India-China Border Conflicts: History and Impact

With the rapid economic growth that both India and China have had in the past decade, border disputes and conflicts between the two rising powers can have drastic impacts on the world economy and politics. In order to better understand the issue, one has to go back to the British Raj in India.

Background Information 

India and China have been in cultural contact for thousands of years and have had flourishing trade and cultural ties via the Silk Road. However, in the past 100 years, India and China have had several border disputes, which have led to wars and deadly clashes.

The disputed areas include Aksai China (China occupied Kashmir) and Arunachal Pradesh, which is a part of India but China claims it as Southern Tibet.

The roots of this dispute go back to the British era. After the British defeated the Sikh Empire in 1846, they now shared a border with the Chinese Qing Empire in Kashmir. Aksai Chin was the main area of contention; the British here devised two lines, one of which was the Johnson Line of 1865, which put the entire region under British Indian control.

Image Source: Wikipedia

The other line drawn was the Macartney-MacDonald Line in 1899, which gave control of the plains in the region to India while Aksai Chin proper was given to China. This boundary was accepted by the Chinese until 1959, while India considered the Johnson Line to be the border.

In Arunachal Pradesh, similarly, the border was not very clearly defined. In 1914, Tibet and Britain signed an agreement for the border. This was called the McMahon line; however, disputes arose with both China and Tibet over the same. According to the McMahon Line, Arunachal Pradesh was a part of India as per its natural borders.

However, the Chinese did not accept this line and continued to claim Arunachal Pradesh as a part of southern Tibet. Post-independence, China continued to build roads and outposts in the region.

Image Source: Clear IAS

Conflicts and standoffs

In 1962, China and India fought a war over the disputed regions, in which China gained control of the entire Aksai Chin region.

In 1967, India and China fought border skirmishes in Sikkim, near the Nathu La and Cho regions, in which the Indian Army gained the upper hand.

Similarly, in the Arunachal Pradesh region, skirmishes and standoffs took place in 1975 and 1987.

In 2017, India and China faced off yet again in the Doklam region of Bhutan, where the Chinese had begun building a road. The Indian Army responded by blocking road construction attempts. The Chinese claimed that they were building the road on their side of the border, while India claimed that they were violating the status quo.

Eventually, both sides agreed to withdraw. However, in 2020, Chinese troops tried to stop Indian roadbuilding attempts in the Galwan Valley, leading to a melee clash between the two sides. This led to the deaths of 20 Indian and several Chinese soldiers.

Similar clashes took place all across the Sino-Indian border, and tensions rose drastically. Eventually, diplomatic efforts and deescalation led to some agreements taking place; however, tensions continued to remain high.

Image Source: Maps of India

Current Situation 

After another clash between the two sides in December of 2022, the situation on the border remains tense. In conferences between the defence ministers of the two sides, India accused China of violating border agreements. More recently, talks between the corps commanders of both sides were held.

Both sides claim that the talks were successful and would help in de-escalation.


While both sides have seen an increase in economic ties and are on the road to becoming economic powerhouses, the conflicts between the two need to be resolved quickly.

Many experts worry about two nuclear superpowers fighting on their borders, and conflict between India and China can have spillovers into the rest of Asia. Similarly, conflicts between the two can also slow down the economic growth of both countries.

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