• China and India are separated by the Himalayas. China and India today share a border with Nepal and Bhutan acting as buffer states.The entire Sino-Indian border (including the western LAC, the small undisputed section in the centre, and the MacMahon Line in the east) is 4,056 km long and traverses one union territory – Ladakh and four Indian states: Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • On the Chinese side, the line traverses the Tibet Autonomous Region. The demarcation existed as the informal cease-fire line between India and China after the 1962 war until 1993, when its existence was officially accepted as the ‘Line of Actual Control’ in a bilateral agreement.

First Contact (History)

The first records of contact between China and India were written during the 2nd century BCE. Buddhism was transmitted from India to China in the 1st century CE. Trade relations via the Silk Road acted as economic contact between the two regions.

  1. In the Records of the Grand Historian, Zhang Qian and Sima Qian (145-90 BCE) make references to “Shendu“, referring to the Indus Valley (the Sindh province in modern Pakistan), “Sindhu” in Sanskrit.
  2. Many Indian scholars and monks travelled to China from 1st century ad onwards, such as Batuo, first abbot of the Shaolin Monastery—and Bodhidharma—founder of Chan/Zen Buddhism.
  3. Similarly many Chinese scholars and monks also travelled to India, such as Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang)and I Ching to study at Nalanda University in Bihar.
  4. Xuanzang wrote the Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, an account of his journey to India, which later inspired the novel Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature.
  5. Relationship of the Cholas with the Chinese
  1. During the 7th century, Tang dynasty in China sent a diplomatic mission to northern India.The astronomical table of sines by the Indian astronomer and mathematician, Aryabhatta were translated into the Chinese astronomical and mathematical book of the Treatise on Astrology of the Kaiyuan Era compiled in 718 CE during the Tang Dynasty.
  2. Tamil Hindu Indian merchants traded in Quanzhou during the Yuan dynasty. Hindu statues were found in Quanzhou dating to this period.
  1. Between 1405 and 1433, Ming dynasty China sponsored a series of seven naval expeditions led by Admiral Zheng He. Zheng He visited numerous Indian kingdoms and ports, including India, Bengal, and Ceylon, Persian Gulf, Arabia.Bengal sent twelve diplomatic missions to Nanjing between 1405 and 1439

A) Sino-Sikh War

  • The Sikh Confederacy annexed Ladakh into the state of Jammu in 1834. In 1841, they invaded Tibet.
  • Chinese forces defeated the Sikh army in December 1841, forcing the Sikh army to withdraw, and in turn entered Ladakh and besieged Leh, where they were in turn defeated by the Sikh Army. At this point, neither side wished to continue the conflict as the Sikhs were embroiled in tensions with the British leading to the First Anglo-Sikh War, while the Chinese were in the midst of the First Opium War.
  • The two parties signed a treaty in September 1842, which stipulated no transgressions or interference in the other country’s frontiers

B) British India

The British East India Company used opium grown in India as export to China. The British used their Indian sepoys and the British Indian Army in the Opium Wars and Boxer Rebellion against China. They also used Indian soldiers to guard the foreign concessions in areas like Shanghai

C) After independence

  • On 1 October 1949, the People’s Liberation Army defeated the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party).
  • On 15 August 1947, India became an independent, federal, democratic republic after its constitution came into effect on 26 January 1950.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru based his vision of “resurgent Asia” on friendship between the two largest states of Asia. He advocated his vision of an internationalist foreign policy governed by the ethics of the Panchsheel (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence). India established diplomatic relations with the PRC on 1 April 1950, the first non-communist nation to do so.

D) Tibet issue

  • Mao Zedong viewed Tibet as an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. The PRC reasserted control over Tibet to end Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism) and feudalism.
  • India informed Chinese leaders that India had no political ambitions, territorial ambitionsbut that traditional trading rights must continue. With Indian support, Tibetan delegates signed an agreement in May 1951 recognizing PRC sovereignty but guaranteeing that the existing political and social system of Tibet would continue.
  • In April 1954, India and the PRC signed an eight-year agreement on Tibet that became the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (or Panchsheel). The catch phrase of India’s diplomacy with China in the 1950s became Hindi-Chinibhai-bhai, (“Indians and Chinese are brothers”).
  • In 1954, India published new maps that included the Aksai Chin region within the boundaries of India.
  • In January 1959, PRC premier Zhou Enlai wrote to Nehru, pointing out that no government in China had accepted as legal the McMahon Line, which in the 1914 Simla Convention defined the eastern section of the border between India and Tibet.
  • In March 1959, the Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal head of the Tibet, sought sanctuary in Dharmsala, Himachal Pradesh where he established the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Thousands of Tibetan refugees settled in northwestern India. The PRC accused India of expansionism and imperialism in Tibet and throughout the Himalayan region. China claimed 104,000 km² of territory over which India’s maps showed clear sovereignty, and demanded “rectification” of the entire border.

