Sino-Indian bilateral relations

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Geographically, India is surrounded by the countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar etc. Some of these countries have good relations with India while some does not have that. In the paradigm of international and strategic relations, India’s relation with China has oscillating. The bilateral relations of India and China, which is also known as Sino – Indian Bilateral Relations has seen various ups and downs throughout the time.

Sino – Indian bilateral relations has enveloped many issues consisting of border issues, strategic issues, political issues etc. Recently, Sino – Indian Bilateral Relations have completed 70 years and this occasion has been the matter of various debates and discussions amidst the corona virus pandemic.

Introduction – 70 years of diplomatic relation between India and China

Recently on the April 1st, 2020 India and China has completed 70 years of their bilateral relations. This bilateral relation has gone through winds and rains in all these 70 years. On the day of April 1st, 1950 India and China established their bilateral relations. India became the first non – socialist or rather non – communalist country to establish the relations with the People’s Republic of China. Since the day, the phrase of “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai (Indian and Chinese are brothers)” has become the watchwords.

In the following years many agreements and treaties were signed by both the countries. The bilateral relation of both country also became evanescent after 1962 border conflicts but they were restored later on. From the aspect of international relations and business both India and China are seen as the ocean of opportunity for various markets because of their enormous populations. During the second informal summit at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu last year in October, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to hold 70 events – 35 each in India and China to embark this occasion but it was later called off due to global pandemic of corona virus.

These 70 years of Sino – Indian bilateral relation of have been the fluctuating. There have been various agreement and disagreement regarding various issues between these two countries. Border and Trade issues have played its role too. Though India and China have seen ups and downs in these 70 years, both these countries are of opinion that the cooperation and camaraderie would always be in their collective benefits.

That’s why despite the issues and dissents both these countries have always been allies to each other or at least they have been trying to do so if not have done so. To understand how the bilateral relations of India and China first we have to understand the bilateral relations of earlier times and then how this relations developed eventually.

History of Sino-Indian bilateral relations:

As mentioned above on the date of April 1st, 1950 India became first non – communist country to establish the relation with the People’s Republic of China. Since then the phrase “Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai” has not lost its virtue. In 1954 Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited India and on the day of April 29th, 1954 India signed the Panchsheel agreement with China which is also known as the FIVE PRINCIPLES OF PEACEFUL EXISTENCE. The principles included in this agreement are as follow,

  1. Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,
  2. Mutual non-aggression,
  3. Mutual non-interference,
  4. Equality and mutual benefit, and
  5. Peaceful co-existence.

It was first formal enunciated and signed agreement between these two countries which essentially dealt with the trade and intercourse between the Tiber region of China and India. If Sino – Indian bilateral relations are properly analyzed it tell that the Tibet region kept China and India geographically apart for thousands of years and then this region became the reason of mutual distrust and disdain. China invaded Tibet in 1950 and since then India and China are sharing the common border.

Till mid-20th  century India and China had very little and confined bilateral relations. Their bilateral relations begin to see the daylight after India’s independence in 1947 and after the communist revolution in China in 1949. But the region of Tiber always remained an object of conflict. The then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was of the opinion that Tibet should remain independent. China’s opinion was something contradictory to this, if not opposite. This caused dubiousness on the part of China.

Though Prime Minister Nehru accepted the suzerainty of China over the Tiber, he always had this opinion that Tibet should remain autonomous. Amidst all these developments China showed no concern for MacMohan line which was demarked in the Shimla Convention in 1914 by the then British and Tibetan representatives. China disregarded this agreement by opining that it was imposed by “imperialists”.

Amidst this, India and China entered into Panchsheel agreement followed by various visits of leaders of both countries. But when India provided the asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959, China tightened its grip on the Tibet region. This led both the countries to the war of 1962.

Sino – Indian wars:

On the day of October 20th, 1962 China launched a war against India which came to be known as the Sino – Indian war of 1962. India never suspected that China would ever start a war and as the result this war became the conflict of 10000 to 20000 Indian soldiers against the 80000 Chinese soldiers. This war continued for 1 month and ended on November 21st when China declared ceasefire. When we analyze the circumstances of the war it tells us that the main issue which led to the Sino – Indian war of 1962 was that of the Tibet.

In this time, on one hand India was very concerned about its relations with China that it did not even attend the conference for the conclusion of peace treaty organized by Japan just because China had not been invited. But on the other hand India was very eloquent of its opinion to the Tibet issue and India was of opinion that the Tibet should remain autonomous. India went to the extent that when China announced that it would be occupying the Tibet, India did send a letter of protest offering the negotiations for the issue. In the meantime China sent its troops on the Aksai Chin border. Though at the time of Panchsheel agreement India did acknowledge the sovereignty of China over Tibet.

