India-China Relations

India-China Relations

This article deals with ‘India-China Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’, which is an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here

Brief History

Historical Ties

  • Sino-Indian friendship dates back to ancient times.  
  • Buddhism travelled from India to China. 
  • Chinese travellers like Fa Hien, Xuanzang etc., have travelled to India in the past.
  • Both India and China were part of the Silk Road Trade
  • Chinese inventions like paper making, sugar making etc., also travelled to India.

Initial Years

Both became independent at the same time 

  • But at the time of independence, India was Non-Aligned, whereas China under the leadership of Mao was Communist.
  • Nehru wanted good relations with China. Due to this reason, when the Chinese Army entered Tibet and took it over, India recognized Tibet as part of China. India gave up its rights over Tibet in 1954 (like the Right to station the army, control over post & telegraph etc.).

It removed the buffer of Tibet, which acted as a barrier between India and China. The British had always maintained Tibet as a buffer, and its annexation heightened Indian concerns. 

Vallabhbhai Patel favoured a more cautious approach and advocated for a military build-up and the creation of roads near the China border along with US cooperation to balance China. But unfortunately, he died in 1950, and India’s China policy came entirely into the hands of Nehru.

Panchsheel, 1954

India was disappointed in China’s Tibet policy. But, for the sake of friendship and as a confidence-building measure, they signed Panchsheel.

Five principles of Panchsheel were also incorporated in the agreement of 1954. These were

  1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity & sovereignty; 
  2. Mutual non‐aggression; 
  3. Mutual non‐interference in each other’s internal affairs; 
  4. Equality and mutual benefit;  
  5. Peaceful co‐existence

Prelude to the 1962 War

  • During the 1950s, when China began to consolidate its position in Tibet, the US, through its CIA, covertly supported Tibetans. The CIA’s support of arms and equipment convinced Mao that the India-US was collectively conspiring against China. In March 1959, there was a massive Tibetan uprising known as Lhasa Uprising. China crushed the uprising brutally. After the Lhasa Uprising of 1959, Dalai Lama came to take refuge in India. It made China suspicious of India. 
  • The global situation changed as well.  Khrushchev came to power in USSR, and he was a reformist, unlike Stalin. Khrushchev was not liked by Mao & China started to fear both USA & USSR. 
  • India had considerable influence in Africa, with Nehru constantly pitching for aggressive non-violent and non-revolutionary policies. According to Mao, this created a misleading effect on African leaders, who were being influenced to fight for freedom in a non-violent way. He advocated that revolution was the only way ahead.
  • This period also saw the tense situation of the Cuban Missile crisis in which the USA and USSR reached at the brink of nuclear war. China decided to exploit this situation. 

War of 1962

Reasons of War

  • Case of Tibet: Chinese felt that India supported the uprising in Tibet.
  • China is an ambitious country & both India & China wanted to be leaders of the Afro-Asian world.
  • Undefined borders between China & India: China refused to accept the Macmohan Line & India declined to accept Aksai Chin as part of China.
  • For MaoNehru was a bourgeois leader, and he viewed Nehru and his policies with suspicion. 

Impact on Sino – Indian Relations

  • There was a freeze in Sino-Indian relations till 1988. There was a situation of permanent hostility.
  • The emergence of an alliance between China & Pakistan.  
  • It pushed India to the side of the USSR.
  • Massive militarization & nuclearization was seen in India.

Confrontation in 1986-87 and Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1988

  • In 1986-87, both armies came to near conflict in Sumdorung Chu in the eastern sector.
  • After that, PM Rajiv Gandhi visited China, which marked the new beginning in Indo-China relations and a Joint communiqué to restore friendly ties & work towards a mutually acceptable solution to border disputes. 
  • Deng Xiaoping era, too, had dropped the revolutionary spirit of Mao and favoured a market-oriented economy. It played an essential role in the new Sino-Indian rapprochement.

