China shares a border about 3488 km long with five Indian states— Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. The autonomous region of China– Tibet, also touches India’s boundary. The relationship between India and China have faced multiple highs and lows. They formed diplomatic relations in 1950. Their cultural and economic relations developed from the silk route from where the trading initiated between the two. There was turmoil in the relations between the two countries during 1962 over the border disputes. Again in 1967, there were clashes over the Sikkim border, which further deteriorated their ties. The head of the two States have conducted several bilateral talks, some high-level visits from both sides and foreign policies of both the nations have improved their relations over time. However, in recent years, both countries have witnessed a decline in their ties. In 2020, Chinese troops attacked the Sino-Indian border near Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the autonomous region of Tibet and the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Furthermore, India banned almost 59 Chinese apps under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. According to officials, these apps were prejudicial” to India’s sovereignty, integrity and national security. These apps included Tik Tok, among many others like We Chat, Helo, Alibaba’s UC Browser and UC News, Shein, Club Factory, Likee, Bigo Live, Kwai, Clash of Kings.
Over the years, China is aggressively expanding in other smaller South Asian countries. India’s immediate adjoining nations mainly— Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are receiving substantial foreign investments from China. Moreover, other South Asian countries like Maldives, Myanmar, and Afghanistan. In the past decade, China has surpassed India to become the largest trading partner with South Asian countries. The share of India’s trade with the Maldives was 3.4 times that of China’s in 2008. But by 2018, China’s total trade with the Maldives slightly exceeded that of India. China’s trade with Bangladesh is now about twice that of India. Moreover, China’s growing business in Nepal is in close competition with India. China has also invested more than USD 150 million in the economies of Bangladesh, the Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. China is now the largest overseas investor in the Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. China is also investing in the stakes in the Dhaka and Karachi stock exchanges and cultivated a Yuan trade between China and Pakistan. Other than this, China is making considerable contributions in developing infrastructures, roads, railways, bridges, ports, and airports.
China has become a potent threat for India in terms of security as well. After the Sino-Indian war in 1962, the relations between India and China went sour; however, they have revamped their ties through several foreign policies by both nations warmed their friendship. It was strained again in 2020 after the Sino-Indian border dispute. The conflict stems from the poorly defined 3440 km long disputed border known as the Line of Actual Control. Both always compete upon any construction work over Lac. The fight of 2020 was also triggered due to India’s construction of a road to high altitude airbases. The confrontation at the Galwan Valley resulted in the killing of 20 Indian soldiers. Later, in August, India accused China of provoking military tensions at the border twice within a week. China denied both charges and inculpated India for the standoff. While in September, China accused India of firing shots at its troops. India accused China of firing into the air.
There was also a clash between the Indian and Chinese armies over the Doklam region in Bhutan in 2017. India and Bhutan have an exemplary bond and are great friends. Bhutan has consistently sided with India. On the other hand, India always guides the Bhutanese government in their international policies and assists their Army. China continues to attack Doklam, which it claims to be part of Chinese territory. In 2017, when China started building a road headed to the strategically crucial Jampheri ridgeline, it was involved in a faceoff with the Indian Army against the construction. Suppose China gets successful in its attempts to conquer Doklam. In that case, it can easily perforate India’s chicken neck colloquially called the Siliguri Corridor that connects India with the northeast states of India. It will become feasible for China to transport war machinery and equipment and other illicit goods, thus, raising security threats in India.
The growing friendship between China and Pakistan is one of the significant security threats for India. Post partition in 1947, the relations between India and Pakistan have always remained complicated due to territorial disputes. India’s assistance to Bangladesh in its fight for independence against Pakistan in 1971 has caused more distress in Indo-Pak relations. They are always indulged in wars or skirmishes with each other over the Jammu and Kashmir region. Pakistan is believed to sponsor terrorism in J&K and is home to several terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and others.The Mumbai attacks on 26/11 in India also originated from Pakistan.
