India and China: an Overview


  • India and China will hold the 20th round of border talks in the end of December, the first since the 73 day standoff at Doklam.


  • India – China relations have undergone dramatic changes over the past five decades, ranging from the 1950‘s with a deep hostility in the 1960‘s and 1970‘s to a rapprochement in the 1980‘s and a readjustment since the demise of Soviet Union.
  • The modern relationship began in 1950 when India was among the first countries to end formal ties with the Republic of China and recognize the PRC as the legitimate government of Mainland China. China and India are the two most populous countries and fastest growing major economies in the world.
  • India and China are playing an increasingly important role in the world economy. A better relationship would boost trade ties, investments and employment in the two countries, and even augment global growth.

What is the Indo-China border conflict?

  • Sovereigntyover two large and various smaller separated pieces of territory have been contested between China and
  1. The westernmost,Aksai Chin, is claimed by India as part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and region of Ladakh but is controlled and administered as part of the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang.
  • It is a virtually uninhabited high altitude wasteland crossed by theXinjiang-Tibet Highway.
  1. The other large disputed territory, the easternmost, lies south of theMcMahon Line. It was formerly referred to as the North East Frontier Agency, and is now called Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The McMahon Line was part of the 1914Simla Convention between British India and Tibet, an agreement rejected by China.

What has happened over the years?

  • In 1960, based on an agreement between Nehru and Zhou Enlai, officials from India and China held discussions in order to settle the boundary dispute.
  • China and India disagreed on the major watershed that defined the boundary in the western sector.
  • The 1962Sino-Indian War was fought in both the areas aforementioned.
  • An agreement to resolve the dispute was concluded in 1996, including “confidence building measures” and a mutually agreedLine of Actual Control.
  • In 2006, the Chinese ambassador to India claimed that all ofArunachal Pradesh is Chinese territoryamidst a military buildup. At the time, both countries claimed incursions as much as a kilometre at the northern tip of
  • In 2009, India announced it would deploy additional military forces along the border.
  • In 2014, India proposed China should acknowledge “One India” policy to resolve the border dispute

What were the primary disputes along the western Sector?

  • One of the earliest treaties regarding the boundaries in the western sector was issued in 1842. TheSikh Empire of the Punjab region had annexed Ladakh into the state of Jammu in 1834. In 1841, they invaded Tibet with an army. Chinese forces defeated the Sikh army and in turn entered Ladakh and besieged
  • After being checked by the Sikh forces, the Chinese and the Sikhs signed a treaty in September 1842, which stipulated no transgressions or interference in the other country’s frontiers.
  • Both sides were sufficiently satisfied that a traditional border was recognised and defined by natural elements, and the border was not demarcated.
  • The boundaries at the two extremities,Pangong Lake and Karakoram Pass, were reasonably well-defined, but the Aksai Chin area in between lay largely undefined
  • H. Johnson, a civil servant with theSurvey of India proposed the “Johnson Line” in 1865, which put Aksai Chin in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • This was the time of theDungan revolt, when China did not control Xinjiang, so this line was never presented to the Chinese. Johnson presented this line to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, who then claimed the 18,000 square kilometres contained within his territory.
  • In 1878 the Chinese had reconquered Xinjiang.By 1892, China had erected boundary markers at Karakoram Pass.
  • The Karakoram Mountains formed a natural boundary, which would set the British borders up to the Indus River watershed while leaving the Tarim River watershed in Chinese control, and Chinese control of this tract would present a further obstacle to Russian advance in Central Asia.
  • The British presented this line, known as the Macartney-MacDonald Line, to the Chinese in 1899. The Qing government did not respond and the British took that as Chinese assent.
  • In 1911, the Xinhai Revolution resulted in the collapse of central power in China, and by the end of World War I, the British officially used the Johnson Line.
  • However they took no steps to establish outposts or assert actual control on the ground.

What were the troubled areas between India and China?

  • Chinese road building project in the Himalayas has become the center of an escalating border dispute between India and China, with both sides accusing the other of territorial intrusions.
  • The controversial road which runs through the disputed Doklam Plateau, on the unmarked border between China and Bhutan.
  • China is becoming a major hurdle to India’s membership to NSG.

What was the status post-independence?

  • Upon independence in 1947, the government of India used the Johnson Line as the basis for its official boundary in the west, encompassing Aksai Chin.
  • During the 1950s, the People’s Republic of China built a 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) road connecting Xinjiang and western Tibet, of which 179 kilometres (111 mi) ran south of the Johnson Line through the Aksai Chin region claimed by India.
  • Aksai Chin was easily accessible from China, but was more difficult for the Indians on the other side of the Karakorams to reach.
  • In September 2015, Chinese and Indian troops faced-off in the Burtse region of northern Ladakh after Indian troops dismantled a disputed watchtower the Chinese were building close to the mutually-agreed patrolling line.
  • The Johnson Line is not used west of the Karakoram Pass, where China adjoins Pakistan-administered Gilgit–Baltistan.
  • In October 1962, China and Pakistan began negotiations over the boundary west of the Karakoram Pass. In 1963, the two countries settled their boundaries largely on the basis of the Macartney-MacDonald Line, which left the Trans Karakoram Tract 5,800 km2/ 5,180 km2 in China, although the agreement provided for renegotiation in the event of a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
  • India does not recognise that Pakistan and China have a common border, and claims the tract as part of the domains of the pre-1947 state of Kashmir and Jammu. However, India’s claim line in that area does not extend as far north of the Karakoram Mountains as the Johnson Line. China & India still have disputes on these borders.