Fall of USSR and Indo-China Relations

  • In 1989, when USSR began to disintegrate, there were protests in China that challenged the CCP rule in China. These were brutally crushed, resulting in the suppression and massacre of the mobs at Tiananmen Square. Moreover, the fall of communism, the Berlin Wall and the independence of the satellite states of the Soviet Union made the survival of CCP uncertain. The CCP, out of its need for survival, initiated a good neighbourhood policy to build up relations with India. 
  • As the Cold War ended, India lost the power backup of the USSR, and as the Gulf War progressed, it created a financial crisis in India as it choked its remittances from the region. India and China began to develop proximity and mutual understanding for their survival. China wanted India not to internationalize the Beijing massacre, while India conveyed to China that it would support the Chinese ideology of opposing any western interference in internal affairs.

Xi Jinping Era

  • The present era is the Xi Jinping Era, marked by the concentration of power in the hands of Xi by demolishing the old leaders and placing the loyals in the politburo.
  • Big country diplomacy: Xi regime has shed the earlier strategy of remaining low key and now started to follow Big Country Diplomacy. It has achieved this via large scale investments in infrastructure projects in other countries, developments of 5G technology, up-gradation of the military etc.
  • Wolf Warrior Diplomacy: The shift in Chinese foreign policy from conservative, passive and low-key to assertive, passive and high-profile. The term is based on a 2015 Chinese movie titled ‘Wolf Warrior’, which involves a group of Chinese soldiers who go out of China and carry out offensive attacks in enemy countries. The examples include the aggressive attitude wrt border issues (against India, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines etc.) and aggressive counter of the anti-China narrative post-COVID-19. 

Recent visits and developments

2003 Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit marked an improvement in the post-1998 nuclear-test freeze in relations.
2014 President Xi Jinping visits India .
2015 Modi paid a visit to China .
2016 President Xi Jinping Visit to India in BRICS Summit (Goa) .
2017 Doklam issue started.
2018 – Wuhan Summit: Informal Summit between Modi and Xi Jinping to normalize relations post-Doklam crisis. 
Modi visited China to participate in SCO Summit.
2020 Galwan Crisis resulted in a bloody stand-off between Indian and Chinese armies.
2021 China adopted a new land border law that allows  Beijing to safeguard its territorial integrity on its 22,000-km long land border with 14 countries, including India. It states that the People’s Liberation Army will be deployed to prevent encroachment. It could formalize Chinese encroachment on Indian territory. It concerns India because India shares log disputed border with China.  

Under the policy, China is also building border defence villages across the LAC between India and China.

Issue 1: Territorial Disputes

India-China Relations

There are three sectors where boundaries are disputed by India & China.

Western Sector – Aksai Chin in J&K: Held by China & demanded by India. 
– Shaksgam Valley: Given by Pakistan to China (from Pakistani occupied Kashmir).
Middle Sector It lies on Himachal & Uttaranchal Border .
Middle sector is relatively peaceful, unlike the Western and Eastern sectors.
Eastern Sector It relates to disputed McMahon line .
China demands almost the whole of Arunachal Pradesh.
China questions Indian sovereignty over Sikkim.

Since boundaries are not clearly demarcated. Hence, a lot of incursions take place.

1. Aksai Chin Issue

  • The territorial dispute over Aksai Chin can be traced back to the failure of the British Empire to demarcate a legal border between its Indian colony and China. 
  • Two borders between India and China were proposed during the British Raj – 
    1. Johnson Line: It shows Aksai Chin under Indian control.
    2. Macartney-MacDonald Line: It places Aksai Chin under Chinese control. 

Conflicted Claims

Indian Claim Johnson Line  is correct Aksai Chin is part of J&K
China Claim Macartney-MacDonald Line  is correct Aksai Chin is part of Xinjiang

During the war of 1962, China took control of Aksai Chin. 

Note: Main reason for annexing Aksai Chin was to build a road connecting Xinjiang Region and Tibet to strengthen its hold over Tibet. The only way to build a motorable road was to pass through Aksai Chin. Till the war of 1962, the Chinese were ready to accept Arunachal Pradesh and other disputed regions as part of India, provided India accepted Aksai Chin as part of China. Chinese always felt that the Indian claim on Aksai Chin was to undermine the Chinese influence in Tibet as historically India had never occupied, nor was of any strategic importance to India.

