China’s new Land Border Law may legitimise use of civilian settlements to make territorial claims | Land Portal
Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury
Language of the news reported: 

China’s new land border law that recently grabbed headlines apparently seeks to legitimise its use of the civilian settlement to support territorial claims along its disputed boundaries with India and Bhutan.

There have been reports about China building villages in areas it illegally occupied in Bhutan as well as in Arunachal Pradesh. Article VII of the 2005 India-China agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement of the Boundary Question says the two sides shall safeguard interests of settled populations in the border areas while clinching a deal to resolve the boundary row.

Sources told ET that now China is clearly preparing to cite its border villages and infrastructures to counter territorial claims of India. Beijing’s emphasis on development of villages and towns in the border areas and role of civilians in protecting sovereignty and territorial integrity clearly indicates that China would expand settlements all along its disputed boundaries with India and Bhutan, sources pointed out.

As India and China have differences in perception about the alignment of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), serving as the de facto boundary, China may also oppose construction of border infrastructure by India, citing its new law, which prohibits building permanent structures in the border areas without permission of Beijing.

Sources further pointed out that the new land border law indicates China’s resolve to manage its demarcated boundaries with other nations and seek settlement of the boundary disputes with India and Bhutan on its own terms akin to the Maritime Police Law and Maritime Traffic Safety Law that signalled to aggressively assert its expansive claims on the South China Sea and East China Sea.

China’s new land border law says “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of the nation are “sacred and inviolable”. The law emphasises on the role of the citizens, particularly people living in the border areas, and the civilian institutions in supporting the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police Force, which have been assigned the responsibility of “guarding land borders, resisting armed aggression and deal with major emergencies and terrorist activities on land borders”.

India has asserted that the law unilaterally adopted by China would not have any bearing on bilateral arrangements put in place to resolve territorial row between the two neighbouring nations. New Delhi reminded Beijing that the two sides had agreed to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable resolution to the Boundary Question through consultations and concluded several bilateral agreements, protocols and arrangements to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC.

The foreign ministry spokesperson had pointed out, “...China’s unilateral decision to bring about legislation, which can have implication on our existing bilateral arrangements on border management as well as on the boundary question, is of concern to us.”

China shares land borders with 14 nations and it claims to have demarcated boundaries with 12 of them. It only has non-demarcated boundaries with India and Bhutan. China is illegally occupying about 38,000 sq km of India’s territory in Aksai Chin, which borders eastern Ladakh. Pakistan ceded to China about 5,180 sq km in 1963 from the Indian territory illegally occupied by it. China also claims about 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh. Further China claims 764 sq kms of areas of Bhutan – 269 sq kms in the west and 495 sq kms in the north-central region of the country. Last year China claimed the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Bhutan as part of its own territory.

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