimenting with the democratic system of governance but India has found the Western system rather alien to its culture. Sooner or later India may have to move away from Western democracy, whether presidential or parliamentary, and devise its own amalgam which may perhaps be some kind of a mixture of the two but one which may be more in consonance with India’s past govern-mental experience, which used to subsist around a samrata, an ekarata, or any other such being. Those systems revolved around the strong personality of a central figure who more or less called the tune and prescribed the path that society had to take for the good of their people.

China’s preference has been for a highly centralised system which operates for the good of the people, without being hamstrung by considerations of the demands of a so-called democratic system or a multi-party system. China has made enormous strides in every sphere of state activity. There is no doubt that China is on its way to taking its place among the foremost countries of the world state system. It is a familiar sight to see old states and empires fade out and new ones take their place. It is a matter of empirical experience that many of the Western colonial powers have been in decline, especially after World War II, which itself was the result of rivalries between states and empires.

Several countries of the world, mainly in the West, seem inclined to attempt to prolong what used to be their hegemony over large parts of the world. The current Western Great Powers appear to be moving in a direction which spells continued Western dominance, with little regard for the interests and aspirations of Eastern societies. Since World War II in any case, and perhaps from earlier on, Western countries have been throwing their weight on countries and states of the Middle East and North Africa, with scant regard for the welfare and interests of Middle Eastern and African nations. The result has been that in all the years since World War II Western countries have attempted all kinds of efforts and methods to dominate the oil-producing countries of this region. Regime- change has been attempted a little too often, with no concern for the wishes and inclination of the people concerned in each case: their opinion was never asked. Arab countries and other Islamic countries have been ground under the boots of Western powers to an extent that younger generations saw little room for the fulfilment of their hopes and aspirations. Since those younger people had little to lose, they became fodder for the teaching of those who were ready to preach violence and jihad, especially after the ouster of the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001.

It is the shared experience of many of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa that they have been at the receiving end of unwelcome attention from Western powers, who have not been reluctant to use force in pursuit of their own interests and objectives. In view of such experiences of a large number of countries, who are in no position to stand up to the power of the Western countries, there is need to devise a world order which shall ensure the freedom and stability of the countries of this region as well as other regions. As important countries of the East, China and India need to use their resources and ingenuity to forge better relations between them and to seek to devise a just world order.

There is no inherent conflict of interests between China and India. The world is large enough for the two of them to pursue their common objectives of better economic results alongside a judicious and reliable system of security. Both of them need to ensure that their actions, choices, and policies do not operate to the disadvantage of the other. If other countries see China or India acting in a manner that hurts the other, there is hardly any doubt that other countries shall try to exploit the situation to their advantage, which naturally shall operate to the disadvantage of both. As former victims of colonialist exploitation over prolonged periods of time, the two should give no opportunity to the quondam colonial powers or new candidates for colonial or imperial exploitation to fish in troubled waters.

Complementarity, Not Confrontation

The USA, China, and India need to work together, perhaps along with some others. There is no reason to think that there is a clash of interests between any two of the three in any part of the world, least of all in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, where China has natural interests, or in the IOR, which is vital to Indian security. The world has begun to see that China has graduated out of a period in its life when it was seen as an obstruction to the growth and stability of the world order. The world is long past the time when some nations of the world could treat the rest of the world as hewers of wood and drawers of water for some who were determined to act as masters or overlords or world leaders. The rest of the world is not waiting hat in hand to applaud every act and word emanating from a world leader. Perhaps the world has come to a point when it could do with objectives like shared prosperity and readiness of the developed countries to give a helping hand to the less fortunate of humankind.

Towards India-China Partnership

Obama’s India visit in January 2015 seemed to suggest that there is much that the USA and India can achieve if they work together. The USA had made more than a beginning with China in the matter of climate change and other areas to evince a keen desire for US-China cooperation and partnership. It is about time India started advanced thinking about promo-ting and working for India-China cooperation and partnership—to complete the third arm of the triangle. Modi has done a considerable amount of work with Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September 2014. Modi is perhaps the right Indian leader to advance matters towards a world no longer seen in terms of hostility and hegemony but partnerships and co-development worldwide.