E) Sino-Indian War

  • Border disputes resulted in war between the People’s Republic of China and India on 20 October 1962. The border clash resulted in a defeat of India as the PRC pushed the Indian forces to within forty-eight kilometres of the Assam plains in the northeast and occupied strategic points in the Aksai Chin and Demchok regions of Ladakh, before declaring a unilateral cease-fire on 21 November.

F) Map showing disputed territories of India

  • Relations between the PRC and India deteriorated during the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s while the China–Pakistan relations improved and the Sino-Soviet relations worsened.
  • The PRC backed Pakistan in its 1965 war with India. The PRC continued an active propaganda campaign against India and supplied ideological, financial, and other assistance to dissident groups, especially to tribes in northeastern India.

G) Later conflicts

  • In late 1967, there were two more conflicts between Indian and Chinese forces at their contested border, in Sikkim. The first conflict was dubbed the “Nathu La Incident”, and the other the “Cho La Incident”.

H) 1970s and onwards (Improving relations)

  • In August 1971, India signed its Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Co-operation with the Soviet Union. The PRC sided with Pakistan in its December 1971 war with India. China strongly condemned India and denounced India as a “Tool of Soviet Expansionism” in the UN.
  • India and the PRC renewed efforts to improve relations in later 1970s. Both countries officially re-established diplomatic relations in 1979. The two countries hosted each other’s news agencies, and Mount Kailash and Mansarowar Lake in Tibet, the home of the Hindu pantheon, were opened to annual pilgrimages.
  • China’s construction of a military post and helicopter pad in the Sumdorung Chu Valley in 1986 and India’s grant of statehood to Arunachal Pradesh (formerly the North-East Frontier Agency) in February 1987 caused both sides to deploy troops to the area.
  • It was Rajiv Gandhi’s landmark visit to China in December 1988that ushered in a new era of engagement. The two sides agreed to hold annual diplomatic consultations between foreign ministers, set up a joint committee on economic and scientific co-operation, and a joint working group on the boundary issue.
  • Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and Premier Li Peng signed the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC)dealing with cross-border trade, cooperation on environmental issues (e.g. Pollution, Animal extinction, Global Warming, etc.) and radio and television broadcasting. Talks were held in New Delhi aimed at confirming established “confidence-building measures”, discussing clarification of the “line of actual control”, reduction of armed forces along the line, and prior information about forthcoming military exercises.
  • Talks were held to improve border security, combat cross-border crimes and on additional troop withdrawals from the border. These talks further reduced tensions.

I) Nuclear tests

  • Sino-Indian relations hit a low point in 1998 following India’s nuclear tests. In 1998, China was one of the strongest international critics of India’s nuclear tests and entry into the nuclear club. During the 1999 Kargil War China voiced support for Pakistan, but also counseled Pakistan to withdraw its forces.

J) 2000s and onwards

  • India and China have established more than thirty dialogue mechanisms at various levels, covering bilateral political, economic, consular issues as well as dialogues on international and regional issues. The mechanism of Special Representatives on the Boundary Question was established in 2003.
  • India and China have also established a High Level Dialogue Mechanism on Counter Terrorism and Security. The first meeting of the mechanism was held in Beijing in September 2016. To facilitate high level exchanges of Party leaders from China and State Chief Ministers from India, a special arrangement has been entered into by the International LiaisonDepartment of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA-IDCPC) since 2004.

Commercial and Economic Relations

Cultural and economic relations between China and India date back to ancient times.

  • The Silk Road served as a major trade route between India and China and facilitated in the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia.
  • China’s growing opium trade with the British East India Company in the 19th century triggered the First and Second Opium Wars.
  • During World War II, British India and China both played a crucial role in halting the progress of Imperial Japan.

The Trade and Economic Relationship between India and China has seen a rapid growth in the last few years. Trade volume between the two countries in the beginning of the century, year 2000, stood at US$ 3 billion. In 2008, bilateral trade reached US$ 51.8 billion with China replacing the United States as India’s largest “Goods trading partner.” In 2011 bilateral trade reached an all-time high of US$ 73.9 billion.

