China-India Relationship also called Sino-Indian relations refers to the bilateral relations between India and China. India and China are the two most populous and major nation in the Asian continent. They shared cultural and economic relations dated back to ancient times. Their relations can be traced back to 2nd B.C. century. The Silk Road not only served as a major trade route between India and China but also facilitated the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia. The modern relations between India and China began in December 1949, when India, second non-Communist state officially recognised the People’s Republic of China. India was the first non-communist nation to establish Embassy in PRC (People’s Republic of China). Both countries have successfully rebuilt diplomatic and economic ties. Apart from these, there are some other areas on which both countries have been cooperating of late.
Although the relationship has been cordial, there have been border disputes between India and China. The border disputes in between Sino-Indian resulted in major military conflicts- the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Chola incident in 1967, and the 1987 Sino-Indian Skirmish, and early 2017, Doklam plateau conflict.
China-India Political Relationship
The two countries signed the Panchsheel Treaty in 29th April 1954 to lay the roadmap for stability in a region. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, known as the Panchsheel Treaty: Non-interference in others internal affairs and respect for each other’s territorial unity integrity and sovereignty (from Sanskrit, panch: five, sheel: virtues), are a set of principles to govern relations between states. The five principles stated in this treaty are mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit, and; peaceful co-existence.
This treaty was considered as one of the most important agreements between China and India to strengthen economic and security cooperation. This agreement lapsed after eight years as the relation was souring. Finally, the Sino-Indian war broke out between two sides in 1962. This China-India conflict led to a serious setback in bilateral relations. This was a cold period in bilateral relations. India and China resumed designating ambassador in 1976. Higher political level contacts were revived to improve China-India relationship after the External Affairs Minister, A.B. Vajpayee visit to china in 1979.
The bilateral relations began to improve after the visit of Rajiv Gandhi in 1988. During his visit, both sides agreed to strengthen and expand the bilateral relations in all fields. They also established Joint Economic Group (JEG) and Joint Working Group (JWG)- to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution on the boundary question. After this, India-china relations normalized through the regular exchange of high-level visits.
In spite of the regular exchange of high-level visit, the border disputes between India and China was continued. Here is a timeline of events since India and China relations were established and highlight the conflict and cooperation.
October 1949: Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, with Mao Zedong being named the chairman, and Zhou Enlai the prime minister and foreign minister.
30 December 1949: India becomes the second non-communist state to recognize the Peoples’ Republic of China after its proclamation on 1 October. Burma was the first.
1st April 1950: KM Panikker appointed the first Indian Ambassador to China
7th October 1950: Chinese troops move crossed the Sino-Tibet boundary and moved towards Lhasa
May 1951: The Tibetan Governor of Chamdo is captured by the Chinese, and forced to sign an agreement that grants China full suzerainty over Tibet.
15th May 1954: India and China agreed to sign the Panchsheel Treaty. It was a forward step to improve the China-India relationship.
2nd March 1955: India made an objection to the inclusion of a portion of India’s northern frontier on the official map of China, saying it was a clear infringement of the Panchsheel Treaty.
1st April 1955: India signs a Protocol at Lhasa handing over to China the control of all communication services in Tibet.
December 1956: Chinese nationals who entered Ladakh were illegally detained, and eventually sent back to home.
Sept 1957: Indian Vice-President S. Radhakrishnan visits China
4th September 1958: India officially made an objection to the inclusion of a big chunk of Northern Assam and NEFA in the China Pictorial – an official organ of the Chinese Peoples’ Republic.
Jan 1959: Zhou Enlai claimed over 40,000 square miles of territory in Ladakh and NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh).
3rd April 1959: Dalai Lama escapes from Lhasa and came to India for the asylum. India grant asylum to Dalai Lama and this decision sours the relation of Beijing and New Delhi.
8th September 1959: China refuses to accept the Mc Mohan Line with Zhou Enlai stating that China was not a signatory to the 1842 Peace Treaty between British India and England. Further, Beijing laid claims to almost 50,000 square miles of Indian territory in Sikkim and Bhutan.
April 1960: A meeting between Zhou Enlai and Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi was seemed futile as it ends with no resolution over the boundary issue. China does not accept the Officials’ Report published by India detailing records, maps, and documents relevant to the boundary issue.
Feb 1961: China turned down to discuss the Sino-Bhutanese and Sino-Sikkimese boundary disputes and on later it occupies 12,000 square miles in the western sector of the Sino-Indian border. China began to show their aggressive moves ad sets up new military formations that encroach the Indian Territory.
Dec 1961: India adopted the Forward Policy to freeze the advancing Chinese forces at the frontier line. Then India established symbolic posts in Ladakh aimed to recover territory and block any further encroachment
15-18 November 1962: A massive Chinese attack on the eastern front, Tawang, Walong in the western sector overrun, Rezang La and the Chushul airport shelled. Chinese troops capture Bomdila in the NEFA
21st November 1962: China declares a unilateral ceasefire along the entire border and announces the withdrawal of its troops to position 20km behind the LAC.
8th December 1962: India accepts the three-point ceasefire formula and later on 10 December endorses Colombo proposals.
2nd March 1963: China and Pakistan sign a boundary settlement in Beijing between Kashmir and Xinjiang where Pakistan ceded 5080 sq. km of Pakistan occupied Kashmir territory.
27th August 1965: An allegation was made by China on India for crossing the Sikkim-China boundary.
30th November 1965: Chinese troops intrude into North Sikkim and NEFA again.
1970: Informal contacts between the Indian and Chinese diplomats established.
April 1973: China accuses India of committing aggression on Sikkim on the pretext of disturbances.
May 1974: China criticises India’s first peaceful nuclear test.
