Border Management Mechanism between India and China

India and China appear to be moving towards a new mode of coexistence in order to maintain peace and tranquillity along their 4,000-kilometer border. They are discussing measures to alleviate the border situation, such as establishing no-patrol zones along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and modernising the border management mechanism.

Older arrangements and the requirement for new measures

  • Blockades: In 2020, the older arrangements in Ladakh fell apart after the Chinese massed troops in Tibet and established blockades at six points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to prevent Indian troops from patrolling the border.
  • Clashes: In June 2020, a clash at Galwan killed 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers, the first such casualties on the LAC since 1975. The Sino-Indian clash in Yangtse, north-east of Tawang, in December 2022, suggests that new measures may be required across the LAC, not just in Ladakh.

Attempts to Ease the Border Situation

  • Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC): On February 22, 2023, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs met in Beijing for the 26th Meeting of the Working WMCC on China-India Border Affairs. This was the first in-person meeting of the WMCC, which had held the previous 11 rounds via video conference since the 2020 events.
  • Other Metrics: The issue of upgrading border management means to replace the WMCC with a mechanism that will include both military and civilian officers has been discussed. The no-patrol zones could lead to a package settlement in Depsang and Charding Nala, the two remaining areas.
  • Confidence-building Measures: Since 1993, the entire range of confidence-building measures has been based on the assumption that both sides largely accepted the LAC, despite differences of 18-20 points. The importance of identifying and resolving these differences was explicitly stated in the 1993 and 1996 agreements.
  • No-patrol zones: The no-patrol zones could be limited to areas where the two sides’ claims overlap. Qian Feng, a Chinese journalist and scholar, proposed that the concept of the zone of actual control could replace the “line of actual control” in some areas where there were no obvious geomorphological features or population.

The Concept of Moving the Goalposts

  • The concept of no-patrol zones is reminiscent of a proposal made by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in response to similar circumstances today.
  • An Indian police party was ambushed at Kongka La in October 1959, killing ten people and capturing another dozen.
  • In a letter dated November 7, 1959, Zhou proposed to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that both sides withdraw 20 kilometres from the so-called McMahon Line, as well as the line up to which each side exercises control in the west.

@the end

Creating no-patrol zones along the LAC, as well as upgrading the border management mechanism to include both military and civilian officers, could be a possible solution to the border conflict.

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