Sino-Indian Boundary Question

Problems between any two of the trio need to be resolved with proper regard for the national interests of each of them. There is need to take a close look at the long standing India-China boundary question which has defied solution for more than 65 years. A close look at the question shows that there are several parts of this question which need to be considered seriatim in order that an overall and compre-hensive solution of the problem may be achieved to the mutual satisfaction of both. We need to get out of shibboleths and habits of thought which have bedevilled consideration of the question for several decades. There is need to think that this problem, like any other problem between any two countries, is capable of resolution, given a desire on both sides to address it.

It is important to think in terms of shared objectives in the larger worldwide context. We need to think that it will be good for both countries if the Sino-Indian boundary question is got out of the way for the proper and possible development of their mutual relationship and their common vision of world peace and development. If this question is no longer a roadblock, then the sky is the limit for the growth of India-China relations: it will be good for both and for the rest of the world and shall free enormous resources which could be applied to worthier objectives like development and growth, which peoples of both the countries need.

Solution of the Boundary Question is Possible

A closer look at the details of the boundary question in the different parts of the boundary shows that it is possible to adjust and accommodate the interests of both by drawing a boundary line in a manner that will satisfy both. The two countries need to get out of groovy thinking, and especially out of groovy talking, by both the countries, of which they have done a great deal over the last 65 years. They need to give up such sterile paths and concentrate on the constructive part of devising ways of resolving the problem. The first need is to stop that kind of talking: it will build an atmosphere and opinion in both the countries that the boundary question should be resolved.

It is but a truism that the Sino-Indian boundary question is left over by history, which indeed it is. In this day and age when it is seen as important and axiomatic that countries should know their boundaries for certain and stay within their boundaries and also guard them, India and China should move towards talking about the problem, not merely for holding one more round of talks between their officials but with the definite object of solving it—finally and once for all.

There has been an enormous amount of writing on the subject by scholars in both the countries as well as by scholars from other countries. Even on the general subject of boundary-making without reference to any specific boundary there is much writing, including some on the theoretical aspect of boundary-making, say, in a mountainous terrain: the India-China borderlands are entirely mountainous. There is much guidance to be had from such writing, which will help towards devising a solution for the Sino-Indian boundary problem.

The twain should think in terms of the need to build an India-China partnership. If that basic foundation is achieved, then the solution to the boundary question will be seen as possible for the good of both.

In any consideration of India-China relations an emphasis on sovereignty and territorial interests of both is desirable and essential. We need to be realistic in the first place. As the cliché goes, politics is the art of the possible. It will not serve any purpose to ask for the moon: we’ll not get the moon. But we can think carefully what can be done to move towards resolving this longstanding problem.

It seems that Xi Jinping is pragmatic and ready to listen to reason. If we make reasonable suggestions, it is possible that he may respond in a constructive manner. We should give serious thought to how it is possible to ensure that the territorial interests of both China and India are protected. It is encouraging to be able to recall that lately there has been no move from China that might cause too large a disturbance of the world order. China may be willing to respond to suggestions of a Chinese role in world affairs commensurate with its economic and techno-logical prowess and achievement. Besides, precisely to preserve that achievement and carry it further China may be expected to be a force for stability, peace and development, although it would be rash to lose sight of China’s controversial claims about maritime boundaries and resources and international navigation in the South China Sea, East China Sea, IOR, Pacific, and Indo-Pacific.

Xi Jinping in Pakistan, April 20-21, 2015

When Xi Jinping resumed intimate relations with Pakistan, its ‘all-weather ally’ and ‘time-tested friend’, he said he felt he was visiting his ‘brother’s home’: Pakistan and China graduated to become ‘Iron Brothers’. That was heart- warming for all Pakistanis and a good beginning to a visit which had been earlier postponed because of the disturbed conditions in Pakistan. Xi chose to visit India then in an effort to enlist Indian support and participation in his plans of cross-continental and cross-oceanic trade routes, reviving some of the ancient Silk Routes and building several new ones. He declared large plans for Sino-Pak economic relations and vast Chinese investments in Pakistan’s infra-structure during the coming decade. The most important part in the Sino-Pak economic plans was that they should lead to more economic progress and development in Pakistan, providing employment to increasing numbers of youth who swell the ranks of job-seekers every year. It should be the fervent prayer of every well-wisher of Pakistan that the plans of investment and construction of various facilities will result in convincing militants that their interests are best served by working with the Pakistan Government and its friends. Pakistan’s leaders should do everything to make the Chinese initiative successful and meaningful for the good of Pakistan and its people. Therein also lies hope for a better atmosphere in the neighbourhood, based on neutralising and converting militants to peaceful ways.