What were the primary disputes along the Eastern Sector?

  • British India and China gained a common border in 1826, with British annexation of Assam in the Treaty of Yandabo at the conclusion of the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–1826).
  • Subsequent annexations in further Anglo-Burmese Wars expanded China’s borders with British India eastwards, to include the border with what is now Burma.
  • In 1913–14, representatives of Britain, China, and Tibet attended a conference in Simla, India and China drew up an agreement concerning Tibet’s status and borders.
  • The McMahon Line, a proposed boundary between Tibet and India for the eastern sector, was drawn by British negotiator Henry McMahon.
  • All three representatives initiated the agreement, but Beijing soon objected to the proposed Sino-Tibet boundary and repudiated the agreement, refusing to sign the final, more detailed map.
  • After approving a note which stated that China could not enjoy rights under the agreement unless she ratified it, the British and Tibetan negotiators signed the Simla Convention and more detailed map as a bilateral accord.
  • It is said that McMahon had been instructed not to sign bilaterally with Tibetans if China refused, but he did so without the Chinese representative present and then kept the declaration secret.
  • But it is also argued that the basis of these boundaries, accepted by British India and Tibet, were that the historical boundaries of India were the Himalayas and the areas south of the Himalayas were traditionally Indian and associated with India.
  • The high watershed of the Himalayas was proposed as the border between India and its northern neighbours. India’s government held the view that the Himalayas were the ancient boundaries of the Indian subcontinent and thus should be the modern boundaries of British India and later the Republic of India.
  • Because of doubts concerning the legal status of the accord, the British did not put the McMahon Line on their maps until 1937, nor did they publish the Simla Convention in the treaty record until 1938.
  • Rejecting Tibet’s 1913 declaration of independence, China argued that the Simla Convention and McMahon Line were illegal and that Tibetan government was merely a local government without treaty-making powers.
  • In 1947, Tibet requested that India recognise Tibetan authority in the trading town of Tawang, south of the McMahon Line. Tibet did not object to any other portion of the McMahon line. In reply, the Indians asked Tibet to continue the relationship on the basis of the previous British Government.
  • Tibetan officials continued to administer Tawang and refused to concede territory during negotiations in 1938.
  • During World War II, with India’s east threatened by Japanese troops and with the threat of Chinese expansionism, British troops secured Tawang for extra defence.

Trilateral junction between China, India and Bhutan

  • India’s claim line in the eastern sector follows the McMahon Line. The line drawn by McMahon in 1914 Simla Treaty maps clearly starts at 27°45’40″N, a trijunction between Bhutan, China, and India, and from there, extends eastwards.
  • Most of the fighting in the eastern sector before the start of the war would take place immediately north of this line.
  • However, India claimed that the intentof the treaty was to follow the main watershed ridge divide of the Himalayas based on memos from McMahon and the fact that over 90% of the McMahon Line does in fact follow the main watershed ridge divide of the Himalayas.

How are the commercial relations between the nations?

  • Trade volume between the two countries in the beginning of the century, year 2000, stood at US$ 3 billion.
  • In 2008, bilateral trade reached US$ 51.8 billion with China replacing the United States as India’s largest “Goods trading partner.”
  • In 2011 bilateral trade reached an all-time high of US$ 73.9 billion.
  • In 2016, India’s top exports to China included diamonds, cotton yarn, iron ore, copper and organic chemicals.
  • In 2016, China exports of electrical machinery and equipment saw an increase of 26.83%to US$ 16.98 billion.
  • India was the largest export destination of Fertilizers exports from China.
  • There are three border trade points between India and China viz. Nathu La Pass (Sikkim), Shipki La Pass (Himachal Pradesh) and Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand).


  • According to data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce, the Chinese investment in India in Jan-Mar 2017 were to the tune of US$ 73 million.
  • Cumulative Investment in India till March 2017 stood at US$ 4.91 billion.
  • According to data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce, the cumulative Indian investment in China till March 2017 reached US$705 million.

Economic Relations

  • India-China economic relations constitute an important element of the strategic and cooperative partnership between the two countries.
  • Several institutional mechanisms have been established for enhancing and strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.
  • In accordance with the MoU signed during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India in April 2005, the two sides have since successfully held eight Financial Dialogues in April 2006, December 2007, January 2009, September 2010,November 2011, September 2013, December 2014 and August 2016 respectively.
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