2. Tibet Issue

  • Tibet’s political system was based on the Buddhist faith. Dalai Lama was also the political head of the country. 
  • Tibet’s political connections with China varied from time to time. But Dalai Lama, both the spiritual and political head of the Tibetans, never owed any allegiance to the Chinese emperor like the rulers of Korea and Vietnam did.
  • 1914 Shimla Agreement: Under the provisions of the Agreement 
    • Inner Tibet was placed under China.
    • Outer Tibet was placed under Dalai Lama. 
    • Agreement also demarcated a line between Tibet & North East India known as Macmahon Line. 
    • India was given certain rights in Tibet, like free entry in Tibet, the right to station troops & maintain communication etc.
  • But, China disputed this line as an imperial line drawn by the Britishers.    
  • China insists that Tibet has been a part of China since the 12th century Yuan Dynasty and has branded the military operation to invade Tibet in 1950 as an exercise of peaceful liberation. On the other hand, Tibetans hold that Tibet was independent before the 1950 Chinese operation. In the Yuan Dynasty period, China and Tibet had established a priest-patron relation which in no way implies that Tibet became a vassal of China.  
  • In 1959, Lhasa Uprising started in Tibet. The Chinese Army crushed it, and as a result, Dalai Lama took refuge in India. It worsened the Sino-India relations leading to the War of 1962.
  • India continues to officially support that Tibet was a part of China as recognized in 1954 but, ironically, still supports the Tibetan government in exile in India as Tibet can give India the required leverage against China.

Latest Issues

  • China is increasing the number of Han Chinese in the region to change the demography of the Tibetan area. Soon, the Han Chinese will become the majority while Tibetans will be reduced to a minority in Tibet, diluting the overall cause of Tibetan autonomy.
  • China’s massive military build-up and infrastructure development in Tibet.
  • Plans to divert or dam rivers (e.g., Zangmu, Dagu etc., on the Brahmaputra) that rise in Tibet and flow into India. 
  • China’s ‘Gold Rush’ in Tibet: China’s has started mineral mining to extract precious metals, rare earth etc.
  • Geoengineering Experiments: Recently, there have been reports of China’s geoengineering experiments to “trigger natural disasters such as floods, droughts and tornadoes to weaken” an enemy in the event of a war. 

Side Topic: Why is Tibet so important for China?

  • Buffer between powers across Himalayas i.e. India and China.
  • Source of water as it is house to large number of glaciers. Major rivers like Brahmaputra and Satluj originates in Tibet.
  • Tibet is resource rich and China has planed to extract minerals such as gold and rare earth metals from the region.

Galwan Issue

  • Chinese soldiers crossed the LAC around the Galwan River valley during May 2020. 
  • It was followed by killing at least 20 Indian soldiers in a clash with Chinese forces. It was the first such clash in the border area in at least 45 years.
Galwan Clash

Reasons for Galwan confrontation

  • India is developing large scale infrastructure along LAC like Daulat Beg Oldie Road, which has challenged the Chinese superiority in the region.
  • Response to Doklam Crisis (dealt below).
  • Reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir: China had earlier also protested against the formation of the new Union Territory of Ladakh and accused India of transforming the status quo unilaterally.
  • The global backlash against China for spreading and mishandling of COVID-19
  • Signs of new Chinese aggressiveness and part of ‘Wolf Warrior Diplomacy‘. 
  • The Chinese response to India’s participation in Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) and challenge to Chinese position in Indo-Pacific region. 

Doklam Issue

  • Doklam (Donglang in Chinese) plateau is disputed between Bhutan (not India) and China.
  • Town named Yadong in Chumbi Valley (in China) is connected to Lhasa with an all-weather road. China was building a road connecting Yadong to the Doklam Plateau, which facilitated the fast mobilization of Chinese troops to Doklam in case of war. Indian troops intervened to block Chinese soldiers since the area was disputed.   
Doklam Crisis

Importance of Doklam

  • India can’t allow this because that will bring Chinese troops within striking distance of the Chicken’s Neck or Siliguri Corridor.
  • Sikkim is one of the few sectors where India has a strategic advantage vis-a-vis China. Doka La, the Indian Post in Sikkim, has the advantage of height wrt Chinese forces in Chumbi Valley. China wants to build a base in Doklam to nullify the Indian advantage.
  • India serves as a virtual security guarantor of Bhutan. If India abdicates its responsibilities towards Bhutan, India’s image as a counterforce to balance China will suffer.