However, things did not stop here. In July, 1954 the then Prime Minister Nehru wrote a memo directing a revision in Indian maps to show definite borders on all frontiers. But the Chinese map showed 1, 20,000 square kilometers Indian territory as Chinese territory. As a response to which the then Premier of China, who happened to be the first premier of the People’s Republic of China told that there were some errors in the maps. But at this time, when Dalai Lama had been given asylum in India, the top leader of China Mao Zedong felt humiliated. This tension exacerbated when China openly stated that the Lhasa rebellion of Tibet was caused by India. In this way China’s perception of India as threat to their rule in Tibet led to the war of 1962. This is how the issue of Tibet became the essential cause to Sino – Indian war of 1962.

However, in the war of India and Pakistan which took place in 1971, China backed out. China happened to be considered as the long standing ally of Pakistan but due to their lack of control on the Sino – Indian border at that time led to the ceasefire of China. These circumstances deteriorated the Sino – Indian bilateral relations. However in the year of 1976, India and China restores its relations and the bilateral ties improved eventually. In the year of 1988, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited the China and initiated the process of normalization of bilateral relations.

Recent developments:

Recent developments in Sino – Indian bilateral relation have been moderate, if not good. There are still many issues including Kashmir, China’s initiative of One Belt One Road, China’s usage of its veto power in the matter of Masood Azhar and the most recently Doklam issue. Both the countries have opposed each other on many aspects while enveloping these issues.

In 2013 Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated one of the most ambitious foreign policy of China and he called for building a Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st century Maritime Silk Road which collectively referred to as the One Belt One Road initiative of Chia. The plan is to connect the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. This road will connect the Chinese coastline to South East Asia, South Asia, Gulf and East of Africa. On this road China will build enormous infrastructures which will include various SEZ, e – commerce ports, trade liberalization and policy co – ordination. 

Now it is suspected that by alluding other countries to different economic incentives and long term loans, China wants its economic and territorial dominations in these region. Even, China is expected to build the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor as the extension to OBOR initiative. China is expected to connect Kashgar in Xinjiang in China’s far west with the Port of Gwadar in the province of Baluchistan via a network of highways, railways, and pipelines. This route will help China in its transport with Middle – East countries via land route which goes through Pakistan.

India is opposed to initiative from very beginning. Because one part of this road goes through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and India suspects that this road can be used to strategize against India. So this issue has become the tussle between India and China.

Recently China’s stand on Doklam issue and India’s substantial opposition to China’s stand has become the new issue of conflict. People’s Liberation Army started a road construction in Doklam area which is a part of Bhutan region but China considers it as its own territory. On the same time India and Bhutan both were of opinion that Doklam is the part of Bhutan region. In meantime both the countries sent their armies to the Doklam border and the international community was worried about the war. China bulldozed an Indian bunker stationed in Doklam and it accused Indian military for entering in its territory. As the result to which, China closed the pilgrimage of  Man Sarovar through Nathu La pass which was better alternative to the Lepu Lekh route via Uttarakhand.

Even China’s political stance on issues like Masood Azhar and China’s political stance on has been the matter of worry for India. Both these countries have initiated many negotiations and talks but none has proved to be fruitful. Despite these border and other political issues, India and China are very important to each other from the economic aspects. That’s why both these countries always try to find the solution to their problem and try to work with co – ordination.

Effect of COVID – 19 on the Sino – Indian bilateral relations:

Though, on the official level China has extended its helping hand to India and showed its willingness to help India in fighting this crisis. But there is a debate that this crisis will be resulted into unwanted circumstance for Sino – Indian Bilateral Relations. China had been suspected in silencing the voice of doctors who tried to warn the world about this crisis. Moreover the lack of transparency has always been there in China’s behavior.

China is alleged to have silenced the WHO about the crisis, to which U.S President Donald Trump has publically excoriated WHO. Though India has not made any controversial remark regarding neither this issue nor China’s alleged conspiracy in the said virus. Still it is believed that the corona crisis is going to affect not only Sino – Indian bilateral relations but also the relations of other countries with China. Now what actually comes out of this crisis will be answered by the time.

Probable way forward:

After the hit of pandemic of COVID – 19, many financial and banking institutions have made ominous remarks on the upcoming economic crisis which might be worse and deepening than the 2008 world crisis. In this time, the thing which these countries would need the most is co – operation and interdependency. It will be difficult for any country to come out of the economic crisis on their own. They will need the market of other countries. So when the interdependency and mutual co – operation is the need of an hour every country should come together for better economic prosperity. Not even a single country should be indulged in any kind of conflict of issues with another country because one mistake will cost enormously to human kind.


As the concluding remarks, India and China are the most populous country in the world. They have ultimate and substantial capacities for emerging as the world leaders on all frontier be it economical, be it technological or any other for that matter of fact. But this will need the co – operation and camaraderie of both the countries. So it will be beneficial for both the countries if they remain collaborative and harmonious in their bilateral relations regardless of their political stance and opinion.

Author: Akshat Mehta from Institute of Law, Nirma University.

Editor: Arya Mittal from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.

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