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India and its Lingering Border Disputes

INTRODUCTION

For far too long, India has been in the eye of the storm regarding its several border disputes. In recent times, the nation has excelled to resolve its boundary disputes with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and trying out all possible ways to resolve the issues. The un-demarcated borders with Myanmar, Bhutan, and lately with China, Pakistan, and Nepal have often outburst into conflicts. Likewise, India is able to restitute its marine boundary dispute with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Nonetheless, these seem to be fading in the foreseeable future. The disputes are gradually increasing in intensity with every passing day. If border disputes are to be considered, the India-Pakistan issue surely demands the utmost attention. It is not a lesser-known fact that the issues were severe from the beginning, tracing back to as far as the Independence-era. Right from the time, Jinnah demanded a separate nation for Muslims, and there were numerous uprisings and bloodshed until the formation of West Pakistan. 

DISPUTES RELATING TO BORDERS

The following are some disputes relating to boundaries with neighbouring countries:

Pakistan-

Jammu and Kashmir: It’s been one of the prolonged disputes between these two neighbouring countries(India and Pakistan). There has been strife between the two countries over Jammu and Kashmir, as over past years three wars have been fought for this place, also known as “Heaven on Earth”. In Aug 2019, the Indian government took measures that could not have been contemplated by anyone. As the government dealt with the abrogation of Article 370, taking away special status from Kashmir and Jammu, there was an upsurge of protests and revolts, especially in the valley.[1] On the 5th of August, the revocation of the state’s special status marks the first anniversary.

Siachen Glacier: The glacier is allocated in the eastern parts of Karakorams i.e. situated in the Himalayas at the north-east, where the Actual Line of Control between India-Pakistan ends. India dominates in all over the Siachen Glacier, possessing all tributary glaciers. Approximately outstretched over 70 km (43 mi) long in the Karakoram and it is also held as the world’s second-longest non-polar area. In the Shimla Agreement of 1972, both the parties agreed to abide by the “Line of Control” (LoC) and not to change it “irrespective of mutual differences or legal interpretations”. Though, the agreement missed inserting the Siachen glacier area while drawing up the LoC. According to Article 48 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, “ A State may invoke an error in a treaty as invalidating its assent to be bound by the treaty if the error relates to de facto which was assumed by that State to exist at the time when the treaty was concluded and formed an essential basis of its consent to be bound by the treaty.” [2]

Saltoro Ridge: It appears like a dagger and in geopolitical terms, it is indeed a dagger, struck deep into the territories held by Pakistan and which belonged to erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state of British India. That is claimed as a part of the Ladakh union territory by India as well as part of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan.[3]

Sir Creek: It is a 96 km (60 mi) water strip in the marshlands of Rann of Kutch. Earlier known as Ban Ganga, it was later named after Sir Creek, after the name of a British representative to India. The Creek opens into the Arabian Sea. Pakistan proclaims the line to follow the eastern shore of the estuary while India proclaims the centerline of it.[4]

China-

Aksai Chin: It is allocated at the Tibetan Plateau of the north-western part, acquiring approximately 35,241 sq km, administered and controlled by China and part of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Meanwhile, India claims it as a part of its union territory of Ladakh. In May, due to a physical brawl at the Galwan valley, India lost it’s brave twenty soldiers along with the Commanding Officer Colonel Santosh Babu[5].

Depsang Plains: It is situated on the boundary of the Ladakh (Union Territory) and disputed zone of Aksai Chin. Most of its plains are controlled by the Chinese Army after the 1962 war with India, while India controls the western part of the aforesaid plains.[6]

Demchok, Chumar: Both are in the Leh district of Ladakh region, controlled and managed by India. Chumar has been a bone of contention between India and China with the latter claiming it to be part of its territory. Chinese troops have been foraying into this border area with their helicopters almost every year.

Kaurik, Shipki La: It is located in the Indo-China Tibetan border It is in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, controlled by India. Shipki La Pass is used for cross-border trade between the two countries. The trade route was closed after the Chinese aggression in 1962 but was restarted after India and China signed a protocol in 1994.

Nelang, Pulam Sumda, Sang, Jadhang, and Lapthal: These are the small villages that lie at Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Although controlled by India, these are claimed by Zanda County, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet, China.

Trans-Karakoram Tract: It consists of an area approximately 5,800 square kilometres (2,239 sq mi) along with both sides of the Shaksgam River. It has been entirely administered by China as a part of Kargilik County in the Kashgar Prefecture of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. It was affirmed by Pakistan until 1963 and still claimed by India as part of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan gave up its claim to the tract under a border dispute agreement with China in the year 1963 subject to the proviso that the settlement was to be the final solution of the Kashmir dispute.

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Arunachal Pradesh: Arunachal Pradesh is a state of India created on Jan. 20, 1972, and located in the far northeast. China has claimed the majority of the territory as a part of South Tibet. Back in 2007, China declined a Visa to the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh claiming that Arunachal is a part of China, and hence a visa would not be required in that case.

Bangladesh-

Around the time of the formation of Bangladesh, a territorial demarcation issue started rising that needed prompt resolution. Chitmahals or Indo-Bangladeshi enclaves situated outlining the border needed to be discussed. In Dhaka, 1972, two countries signed a peace treaty valid for 25 years until renewed on mutual interests. Two years later, the Land Boundary Agreement was also signed between the two nations, and these were the first baby steps towards settling the border altercations[7].

