Posts Tagged ‘Disputes’


The world is taking notice. Neighbors, India and China are the world’s fastest growing economies. They house nearly two-fifth of the entire humanity. Both are poor, largely agricultural, countries that have made great efforts in reducing poverty, and liberalizing economic reforms. Comparisons between the two giants of Asia are inevitable. But India and China are not yet sure what to make out of each other. Even the best of the think tanks are unable to determine the intentions and inclinations of the duo, which is poised to take over the leadership of the world.

The two countries’ relationship bears great significance for the political environment of Asia. The to-be super powers have shared interests, but at the same time suffer from unsolved disputes.


India and China, for thousands of years, have existed in close proximity. The two are very much similar in terms of population as well as the growth of their economies, with growth rates much admired by developing countries who are desperately struggling to crawl out of the poverty trap. Due to the massive population, the need for resources, especially land, water and energy are also in abundance. India and China together are home to the world’s largest pools of skilled human resources, and there is a consensus that these two countries will continue to be the engines of global economic growth in the 21st century.

Also, both face potentially destabilizing external disputes: China with America over Taiwan, India with Pakistan over Kashmir.

In the world market, China is emerging as a significant link in the manufacturing chain while India’s potential for the knowledge-based services and manufacturing is being noticed. These complementary strengths of the two economies can be further exploited for mutual benefit. Their geographical closeness, similar cultural values and large size of their economies can facilitate exploitation of these synergies.

THE 1962 WAR

No one particular reason can be named for the disputes between the two nations. Everything, from border disputes to plain ignorance play an equal role for the rising disturbances. That India is an open society and China is not is one of the most obvious differences between the two.

Indo-China relations have been tense ever since a border dispute led to a full-scale war in 1962 and armed wars in 1967 and 1987. In a weeklong assault of 1962, the Chinese seized much of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as a slab of Kashmir in the western Himalayas, and killed 3,000 Indian officers and men. The very thought of the brief war and the humiliation at the Chinese hands nearly 50 years ago still annoys India. A tradition of strategic mistrust for China is deep-rooted. India sees China as working to undermine it at every level: be it trade, blocking of a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council or, above all, friendships with its smaller South Asian neighbors, notably Pakistan. And it is this unease that has pushed India strategically closer to America.


Since the Indo-China war in 1962, the two giants have been discussing the exact demarcation of the 3,500-km India-China border. New Delhi disputes Beijing’s rule over 38,000 sq km of barren, icy and uninhabited land on the Tibetan plateau, which China seized from India after the war. China, for its part, claims 90,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh. Within this disputed area are Tawang and its monastery, a trace of Mahayana Buddhism. The sixth Dalai Lama was born here, claims Beijing, which shows that the district was a part of Tibet. Several rounds of talks since 1981 have so far failed to make progress.

Some of the major disputes are:
• Clash over Aksai China (that covers 20% of Kashmir) and McMahon Line that led to 1962 war
• Beijing’s access to Twang
• China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh
• China is the main provider of arms and nuclear weapons to Pakistan
• China issues special visas to Indians from Arunachal and Kashmir
• China objected to a $60m loan to India from the Asian Development Bank, on the basis that some of the money was allocated for irrigation schemes in Arunachal Pradesh


The relations between India and China have turned sourer due to the recent Karmapa controversy. The Karmapa Lama is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu sect, one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the richest. In the Tibetan religious hierarchy, he is considered the third most important religious head after the institutions of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Karmapa literally means embodiment of the activity of all Buddhas.

What is the controversy?

• Karmapa mysteriously escaped to India in 1999-2000 with a few close aides from the Tsurphu monastery near Lhasa.
• There are controversies about him as another Tibetan religious leader, Trinlay Thaye Dorje, also claims to be the 17th Karmapa.
• Karmapa’s followers have acquired more than 400 properties (especially land) in Himachal Pradesh.
• Around $1.6m in various currencies, including Chinese Yuan were seized from Gyuto, the monastery Karmapa occupies near the Dalai Lama’s base in Dharamsala, in northern India.
• The leader’s medical reports have gone missing from an institute at Chandigarh, where he was examined after reaching India. His opponents claim they showed him to be older than stated on the birth certificate, which he provided, attested by the Dalai Lama, implying he is too old to be the true incarnation.
• He is supposed to have a Chinese link.


Conflicts, competition, co-operation: India and China are all set to rule the world. The question is where to start? The first is definitely to solve the border disputes. The obligation is on China; however, both the nations need to put in a serious effort to solve their own disagreements. After all, China has solved pig-headed boundary quarrels with Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Surely, it cannot be so difficult to deal with India!

Secondly, the Asian giants should come closer in terms of two-way trade. What was only $270m in 1990; is expected to exceed $60 billion in 2010-11. The steps have already been taken as the two co-ordinate their bids for the African oil supplies that both rely on. On important international issues, notably climate-change policy and world trade, their alignment is already imposing.
There is even a word for this co-operative vision, “Chindia.” “India and China are not in competition,” India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh often says. “There is enough economic space for us both.” China’s president, Hu Jintao, agrees. And no doubt, both want to believe it.


The ancient civilizations of India and China had surprisingly little political interaction for most of that time. However, the twentieth century saw increased tensions between the two over disputed borders and geopolitical competition for power, influence, resources and markets. How the relationship will develop and play out is an important question in the twenty-first century.
What troubles is the thought that despite all the comparisons, good faith and increasing trade; the two are old enemies, bad neighbors and nuclear powers, and have two of the world’s biggest armies – with almost 4 million troops between them.

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