Looking back at 2020 : India-China Relations


On April 1, 2020, India- China marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic  relations. The two emerging and most populous superpowers share a complex and dynamic  relationship. The year 2020 has been particularly turbulent. Let’s have a quick look at all the  recent advancements.  

Past developments in India-china Relations: 

1)In the mid of June 2017, Chinese troops began constructing a road southwards in  Doklam Plateau, a disputed territory claimed by China & Bhutan. India considers Doklam  strategically crucial as it opens a path to the Siliguri Corridor that links northeast India to  the rest of the mainland. China accused India of intrusion, causing the violation of  territorial sovereignty. Later China stopped Indian pilgrim’s passage heading towards  Kailash-Mansarovar through Nathu La pass, Sikkim. Both India & China increased the  presence of troops in the Doklam, resulting in a Standoff.  

2)On August 28, 2017, both countries agreed to disengage from the border standoff.   May 2018, India and China agreed to co-operate on the development programs in  Afghanistan in the field of food security, health, education.  

3)Chinese premier Xi Jinping in October 2019 met with Prime Minister Modi at  Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, for the 2nd informal summit between the two countries.  

In May 2020, both sides clashed at Nathu La pass, following the incident in Sikkim, the tension  between the two countries grew, resulting in troop’s deployment at multiple locations. A major  face-off occurred on the night of June 15 in the Galwan area of Eastern Ladakh, the first of its  kind since 1975. The front line soldiers of two nuclear powers used batons and stones to inflict  injuries. India acknowledged its deaths while China chooses not to comment on the reports of  fatalities.  

In eastern Ladakh, People Liberation Army moved into areas that were previously under Indian  control such as Depsang, Hot Springs-Gogra-Kongkala, near the Galwan River, and Pangong Tso.  PLA is preventing these patrol points from Indian access.  

How bad is the ground situation? 

Sino-Indian Border dispute knows no easy answers. Having ruled out quick solutions through  conflict, the only viable option left for India is to go for a long-drawn border stand-off. The  heavy deployment aims at restraining Indian losses and preventing further Chinese  infringement in Indian Territory.  

The multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks seem to have been ineffective. The 8th  round of corps commander level talk was held on 6 November at Chushul. The number of  meetings of working mechanisms for consultations and co-ordination on China-India Border  affairs (WMCCs) has not delivered peace.  

What are the root causes?

1)The root cause behind these complex advancement lies in the ill-demarcated Line Of  Actual Control (LAC). Different understanding of demarcation occurs in several spots  such as western (Ladakh), middle (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), and eastern  (Arunachal Pradesh) sectors of the India-China Border. Face-offs occur while patrolling  in contested zones with overlapping claims.  

2)The Chinese technique of salami slicing, encroaching on a small piece of territory over a  long period. The recent abrogation of article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir,  and political claim that Aksai Chin, the disputed area administered by China is a part of  the Indian Administered Ladakh UT seem to have irked China.  

3)Recent infrastructure development from India along the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road in  Ladakh is also one of the reasons for the growing Chinese aggression.  

4)Analysts link increasing India-US alliance with the ongoing skirmishes along LAC.  

A look at the bigger picture: 


1)India has limited tactical and strategic options left to restore the pre-April status quo  without causing further conflicts. Also, it will have to rebuild the deterrence that India  seems to have lost almost completely.  

2)The further westward penetration of China will send signals to Bhutan, Nepal, and other  South Asian countries, that India cannot defend itself against Chinese aggression,  resulting in losing India’s attractiveness as a reliable ally.  

3)If India tilts towards the US in case of further Chinese aggression, it would result in  strengthening China-Russia ties, causing great damage to the longstanding and crucial  India-Russia partnership.  

Soft Diplomacy 

2020 is a year of Cultural and people to people exchanges, which marks the 70 years of  diplomatic ties. Both countries agreed to hold 70 celebratory activities to commemorate  the historic ties of the two civilizations.  


1)The reason why China dominates the current times of disputes is not because of its  military power but because of its economic independence.  

2)Through LAC China has pushed India to concentrate on trade, commerce, defense  cooperation, military, diplomacy except resolving the complex border conflict.   The Government is taking majors such as framing technical regulations and measures  and quality norms to cut the dependence on Chinese imports. As a result, in 2019-2020,  the India-China trade deficit fell to $48 Billion due to the decline in imports. China is  India’s one of the largest trade partners, whereas India is China’s 11th largest partner.  Hence, New Delhi has time and again raised concerns over the widening trade deficit.  


1)Between 1993 and 2013 India-China signed different Confidence Building Measures  (CBM) and assorted Rules of Engagements (RoEs) with regards to tranquility in LAC. 

Amongst all the included Border Defense Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), 2013 and  Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA) which lead out rules for engagement in  LAC, protocols to avoid skirmishes but all these efforts have turned futile.  

2)In September 2020, the Foreign Ministers of India China agreed on the five-point course  of action to disengage and to re-establish peace along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).  

India’s stand 

The Ministry of External Affairs maintains that India will continue the dialogue and seek to  resolve the Indo-China border conflict through peaceful means. The MEA spokesperson Anurag  Srivastava said that the objective of these talks is to ensure complete disengagement and to  reestablish peace and tranquility along LAC.  


The recent engagements impact India’s economic health but national security concerns can’t be  overlooked in order to maintain good bilateral relations. The stakes are higher and choices to  be made are difficult, but difficult times demand necessary adjustments to craft rational  responses.

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