India’s and China’s Century-Long Conflict

After a long complicated history, tensions between China and India rise over border disputes.

India and China are in dispute over country borders. Two regions between India and China, Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, are being questioned about which nation they rightfully belong to. Aksai Chin is located either in Ladakh, Indian territory, or the Chinese region of Xinjiang and Tibet. Arunachal Pradesh is in the northernmost part of India, bordered by Tibet and Bhutan. The 2,000 mile stretch of land has sparked much hostility between the two nations and has a long, complicated history.

In 1914, this dispute started over the McMahon Line (now called Arunachal Pradesh), a boundary between China’s East-Himalayan region and India. The border was given its name after the Shimla Treaty of 1914, signed between India and Tibet for peaceful relations regarding the boundary. At the time, everyone but China acknowledged Tibet as an independent nation. Because of this, China felt the treaty directly involved them, and they disapproved tremendously. India argued that when the McMahon line was distinguished, Tibet was an independent – albeit weak – country, fully capable of negotiating borders with other nations. The disputed land is located in Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), which China views to be in Southern Tibet but is recognized as Indian territory according to the Shimla Agreement. India views the McMahon Line as the official border separating India and China, but China never consented to this agreement. 

The debate cooled for a few decades, mainly because neither country wanted war, but re-emerged when China gained full control of Tibet in 1950. By then, India separated from Britain, and China was a newly-declared People’s Republic. Both looked to redefine themselves and provide for their growing populations. Attempts of peaceful negotiation proved fruitless when war broke out in 1962. The battle lasted a single month but resulted in nearly 2,000 deaths (mostly Indian soldiers) and 3,000 captured Indians. China requested a cease-fire, but the issue was not officially settled; instead, both nations opted for an unofficial redrawing of a new border, termed the Line of Actual Control, as a compromise.

Conflict arose again in 1967 when Indian soldiers placed barbed wire along the boundary they considered to be the Line of Actual Control. Skeptical, the Chinese government responded through physical confrontation, inducing casualties from both sides. After trivial back-and-forth altercations in the following two months, India acquired the land the Chinese had previously taken. However, this meant each nation had different ideas about where the Line of Actual Control was placed and exacerbated tensions between India and China. 

This June, a confrontation along the Galwan River valley resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers. Chinese authorities denied speculation that over 40 Chinese soldiers died in this scuffle. September saw Chinese and Indian border troops accusing each other of exchanging fire as tensions reached a boiling point. Which party initiated the usage of military guns is unclear, as monitoring military activity around borders is challenging. Yet, as centuries of tension threatened to rear its ugly face, Indian officials referred to such an event being “a game-changer.” This battle marked the first time in decades any soldiers had died on either side from this conflict, inciting an urge for vengeance from both parties. On September 7th, Zhao Lijian, a representative of China’s Foreign Ministry, took to the press announcing that he had no information in response to Chinese troops’ accusations of kidnapping five Indians from the Arunachal Pradesh border. However, Mr. Zhao did say, “the Chinese government has never recognized the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh,’” implying that such is not seen as Indian territory by the leaders of the Chinese government. 

Neither country has expressed interest in a second war over border-rights. However, both countries must reach an agreement considering the recurring conflicts between both nations. Notable news updates regarding the issue have yet to be announced. Until further notice, the two countries are locked in a stalemate.

By Emily-Mae Murtha

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