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The never-ending China-India border fight

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on November 11, 2008

Imagine what it would be like if the French and the Germans were still squabbling about Alsace and Lorraine. That’s sort of the situation we have in Asia, where the continent’s two biggest powers haven’t gotten past a decades-old border dispute. No matter how much Indian and Chinese leaders talk about improving ties, sometimes India-China relations seem frozen in 1962, the year the two countries fought a border war over disputed territory in the Himalayas. The Chinese emerged victorious, retaining territory in Kashmir claimed by New Delhi. At the same time, India retained control of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, claimed by Beijing.

Yesterday (ironically, on the 80th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I and led to the return of Alsace and Lorraine from Germany to France), the Sino-Indian border dispute flared up again. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Tuesday criticized the Indian government for comments by the country’s external affairs minister, Pranap Mukherjee. “China is often making claims on Arunachal Pradesh, but Arunachal Pradesh has a special place in our heart,” said Mukherjee. That prompted this from Qin Gang: “The Sino-India boundary issue has never been officially settled, and China is always against the illegal McMahon line,” he said, referring to the border agreement between the British and the Tibetans dating back to 1914. “It was a shame India claimed it publicly, regardless of historical facts,” Qin said.

What to make of this latest spat? With economic growth in China and India under severe threat because of the global financial crisis, both countries have more pressing concerns. And despite the unresolved border issues, the two countries are trying to foster greater cooperation. That said, the two are also major rivals and yesterday’s statement from Beijing illustrates just how raw some of the wounds still are – and how little progress the two countries have made on one of the most emotional issues for their people. As the Times of India writes today, “with the Chinese government challenging Mukherjee’s stance on Arunachal, it is apparent that years of effort at resolving the border problem ha[ve] come under a cloud.”

Reader Comments


November 12, 2008 5:44 PM

Poor Japan. Even though we have by far the highest GDP in Asia, BW does not think of us as "One of Asia's two biggest powers". Are we invisible or dying out or what?


November 12, 2008 8:28 PM

There is very good reason for China to be unhappy with Pranab Mukherjee. Only a few days ago, this guy was quoted as referring to China as to Threat to India in a speach in one of Indian Defense establishments.

Crossovers to China worry Arunachal

November 12, 2008 8:48 PM

Hindustan Times:

As political heat between India and China over Arunachal Pradesh ratchets up, the state is also facing the challenging task of stopping border exodus as an increasing number of residents migrate to China and other neighbouring states in search of livelihoods.

Over the years, the Chinese have developed good infrastructure on their side while border areas in India are still backward. Feeling neglected, residents here are looking for “greener pastures” across the border.

While there are no definite figures of the number of people who have migrated to the Chinese side so far, state officials confirm stray incidents of “crossing sides” do take place.


November 12, 2008 11:40 PM

When there is border dispute, it is better if both parties keep themselves from rhetoric statements. It is unfortunate that the Indian politicians can't understand the sensitivity of this issue, instead using it for election purpose.

Two dangerous pitbulls

November 13, 2008 1:25 AM

They are two dangerous pitbulls armed with nukes. If things go bad, they can ping and pong nukes.


November 13, 2008 4:38 AM

I hope this issue will close it here .Otherwise new crisis will be going to form in india and chain that would be going to helpful to USA to rebound back.
If it starts from this no matter in short time all countires ready to fight another wrold war . I hope it should not be .


November 13, 2008 4:39 AM

I hope this issue will close it here .Otherwise new crisis will be going to form in india and chain that would be going to helpful to USA to rebound back.
If it starts from this no matter in short time all countires ready to fight another wrold war . I hope it should not be .

rh mayo

November 13, 2008 9:10 AM

the writing arsonist is at it again trying to create a tempest in a teapot. Hey Einhorn this is getting old. Try something new to write about.Maybe if you are running out of ideas get a new assignment shoveling manure instead of writing about it..