Amidst all the chaos between India and Pakistan, China has developed a close friendship with Pakistan. China and Pakistan entered diplomatic relations in 1950 when Pakistan became the first country to recognise Taiwan as part of Mainland China. Since then, the two nations have observed robust growth in their ties. China supports Pakistan’s stand in the J&K region. It also provides economic and military cooperation to Pakistan. China supplies arms and weapons to Pakistan. In 2015, China launched the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a collection of infrastructure projects worth around USD 46 billion meant to deepen economic ties between China and Pakistan. The CPEC will connect China’s largest province Xinjiang with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Baluchistan. India is not favouring this CPEC project as upgrade works to the Karakoram Highway are taking place in Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a territory that India claims as its own. Additionally, India has alleged that China and Pakistan intended to develop the corridor for its economic benefits and is motivated by the “strategic intent of besieging India”.
China is also indicted for provoking northeast insurgencies in India. China shares a border with Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast. The Naga tribes of India have old linkages with the Yunnan region of China. Several insurgent leaders are provided shelter in China. They also fight with Chinese weapons. China fuels the fight of the Naga tribes at the Indo-Myanmar border. India alleges China supports armed groups in Myanmar like the United Wa State Army and the Arakan Army, who have caused disturbance along the Indo-Myanmar border.
India, Bangladesh and China
Bangladesh was once a part of India. After partition, Bangladesh or East Pakistan became part of Pakistan. However, during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, it separated from Bangladesh and established itself as a sovereign independent nation. Indian Army fought against the Pakistani Army and assisted Bangladesh in its fight for independence. Since then, the relation between India and Bangladesh has achieved significant growth. However, there are some areas of contention between the two.
Teesta river is one such issue that needs to be resolved. The Teesta river flows through India to Bangladesh. There was an equal demand for water by Bangladesh from the Teesta River from India in the Ganga Water Treaty 1996. The treaty is an agreement on sharing the surface waters at Farakka Barrage. Several high visit exchanges and bilateral talks between the two countries have not provided any fruitful results to Bangladesh.
China who has now become a rival of India is providing economic aids to Bangladesh over this dispute. In 2020, China granted a loan of USD 1 billion to Dhaka for the Teesta River Project and to maintain water levels during drought. Apart from this, China’s market in Bangladesh has risen prominently over the years. China is the biggest trade partner of Bangladesh, with trade largely favouring China. To reduce the trade imbalance, China granted duty-free access to 3,095 Bangladeshi products to its markets. In 2017, the total trade between the two stood at USD 12.5 billion, and by 2019, it stood at USD 18 billion. China is the biggest supplier of arms that include tanks, missiles, fighter aircraft and other weapons. Chinese imports are the fastest growing in Bangladesh, with an 82.1% growth from 2013 to 2018. In July 2020, China granted zero tariff duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh The exemption of tariff duty on Bangladeshi imports was announced after the military standoff between India and China, and therefore, it is viewed as a strategy by China to win trusts of India’s close neighbourhood Bangladesh. In addition to this, Bangladesh is also a part of China’s Belt Road Initiative.
India, China and Sri Lanka
The relationship between India and Sri Lanka goes back around 2300 years. They share deep religious, linguistic, and social ties. The bilateral diplomatic relations in economy, culture, and security between the two have observed magnificent growth over the years. However, there are certain problematic areas across the maritime border between these two nations. India and Sri Lanka entered into an Indo-Lanka Maritime Boundary Agreement in 1974. The agreement does not define clear boundaries leading the Indian fishermen to trespass in the Lankan region. The trespassing by the Indian fishermen has led to their arrests as Sri Lankan authorities claim that they must protect their waters against poaching and secure the lives of their fishermen too. Indian Tamils have also accused the Sri Lankan navy of brutally killing the fishermen found fishing in the Lankan water boundaries. It has become a subject of wide protests among fishermen in Tamil Nadu. Once again, on January 18, 2021, four Indian fishermen were killed due to a collision between an Indian trawler boat and a Sri Lankan Naval Vessel. It has again led to cause distress in the ties between India and Sri Lanka.
