1962 enabled China to establish an international identity ideologically and political distinct from that of the Soviet Union. Its military victory and its unilateral withdrawal enhanced its image and standing in the third world. It paved the way for China to play an independent role in world affairs. By contrast, for India, the year proved a trauma. The collapse of India-China amity effectively destroyed the structure of Nehru’s foreign policy. It did more, it shook the foundation of his worldview. After 1962 the two concerns became most pressing for it. The one was territorial definition and consolidation which became the core problem in its relationship with all neighbours, especially China and Pakistan. The other was an active search for security vis-à-vis China. In the aftermath of war, Nehru, perhaps as his last brave act, attempted to moderate the mood of the Parliament and advised it not to shut the door to the possibility of future talks with China, and not to cast China as an ‘enemy’. It, however, was a definite end to a more expectant past and a new beginning for India and China in almost every aspect of state life.Initiation of border problemThe border line difference between India and China despite being in existence took an alarming proportion with developments in Tibet at the close of 1950s and it resulted in a declared war in October 1962 with India’s humiliating defeat, which sealed the fate of India-China relations in all spheres for the long fourteen years. In 1962 while China was ready for massive aggression on India, the latter thinks the disaster either physically or mentally and none who lived in India through the winter months of the year can forget the deep humiliation felt by all Indians, irrespective of party. However, even after the border conflict, New Delhi did not close its option of a negotiated settlement of all outstanding problems and sought a realistic co-existence with Beijing, yet adverse relationship between the two by and large, operated at stabilised level and sometimes became more intense on account of open Chinese support to Pakistan in its 1965 and 1971 wars with India. It was only from the mid 1970s that both sides began to feel the need of mutual cooperation and keeping in view the aspirations, they responded positively which suggested the winds of change in their relations. In line India-China talks on border problem began in December 1981 and passed on from normal border talk to Joint Working Group (JWG) to meeting of Special Representatives. Till today, in all along the period above 40 round of talks have been conducted but the problem is nowhere near in its solution. Although over the years, India’s relations with the People’s Republic of China have, no doubt, improved largely in economic sphere, in particular, the continuation of the vexed border problem between them tells us sufficiently about their mutual deficit of trust and sympathy in each other’s perception and pursuit.The unresolved border issue, a legacy of the India-China war of October 1962 cast a long and deep dark shadow on areas of engagement in post-war period. Although ambassadorial level relations between it was restored in April 1976 the first positive development on the part of China came when greeting the Indian diplomat in 1970 said that India is a great country and that India and China should be friends again.The border issue between them was intensified after administering a blistering defeat in 1962 war, the Chinese forces withdrew 20 Kilometers behind the Mc Mahon Line, which China called the 1959 line of actual control in the eastern sector and 20 Kilometers behind the line of its latest position in Ladakh, which was further identified with the 1959 line of actual control’ in western sector. This left China in possession of 23,200 square kilometer of territory in Ladakh. India asked for status quo-ex-ante as of September 8, 1962 in all sectors, which China rejected. It resulted in a stalemate on the boundary dispute. The Indian suggestion of status quo was further refuted in December 1964 by Chou Enlai while speaking to National People’s Congress in Beijing he called the suggestion of restoration of the status quo as of September 8, 1962 an unreasonable Indian pre-condition’. He declared on the occasion that China would never dismantle its posts and reminded India that China had not relinquished its claim to an additional 90,000 square kilometer south of the Mc Mahon Line. This territorial demand was in addition to 23,200 square kilometer in Ladakh that was already with China. Thus, the bigger border issue, if made central to further development of Sino-Indian relations, would effectively freeze any progress towards entente.In fact, the conflict left a trail of bitterness whose traces are still present in their relations. For many years to come, their mutual hostility determined their foreign policy. There were no ambassadors is each other’s capital for many years and there was virtual absence of contact. There is nothing worse for a country’s image than defeat, as the prestige and image of a nation gets tarnished. Its capacity to influence other nations gets seriously affected. As J. F. Kennedy aptly put it: ‘Victory has many fathers, defeat is an orphan’. Internationally, they traded abuses and generally adopted opposite standpoints. Peking was engaged in a full-scale campaign against India, a chief purpose of which was to carry conviction that India was no longer non-aligned but was firmly in the American camp. With Chinese propaganda and its alliances against India, now the latter was deeply suspicious about Chinese motives and designs. India believed that China wanted to dominate Asia as Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister of India, said in Parliament, ‘To justify its aggressive attitude, China is pretending to be a guardian of Asian countries, who, according to China are being bullied by India. The basic objective of China is to claim for itself a position of dominance in Asia, which no self-respecting nation in Asia is prepared to recognise’. Now coming back to present times, a series of conflicts between the two nations once against came to fore. In 2017, Chinese construction of a road in Doklam near a trijunction border area, known as Donglang in Chinese gave rise to Doklam standoff. After it was resolved with much hectic efforts, there was gruesome Galwan valley encounter in Ladakh, where a number of Indian Jawans were martyred. It ended all types of ties between the two nations, as import of all type of Chinese products were banned by the Indian Government. The stand-off between both the nations in Ladakh is still there, with armies of both countries guarding the borders, despite chilling cold of winter desert. As on date, no visible end seems to the standoff a series of meetings between India and China ended without any decision. Still, the Indian government, with a positive set of mind is hoping for an early end to the standoff with rounds of meetings still on. Let’s keep fingers crossed.Dr Rajkumar Singh
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