Wai L. Chui

November 13, 2008 3:38 PM

The McMahon Line is not the problem. The fantasy that they can get a big chunk of land from the other side is the problem. Can anyone really believe that anyone in the world can get either China or India to give up a big piece of land against their will? Once they come to their senses, the McMahon Line is not an obstacle at all. They can move it half a mile here and a third of a mile there and that line is history.

Hamid Kazai

October 14, 2009 3:04 PM

1) That NEFA (Northeast Frontier Agency) was ceded to British India by Tibet itself is illegitimate. Because a) Tibet was NOT a sovereign government, even by Britain's reckoning. (No country, at any time, past or present, recognizes Tibet as an independent sovereign country). The official British position of Tibet at that time is China has suzerainty over Tibet. b) At the time, Britain and China has signed a treaty forbidding Tibetan officials from negotiating directly with Britain. Hence it is illegal even under Britain's own law. This is probably why Britain keep the treaty secret for 10 years before showing the so-called McMahon line on a map and present this as a faiti accompli to the Chinese government. This land is in dispute from day one, ever since China knows about it, before independent India even exist. What makes India think she is entitled to this colonial spoil?

2) The whole thing of Tibet ceding territories to British India itself stinks of colonialism. Note that not that many years ago Britain slaughter 700+ Tibetans without suffering a single casualty (read Orville Schell's Virtual Tibet). Given this context, even in an alternative universe where Tibet is really an independent sovereign country, how just do you think is a government ceding territories to the preeminent colonial power of the time? There are some similarities between the US government expand westward into Native American Indians territories and British India expands into Tibetan territories. It is hardly an equal relationship, and just as Native Americans ceding territories to the US government, Tibetans were ceding territories to British India. Note that two sovereign governments, Britain and china, did sign a treaty (the Treaty of Nanking) ceding Hong Kong Island in perpetuity to Britain. (The rest of Hong Kong, the New Territories, was on a lease that expired on June 30, 1997). Postcolonial Britain has enough sense to return the whole of Hong Kong back to China and now the relation between Britain and China cannot be better. India should do the same.

3) That Tibet (and hence by extension Zang Nan) is an integral part of China is not a Chinese Communist thing. Go to Hong Kong and Taiwan and ask any people there. Those people could not have been brainwashed by Communist propaganda. That Tibet was part of china was even recognized by all the Dalai Lamas including the present one. Since the 5th Dalai Lama, no Dalai Lama, including the present one, can be one unless approved by the Beijing government.

4) India is not as peaceful as it portrays itself. In fact, it is more aggressive than its predecessor, British India. Independent India was demanding land that even British India explicitly recognizes as Chinese. Specifically north of the so-called McMahon line, which no Chinese government (be it the Nationalist or the Communist) recognized it in the first place. In a land grab campaign that the then India Prime Minister Nehru called the 'Forward Policy', Nehru positioned troops deep into indisputable (indisputable because even British India recognized as Chinese territories) Chinese territories in order to create new facts. Check this out:

5) After the 1962 border war in which China won decisively but retreated and hence did not take advantage of the position for a better bargaining position, an Indian journalist wrote an article in 1972 in New Yorkers conjecturing the motive of China. One of them is may be China use the war as a pretext to annex Sikkim. Guess what, in 1975, India did just that. Check this out:

6) Here is an interview by Neville Maxwell, author of the 'India's China War'. It shows that China is sincere with peace, while India is all about land grab.

7) The Chinese Communist has suppress Tibetan culture and tore down Tibetan monasteries. But in their defense it was never motivated by ethnic hatred. It was all about misguided ideologies producing radical policies. Read any book about the Cultural Revolution and you will know more. What is so deplorable and misleading to the West is that the 14th Dalai Lama continues to portray this as one ethnic group hell bent on oppressing an ethnic minority, even inventing atrocities to garner more sympathies. For eg. he accepts the Nobel peace prize on behalf of the '1.2 millions Tibetans killed by the Chinese Communist'. Only thing is, this has been thoughtfully investigated and disputed by all Tibetan scholars of the West, even by Tibetan activist. Read this:

On this subject, note that Chinese culture does not have the concept of ethnic hatred. On the other hand, India does, as is manifest in its absolute disgusting treatment of its lower caste people, OBCs (Other Backward Caste) and SC (Schedule Caste). The militancy of the Hindu people also explains the communal violence that killed thousands of Sikhs in the 1980's and thousands of Muslims killed in the Gujarat massacre.