Nepal-

Kalapani: A 338 square km land strip near the tri-junction of China, Nepal, and India can be considered the focal cause of dispute between India and Nepal. By the Treaty of Sagauli, 1816, Nepal’s landmass was distinguished majorly by its rivers (Kali and Mechi). Thus, after shifting the boundaries to Kalapani’s eastern side, the border between Nepal and India was formed.[8] There was not a whiff of any conflict for over a hundred years until Nepal became a democracy in 1990, followed by several objections from the new government. In 2015, propositions were surfacing about using Lipulekh for Indo-China trade, however, the Nepalese P.M. did not quite agree to this. Recently, in an unfortunate turn of events, an Indian citizen was accidentally killed in a police firing increasing the underlying tension between the two nations.

International Law and Treaties

Article 6 of the ICCPR[9] expressly restricts derogation from the right to life. Therefore, even at times of emergency, no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. The ICCPR also prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Articles 4 and 7 of the ICCPR explicitly ban torture, even at the period of national emergency or when the security of the country is at stake. The principal government forces[10] operating in Jammu and Kashmir, have systematically violated these fundamental norms of international human rights law. 

International law recognizes the principle quieta non movere, and India has consistently maintained in its dispute with China that the areas occupied by China have traditionally belonged to India[11]. Both bilateral negotiation and mediation have been proven almost completely unsuccessful in creating lasting joint understandings between India and its neighbouring countries The principle of Self-Determination is commonly used to justify the aspirations of minority ethnic groups. Article 1(2)[12] and almost all international human rights treaties describe the same principle.[13]

SITUATION DURING COVID-19

Tracing back to the 90s, it is debatable if Nehru faltered in any way or not by asking for the UN’s decision on the Kashmir issue. This just traces back to the point that corrective actions have not been taken while they could have been. Also, with India still retaining a booming economy despite the Covid-19 pandemic may attract a lot of attention along with the rapid digitization advancements. With India denying to engage with CPEC and focusing on strengthening its armed forces, all of this makes ground for the neighbouring countries to strategically disrupt the current scenario to bring India down on its knees. 

India too has not held back in any way. Right from improving road infrastructure around vulnerable border regions, enabling prompt conveyance in emergencies to improving its international relations with Japan, Philippines, and other ASEAN countries – India has done quite a good job.

Some might agree that these border disputes were inevitable from the beginning, since the partition lines were insensitively drawn, basing the division on a sheer religious basis, and it’s easy to guess how that has gone down for India and its neighbouring nations; leaving it at the mercy of only diplomatic moves to ensure no more bloodshed.[14]

CONCLUSION

It takes time to understand in entirety how India has come to this situation over these years, since Independence. India has always had its limitations, but little did they know what it could culminate into. It seems like it’s a long road to resolution, owing to multiple failed efforts at establishing better border conditions, and not taking action till it’s too late.

 Endnotes

  1. SAURABH PANDEY & PRANAV TANWAR, “ARTICLE 370 AND ECONOMY OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR INTER-RELATION AND IMPACT.”
  2. Saifuddin Ahmed, Anurag Chakma, “Kashmir Conflict: A Critical Analysis”, Australian National University,6(3) 2012: 20-36.
  3. Archiv des Völkerrechts, 22. Bd., No. 1, INDIEN UND DAS VÖLKERRECHT / INDIA AND INTERNATIONAL LAW (1984), pp. 22-44
  4. V.D. CHOPRA & P.N. HANSKAR, GENESIS OF INDO-PAKISTAN CONFLICT ON KASHMIR 161-68(SOUTH ASIA BOOKS 1990).
  5. <https://eurasiantimes.com/galwan-valley-clash-top-indian-general-decodes-why-india-lost-20-soldiers-in-india-china-border-conflict/.>
  6. Chinese Note, October 25, 1959, II, p. 16: Letter from Nehru to Chou, November 16, 1959, II1, p. 5.
  7. AMIT RANJAN, INDIA-BANGLADESH BORDER DISPUTES HISTORY AND POST-LBA DYNAMICS 65-71 (SPRING NATURE SINGAPORE PTE LTD. 2018).
  8. Kallol Bhattacherjee, Why are India and Nepal fighting over Kalapani?, THE HINDU (MAY, 24, 2020), <https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/why-are-india-and-nepal-fighting-over-kalapani/article31660401.ece.>
  9.  Art. 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
  10. The Indian armies Special task force (STF), Border Security Force (BSF), and state-sponsored paramilitary groups and village defence committee.
  11. The Grisbadarna Case (Norway and Sweden), 1909, Scott, Hague Court Reports, 1916  p. 130. See also G. Schwarzenberger, International Law, Vol. 1, 1957, p. 31.
  12. Art 1(2) of the Charter of the United Nations.
  13. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights.
  14. Kanak Mani Dixit & Tika P Dhakal, “Territoriality amidst COVID-10: A prime to the Lipu Lek conflict between India and Nepa”l, SCROLL.IN (MAY, 19, 2020, 06:30 AM IST),<https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/why-are-india-and-nepal-fighting-over-kalapani/article31660401.ece.>

BY- Poulomi Barik | KIIT School of Law

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