China enacted new land legislation on October 23 that would take effect on January 1 for the “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border regions.”
The law is not intended to apply specifically to the 3,488-kilometer border with India. However, the 3,488-kilometer border is still disputed, and some experts believe it will add to the 17-month military standoff.
China has a 22,457-kilometer land border with 14 nations, including India, which is the third longest after Mongolia and Russia.
China’s boundaries with these two nations, unlike the Indian border, are not contested. Bhutan is the only other nation with which China has a land border dispute (477 km).
The Chinese law
It declares that “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred and inviolable,” and requests that the government “take measures to safeguard the territorial integrity and land borders, as well as guard against and combat any act that undermines them.”
The government can take steps “to strengthen border defence, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas, encourage and support people’s lives and work there, and promote coordination between border defence and social and economic development in border areas,” according to the report. As a result, this shows an effort to establish residents along the border.
The law does, however, require the state to adhere to the principles of “equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation,” and to “handle land border-related affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and long-standing border issues.”
Implications on India
The promulgation of legislation declaring China’s boundaries “sacred and inviolable” at a time when talks to end the impasse in eastern Ladakh has been going on for months may add to the difficulty of reaching a long-term settlement.
The PLA is now “obligated to preserve the integrity and sovereignty of the border,” and declaring “that the PLA will withdraw from A, B, C, and D regions would make this much more difficult” will exacerbate the problem.
Overall, it will make talks more difficult, and a withdrawal from balancing zones will be less probable.
China has begun constructing “well-off” border defence communities in all sectors of the LAC. China is attempting to alter the realities on the ground, not just militarily, but also via civilian presence. India is concerned about the “dual civic and military usage” of border settlements.
Some scholars believe that the law is only words and that it is the Chinese government’s actions on the ground that have had an influence on the relationship.