  • India was the 7th largest export destination for Chinese products,
  • 27th largest exporter to China.
  • In 2017 India’s exports to China increased by 40.69% year-on-year to US$ 10.60 billion while India’s imports from China saw a year-on-year growth of 14.02 %to US$ 44.50 billion.
  • The Indian trade deficit with China further increased by 7.64%year-on-year to US$ 33.90 billion.

Composition of Bilateral Trade

India’s top exports to China included diamonds, cotton yarn, iron ore, copper and organic chemicals.

  • Indian exports of diamonds amounted to US$ 2.47 billion. India was the second largest exporter of diamonds to China (with a share of 31.81%).
  • India was the second largest exporter of cotton to China with 16.43% market share.
  • In 2016, Indian exports of iron ore registered an increase of over 700% to reach US$ 844 million.
  • In 2016, China exports of electrical machinery and equipment saw an increase of 26.83% to US$ 16.98 billion.
  • India was the largest export destination of Fertilizers exports from China. China exported 23.48% of its total Fertilizers (worth US$ 1.54 billion) to India.
  • India was the largest export destination for Chinese Antibiotics worth US$ 711 million in 2016, with a share of 23.55%.
  • India was the second largest export destination for Chinese organic chemicals, worth US$ 5.68 billion in 2016.
  • According to data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce, the Chinese investment in India in Jan-Mar 2017 were to the tune of US$ 73 million. Cumulative Investment in India till March 2017 stood at US$ 4.91 billion.

Cultural Relations

India-China cultural exchanges date back to many centuries and there is some evidence that conceptual and linguistic exchanges existed in 1500-1000 B.C. between the Shang-Zhou civilization and the ancient Vedic civilization.

  1. During first, second and third centuries A.D. several Buddhist pilgrims and scholars travelled to China on the historic “silk route”.
  2. Kashyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna made the White Horse monastery at Luoyang their abode.
  3. Ancient Indian monk-scholars such as Kumarajiva, Bodhidharma and Dharmakshema contributed to the spread of Buddhism in China.
  4. Similarly, Chinese pilgrims also undertook journeys to India, the most famous among them being Fa Xian and Xuan Zang.

The famous Indian artist (painter) Beohar Rammanohar Sinha (decorator of the pages of the original Constitution of India) travelled to China in 1957 to establish a direct cross-cultural and inter-civilization bridge. Between 1957 and 1959, Beohar Rammanohar Sinha spread Indian art in PRC but also became skilled in Chinese painting and lacquer-work making acquaintance with great masters Qi Baishi, Li Keran.

Recent cultural engagements

  • As a mark of the historical civilizational contact between India and China, India constructed a Buddhist temple in Luoyang, Henan Province, inside the White Horse Temple complex built in honour of the Indian monks Kashyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna.The temple was inaugurated in May 2010.
  • In June 2008, joint stamps were released, one stamp depicting the Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya and the other depicting the White Horse temple at Luoyang.
  • Indian Bollywood movies were popular in China in the 1960s and 1970s and the popularity is being rekindled in recent times again. India and China have entered into an agreement on co-production of movies, the first of which based on the life of the monk Xuan Zang hit the theaters in 2016.
  • Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in China. China was one of the co-sponsors to the UN resolution designating June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. An agreement was signed to establish a Yoga College in Kunming, Yunnan Province.
  • Yoga@Great Wall event was organized at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall.
  • Colors of India Festival showcasing a unique blend of Indian performing arts, Bollywood movies and Indian photography was held from 15-26 May, 2017 at Beijing and Nanjing.

Education Relations

  • India and China signed Education Exchange Programme (EEP) in 2006, which is an umbrella agreement for educational cooperation between the two countries.
  • It provides forenhanced cooperation between institutions in the field of
    • vocational education;
    • collaboration between Institutes of higher learning and
    • students scholarships to student from both the countries resulting in anincrease in the number of Indian students in China
  • Creation of institutional mechanism in the form of BRICS Network University and BRICS Think Tank Council.

Indian Community

  • The Indian community in China is growing. Present estimates put the community strength to around 35,500. A major part of this comprises of students (over 18000), who are pursuing courses in various universities in China. A number of Indians and PIOs are also working as professionals with various multinational and Indian companies.

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