It has also been reported that China is going to make an attempt to bolster Pakistan’s defence by selling to it eight conventional submarines which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. This seems to be the Sino-Pak answer to India’s triad of land, air, and seaborne nuclear weapons: that bit of Indian information has been in the public domain for some years now. The Sino-Pak response to the Indian triad is clearly supported with large economic measures designed to provide what has been missing in Pakistan in all the years since its birth, namely, the economic base that will justify and streng-then Pakistan’s conventional and nuclear capa-bility. This in a way answers the Indian hope that there may be a political decision in China to build better Sino-Indian relations. Chinese claims to the contrary notwithstanding, this is likely to be seen in India as a game-changer and as an indication that the Sino-Pak relationship is going to be a permanent feature of relations between countries in this part of the world.

It is relevant to recall a statement by Strobe Talbott in Mumbai some time in 2005 when he was visiting shortly after the end of Bush’s first term. He had said that good and close Indo-US relations were possible but India should not ask the USA to choose between Pakistan and India —because the USA had already chosen Pakistan. Now, Xi is saying the same thing to India: do not ask China to choose between Pakistan and India: if China has to make a choice it will choose Pakistan.

It follows from this that from now on Indian foreign policy will have to build on the premise that Pakistan is going to remain at the receiving end of considerable military and economic aid from China, Russia, and the USA: any one of them does not seem to see a contradiction in Pakistan being the object of the munificence of others.

Besides, Xi also announced and Chinese scholars and representatives later elaborated ideas that underlay plans like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from Kashgar to Gwadar as well as his other ideas summarised in the phrase One Belt One Road (OBOR). The former will be an enormous undertaking affording China access to the Arab Sea across Pakistan, starting from Kashgar in Xinjiang. This is a stupendous undertaking designed at an outlay of $ 46 billion over the next ten years. Coupled with other ideas that Xi has put forward, it is definitely designed as a game- changer and as an intercontinental artery of transport and communications. Some in India have seen this as completing China’s scheme of India’s encirclement but all the other roads and routes that are parts of Xi’s plans seem to be too large to be merely intended for India’s encirclement. On the contrary, it is conceivable that all these plans are planned as infrastructure for a new and alternative world order or at any rate as a parallel second infrastructure of roads and routes and banks and funds, which too are parts of Xi’s plans. It is possible for India to see Xi’s plans as intended for the genuine benefit of the world. At the same time, the CPEC definitely has security overtones which India should not lose sight of—which indicates that India should participate in Chinese programmes of develop-ment in and around South Asia but also work in the spirit of trust but verify. At all times, India will have to keep its powder dry and maintain its defence preparedness in top efficiency.

China has resolved to siphon a great deal of economic resources to Pakistan. This is good for Pakistan. It will bring more business, more jobs. It will make for greater prosperity. The people of Pakistan will have reason to be grateful to their government and leaders when these projects are completed. When people have a stake in the system, they may not fall for the blandishments of violent ways, which mean suffering for everyone. No one in India should think that this is in any way designed as a measure against India. It is, as the Chinese have said, an economic idea which will mean benefit for both countries and for several other countries that can use the new China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for their own imports and exports. All such economic linkages shall in the long run mean greater interdependence and economic integration. The people and government in India should talk with Pakistan and China and explore possibilities of greater economic relations between the three countries and between them and other countries. Advantage to all countries lies in complementarity and not in confrontation.