Side Topic: Salami Slicing Policy

  • The term ‘Salami Slicing Policy’ was coined by Hungarian Matyaas Rakosi in 1940s.
  • Salami Slicing means a strategy of carrying out small actions in a covert manner that eventually accumulates into a larger action.
  • Using this strategy, China initiates territorial claims by staking claims to territory. Then, it carries out intensive propaganda at all platforms (domestic and international) to claim the territory. The propaganda by China is so intense that it positions the territory in concern as a ‘dispute’. Then China uses all it’s diplomatic and military might to resolve the dispute by avoiding a forceful intervention.

Side Topic: Stapled Visas

  • Stapled Visa is a visa where the country’s stamps are not placed directly on the passport, but pages are stapled to it. When the visitor leaves the country, his visa and entry and exit stamps are torn out, leaving no record on his passport.
  • In the case of China, Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are given Stapled Visas. 
  • The reason given by the Chinese Foreign Ministry is that since J&K and Arunachal Pradesh are contested territories, so they can’t directly stamp the passport of a person’s belonging to that region. Stamping a passport would imply recognition of the status quo

Issue 2: India-China Economic Issues

China has become India’s largest trading partner. But India has a huge trade deficit with China of 77 Billion $, contributing to India’s 25% trade deficit with the whole world. 

India-China Trade Issues

Why is  India  Important to  China?

India is essential for Chinese growth because it provides China with 

  • Access to a billion-plus market for its products.
  • Avenue for the investment of surplus Chinese capital. 
  • Alternative market due to to the western markets.


  • Huge Deficit: India has a huge trade deficit of $ 63 Billion with China. 
  • Currency Manipulator  China keeps the Yuan undervalued to promote Chinese exports. 
  • Non-Tariff Barriers: Indian Farm sector, agro-processing industry and Pharmaceutical Sector face Non-Tariff barriers from China. 
  • Security implications
    • Chinese Mobiles can be used for surveillance.
    • Significant Chinese investment in Power Sector results in the transfer of the blueprint of Indian Power Grids in Chinese hands.
    • India’s excessive dependence (up to 80%) on China for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API).
    • 5G security issue, especially with Huawei due to its alleged links with CCP.
  • There are large scale Chinese investments in Indian startups. Chinese companies indulged in the hostile takeover of Indian companies during Covid pandemic.
  • Negative impact on Indian Industrial Growth: The import of Chinese goods is not good for the development of Indian industries. The dumping of cheap Chinese goods negatively impacts the MSME sector as they cannot compete with cheap Chinese products. 

How to address?

  • Foreign Trade Policy 2015 recommended concentrating on things like Buddhist tourism & the entertainment sector.
  • India should effectively implement Make in India and Assemble in India. 
  • Increase trade competitiveness of Indian goods.
  • Use Anti Dumping Duties. 
  • Promote Chinese investment in Indian manufacturing, SEZ, NIMZ etc., so that Chinese Companies make products in India. 
  • Implement Katoch Committee report (to address the API issue). 

Recent steps taken by India to address this

  • Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme to boost domestic manufacturing under AtmaNirbhar Bharat.
  • The Indian government has banned more than 100 Chinese apps, including Tiktok. Ban is a big blow for Chinese companies as India was one of the most significant user bases of these companies.
  • The government introduced changes in FDI rules which mandate “prior approval” from the Centre for foreign investments from countries “that share border with India”.
  • India has invoked stringent quality control norms to curb poor-quality Chinese imports.
  • Chinese companies have been barred from taking part in road projects.

Issue 3: Chinese foray into the Indian neighbourhood

For the past few years, Chinese influence on India’s Neighbouring countries has increased. This has mainly been because of China’s Belt and Road initiative and its Financial investments. Thus, growing Chinese influence in the region could pose a challenge for India.

