The McMahon Line

Republican and Democratic senators introduced a resolution in the US Congress reiterating that the US recognises the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh as the international boundary between China and India.

The importance of such a move

  • This resolutely confirms the United States’ (both ruling and opposition) stand with India at a time when China poses a threat to the Indo-Pacific Free and Open.
  • The resolution reaffirms India’s position that Arunachal Pradesh, dubbed “South Tibet” by China, is an integral part of India.

What exactly is the McMahon Line?

  • The McMahon Line, which represents the border between Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, serves as the de facto boundary between China and India in the Eastern Sector.
  • China contests the border and claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).

What circumstances led to the establishment of the McMahon Line?

  • The McMahon Line was established during the Simla Convention of 1914, which was officially known as the Convention between the United Kingdom, China, and Tibet.
  • Concerned about the growing Russian influence in the region, the British led an expedition into Tibet and signed the Lhasa Convention in 1904.
  • At the same time, China invaded, seizing control of the southeastern Kham region and pressuring British officials to advocate for extending British jurisdiction into tribal territory.
  • The convention sought to resolve the issue of Tibet’s sovereignty and to prevent further territorial disputes in the region.

What happened at the Simla Convention of 1913-14?

  • The Tibetan government was represented in Lhasa by its plenipotentiary, Paljor Dorje Shatra, and Britain was represented by Sir Arthur Henry McMahon, British India’s foreign secretary in Delhi.
  • Ivan Chen was the Chinese plenipotentiary.
  • The treaty divided the Buddhist region into “Outer Tibet” and “Inner Tibet,” and established borders between China and Tibet, as well as between Tibet and British India.
  • Only McMahon on behalf of the British government and Shatra on behalf of Lhasa signed the final convention.
  • Ivan Chen refused to sign the convention, claiming that Tibet lacked the independent authority to enter into international treaties.

How did the border between British India and China come to be established?

  • Following the “highest watershed principle,” the 890-kilometer border from the corner of Bhutan to the Isu Razi Pass on the Burma border was drawn largely along the crest of the Himalayas.
  • There were some exceptions, such as Tawang, which was included in British India because of its proximity to the Assam Valley.

What has happened to the McMahon line since 1914?

  • While there were disagreements about the McMahon line from the start, when the communists took power in 1949, they pulled China out of all international treaties.
  • The McMahon line was not mentioned at the Bandung Conference in 1955, which saw Asian and African leaders agree to a united front against colonialism and the Cold War.
  • The Chinese, on the other hand, have recently raised the McMahon line issue, and in 2017, Beijing officially renamed six locations in Arunachal Pradesh, including the disputed area of Tawang.
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