Protecting India’s Frontier Areas

We need to keep in mind difficulties of the terrain in the Western and Eastern Sectors of the northern boundary. We have come a long way from the days when we were brought up on stories and fables of the Himalaya as Bharat ki seemaon ka prahri (watchman of the northern frontiers of India). China showed in 1910 and again in 1962 that the Himalaya is not such an impenetrable barrier after all and that it is possible for an intrepid invader to come right across it. By now we have understood the need to maintain security on our borders with our own efforts and not to bank on considerations like bhai-bhai-ism or the panchsheel principles. There is no substitute for maintaining our own fully operational machinery of defence. There is need to construct adequate road and other systems in our own territory.

We should ensure that Chinese forces should not be able to again come rolling down as they did in 1962. India 2016 is a very different place from India 1962. But we need to realise and remember that we have to protect our boun-daries on our own. At the same time we should be ready to discuss the boundary question with China in all sectors and do our best to arrive at a settlement of the boundary by accommo-dating the interests of both sides.

1993 Parameters of Settling the Boundary

The following from the Parameters is especially relevant for a consideration of the subject. Consider the following extracts.

Article III. Both sides should, in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjust-ments to their respective positions on the boun-dary question, so as to arrive at a package settlement to the boundary question. The boundary settlement must be final, covering all sectors of the India-China boundary.

Article IV. The two sides will give due consideration to each other’s strategic and reasonable interests, and the principle of mutual and equal security.

Article V. The two sides will take into account, inter alia, historical evidence, national sentiments, practical difficulties and reasonable concerns and sensitivities of both sides, and the actual state of border areas.

Article VI. The boundary should be along well-defined and easily identifiable natural geographical features to be mutually agreed upon between the two sides.

Article VII. In reaching a boundary settlement, the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas. Some of these are mutually contradictory and not capable of adjustment inter se. In some respects, therefore, the two sides will have to go outside and beyond the Parameters: there is nothing sacrosanct about the Parameters; wherever necessary the two sides should be ready to introduce modifications.

India-China Boundary Question

Lots of people in both countries have been studying the boundary problem during the last 50 years and more. Everything about the problem has been carefully studied by scholars, think-tanks, diplomats, and others in both countries and in other countries. By now the two governments’ officers know what the problem is and where the boundary ought to be. If the two governments’ officers are instructed by their political leaders that they should meet and produce an agreed draft of a boundary settlement, perhaps the officers shall do so without taking too much time. What is needed is a political decision by the two governments that the boundary question should be settled. Promises and prospects of investment and professions of friendship shall not detract from the centrality of the boundary question.

Settling the Boundary with China—
a Package Deal

Article III of the Parameters quoted above talks about a ‘package settlement’. Neither side should pretend to an overweening righteousness of its own case. There is need to find a solution to the entire boundary in all sectors and this must be done at one go.

We cannot hope to introduce earth-shaking changes in any sector of the LAC, however well- or ill-defined it may be. In the main, the two sides should agree to confirm the present LAC in all sectors as the IB, with rectification wherever needed. India cannot hope to recover Aksai Chin from China and China cannot hope to take Arunachal Pradesh or even Tawang from India. The problem does not lend itself to a military solution. That is the bottom-line of the question and has support in Article I of the Parameters which says that neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other.

The LAC is not a line, much less a boundary line. All along the boundary the two sides have conflicting claims to territory but in practice they have been able to devise means of ensuring peace and tranquillity on the borders through CBMs. Agreement on the Parameters of the settlement of the boundary question needs to be kept in mind as far as possible without being slave to those Parameters. Besides, uniform considerations need not apply in all sectors of the LAC: different sub-sectors within each sector may be differently treated.

Eastern Sector

Tawang shall not be ceded by India. It was not for nothing that in 1914 it was given to India by an Indo-Tibetan boundary agreement, when China was not in the picture and did not have a hand in the making of that agreement. It is apt to remember that if Tawang were out of Indian control it would bring a salient of foreign territory close to Indian provinces in this region. Tibet is no longer a quiescent or peacefully dormant place of lamas busy with their prayers and meditation: the place is now firmly in Chinese control and there is nothing in the tea leaves to indicate that this is likely to change in the foreseeable future. India cannot be blind to its security and allow foreign territorial control so far south. An arrangement may be devised by which Tibetan ecclesiastical interest in Tawang is preserved while the place remains on the Indian side of the boundary and under Indian sovereignty. This should be seen as a bottom-line.