Examples to corroborate this

1. Pakistan

  • China is working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through the Indian territory under Pakistan’s occupation. Chinese presence is there on Gwadar port. 

2. Bangladesh

  • China is financing 25 energy projects in Bangladesh and has extended its support to build Bangladesh’s Second Nuclear power plant. 
  • Bangabandhu-1, which is the first communication satellite of Bangladesh, was negotiated and financed through the help of the Chinese government.
  • China’s trade with Bangladesh is now about twice that of India.

3. Sri Lanka

  • China has leased Hambantota port for 99 years and donated a frigate to the Sri Lankan Navy.

4. Maldives

  • China owns around 70% of the Maldives’ debt.
  • The Maldives has also signed China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The Maldives has changed laws to lease out several prime islands to China.

5. Myanmar

  • China is building Kyaukpyuport in Myanmar.

6. Nepal

  • Nepal has signed an agreement to become a part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Nepal is raising the issue of Kalapani at the behest of China.
  • Nepal uses Chinese cards and is building infrastructure to connect Nepal with China via Tibet.

Issue 4: India vs China – Defence Comparison

Sector China India
Defense budget >140 billion USD (4 times India) ~38 billion USD
Troops 2.3 million (23 Lakh) 1.3 million (13 Lakh)
Submarines 56( 5 nuke powered) 14(1 nuke powered)
Warships 75 (1 aircraft carrier under trial) >30 (2 aircraft carriers)
Fighter jets >1600 >550
Battle tanks >7000 >3000
Missiles Large arsenal
ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missiles)
SLBM (submarine launched)
Limited arsenal
Agni-V has range of 5000 kms

China is becoming an enormous naval power, corroborated by the Chinese navy’s having the largest number of personnel. Along with that, China is producing the largest number of ships. Moreover, China already commissioned the first indigenous Aircraft Carrier in 2018.

Military Reforms done by China

  • People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be cut by 3 lakh personnel as PLA want to focus on the modernisation of the army. 
  • The first Oversea Chinese Military Base in Indian Ocean Region has become operational in Djibouti.
  • All armed forces were brought under a joint operational military command in 2020 (on the lines of the US Army).  

Issue 5:  String of Pearls

String of Pearls

  • The theory was given by the Pentagon.
  • The theory says that China is trying to increase its naval presence in the Indian Ocean & counter India by surrounding it. It is developing a string of ports around India for this purpose. These pearls include 
Kyaukpyu  Myanmar
Chittagong Bangladesh
Hambantota Srilanka
Marao Atoll Maldives
Gwadar Pakistan
Djibouti China’s first overseas military base
String of Pearls

Impact on India

  • China can use it to impose an embargo on India in case of war (note: 90% Indian Trade passes through the Indian Ocean).
  • It disturbs the balance of power heavily in favour of China.
  • It marks the entry of extraterritorial power in the Indian Ocean, countering the Indian position of ‘Net Security Provider in the Indian Ocean’. 

Steps taken by India

India is taking following steps in the neighbourhood to counter China

Srilanka India is developing Kakesuthai & Triconmale port. 
Andaman & Nicobar Islands These islands can act as an iron choke to a string of pearls as
1. Most Chinese oil & trade flows through Malacca, and Andaman & Nicobar islands overlook Malacca Strait.
2. India has also established a naval air station in Andaman & Nicobar called Baaz.
Myanmar India has stepped up its engagement with Myanmar and made significant investments to counter Chinese encroachment.
Seychelles India is trying to counter it with soft diplomacy and investments.  
Iran India is developing Chabahar port in Iran.
  • Apart from that, India is trying to contain China through the following ways:- 
    1. Formation of Quad consisting of India, USA, Japan and Australia to contain China. 
    2. Making alliances with Vietnam ( Vietnam too had issues with China in the South China sea ) 
    3. Making a strategic partnership with Mongolia.
    4. India has made strategic ties with Japan. 
    1. Malabar practice with US & Japan .  
  • Military Modernization: Agni, Sukhoi, Nuclear submarines, Aircraft Carrier-Vikramaditya are not meant for Pakistan but to fight against a powerful nation like China.
  • India has leased Guardian drones and bought P-8I from the USA for surveillance in the sea
  • India is building roads and infrastructure on the North-Eastern border for faster mobilization of troops. 

