India China Relations: The Border Issue and Beyond

By Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawar Daulet Singh
Viva Books

At the outset, this book must be viewed as a policy relevant document rather than an abstract historical research paper. The authors have revisited the seemingly intractable India-China border dispute from a contemporary conflict resolution perspective and thus are relatively detached from the historical baggage that has so often influenced other commentaries on this controversial subject. The great natural defensive line of northern India, the mighty Himalayas, separating Tibet from north-east India, is a barrier which, by tradition, was impenetrable. This defensive line is embodied by the 1914 Line, India s non-negotiable interest. Thus, from an Indian perspective, it can never be conceived that its frontiers with China are ever formalized on the Brahmaputra plains. Further, the 1914 alignment, aside from its strategic sanctity, also upholds the ethnic and linguistic affinities to peoples south of it, who are distinct from the homogenous Tibetan or Han people. Similarly, from China s perspective it too is in possession of its non-negotiable interest the Aksai Chin plateau. And therein lies the essence of an east-west swap. By retracing the historical record, the authors argue that such a swap is eminently feasible and historically justifiable. Moreover, realpolitik demands it. From the Indian perspective, however, it should be equally clear that a bipartisan national consensus is imperative for any breakthrough resolution to emerge. It remains to be seen, however, if political managers on both sides are able to muster the necessary will to resolve a dispute that has lasted for more than half-a-century.