China is a mighty nation situated in the north of India. The two countries have ties and interactions since the ancient times.
It was in the reign Chandragupta II and Harshavardhana that the famous Chinese traveller Fa-Hiuen and Hiuen Tsang came to India. A large number of Chinese students were regular visitor of Nalanda University.
In modern times, the relationship between the two countries has been mostly strained.
Despite India’s sympathies with the newly formed communist government (1950) and its endeavour to promote the cause of communist China’s membership in the U.N. China continues to be a threat in Indian perspective.
Major Issues between India and China:
An agreement signed between Nehru and Chou-en-Lai in 1954 that sought to govern the relationship between India and China on the basis of five principles:
i. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty
ii. Mutual non-aggression
iii. Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
iv. Equality and mutual benefits
v. Peaceful co-existence
It guided the basis of relationship between 1954-57, marked by numerous visits and exchanges. This period (3 years) is described as years of Sino- Indian honeymoon. India supported China’s membership in U.N. and China replied by its stand on Goa.
Issue of Tibet:
It has been a bone of contention between India and China since 1950, when the Chinese government prepared plans to annex it.
India on the other hand insisted that China should respect the right to self-rule and settle the issue by holding negotiations with Dalai Lama. But, China captured Tibet and declared it as an integral part of its territory.
A Sino-Tibetan Agreement was signed in 1951 between Dalai Lama and Chinese government by which China was to have control over external affairs, trade and communications station and army, but not to interfere in internal affairs. India, in the midst of Panchshila agreement did not act seriously.
Later on Chinese aggressive policies led to flight of people into India. Even Dalai Lama continues to live in exile. India strongly resented to China’s stance on Tibet and sided with the Tibetans in their demand for autonomy.
In recent years, China’s softening stance on Tibet and implicitly recognising Sikkim as a part of Indian Union has led to change in India’s stance’ on Tibet. It has become more accommodative of Chinese presence in Tibet.
Although the boundary dispute between India and China became stumbling block in the relations only in 1957; its signs could be traced to 1954 when Chinese maps showed parts of Indian Territory as its own. In the meantime, Chinese soldiers intruded into Indian Territory.
India’s protest was met with the response that ‘the Sino-Indian boundary has never been formally delimited.’ China’s intrusion continued and in 1962 they crossed the McMahon Line. This marked the start of war and India faced massive defeat in NEFA.
India has repeatedly stressed restoration of status quo-ante. But, China showed not only reluctance but even captured more land (1986- Arunachal Pradesh).
As of now, the discussions are mainly paralyzed due to ambiguities on 600 km middle sector of the line of actual control.
Relation in Post Indo-China War Period:
From 1962 to 1971, India and China remained apart. Meanwhile, China came closer to Pakistan and created a situation where in Pakistan attacked India in 1965.
Left with limited option and on account of eagerness shown by former Soviet Union, India signed Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with Soviets.
This horrified China and she became bitter critic of India in East Pakistan crisis and supporter of Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. India’s Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (1974) and Sikkim’s accession to Indian Union (1975) aggravated China’s anger.
Though, the leadership of the two countries expressed desire to restore harmony in their bilateral relation, it was only after K.R. Narayanan was appointed India’s Ambassador to China that something concrete was achieved. Sudden fall of Janata government hampered the prospects for good relations because initially Chinese continued to see Mrs. Gandhi with apprehension.
But, as result of her assurance, trade and cultural contacts increased. Soon after, political deadlocks arose on account of:
India’s stance on Soviets presence in Afghanistan
India’s support for Vietnam against Chinese action
India’s apprehension over opening of Karakoram passes in POK. (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir)
Boundary dispute continued to be a major irritant
Nevertheless, the economic relationship continued to grow and there was exchange of visits by high level dignitaries of the two countries.
In the decade (1990’s), the distrusts and confusion were cleared and there was some progress in the relations between the two countries. Chinese Premier’s (Li Peng) visit in 1991 after a gap of 31 years and a number of agreements and protocols signed by two countries helped ease the tension and widen the area of co-operfion.
It was followed by Indian President K.K. Narayanan’s visit to Beijing in 1992. A series of measures were proposed and accepted as confidence building measures. The two sides also agreed to enhance the working of Joint Working Group (JWG) to pull out troops from border areas. President Zemin’s visit further helped on strengthening the cordial atmosphere.
Indian Defence minister’s (George Fernandes’) accusation that China was threat no. 1 and the nuclear explosions at Pokhran in 1998 halted the pace of relationship. But, a visit by Indian delegation, meeting of Joint Working Group (JWG), visit by Indian External Minister to Beijing helped in easing the tension.
Constitution of Eminent Persons Group and military exercises between armies of the two countries widened the area of cooperation. Even on issues between India and Pakistan, China has advocated mutual adjustments through negotiations. The two countries have shown commitment to tackle the threat of terrorism together by constituting a joint working group on terrorism.
The relationship between the two countries with distinct socio-economic and political milieu has been marked by great ups and downs. While, they fought wars in the years when their feelings were striking roots, they have shown more maturity in recent years by constantly engaging through trade and commerce.
Except the border dispute, the Chinese leadership has shown tendencies that have helped ward off tension from the apprehensive Indian leadership. In fact, the contemporary, and foreseeble international milieu demands the two countries to cooperate with one another in establishing a multipolar world.