April 1975: China expresses strong condemnation at the merger of Sikkim with the Indian Union.
April 1976: After a 15-year hiatus, India and China decide to restore the level of diplomatic representation in both countries to the ambassadorial status.
February 1979: External Affairs Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visits China.
December 1986: China expresses strong condemnation over the establishment of Arunachal Pradesh as a state of the Indian Union.
December 1988: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi makes a visit to China to enhance and strengthen the China-India relationship. The two countries agree to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on the boundary issue, and Joint Economic Group (JEG) on, Science and Technology and Trade.
September 1993: Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao visits China, signs agreement on Border Peace and Tranquillity and the setting up of the India-China Expert Group of Diplomatic and Military Officers to assist the work in Joint Working Group.
November 1996: Chinese President Jiang Zemin visits India, signs Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the military field along the LAC in the India-China Border Areas
May 1998: China strongly condemns India’s second nuclear testing.
August 1998: India officially announces talks with China on the reopening of the Ladakh-Kailash-Mansarovar route.
28 September 1999: China asks New Delhi to discontinue the ‘splitting activities’ of Dalai Lama from Indian soil to improve bilateral ties.
January 2000: Karmapa Lama fled away from China. The Dalai Lama requested the Indian Prime Minister to provide protection to the Karmapa. India eventually grants refugee status to the Karmapa, who joins the Dalai Lama at Dharamshala. Beijing warned New Delhi that giving political asylum to Karmapa would violate the principles of Peaceful coexistence.
January 2000: The People’s Liberation Army established a road network and set up bunkers 5km in the Indian side of the LAC in Ladakh’s Aksai Chin area.
February 2000: India and China sign a bilateral trade agreement to facilitate China’s early entry into the WTO and an MOU to create a Joint Working Group in the field of steel.
July 2006: China and India re-open the Nathu La Pass, which was closed during the China-India war in 1962.
13 January 2009: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits China. Bilateral trade surpasses $50 billion and China becomes India’s largest trading partner in goods.
November 2010: China started the practise of issuing stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir.
April 2013: Chinese troops encroach into East Ladakh, 19km from the LAC but are eventually rebuffed.
November 2014: Xi invites Modi to attend the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Beijing. Modi declines the offer but travels to Myanmar, Australia and Fiji. India also appoints its national security advisor, Ajit Doval, as the country’s special representative for Sino-India boundary negotiations.
March 2015: India and China conducted the 18th round of talks over the boundary issue.
May 2017: India declines the Chinese invitation to attend the Belt and Road Initiative summit in Beijing and issues a detailed statement listing its objections.
8-9th June 2017: India gains membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. PM Modi meets President Xi to thanks for his country’s for India’s full membership in SCO.
July 2017: The relation between China and India remained tense due to the ongoing stand-off in the Doklam area near the Sikkim sector. Indian troops along with Bhutanese Army foiled Chinese People’s Liberation’s Army’s attempts to encroach on a disputed enclave. The Chinese have responded by suspending the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra through the Nathu La pass and even warning India to not forget “historical lessons” from the 1962 war.
September 2017: the Doklam stand-off is resolved diplomatically, after a lengthy meeting in Xiamen.
April 2018: Modi meets Xi at Wuhan in an informal summit aimed towards normalising relations since Doklam.
October 2019: China expresses concern over the abrogation of Article 370 revoking Jammu & Kashmir’s special status. President Xi and PM Modi meet at Mammalapuram to conduct a second informal summit.
June 2020- In 2020, Sino-Indian troops engaged in a brawl in the Galwan River valley which reportedly led to the death of 20 Indian soldiers. It is also claimed that 40+ Chines soldiers have been killed but the claim was denied by the Chinese authority. It has greatly affected the China-India relationship in all aspects.
India’s Trade Relationship with China
China-India economic relationship constitutes an important element of the strategic and cooperative partnership between the two countries. India and China resumed their trade relations in 1978. Both countries signed the Most Favoured Nation Agreement in 1984. Sino-Indian bilateral trade which was seemed to be as low as US$ 2.92 billion in 2000 reached to US$ 61.7 billion. China has become India’s largest trading partner. But it can be seen that India exports goods worth less than US$ 20 billion, resulting in an adverse balance of trade between India and China. China-India bilateral trade from the beginning of the 21st century to 2019 has grown 32 times (US$3 billion to nearly $100 billion). The trading volume between China and India was $92.68 billion, in 2019. However, in 2020, the volume of trade between the two countries has been seen to decrease due to the ongoing border disputes.
Many institutional mechanisms have been established for improving and strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries. India-China Joint Economic Group on Economic Relations and Trade, Science and Technology (JEG) and the India-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) has been established between the two countries. In addition to these, a Financial Dialogue has also been taking place between the two countries since 2006.
To improve the China-India relationship, both countries have successfully held 6 rounds of Financial Dialogues. During the dialogues, both sides exchanged views on microeconomics situation and policy responses, high technology, energy conservation, and environmental protection, energy, and medicine and promote practical economic and trade cooperation.
The Development Research Centre of the State Council of China has held 4 rounds of dialogues with the NITI Aayog of India. Both sides reached general agreement on promoting sustainable and high-quality economic development of two countries, safeguarding global multilateral trade mechanisms, promoting the reform of the global governance system and guarding against international economic and financial risks.
However, due to the ongoing border tension between the two countries would affect trade relations in the long-run. China-India Relationship has been greatly affected after Galwan River valley conflict. Recently, the Union Government has banned 59 Chinese mobile applications, including top social media platforms such as TikTok, Helo, and WeChat, to counter the threat posed by these applications to the country’s “sovereignty and security,”.
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