Furthermore, in February 2021, the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sri Lanka, India, and Japan for the development of the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port was cancelled. Sri Lanka signed a contract with a Chinese company to set up hybrid wind and solar energy projects on three Sri Lankan islands before cancelling the tripartite MoU with India and Japan. According to the official records, a USD 12 million project was awarded to Sinosar-Etechwin. It will be implemented as a joint venture with the state-owned Ceylon Electricity Board as part of the Sri Lankan government’s Supporting Electricity Supply Reliability Improvement Project. India displayed strong disaccord with the same and carried out a protest against the Sri Lankan government.
India, Nepal and China
India and Nepal share rich, profound social, cultural, and religious history. They have maintained excellent bilateral ties with each other. However, some disputes over the border, like Kalapani, have caused distress between the two. Kalapani is an area at the tri-junction of India-Nepal and China. The Lipulekh Pass in the Kalapani is quite an important area for India from the security point of view as the Pass enables India to keep an eye on Chinese movements.
India and Nepal both claim the Kalapani region as part of their territory. In 2019, when Nepal drew a revised political map showing Kalapani and few other areas as parts of its territory, it enraged the Indian government.
India and Nepal also have another area of contention — Susta territory that has arisen due to the altered course of the Gandak River. Susta was earlier part of Nepal; however, the gradual shift in the course of the Gandak River made Susta a part of the Indian territory as per the international laws. On multiple occasions, India has made efforts to resolve the issue, but the Nepalese government remains stubborn, which further caused distress in their ties. These disputes over the Kalapani region and Susta are the primary reasons for disturbance in their relations.
China’s indulgence in Nepal is has grown significantly in recent years. Nepal faced a humanitarian crisis during the 2015 earthquake. Later in 2015, the Madhesi community protested in Nepal over the newly formed constitution that did not recognise the rights of the minority Madhesi community. Nepal accused India of supporting the protests by the Madhesi community because of their familial ties with the same. Furthermore, Nepal witnessed an economic blockade wherein all the essential supplies from India to Nepal were blocked. This further declined their connections. China benefitted from these two situations as it got the opportunity to enhance its relations with Nepal. During the economic blockade in 2015, Beijing gave 1.3 million litres of petrol to Nepal as a grant, with the promise of following up after a commercial arrangement was signed between companies on the two sides.
Apart from this, China is constantly boosting its ties with Nepal. In 2011-2012, the India-Nepal trade stood at USD 3 billion, and the total volume of trade between Nepal and China amounted to USD 1.2 billion. China offered zero-tariffs treatment to 60 per cent products of Nepal to elevate the economic ties. Consequently, in 2014, China surpassed India in terms of foreign investment in Nepal. In 2019, the FDI by Chinese investors accounted for 40%, while India was 30%. China also invest a lot in the infrastructure development of Nepal. In addition to this, China is also increasing its cultural ties with Nepal as well. There are about 19 China Study Centres (CSC) and Confucius Institutes in Nepal to promote the Chinese language and culture. Mandarin is also taught in schools in Kathmandu. Beijing has declared Nepal as an official destination for its citizens. The town of Pokhara is among the top 10 places to visit, according to Chinese online guidebooks.
India, Myanmar and China
India and Myanmar share a 1643 km land border with four Indian States— Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and maritime border in the Bay of Bengal. Both countries had maintained bilateral diplomatic relations since 1951, when the Treaty of Friendship was signed between the two. Since then, they have strong ties with each other. However, when the Military of Myanmar overthrew the democratic government of Myanmar, it affected the relations between India and Myanmar. India supported the pro-democracy movements in Myanmar and highly condemned the activities made by the Myanmar military. It also led to the banishment of Burmese Indians living there. China maintained close links with Myanmar and supported it on this point. Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Myanmar in 1987 expected to restore the old ties between the two; however, reactions of the military junta in Myanmar towards pro-democratic movements caused Burmese refugees to fly to India, disrupting the relations between India and Myanmar. From 1993, the foreign policies of the Indian government aimed at revamping its relations with its neighbour, and the two now have genial relations.
