Why Can’t the Border Problem Between China and India Be Solved?

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The border problem between China and India, which has been going on for more than half a century, rather than causing the parties to soften and come together to solve the problem as time passes, it is leading to an increased tensions. Due to the inability to reach a solution on the disputed borders and regions, the China-India border has not been officially drawn yet. Since both countries could not solve the border problem, the region is moving away from an environment where peace, stability and sustainable relations exist.

The first border conflict between China and India occurred in 1962. Then, in 1967 and 1975, clashes took place between the parties again.[1] After the 1980s, negotiations began between China and India in order to solve the border problem, and these negotiations brought convergence in other areas such as economy and trade. But, although there were various meetings between the two states, the border issue could not be resolved.[2] However, during the process of negotiations, there was no conflict at the border. However, in 2013 and the following years, all this positive atmosphere dissipated. Subsequently, border conflicts between the parties started to occur again.

Considering that China has solved its border problems with Central Asian countries in the past, it raises a question mark as to why the border issue with India has not been resolved. When we look closely at the problem, it is seen that there are more than one reason behind this unsolved problem.

Competition between the parties prevents the actors from taking a step towards each other. Both China and India see each other as competitors in the region.[3] Both states resemble each other in many aspects such as their large population, wide borders, growing economies, efforts to be effective in organizations and the similarity of the problems they face. The competition between these two similarly sized countries to increase their influence both in the region and in the international arena has been going on since the past. Countries that compete against each other are unlikely to follow a compromise path unless they have common interests. Although compromises occur in certain periods, this atmosphere does not continue for a long time. Looking at history, it is possible to see many examples of this.

On the other hand, due to the advantages offered by the disputed places, none of the parties considers the benefit of a solution to be sufficient. In other words, there is a perception that the solution will only cause one party to be more satisfied and the other party will gain less benefit. Therefore, China and India cannot reach an agreement in the direction they want.

Another concern of India is that if the border dispute is resolved, China will increase its trade near the border and as a result of this trade, the border will be filled with cheap Chinese goods. There is a fear that China’s growing influence will undermine India’s trade and economic development. Therefore, in the negotiations on the settlement of the border dispute, trade is among the issues that the New Delhi administration particularly emphasizes.[4]

In addition, the fact that both China and India regularly invest in defense and there is a military activity on the border causes the parties to feel more insecure. Military mobility is one of the factors that increase the tension between the two countries.[5] According to P. R. Shankar, a retired lieutenant general in India, China’s primary military target is India.[6] As it can be understood from here, India thinks that China perceives beformentioned country as a threat. Similarly, New Delhi believes Beijing sees India as a threat. Due to this perception of the parties, the governments of the two countries tend to defend themselves in order to protect themselves.

Another issue is the positioning of the parties against each other’s sensitivities. The historical friendship between Pakistan and China has been bothering New Delhi since the past. In parallel, the hosting of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in India disturbs China.[7] Such behaviors of China and India reduce mutual trust and prevent the parties from coming together to solve the problem.

Negotiations are the only way to progress in the border dispute between the two countries that has been going on for years. Because both countries lose a lot by continuing this dispute, and these losses are contrary to the interests of both sides.[8] In fact, China and India agree that the world should become multipolar and that emerging powers should play an important role in international relations. In addition, both states share similar global policy views on issues such as climate change, international trade, finance and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.[9]

When all these issues are evaluated, it is thought that the two states may benefit from reaching an agreement to support each other in commercial, economic, social and international issues. However, mutual prejudices leave the border problem unsolved.

[1] “Çin ile Hindistan Arasındaki Sınır Anlaşmazlığı 50 Yıldır Çözülemiyor”, Anadolu Ajansı,,s%C4%B1k%20s%C4%B1k%20kar%C5%9F%C4%B1%20kar%C5%9F%C4%B1ya%20getiriyor, (Date of Accession: 25.12.2022).

[2] İzzet Soner Ayhan, “Çin-Hindistan Sınır Anlaşmazlığının Çözümünü Engelleyen Faktörler”, Barış Araştırmaları ve Çatışma Çözümleri Dergisi, 2(2), 2016, p. 82.

[3] Ayhan, op.cit., p. 91

[4] Ayhan, op.cit., p. 94

[5] Ayhan, op.cit., p. 95.

[6] “India is China’s Prime Military Target”, Rediff,, (Date of Accession: 25.12.2022).

[7] “Why China and India Just Can’t Get Along”, Time,, (Date of Accession: 25.12.2022).

[8] “India-China Dispute: The Border Row Explained in 400 Words”, BBC News,, (Date of Accession: 25.12.2022).

[9] Hongzhou Zhang-Mingjiang Li, “Sino‐Indian Border Disputes”, ISPI Analysis, 181, 2013, p. 9.

Neslihan TOPCU
Neslihan Topcu, 2017 yılında Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi bölümünden mezun olmuş ve ardından aynı üniversitenin Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. Yüksek lisans derecesini elde ettiği “Çin’in Enerji Güvenliği Politikaları” başlıklı tezi, 2020 yılında kitap olarak da yayınlanmıştır. 2016 senesinde Litvanya’daki Kazimieras Simonavičius Üniversitesi’nde ve 2019 yılında da Portekiz’deki Minho Üniversitesi’nde eğitim alan Topçu, halihazırda Selçuk Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. Asya Pasifik, enerji güvenliği ve devletlerin uzay politikalarıyla ilgili çalışmaları çeşitli dergilerde ve kitaplarda yayınlanmış olan Topçu, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede İspanyolca bilmektedir.