NEW DELHI, India: Despite the recent flare-up of tension on India’s border with Pakistan, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is probably more concerned with breaking the stalemate on another border with China.

He has begun study of relations with Beijing in order to evolve a strategy for improving links between the two Asian Giants. The aim is to end the present inadequate policy of merely reacting to Beijing’s diplomatic and military moves.

Delhi feels that the stalemate in the border dispute, in the wake of the 1962 war, helps China more than India. The Chinese position, for example, Beijing’s recognition of the McMahon Line in the esteem sector in retum for India’s acceptance of the line of actual control in the western sector in Ladakh  gives China those areas which it controls after the war.

China had been reiterating its claim to 90,000 square kilometers of territory in Arunachal Pradesh, which it regards as “an Indian occupied area of Chinese territory lying between the traditional customary line and the McMahon Line”.

For any serious negotiations, cartographic and historical wrangles have only peripheral significance; overall geopolitical factors are the real key. So India needs to assess the implications of developments in China.

Another vital factor is the implication of Moscow’s overtures to Beijing. When Gandhi took up the issue with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev he was assured that Moscow’s friendship with Beijing would not be at New Delhi’s cost.

Gorbachev seems to believe that a stage has been reached where peaceful coexistence must take precedence over ideological considerations or territorial claims.


However, India’s short-term aim in its border dispute with China is effectively to freeze the present position, with the implicit understanding that neither side will attempt to make change.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 20, 1987