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Context: Fifty-eight years later, India-China relationship has changed. Inequality has grown

Relevance :

  1. GS Paper 2: India and its Neighbourhood (relations)

Mains questions:

  1. ‘China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as tools to develop potential military power status in Asia’, In the light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbour. 15 marks
  2. What do you understand by ‘The String of Pearls’? How does it impact India? Briefly outline the steps taken by India to counter this. 15 marks

Development of India China relations:

Phase 1: Bonhomie

  • The first phase lasted for a decade, from the founding of the PRC in 1949 to 1959. During these years, India regarded China as a fellow Asian country that had emerged from imperial control and stood ready to craft a new future. Although the political systems of the two countries were rather different, many Indians—including the top political leadership—believed that the countries had lots of avenues for cooperation and learning. This period came to a close in 1959, when the border dispute came to the fore and the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa, Tibet, to take refuge in India.

Phase 2: Conflict

  • Over the next three years, these tensions rose to a boil and culminated in the Sino-Indian War of 1962. During the same period, public and elite perceptions of China turned sharply negative. For many Indians who lived through the defeat of November 1962, Communist China came to be seen as an aggressive neighbour that sought to humiliate a democratic, non-aligned India. It took almost three decades for China-India relations to recover. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing in 1989, and his meetings with Deng Xiaoping, marked the beginning of a new phase.

Phase 3: Cautious Admiration

  • The most recent phase, over the past twenty-five years, has been marked by India’s admiration for China’s developmental accomplishments. India also has questions about what China’s rise means for the international order and itself. Can the cooperative and competitive elements in the relationship coexist?

Major irritants of India china relations:

India china border disputes: The Sino-Indian border is generally divided into three sectors namely: (i) The Western sector, (ii) The Middle sector, and (iii) The Eastern sector.

  1. The western sector: it is around 2152 km long. It is between Jammu and Kashmir and Xinjian province of China.
    •  Aksai chin: The Johnson’s line shows Aksai chin under India control while McDonald’s line shows it under China’s control.
See the source image
  1. The middle sector: it is 625km long. It runs along the watershed from Ladakh to Nepal.
  2. The eastern sector: it is around 1140 km long. It was demarked by Henry Mc Mohan in 1913-14 under Shimla accord. China consider Mc Mohan line as illegal and unacceptable because during Shimla accord, Tibet was not a part of China.

The Dalai Lama and Tibet:

  • The Dalai Lama formed a Tibetan government in exile, which still functions without any real authority over the people. But it was opposed by China.

Arunachal Pradesh and Stapled Visa:

  • China began the practice of issuing stapled visa to residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

String of pearls:

  • China has an undeclared policy of String of Pearls to encircle India. This involves building of ports and naval bases around India’s maritime reaches.
  • China is present at Cocos Island in Myanmar, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Marao Atoll (Maldives) and Gwadar (Pakistan). Interestingly, China is the only other country than India to have a fully functional embassy in Male.

River Water Dispute:

  • Brahmaputra River water sharing is the major flashpoint between India and China. China has been building dams (Jiexu, Zangmu and Jiacha) in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra which is called Tsangpo in Tibet.

China Pakistan Economic Corridor:

  • India considers building of the CPEC as China’s interference in India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. But China has not deterred from going ahead.

Trade imbalance:

  • While China is India’s largest trade partner, concerns about trade imbalance between the two countries remain, with the imbalance skewed in China’s favour. India’s trade deficit with China is around $56 billion.

Cooperation between India and China:

  • Both are members of the BRICS grouping of emerging economies, which is now establishing a formal lending arm, the New Development Bank.
  • India also was a founding member of the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
  • The two sides are ready to continue cooperation under the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China welcomed India’s full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
  • China and India have similar stand during WTO negotiations. In the Doha Round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiation, India and China coordinated their stands on several issues.
  • The two sides support a comprehensive reform of the United Nations, including recognizing the imperative of increased participation of developing countries in UN’s affairs and governance structures, so as to bring more effectiveness to the UN.
  • India and China are member of G-20 grouping.

Way forward:  India has to continue to focus on its domestic economic capability and human capital. There are no short cuts to global power and influence.


  1. Disputed regions between India and China:
New DelhiO 
C h ipse wrt 
Lnder construction 
Kyauk Phyu 
BAY or 
Coco Islands 
n naval 
r State 
Anda ma n 
c cat estearw 
Strait of Malacca 
Tasses here

February 2024