We do not want to be reminded that China does not recognise the 1914 agreement because it was signed between India and Tibet and that it was not signed by China. At that time China was not in control of Tibet. In fact, in 1914, China was hardly on its feet. It was not until 1949 that China got on its feet and marked its presence in world affairs by its occupation of Tibet in 1950. International law on the subject of treaties is that an agreement between governments in effective control at a given time is binding on their successor governments. Tibetan signature on the 1914 agreement shall bind China as the successor government. At the same time the argument of the ‘unequal treaties’ has been carried a little too far and too long. It should not be open to China to pick and choose which treaties it will stand by, for example, the lease agreement concerning Hong Kong or the convention concerning Sikkim. Nor should we lose sight of the possibility that there may be changes in China in the future: there is no such thing as finality in history.

Eastern Sector

In the Eastern Sector, in the main the McMahon Line should be confirmed as the boundary. Its actual definition may be refined in the light of later surveys and better cartography over the last 100 years.

Confirming the McMahon Line as the boundary finds further support from the fact that the Burma-China boundary settlement of 1963 confirmed the part of the McMahon Line which delineated the Burma-Tibet part of the boundary in 1914 (when Burma was part of British India). Other details of the said Burma-China agreement have no bearing on the present India-China boundary, which has sometimes been called Assam-Tibet boundary or, as in British Indian records, Indo-Tibetan boundary.

It may be in order to remember that some time in the 1930s, the British Indian Government took out five half-inch maps of the Survey of India (scale half-inch to 1 mile) and super-printed on them the McMahon Line in red, which was about 1 mm wide, unlike the line drawn on General Staff maps (scale 1 inch to 8 miles) in 1914 where the boundary on those maps was at places 4 mm wide: it seemed to have been drawn with a brush instead of a sharp nib. Those five maps may be seen in the Assam State records. Copies of those maps must be available in the files of the Indian Foreign Department (now Ministry of External Affairs). We still do not know why those maps were printed in the 1930s.

Central Sector

The question of the trijunctions of China-Burma-India, China-Bhutan-India, Nepal-Bhutan-China (where India is not concerned except in the context of India-Bhutan relations), and China-Nepal-India will have to involve the other countries, namely, Burma, Bhutan, and Nepal. If these trijunctions are satisfactorily settled, this will probably take care of the boundary in the Central Sector. There seems to be some degree of agreement between the two sides in respect of the boundary in this sector: it has been heard that maps of the LAC in these areas were exchanged between the officials of the two sides, even if the maps of the two sides may not have been much in agreement. Perhaps the best thing to do in this sector may be to confirm the LAC as IB with adjustments, following in the main the watershed principle. Even then, there is no room for wholesale new ideas of boundary-making in this sector, in disregard of the present ground actuality.

Western Sector

In the Western Sector, likewise, perhaps we have no choice but to make virtue of current compulsions and ground actualities. China is not going to vacate Aksai Chin or Lingzithang. If this is regarded as ‘given’, then perhaps there is a watershed which divides rain-waters going north into the Tarim river system of the Takla Makan area of Xinjiang or south into the Indus river system of South Asia. That watershed could be a suitable boundary in this sector. Details will have to be worked out by reference to a good and detailed map. It may be apposite to recall that the 1899 Macartney-MacDonald Line may be a satisfactory boundary, with suitable rectifications.

In 1914 Aksai Chin was far away from the areas whose boundary McMahon attempted to settle with the Tibetan representative. Alastair Lamb has shown that in the conditions prevailing before World War I with persistent prospect of the Tsarist Russian empire annexing China’s New Dominion, it was part of British concerns at the Simla Conference of 1913-14 to posit a series of buffer areas between the Russian empire in Central Asia and the British empire in South Asia. It was in pursuit of this long-standing policy that Mortimer Durand had devised the Durand Line in 1893 and decided to ‘award’ the Wakhan area to Afghanistan, although Wakhan was not part of an Afghan emirate at any time in history. From 1893 onwards, Wakhan became Afghan territory and has remained so since: no claim to it by any other country has come to light.