Myanmar is quite significant for India in terms of geography, economy, culture, and development of Northeast states of India. India and Myanmar share cordial relations with one another. Myanmar and India share historical, ethnic, religious, and cultural ties. Many pilgrims, tourists from Myanmar visit India, which is considered the land of Buddha. About 3 million people of Indian origin reside in Myanmar. Several high exchange visits and bilateral talks take place between the two to enhance their cooperation over trade and commerce, culture, and security. India also provides development assistance to Myanmar. India’s ‘Look East’, which is modified today as ‘Act East’  policy, has further cemented the relations between these two neighbours.
There are still some issues between the two nations that need immediate attention. The border of India and Myanmar is highly permeable and poorly guarded. It is a region prone to insurgency and the illegal influx of migrants and refugees. Additionally, opium production is pretty high in this area.
China shares about 2100 km border with Myanmar and is like Big Brother in Myanmar. It is involved in Myanmar’s domestic politics, development and economy, peace talks with ethnic groups, and enjoys deep ties with both the National League of Democracy’s (NLD) and the military. China supports Myanmar in safeguarding its legitimate rights, interests, and national dignity.
Beijing’s flagship project under the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is the 1,700-km China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, CMEC (38 projects of which nine approved), which packs infrastructure projects linking China’s Yunan province with the strategic deep-sea port of Kyaukphyu in Rakhine province, which India had once eyed, that will provide access to the Bay of Bengal. Yunan, in fact, is integrated with North Myanmar up to Mandalay. The USD100-billion CMEC includes building the USD8-million Yangon New City. Myanmar is heavily indebted to China, which accounts for 70 per cent of the FDI in the energy sector alone. China holds 40 per cent of Myanmar’s USD5-10 billion debt. Both countries have a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation Agreement with the new 2+2 first-ever dialogue arrangement.
China has laid down several projects for construction of dams and river connectivity over the Brahmaputra, Indus, Sutlej and other rivers. It is a challenge to water, ecological and environmental security for India and other nations as well. There is no water treaty signed for sharing of water with China and in the absence of any treaty, China continues to build multiple hydro-power projects. At various occasions, India have displayed strong discontentment over the building of these hydro-power projects. For instance, the construction of the Bhasha Dam and Bunji Dams on the River Indus in Gilgit-Baltistan – which India claims to be its own territory drew huge opposition from the Indian government.
There is no gainsaying that after the horrific standoff between India and China over the Sino-Indian border in 2020 has led to several challenges for India. China is increasing its influence in India’s immediate neighbours by expanding its market in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others. Almost every day, it introduces new mobile phones, gadgets, and autos. China has a considerably larger vehicle industry than India. As a result, they can sell all the items produced for lower price. It is also extending its collaboration in other South Asian countries as well like Myanmar, Afghanistan and Maldives. China has introduced 21st Century Maritime Silk Routeunder the One Road, One Belt initiative to enhace its deep-sea trade route from Southeast Asia to Africa and Europe. The fast pace expansion of China in the SouthAsian countries is not a good sign for India as both nations are on the verge of a war. China’s growing military power and its conflicts with India over the boders of Lac, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are potential security threats for India. Cross border smuggling, illicit transportation of arms and weapons through China are serious matter of concern.
China’s market cannot be a thread untied until India evaluates and pursues every possibility that presents itself. It should make effective use of all available resources and infrastructure in order to attract international investment and human resource hiring. Along with this, India must focus on enriching its ties with its contiguous neighbours and other South Asian countries like Afghanistan, Maldives, Taiwan, and others. The international policies of India must be aimed at enhancing bilateral cooperations in all areas— economic, cultural, and security with its neighbours. India should also make efforts to resolve its border issues with China as well.
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