India shares its borders not with one or two but with nine countries. Of these nine, it shares land borders with seven countries. India shares maritime borders with Sri Lanka and Maldives. India’s border with Bangladesh is the longest and runs 4,096 kms. The shortest border which is 106 kms long, is shared with Afghanistan. The second longest border which is 3,340 kms, is shared with China and it is longer than the border with Pakistan which is 3,310 kms. With Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan the borders are 1747 kms, 1643 kms and 643 kms long respectively.
Although India shares land borders with seven countries, there are no border conflicts except with three. In fact, India and Nepal have a mutual visa-free travel policy. There have been conflicts only with China, Pakistan and Bangladesh. With the signing of the historic Land Boundary Agreement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the border row with Bangladesh has been resolved. The only headache that remains on the border for us is thanks to Pakistan and China. The mischief started by China at the borders has reached a new height in recent days. By sending its troops into Doklam, China has started to test India’s patience. Even as Pakistan infiltrates terrorists across the border into India, China dumps its cheap, inferior goods into Indian markets and celebrates its economic prowess.
The border between Indian and China can be divided into three regions – Eastern, Middle and Western. The Eastern region spreads from Sikkim to Myanmar border. The Mid region starts from Demchok to the Nepalese border. The Western region is the area between Karkorum Pass in the North-East to Demchok.
The Five Challenges Posed by China
China is causing tensions at five fronts to India.
1. Aksai Chin (Western Region)
With an expanse of 38,000 sq.kms, Aksai Chin is the largest conflict area with China. It is in Ladakh and it was a part of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. But, in the 1950s China started to assert its dominion over this area. In 1957, China built a road connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through Aksai Chin. A strong objection was raised by the Indian government when it became aware of the road’s construction. That confrontation led to a war between the two countries. Post the 1962 war between India and China, this territory is controlled by China.
2. MacMahon Line and Arunachal Pradesh (Eastern region)
Arunachal Pradesh is an indivisible part of India .China claims that the southern part of Arunachal Pradesh, belongs to South Tibet. But, in the Shimla Agreement of 1914, there was no mention of this area in the boundaries that the British and Tibetan authorities had determined. After the 1962 war, China withdrew its troops back from the MacMahon Line (this is known as the Line of Actual Control).
3. Tibet and the Dalai Lama
China is not in direct conflict with India regarding Tibet. But China has been expressing its displeasure towards India for providing refuge to the Dalai Lama who fled from Tibet when China occupied his country. Tibet, which is a small country with an area of 24 Lakh sq.kms, was an independent country till 1959. But, China gained control over Tibet, forcing Tibetans and the Dalai Lama, who is their spiritual leader, to flee their country.
Even recently, China objected to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang in Arunachala Pradesh.
4.Sikkim (Middle region)
In 1975, the Sikkim royalty accepted the wish of its people and joined the Indian Union. China objected to the accession of Sikkim to the Indian Union and still shows Sikkim as an independent country in all its official maps.
5. Supremacy in the seas
China, which has based its troops on Coco Islands, is challenging India’s rightful control over the region. India is not a direct participant in the border dispute in the South China Sea. Yet, China demands that Indian ships should not be allowed there although it is an international trade route; India should not be allowed to drill for oil in the Vietnamese region.In 2011, INS Iravat of the Indian Navy travelled to Vietnam on a friendly mission. China strongly objected claiming that the Indian navy had aggressed into the South China Sea. Following this incident, at international forums India started raising the issue of freedom for maritime travel in all international waters including South China Sea.
With a vision for long-term cooperation, ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of ONGC which is owned by the Indian government, signed a 3-year agreement with Petro Vietnam Company of Vietnam. It involved oil production in certain areas of the South China Sea. An angry China again objected to foreign presence near its maritime borders. In retort, India asserted that it had only undertaken a project in cooperation with Vietnam and not with China.
China’a machinations to subdue India
China has been using military, political and economic tactics to bully India, as it has become the second most dominant country in Asia. By building friendly relations with India’s neighbours and assuming control over those small nations, China plans to establish military bases there. It is a ploy to keep Indian military under its surveillance by surrounding India on all fours sides.
Moreover, by establishing political and economic ties with India’s neighbours, China intends to completely subdue India.
Therefore, China sponsors leaders in our neighbouring countries. Sarath Fonseka of Sri Lanka, Prachanda of Nepal, Bilawal of Pakistan, Myanmar’s Junta are examples of such sponsored leaders. Retired Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka of Sri Lanka is a hardcore India hater and has a favourable attitude towards China. The previous President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakshe, also had a more cordial relationship with China than with India. He ignored India and implemented a China-friendly policy. Fonseka has the potential to be a similar threat to India, in the future.
The ex-Prime Minister of Nepal, Prachanda too under China’s influence did not continue the strong friendly relationship that India and Nepal had shared for long. Although Nepal Congress is the ruling party, the Communist party is also a powerful entity in Nepal’s politics and it has the potential to cause ups and downs in Indo-Nepal ties.
The military Junta that rules the small north-eastern country, Myanmar, is strongly influenced by China. China uses the Coco Islands of Myanmar, which is barely 18 kms from Andaman & Nicobar Islands, as a military base and keeps watch over the Indian military movement in the area.
On another front, Pakistan has become a puppet in the hands of China. Irrespective of the government that takes over Pakistan, the ties between China and Pakistan have remained robust. China has built a deep-sea port in Gwadar, Pakistan, from where it plans to keep the Indian military activity under surveillance. A Chinese naval base is also planned at Gwadar. In addition, China has started building an economic corridor from Gwadar, connecting Pakistan and China. Even though this corridor passes through the disputed Pak-occupied Kashmir, China has not bothered to take India into confidence.
In Tibet and Aksai Chin, on national highway 219 (G219), China has undertaken projects to build all-weather roads, railway lines, telecommunication lines etc.
China has developed economic cooperation with the Middle East in the oil sector. When India started engaging with Middle-Eastern countries for oil, China followed suit. Wherever India started signing agreements, be it with Saudi Arabia or Iran or other countries, China competed with India for its share of trade in the same countries.
Apart from all this, it is an open secret that China supplies arms & ammunition for Naxal activities in many states across India. The establishment of the Red Corridor that begins in Nepal and ends in Andhra Pradesh has the proactive support of China.
China keeps playing mischief at the border every now and then. Presently, Chinese troops have entered Dokhlam and a build-up of troops has started.
The Dokhlam Crisis
On 16th June, China started a confrontation with India in Dokhlam, which is at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China. Dokhlam is recognized as Bhutanese territory and any change in status quo in the region can pose security challenges to India and provide military advantages to China.
China recently increased infrastructure building activities at Donglong at the tri-junction and removed an old Indian bunker. This caused the flashpoint. To prevent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from continuing construction, 300 Indian soldiers have been camping at Dokhlam. Despite the freezing temperatures, our army has ensured that our country is safe and secure from our aggressive neighbour. Though China issued aggressive statements and tried to bully India, it did not succeed in pressurizing India to back off from the area or situation.