In pursuit of the same objective, McMahon attempted in 1914 to ‘award’ Aksai Chin to Tibet by extending the boundary line between Tibet and China at its western extremity: Aksai Chin was not under British control or under the control of the princely state of Kashmir at any time, even if Kashmiri traders travelled through it. Aksai Chin was not part of Tibet or Xinjiang, or of Kashmir or Ladakh, or of any Chinese or Indian province at any time in history. The various boundary lines drawn on numerous maps produced in the course of the Simla Conference seem to suggest that some of those lines placed Aksai Chin in Tibet, even if Tibet too had not had concern with Aksai Chin at any time till then. Perhaps the Tibetan or the Chinese representative at the Simla Conference did not realise the significance of boundary lines other than the McMahon Line. The boundary drawn on maps of this region during the course of the Simla Conference corresponded more with Chinese claim lines in the 1950s than with the Indian claim lines during the same years. Since Aksai Chin is now in Chinese control and there is no possibility that China shall cede this area to India, it may be practical to fall back upon ideas of boundary-making in the early years of the last century and recognise Aksai Chin as part of Chinese territory.

According to those ideas, the boundary should begin at a point on the Karakoram range some distance to the east of the Karakoram Pass (35° 302 N 77° 482 E), leaving its northern end in China and the southern end in India: west of that pass the Kashmir-Xinjiang boundary is in Pakistan’s control, which we are not considering here. The boundary should pass on top of ranges where rain waters flow north into the tributaries of the Tarim river system and south into the tributaries of the Indus river system, leaving Chip Chap river in India. Then the boundary follows the top of the range situated to the west of a tributary on which are located Sumdo and K’o-shih-erh-ts’un, turning further south as far as Chang Lung Pass. The boundary should then turn east to the Lanak La on the present Tibetan border.

This boundary shall leave under Chinese control the whole of Aksai Chin and part of Lingzithang. The boundary further south should remain as shown in Indian maps, going right across Pangong Tso and Spanggur Tso and leaving in Indian control places like Chushul, Hanle, Demchok, and Chumar: the last named place is close to Himachal Pradesh.

Some of these ideas may have to be modified in the light of the alignment of roads built by China in the Xinjiang and Tibet areas. We cannot hope to persuade China to give up any of the areas covered by its road system. This will require a close look at the Chinese road system in the border areas.


The boundary problem, like any other problem, can be settled.

The entire boundary should be settled at one go with a package deal.


In the Western Sector Aksai Chin was not part of Xinjiang, or Tibet, or Kashmir, or Ladakh, or any Chinese or Indian province at any time in history.

Today China occupies the whole of Aksai Chin and some territory to the west of it. We are doing a kindness to China by giving recog-nition to Aksai Chin as part of the PRC territory.

The best suggestion made about the boundary in this area is the Macartney-MacDonald Line suggested by the British Government to the Chinese Government in 1899. This line, with rectifications, may be an appropriate boundary in this sector.

India should seek recognition of Macartney-MacDonald Line as the boundary in this region, with adjustments that may be needed.


In the Middle Sector the boundary should run along natural features as far as possible. The boundary should be settled with adjustments as needed.


In the Eastern Sector India should stand by the McMahon Line as the boundary.

On the map the McMahon Line seemed to have been drawn with a brush. As a result the line is at places one-tenth of an inch wide. Hence, on a map on a scale 1 inch to 8 miles, the McMahon Line is at places almost one mile wide.

A boundary line by definition has a length but not a width. Therefore, throughout, there will have to be adjustments: a few square miles this way or that way shall make no difference. Any possible agreement should go by natural features.

There will be no surrender of Indian territory in the Tawang area, Longju area, or Walong area. India occupies the entire territory up to the McMahon Line.

China should acknowledge the McMahon Line as the boundary in this sector, even if called by any other name.

Dr V.C. Bhutani retired from a teaching position in the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi sometime ago. For almost 50 years he has devoted himself to the study of the Sino-Indian boundary question. His book, History and Politics of the Northern Frontiers of India, is under consideration of a London publisher. He can be contacted at e-mail: vcbhutani[at]gmail.com

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