Issue 6: One Belt One Road  (OBOR) INITIATIVE

OBOR  consists  of  following  elements.

1 . Silk  Road  Economic  Belt  (SREB)

  • The Eurasian land corridor from the Pacific coast to the Baltic Sea.

2. Maritime  Silk  Road  (MSR)

  • It aims to develop ports across the Indian Ocean. 

3. Digital Silk Road (Latest addition)

  • It is the virtual dimension of OBOR.
  • It is about 
    • strengthening internet infrastructure,  
    • lowering barriers to e-commerce, 
    • developing common technology standards, 
    • promoting cyber security 
    • promoting Chinese 5G technology 
  • China is deploying its nationally developed platforms based on Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Quantum Computing to pursue these goals. E.g.: 
    • Huawei is constructing PEACE (Pakistan – East Africa Cable Express) to connect Pakistan to Kenya via Djibouti.
    • Alibaba’s massive investment in e-commerce.
    • Promoting Beidou in contrast to GPS.
One Belt One Road  (OBOR)
  • Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the largest infrastructure project under which China invested in over 2600 projects in 100 countries. Analysts believe the OBOR initiative will impact  4.4 billion people and generate $ 2.5 trillion in 10 years. 
  • It will involve 
    • Building physical infrastructure (highways, railways, ports in coastal nations, fibre-optic lines) 
    • Establish free trade zones (by coordinating customs, quality supervision, e-commerce etc.) 
    • Increasing cultural exchange etc.

Reasons  behind  OBOR  Initiative

1. Restructuring Economy

  1. In 2008, due to Great Depression, there was a decrease in demand for Chinese products abroad. Hence, China changed its economy to an ‘Internal Consumption Led Economy’. But, now there is an issue of overcapacity in the infra sector, and China wants to address this by exporting infra projects.
  2. Rising labour costs: China is shifting production to underdeveloped western regions.

2. Strategic Reasons

  • China is decreasing its dependence on Malacca Strait (80% of Chinese energy and exports pass through it) and addressing the Malacca Dilemma.

3. Using Vast  Forex  Reserves

  • China has forex reserves exceeding $ 3 Trillion. China wants to put this large surplus reserves in building railways, highways, industrial parks along the Silk Road Economic Belt.

4. Diversifying Trade Routes

  • China wants to diversify its trade routes as excessive dependence on a single route is a  strategic vulnerability. 

5. Development of Under-developed areas

  • China’s economic development was primarily concentrated in its eastern coastal provinces. OBOR will provide outlets to its underdeveloped southern and western provinces and markets and coasts. Development of regions like Xingjian will help in containing Uighur militancy as well.

Should India  Join Or Not ?

OBOR  has  specific  risks  and  opportunities

Arguments in favour of joining

India should join this initiative because of the innumerable benefits

1. Economic

  • Road to Central Asia: It will enhance  India’s  connectivity  with  (1) Central  Asia  through  China, (2) Russia and (3) Eurasia.  
  • Connectivity to North East: It will increase connectivity of North East India with South East Asia and China. It will also give a push to tourism in the North East. 
  • Decreasing Trade Deficit with China: Chinese experts say that India’s participation in the Silk Road project will ease the trade deficit.

2. Political

  • Better economic relations improve political relocations and mutual trust.  

3. Strategic

  • It will help in balancing Pakistan and China relations.   

4. Other

  • India may also face some difficult choices in the road ahead because as a co-founder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, it will be asked to support many of the projects under the B&RI. 
  • It will lead to the revival of ‘continentalism’ & old ties.
  • With OBOR & other initiatives, China is making new world economic order. Not being part of it may isolate India from New Economic Order.