Note that the Cultural Revolution is long history now and average Tibetan's life, as like other Chinese has never been better. Read this:

8) A single unified political entity like India never exists in the sub-continent history until Britain creates one. The territories of NEFA have no historical, racial, ethnic, cultural, legal, religious ties with any of the Hindu kingdoms or princely states. On the other hand, as late as the 1950's, the Tawang monasteries were still paying tax to the Lhasa government.

9) Indians are fond of calling India the 'World's largest democracy' to mask a lot of things. Granted, it sounds good on Western ears, but Indian democracy is really a farce. This is a system that the majority who vote has absolutely no benefits usually associate with a Western democracy. The utter indifference of the elite to the voting population is absolutely disgusting. Note that this lack of empathies to the weak and poor is probably a product of the Hindu Caste culture. How else can you explain that within a decade of its independence, in 1957, India scrapped its precious money to acquire a second hand aircraft carrier from Britain (hence becoming the first Asian country to have an air-craft carrier) instead of usually the money to improve the life of its citizens? Tibetans should not be ruled by such a heartless regime. They never have before, why should they be now?


December 5, 2009 5:11 PM

1. China's occupation of Tibet is illegal as demonstrated by years of unrest.

2. Because of (1) there is no basis of Chinese claim to Arunachal Pradesh.

3. Both countries should accept the line of actual control today as "actual" and move on.

C. H. Ng

December 6, 2009 8:55 PM

@Mr Batman:-

Are you a Tibetan? If you are, I have nothing to say on your comment; if you are not, I would like to tell you not to be a hypocrite.

You may be right about classifying China's occupation of Tibet is illegal.
But what about the US coalition forces which are occupying Afghanistan & Iraq?
Are they not demonstrated by endless suicide bombings & killings? Do you classified their occupations as legal?

Anyway on the subject of China-India border dispute, is it not common anywhere in this world? Why always only highlight China-India issues? Are you people in BW trying to create more friction between the 2 most populous nations in this world?

As shown in studies by experts on animal behaviors, we humans are also more or less behaving like animals on our natural instinct. We act like pack of wolves where the stronger pack usually encroach on weaker pack's territory. In our dog-eat-dog world, it's the survival of the fittest. But unlike the animals & luckily for us human beings, we have 2 skills in our survival kit -- the ability to think or rationalise and ability to negotiate.
So why not use these inborn skills to defuse every crisis instead of simply barking & snarling like some of us "animals" in this BW blog?

C. H. Ng

December 8, 2009 1:05 AM

1) @BW Editor -- Guess my earlier comment was too offensive for your liking & so now I am writing a new one.

2) @Batman -- I wonder whether you are a Tibetan. If the answer is yes, I got no comment. If the answer is no, please do not be a hypocrite by just commenting on your so-called China's occupation of Tibet. What about the coalition forces' occupation of Iraq & Afghanistan? Or the white people's occupation of Australia & New Zealand from the aborigine natives? Not need to mention also the whites from the Red Indian natives of America? I can carrying on & on but all these are already past history.
The issue here is that if you want to be critical about something, please look at a wider angle. Don't just single out unless if you are directly involved. In your case, you should be a Tibetan if you want to criticize about the Chinese government's handling of your Tibet or people. If you are not, you should also mention other issues to be fair or else you will be judged a hypocrite.


December 8, 2009 3:33 PM

If you are Indian, before long, you may have to say "China's occupation of India is illegal". Only thing Indians are good at is talk; they can not do or fight.

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