IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt |10th Sep 2020

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Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020.

EDITORIAL HUNT #129 :“India China Stalemate | UPSC

India China Stalemate | UPSC

Mukul Sanwal

Mukul Sanwal is a former civil servant and UN diplomat


Realism and the undemarcated border


Missteps by India and China in the past rather than modern-day territorial expansion have resulted in the stalemate

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : IR : Sino-India Relations


The recent shift by China from Line of Actual Control (LAC) to Claim Line has raised alarm on demarcating borders left in ambiguity during colonial era. Analyse -(GS 2)


  • Diplomatic Engagement
  • Pre and Post Independence Analysis
  • Demarcation concept


Problems left over from colonialism tend to get re-framed (West Asia is an example), as new trade-offs emerge, and leadership matters.

  • DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENT : As civilisational states, neighbours and rising powers, India and China have a unique continuing process of diplomatic engagement, even as their militaries face off against each other.
  • AGE OF DEVELOPMENT : The undemarcated border, suggests a colonial ambiguity over ‘practical’ boundary along the Karakoram watershed reframes the national interest .



  • BOUNDARY INTERPRETATION : The origin of different interpretations of the boundary is poorly surveyed ancient mapsof uninhabited areas, visited only by traders and nomads.
  • SIGNIFICANCE : Commerce dominated economic activity and several trade routes converged on Leh.
  • STATUS OF AKSAI CHIN : With settled agriculture limited to strips along the Indus in the west, Aksai Chin was a kind of no-man’s land, as there was no need for an administration.


  • TREATY OF AMRITSAR : With the Treaty of Amritsar, in 1846, the British granted Gulab Singh Kashmir without specifying its eastern boundary in Aksai Chin.

According to Article 2 of the Treaty, the boundary was to be “defined by a separate engagement after survey”. 

  • FIRST SURVEY : The first one, the Johnson-Ardagh Line surveyed in 1865, ran along the Kunlun Mountain, included Aksai Chin in Kashmir and was not communicated to China.
  • SECOND SURVEY : The McCartney-MacDonald Line, ran closer to the Karakoram Range, treating the Indus watershed as the border.

The later survey, officially sent by the British to China in 1899, was not followed up, and the border remained ‘undefined’. 


  • BOUNDARY TALKS : Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in boundary talks with Premier Chou-en-lai [Zhou Enlai] in April 1960, argued that ‘it is true that the boundary is not marked on the ground; but if delimitation can take place by definition of high mountain areas # Kun Lun range.
  • RECOGNITION OF MCMAHON LINE : Premier Chou’s position was ‘we do not recognise the McMahon line but that we were willing to take a realistic view with Burma and India.
  • NATURAL BARRIER : It is easy to see that the national boundary between China and India is the Karakoram watershed.

This extends from Kilik Pass, passes through the Karakoram Pass to Kongka Pass.

  • A BROAD PICTURE : Rivers and streams to the south and west of this belong to India while those to the north and east of it are on China’s side’.


Three missteps by both countries have resulted in the current stalemate.

  • FIRST MISSTEP :  Two civilisational states establishing their identity were ill-advised by poorly informed experts.
  • CARTOGRAPHIC MISADVENTURE : India issued new maps in 1954 removing the ‘un-demarcated territory’ tag and China in 1957 also showed Aksai Chin with the only traffic artery between Tibet and Xinjiang in its new map.

A cartographic ambiguity was converted into clashing sovereignty, with unwarranted inherent notions of ‘concession’ and ‘aggression’.

  • SECOND MISSTEP :  Reliance placed on experts to assist the diplomatic process in reconciling records and custom obfuscated the political nature of the settlement.

Deliberations only confirmed that trust, the essential element of a negotiation, was missing.

  • THIRD MISSTEP : Militaries remain tasked with defending borders where ‘grey areas’ and maximum restraint in ‘face to face’ situations have inherent limitations.

      IASbhai Windup: 


  • NEEDED ACCOMMODATION :The context is no longer newly independent countries unsure of themselves, but neighbours confident in their national power seeking ‘accommodation’.

STRATEGIC INTERESTS : This translates to the Indus watershed lying within India, with the area to its east in China, including its strategic highway G219.

  • INDIA’s STAND : Wedded to the questionable line of 1865, on the Kunlun Range, India has not claimed the more legitimate line of 1899 on the Karakoram watershed (communicated by the British to the Chinese) .
  • CHINESE STAND : China has accepted as the boundary with Pakistan, and fully covers our patrolling points and strategic heights we now occupy.

The boundary question should be considered from the ‘strategic perspective of India-China relations’ and re-examine whether Asia with two poles, is still relevant.

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | India China Stalemate | UPSC


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