Arguments that India shouldn’t join

  • Sovereignty Issues: CPEC (part of OBOR) passes through POK.    
  • It is ‘opaque’ in nature as OBOR may be nothing but an economic disguise for the ‘string of pearls’.
  • It is detrimental to India’s geopolitical interests in the Indian Ocean Region. It challenges India’s stature as a ‘security provider’ in the region. 
  • OBOR promotes  Chinese neo-colonialism as loans are being used as a debt trap. E.g.
    • Seen in Hambantota (where China took over the port for 99 years in case of loan default)
    • Malaysia halted projects   
    • Myanmar also wants the port built by China to scale down. 
    • Even in Pakistan, voices are raised against CPEC (termed it as next East India Company) 
  • A  stronger China is a strategic risk for India. India has 4078 km of the disputed border with China, and China claims a large portion of Indian territory (nearly 80,000 sq. km).
  • Due to this, relations with the USA may get hampered.  
  • Environmental and Social Risks: Due to insufficient ecological feasibility studies and other risks, its compliance with environmental and labour standards is poor. 

Indian Answer to OBOR

  • India has started the ‘Cotton Route‘ to strengthen economic ties between countries in the Indian Ocean rim. 
  • It has also launched Project Mausam and Spice Route, apparently responding to China’s Belt and Road initiative.          
    • Project Mausam aims to re-establish India’s ancient maritime routes in the Indian Ocean. 
    • Spice Route aims to revive old links between 31 countries in Asia and Europe with India, especially Kerala. 
  • India & Japan have developed an Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) to counter China’s OBOR. 
  • India is also developing a large number of standalone projects which can be joined under one OBOR like project at a later stage (China too used this strategy). These projects include 
    • Chabahar Port project and the International North-South Transportation Corridor  
    • Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement (BBIN MVA). 

Issue 7: China – Pakistan Axis and CPEC

China & Pakistan describe their friendship as ‘higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey.’

Areas of Cooperation between China and Pakistan

  • NSG Membership: China opposed India’s admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, demanding India’s parity with Pakistan.
  • Infrastructure investment: via China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
  • Terrorism: China has been shielding various Pakistan-based terrorists from being listed as a ‘Global Terrorist’ by the UN.   
  • Military cooperation: China’s military cooperation with Pakistan, especially after CPEC, involves 
    • Bolstering the Pakistani navy. E.g., planned acquisition of eight submarines.
    • China will provide Pakistan’s four advanced naval warships of Type-054 Class (1 has already been delivered in August 2020).
  • Chinese relations with Pakistan also give China the chance to make easy inroads into the Islamic world and help keep China’s Xingjian extremism under check. 


  • CPEC is a 3200 km route consisting of highways, railways, and pipelines that will connect Gwadar port to Xinjiang in China.  
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor      (CPEC)

Importance of CPEC for Pakistan

  • China is investing   $62 billion in CPEC. 
  • It will create over 7 lakh direct jobs in Pakistan. 
  • China will also invest heavily in Power Sector. It will help Pakistan as the country is desperately short of power.  
  • It will relieve the USA pressure on Pakistan.  

Voices against CPEC in Pakistan

  • Debt Trap: Voices are being raised regarding the ability of the pandemic hit economy to pay back debt.
  • CPEC is marred by corruption shown by the incident of Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, the head of CPEC Authority, who was found to possess disproportionate assets.

Indian Concerns

  • Sovereignty Issues: CPEC passes through the disputed Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). 
  • Security Implications in Indian Ocean Region: Chinese access to Gwadar port impacts the Indian position as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean.
  • Energy Security of India: Gwadar Port overseas Hormuz Strait and China can blockade Indian oil supplies in conflict. 
  • Heavy Infra building in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK) will help faster mobilisation of Pakistani troops in case of any future war.
  • The threat of a ‘Two front war‘: It can lead to a situation when India has to a face ‘Two Front War’ in case of future confrontation of India with either of these countries. 

