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Indo-China Border Disputes: History And Where Do We Go From Here

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Sino-Indian border disputes are not new, and in post-independent India, the two countries have fought a major war and engaged in several skirmishes. Both countries are bound by a mutual agreement to not use firearms in the inhospitable and contested Himalayan region along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). However, India received a jolt when 20 Indian personnel were killed at the hands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at the Galwan valley.

No Indian soldier was killed at the hands of the PLA since 1975. As a result, the hardening of Chinese positions in the region since April this year and the causalities in the Ladakh territory of the Indian subcontinent have raised several questions on the political relations between India and China and even strengthened the spirit of nationalism in India. In fact, China has sought to simultaneously interfere with the status quo at different points along the border, namely at the Galwan Valley, Demchok, Daulat Beg Oldie, Host Springs, Four Fingers of the Pangong Tso, and Nathu La.

Sino_indian

These were the introductory remarks made by Dr Simi Mehta, CEO of Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI). The survival competition and various dimensions of the Sino-Indian border disputes through historical, contemporary, and futuristic lenses were discussed at an international webinar hosted by the Centre for International Relations and Strategic Studies, (IMPRI), New Delhi in collaboration with the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

This webinar brought together a distinguished panel of experts on India-China relations and included Dr. Kyle Gardner, Associate, McLarty Associates and Non-Resident Scholar at Sigur Centre for Asian Studies, The George Washington University, USA; Dr. Deep Pal, Non-Resident Fellow, The National Bureau of Asian Research, USA; Dr. Anit Mukherjee, Assistant Professor, South Asia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Ambassador Nirupama Rao, Former Foreign Secretary of India; Former Indian Ambassador to China, the US, and Sri Lanka.

Historical Context

Dr. Gardner explained the historical context of Sino-India borders and highlighted two important points- missing borders and the complications brought by the claims of the other states. He believed that the Sino-India border is not the mutually agreed demarcated line that caused the tragic violence on June 15 in Galwan Valley of Ladakh. He reviewed how Britishers had spent an entire century in the Indian subcontinent developing mapping principles and building roads due to the fear of Russian encroachment.

They tried to insulate India from Russia and Ladakh being at crossroads lacked a front role while mapping. They used the limits of watersheds to map Ladakh but the process was tedious thus, historically Ladakh never had defined borders. The need for a borderline emerged when encroaching empires started demanding maps. These phenomena of historically missing borders continue till date and gave rise to the second problem of continuity of claims by prior states over the territory of Ladakh. He also pointed out that India has carried the British legacy with itself as evident from the practices of road-making, restrictive access to borders, and surveying.

Xi Jinping (pictured above) aims to turn China into a strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country by 2049.

Dr. Deep Pal pointed out that the President of China has a couple of centenary goals to deliver to the people of China to realize the Chinese Dream. The first centenary envisages that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as emerging as a prosperous democratic society by 2021 and also the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. By 2049, they are determined to be a strong democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country under the leadership of Xi Jinping. He highlighted that due to the pandemic, China is being cornered by a large number of countries making the achievement of China’s dream questionable.

China wanted to be the unquestionable leader in the current scenario. He also highlighted the strained relations between China and USA. On one hand, the USA has retreated from the WHO and China is advancing for a multilateral arrangement of the Silk Road and Belt Initiative.

China’s International Relations

He warned that the PRC is spreading itself far across from its neighborhoods and developing relations with Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives which enclosed the Indian subcontinent. In future incidence, it is possible that China may be present in all the problems India may have with its neighbors which may not in line with India’s interests. After the Galwan incident, India and China relations have been changed.

He also questioned the talks taking place between China and India to settle the border disputes and said India must make strong decisions. He called for policymakers to look around the world to strengthen the partnerships as evidenced by Australia in the Malabar Coast exercise. He highlighted that China had no interest in solving border issues with India and they will try to solve it in a way that works to their advantage.

Dr. Anit Mukherjee highlighted that the revocation of Article 370 had created a lot of turmoil in Beijing. He opined that China wanted to create fuss on the borders to deal with its domestic turmoil going post-COVID-19. He raised several questions as to whether there should a military response to the Galwan attack to restore the status quo and have tit-for-tat operations?

While these could be plausible options, but the escalation of the conflict remains a consistent risk. The strategic and diplomatic costs must be weighed. India must work with the countries who share apprehensions with China. India must utilize these crises and address the system deficiencies on the borders and also speculate that India’s Infrastructure Development along the borders may have led China to deploy the troops on a large scale on Chinese borders. Perhaps setting up a comprehensive Committee of Inquiry to address the nuances of the border conflict is the best way forward.

Could The Asian Century Still Be A Reality

Ambassador Nirupama Rao highlighted that the hitherto espoused Asian Century with India and China at the core could be a reality if these two giants of Asia had stuck together. China has used India’s infrastructure development as an excuse for India violating the border commitments to stir up tensions, though they themselves have engaged in the expansion of their own infrastructure along the borders. Galwan situation has not been witnessed on Line of Actual control for 45 years before June 15.

Since Ladakh(pictured above) is in close vicinity of the troubled areas, a wrong interpretation of the revocation of Article 370 has led to Chinese aggression.

Since 1993, we have used terms such as mutual and equal security, peace along the borders but these principles have been violated by China recently. She highlighted that in 1996, Article 10 of the Agreement of Confidence Building Measures posed by China talking about speeding up the clarification and confirmation on the line of actual control still remains unclarified from China as was evident by the meeting that took place in 2003 to decide the line of actual control between China and India, China jinxed up the meet and deliberations never come to fruition.

India-China is one is the longest land borders in the world and remains an unsettled border. The attitude of the Chinese towards border disputes has always displayed negligence. The bloated sense of self that China has is hurting the interests of India and India needs resistance to the advances made by China. She underscored that a war with China is not the solution and internal and external peace is to be maintained.

Ladakh is in close vicinity of the areas under the activities of China. The wrong interpretation of revocation of Article 370 by the Government of India has led them to create a ruckus on the borders. China has improved relations with Pakistan as its ‘iron brother’ and converged their interests in targeting India. She suggested that India should continue to stand up to China as was evident by the Doklam incident in 2017.

Mutual adjustments and mutual negotiations would definitely improve the situation on the border, but it might remain a dream during Xi Jinping’s rule, as China is unrelenting and does not play by any rule. This certainly remains a cause of worry for India.

Dr. Arjun Kumar, Director of IMPRI and China India Visiting Scholar (CIVS) Fellow, Ashoka University and Tongji University raised questions on how India could match up to the infrastructure and economic expansion and the panelists mentioned that the strengthening relations with friends in the QUAD and also through the Blue Dot Network could prove to be very opportune. India needs to be less subtle and less hesitant in proclaiming where India’s interests lie and it can definitely afford multiple alignments to establish its rightful place in the world.

By Dr. Simi Mehta, Impact and Policy Research Institute(IMPRI)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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