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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

China’s new border law and Bharat’s unease

On October 23, 2021, China’s border law was passed by the National People’s Congress for the protection of the country’s land border areas, which came into effect on January 1, 2022. Usually, China follows three models of warfare: public warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare. The recent law comes under the preview of legal warfare, which gives legal justification for war to China in securing its interest in disputed areas in the near future. 

Art. 4 of the law says that China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable. Art 10 asks the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) to do developmental work in border areas. Art 15 emphasises the Principal of Equality in negotiating land disputes between bordering nations. Art 22 gives border guarding duties to the PLA, and Art 43 (the most lethal) orders the PLA to develop border towns at a rapid pace. 

Possible reasons for bringing the law

Since the Qing dynasty, China has been an expansionist civilization, and even the mightiest British Empire has failed to negotiate a peace treaty with it. There are, in general, five reasons for enacting this law. The first reasons could be the recent Sino-India conflict in the Galwan valley, which killed more than 40 soldiers, the rapid development of infrastructure projects in the Ladakh area, and the offensive approach of the Indian armed forces.

China already had maritime security concerns and was patrolling aggressively in the South China Sea to strengthen its presence, effectively countering its adversaries despite US opposition.It attained maritime supremacy in its region, and wanting to attain continental supremacy (Hong Kong national security law, One China policy concerning Taiwan, and recruiting Tibetans into the PLA) could be the second reason. 

China showed its immense economic power and political power in fighting and tackling the COVID pandemic successfully, which made it more autocratic towards its adversaries, achieving strategic gain through military might and giving sanctity to this war through legal discourse, which could be the third reason.

The fear of the rise of extremism in Xinjiang province, where Uighur Muslims are seen as prisoners of China in the backdrop of the Taliban’s accession to the throne of Afghanistan, could be the fourth reason.

Domestic politics cannot be ignored because Xi Jinping has already extended his term for an unknown number of years and has complete control over the PLA. By enacting this law, he could gain public trust and potentially  combat his rising opposition. This could be the fifth reason. 

Bharat’s legitimate concerns

China shares land boundaries of 22,457 km with 14 countries, including India, with disputed boundaries of 3,488 km. All bordering countries have settled their land disputes, except India and Bhutan. In fact, China is continuing its peace talks to resolve disputed land with Bhutan. If they succeeded, then only Bharat would be left to face the wrath of China’s military aggression.

The Sino-India border was guarded by China’s border police, but with the effect of the new law, the border would be guarded by the PLA with direct command from the president. This increases the chances of routine military aggression from its side. The law that refers to the principle of equality is a misnomer, as no such ideals have been followed in recent years by China.

They have still deployed their military personnel and weapons on a large scale, in spite of strategic objections from Bharat.

The law gives legal validity to the construction of border villages. It is interesting to note that villages have already been developed all across LAC, with a number of more than two hundred, and Bharat’s consistent position of “wait and watch” before 2014 aggravated the situation. The law talks about settling mainland Han Chinese in border areas and training them to tackle any infiltration from Bharat’s side.

Now the Chinese border will be guarded not only by the PLA but also by military-trained civilians. The strategic advantage of China’s having a flat plain in Tibet and the strategic disadvantage of Bharat having hilly mountains in its Himalayan bordering states pushed Bharat further behind. 

A way ahead for Bharat

China has been active in developing infrastructure projects in Tibet since 1949, whereas Bharat has started recently, so they are far ahead of us, but this doesn’t give any reason to remain silent and face China’s childish attitude of questioning Bharat’s sovereignty by transgressing borders and changing the names of many of Bharat’s bordering cities.

For rapid troop movements, Bharat must expedite all weather infrastructure projects in Ladakh and throughout the LAC region. All three wings of the armed forces should be well prepared and coordinated so that any unilateral move by China should be answered offensively.

Bharatiya government should proactively support border villages in their development and increase people-to-people contact in mainland Bharat. Small and medium enterprises should be set up in border villages to increase trade and commerce. Bharat can also think of strengthening military ties with Russia in particular and all the bordering nations of China so that when needed, they can be played as a trump card. 

-by Rakesh Vikramaditya

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