Potential Benefits which can accrue from CPEC to India

  • One of the arms of CPEC can be expanded to the Indian states of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir without any significant infrastructure costs.  
  • India can get overland access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Issue 8: South China Sea Issue

China’s Aggressive claims  in  the  South  China  Sea


  • China claims vast regions of the South China Sea through the Nine-Dash line theory.
  • While other nations like Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia etc., lay claim on them based on UNCLOS. E.g.: 
    • Paracel Island (conflict between China vs Vietnam) 
    • Spratly Island 
    • Paratas Island etc. 
Nine-Dash line theory

Earlier, the Philippines has approached the International Court of Arbitration to settle this issue. The court declared the claims of China to be illegal. But China declined to accept the judgement.

Interest of China

  • Seabeds of the South China Sea have reserves of oil and natural gas.
  • It is essential for the fisheries and food security of China and South Asian countries.
  • It is important to control the South China Sea through which half of the world shipments pass.
  • The control of this area helps maintain the Chinese hegemony in the region & oust US influence from the neighbourhood.

Indian Stand

  • India has taken a neutral stand that countries involved should negotiate and resolve it peacefully.  
  • India has also emphasized freedom of navigation for all South China Sea littoral countries.

Importance of the South China Sea and its littoral states for India

  • Around 55 % of India’s trade with the Asia pacific passes through the South China Sea. 
  • With its presence in the South China Sea, India can pressure China to counterbalance China in South Asia & Indian Ocean Region (IOR). 
  • To secure the energy supplies (India ships oil from Sakhalin to Mangalore through this region). 
  • India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd has invested in areas China claims to be disputed (like Oil Block 127 & 128 of Vietnam). 
  • Vietnam, with which China has issues, is India’s strategic partner.

Issue 9: River Issues

India and China constitute 17% and 20% of the world population, respectively. But as far as water resources are concerned, China has 7% of the world’s water resources while India has only 4% of the world’s water resources. Hence, water is a precious resource for both India and China.

North-South Water Diversion Plan

  • Problem with China: Although southern parts of China have water, Northern parts have an acute water shortage. Ideas have been given for a long time to use Tibetan water resources to meet the thirst of the north. It leads to the North-South Water Diversion plan.
  • This project is worth $33 billion. With this project, China intends to divert the water of Brahmaputra towards its Northern water-deficit region. 

Dams on the Brahmaputra

  • Under the Chinese North-South Water Diversion Plan, the plan is to build four dams – Dagu, Jeixu, Zangmu & Jiacha on the Brahmaputra.

Problems which India can face

  • India and China don’t have any river water-sharing agreements. 
  • Impact on the sediment flow: The sediments offer immense ecosystem services for the downstream economies of India’s N-E states and Bangladesh.  
  • Potential use as political leverage in border disputes: Apprehension of China using water in conflict events to create flooding downstream. 
  • Any significant diversion of water could impact hydroelectric projects downstream, especially Lower Siang and Upper Siang Project in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Environmental Impact: Several concerns emerge, such as increased pollution in the river (Siang- Brahmaputra’s main artery recently turned blackish grey as it entered India), the potential impact on climate change, a threat to biodiversity in the region and altering the monsoonal patterns of the area.   
  • Increased disaster vulnerability: Artificially controlling and consequent sudden release of water flow increases the probability of floods, especially in lower riparian areas of India and Bangladesh.  
  • Chinese record on shared waters is not good. Earlier, it virtually stopped the Irtysh river from going into Kazakhstan. 

Way forward

India and China should sign a treaty on the model of the Indus Water Treaty with China.

Areas of Convergence

  • Multilateral Forums : Both India and China have shown their belief in upholding of the United Nations charter and its non-interference policy, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), World Trade Organization (WTO)- where both fight for G7 countries, East Asian Summit.
  • Climate Change : Upto some extent both the nations have shown their seriousness on environment related issues. In the BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) minister’s meet, the ministers from these nations advocated for the different capabilities and differing responsibilities of individual countries in addressing climate change.
  • Economic: On several platforms, both the nations have called for support to multilateralism, and appreciate the central role of the U.N. in international affairs.
  • Wuhan Spirit : peaceful, stable and balanced relations between India and China will be a positive factor for stability amidst current global uncertainties
  • People to People Contact : People-to-people exchanges are thriving.
    • Practising yoga,
    • Bollywood movies ,
    • ‘Sister-state relationship’ between Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province.

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