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China Reaffirms Territorial Claims with New Map Release


China has introduced the “2023 edition of the standard map of China,” reinforcing its territorial assertions in contested areas. This move aligns with China’s “National Mapping Awareness Publicity Week,” highlighting the importance of precise and uniform cartography practices.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. China’s Territorial Claims in the New Map
  2. India-China Border Dispute: Key Points
  3. Border Dispute Settlement Mechanisms
  4. Implications of China’s New Map on India
  5. Strategies for India to Address China’s Territorial and Regional Assertiveness

China’s Territorial Claims in the New Map

China’s latest map release reinforces its territorial assertions through several key points:

  • Incorporating Disputed Regions: The map solidifies China’s territorial claims over disputed regions like Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin area.
  • Ongoing Controversies: These territorial claims have long been contentious issues between China and India.
  • “Nine-Dash Line”: The map prominently displays the controversial demarcation, encompassing the entire South China Sea and emphasizing China’s expansive maritime claims.
  • Inclusion of Tenth Dash Line: The map introduces the tenth dash line, underscoring China’s stance on Taiwan’s sovereignty.
  • Consistency with Actions: China’s move aligns with its previous actions, such as standardizing place names in Arunachal Pradesh and surrounding areas.
  • Digital Mapping Initiatives: Alongside the physical map, China plans to release digital maps for diverse applications like location-based services, precision agriculture, platform economy, and intelligent connected vehicles.

India-China Border Dispute: Key Points

The India-China border dispute centers around several crucial aspects:

  • Complex Territorial Disputes: The dispute involves the lengthy and intricate territorial disagreements along the 3,488-kilometer shared border between India and China.
  • Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh: The main contested regions are Aksai Chin in the west and Arunachal Pradesh in the east.
  • Aksai Chin: China administers Aksai Chin within its Xinjiang region, while India regards it as part of Ladakh. This area’s significance lies in its proximity to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its potential military importance.
  • Arunachal Pradesh: China claims the entirety of Arunachal Pradesh, referring to it as “South Tibet,” but India administers it as a northeastern state.
  • Undefined Demarcation: The border lacks a clear demarcation, and certain stretches lack a mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC). The LAC was established post the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
  • Three Sectors: The India-China border is divided into Western (Ladakh), Middle (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), and Eastern (Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim) sectors.
  • Historical Military Standoffs: The dispute has resulted in multiple military confrontations and conflicts, notably the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Both nations have pursued agreements and protocols to manage tensions and maintain peace along the border.
  • Recent Confrontations: Notable recent conflicts occurred in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in 2020 and Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang in 2022.
  • Escalation Trend: Observers on both sides of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) recognize an increase in significant military confrontations since 2013.

Border Dispute Settlement Mechanisms: Overview

The India-China border dispute has seen various attempts at resolution and management through several mechanisms:

  • Shimla Convention (1914): This convention aimed to establish the boundary between Tibet and North East India. It was attended by representatives of China, Tibet, and British India. While British India and Tibet signed the agreement, China did not. India recognizes the Shimla agreement and the McMahon Line, but China rejects both.
  • Panchsheel Doctrine: The Panchsheel, or Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, stressed mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. It aimed to foster peaceful relations between India and China.
  • Agreement on Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility (1993): This agreement called for refraining from using force, acknowledging the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and resolving the border dispute through negotiations. It aimed to maintain peace and stability along the border.
  • Agreement on Confidence Building Measures (1996): This agreement aimed to reduce tensions along the border. It included pledges on non-aggression, advance notification of significant troop movements, and the exchange of maps indicating the LAC to address disagreements.
  • Border Defence Co-operation Agreement (2013): Following the Depsang Valley incident, this agreement was signed to enhance communication and coordination between military personnel along the border. It aimed to prevent misunderstandings and reduce the risk of conflicts.

Implications of China’s New Map on India:

China’s release of the new map with its territorial claims has several implications for India:

  • Territorial Claims: China’s inclusion of disputed territories in its official map challenges India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin, areas that have been points of contention between the two countries for years.
  • Escalating Border Dispute: By reinforcing its territorial claims, China is escalating the border dispute between the two nations, potentially leading to increased tensions along the India-China border.
  • Diplomatic Tensions: China’s actions can lead to diplomatic tensions between India and China. India has consistently rejected China’s territorial claims and is likely to respond by reaffirming its own claims over the disputed areas.
  • Bilateral Relations: The release of the new map can strain India-China relations in various areas. Cooperation in trade, investment, and people-to-people exchanges may be affected as both countries grapple with territorial disputes.
  • Regional Balance of Power: The India-China border dispute has implications for the broader regional balance of power. It can influence India’s strategic alignments with other countries and regional groupings to counter China’s influence in the region.
  • Security Concerns: The heightened territorial dispute can impact the security situation in the border region and necessitate increased military presence and readiness, diverting resources from other developmental activities.
  • International Attention: China’s actions and territorial claims are likely to attract international attention and concern.

Strategies for India to Address China’s Territorial and Regional Assertiveness:

To effectively tackle China’s territorial and regional assertiveness, India can consider the following strategies:

  • Diplomatic Engagement: Continue diplomatic talks with China through established mechanisms like the Special Representative talks and Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs.
  • Peaceful Resolution: Emphasize peaceful resolution of disputes, adherence to bilateral agreements, and the importance of maintaining peace and stability along the border.
  • Border Infrastructure: Invest in improving border infrastructure, including roads, bridges, airstrips, and communication networks, to enhance mobility and response capabilities for Indian forces.
  • Logistics and Bases: Develop logistics hubs and forward bases to ensure swift deployment of troops and supplies in the border regions.
  • Modernization of Armed Forces: Invest in modernizing the armed forces with advanced equipment, technology, and surveillance capabilities to effectively monitor and respond to any border incidents.
  • Troop Training: Focus on enhancing the training and readiness of troops stationed in border areas.
  • Regional Partnerships: Strengthen partnerships with like-minded countries and regional organizations that share concerns about China’s assertiveness in territorial disputes.
  • Collaboration on Defense: Collaborate on intelligence-sharing, joint military exercises, and coordinated responses to regional challenges.
  • Diversification of Economic Ties: Diversify economic ties to reduce dependence on China and enhance economic resilience.
  • Trade Agreements: Explore trade agreements and partnerships with countries that can provide alternative markets and investment opportunities.
  • International Advocacy: Raise the border issue at international forums to garner support for a peaceful resolution based on international norms and principles.
  • Upholding Norms: Uphold international norms and principles related to territorial integrity and dispute resolution mechanisms.
  • Legal Approach: Continue to engage with international legal experts to present India’s case on the border issue.

-Source: The Hindu

April 2024