By Shabir Ahmad
India shares its land borders with seven countries. The longest border is with Bangladesh in the East, which is surrounded by India on three sides. The second largest border is with China in the North, which is prominently separated by the Himalayas. The borderline between India and China could be divided into three sectors-Western, Central and Eastern; the boundary of Eastern sector is also referred as McMohan Line.
Other neighbors on the North include Nepal and Bhutan, which are landlocked mountainous states mostly dependent on India for their trade and other related themes. Pakistan and Afghanistan form the boundary with India in the North-West. The boundary between India and Pakistan (as well as Bangladesh, then East Pakistan) was demarcated by Sir Radcliffe in 1947 and is known as the Radcliffe Line.
India has a border with Myanmar in the East. Towards South lie Sri Lanka and Maldives archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which are also considered to be Indian Proximal neighbors. The Gulf of Mannar and Palm Strait separate India from Sri Lanka.
Border Disputes with China
India shares around twenty six percent its border with China. This is a product of multiple and complex policies like Manchee Policy, Chinese Republican Policy and the British Policy. But, the boundaries are not peaceful since Communist takeover control of China in 1949. India forfeited its extra-territorial rights on Tibet and formally recognized t Chinese sovereignty over Tibet on 1954. Since then the buffer zone of Tibet disappeared and A sharp boundary between India and China was established. Since 1962, the watershed datum of the Indo- Chinese War, there have been many occasions when border disputes have flared up between India and China.
There are many concrete instances of border disputes between India and China. The first one is over the trans Karakoram Tract which Pakistan handed over to China as part of an agreement in 1963.But India maintained that the tract was part of Jammu and Kashmir.
The second one is over Aksai Chin. India accuses China of occupying 8000 sq km of this region. In the North-East of Ladakh, Aksai Chin, an almost uninhabited space, is with China. However, India includes it in its maps.
The third major one is the dispute over Arunachal Pradesh. China Claims 90000 square kilometers of what the country calls South Tibet its territory. This amounts to almost the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. China includes Arunachal Pradesh in its map but India controls it.
The biggest bone of contention between India and China, however, is Tibet, and the Indian Ocean. Conflict over these led to the first ever war between the two nations.
Rationally speaking, with both India and China being nuclear states, any other solution other than the status quo seems improbable. However, both nations have a raucous and a strident nationalist brigade that doesn’t want to lose face by adhering to the status quo. As such, the borders between the two remain volatile and hence prone to flare ups.
Border Dispute with Pakistan
The Indo Pakistan boundary is the product of partition of the subcontinent in 1947 under the Radcliffe award. The boundary has led to generic disputes and led to war like conditions an situations between the two countries.
The four axes of disputes along the border are the Ran of Kutch dispute, the Kashmir issue, the Saichen Glacier dispute near Karakoram Mountain and the Sir Creek dispute, which forms the boundary between Gujarat state of India and Sindh Province of Pakistan.
Both countries have fought four wars till now in the years 1965, 1971, 1977 and 1999. Unresolved border disputes along with other dimensions have led to a historically fraught relationship between India and China and India and Pakistan. Perhaps, as one prudent conflict resolution approach, one starting point would be to resolve these border disputes in an amicable way and manner. This has implications for peace in South Asia. Peace in the region is contingent on the de-escalation of conflicts between India, China and Pakistan.
The author is a Post Graduate in Political Science from the University of Kashmir and a Social Activist. He can be reached at: [email protected]