India, China ink Border Defense Co-operation Agreement
In a significant international development, India and China inked a BDCA (Border Defence Co-operation Agreement) which stipulates among a set of confidence building measures that in any face-off on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) they will not use force or threaten to use force against each other and prevent exchange of fire or an armed conflict. The pact was signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
The BDCA was among nine agreements signed by both sides, of which an MoU on Strengthening Co-operation on Trans-border Rivers was another significant agreement.
The two sides also agreed that as large neighbours following independent foreign policies, the relationships pursued by India and China with other countries must not become a source of concern for each other. On the Indian side, this points to China’s strategic ties with Pakistan, while China’s main concern would be India’s relations with the United States.
India raised the issue of terrorism generating from Pakistan, and Chinese infrastructure-building in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, as well as Indian concerns about China issuing stapled visas to people from Arunachal Pradesh.
Highlights of the BDCA (Border Defence Co-operation Agreement) between India and China:
- The BDCA seeks to build a graded mechanism, starting with meetings between border personnel, perhaps in all sectors.
- It has 10 clauses that seek to maintain peace, tranquillity and stability along the 4,000 km-long LAC.
- Periodic meetings will be held between officers of the regional military headquarters, specifically between the Chengdu military region and India’s Eastern Command, and Lanzhou military region and the Northern Command.
- Higher-level meetings between the two ministries of defence will also be held, aside from the working mechanism for consultation and co-ordination on India-China Border Affairs, and the India-China Annual Defence Dialogue.
- Both the sides have reached an agreement not to tail each other’s patrols in the areas where there is no common understanding of the LAC, and laying down the right to seek a clarification.
- The two sides are to set up meeting sites for border personnel, as well as telephone and telecommunication links on the LAC. A hotline between the two military headquarters is also being contemplated.
- Both have also agreed that in the event of a face-off in areas where they have differing perceptions of the LAC, “both sides shall exercise maximum self-restraint, refrain from any provocative actions, not use force or threaten to use force against the other side, treat each other with courtesy and prevent exchange of armed conflict”.
- Joint celebrations by military personnel at the border on major national or military days and festivals, organising non-contact sports, and joint small-scale tactical exercises.
According to India, the pact doesn’t affect India’s right to build infrastructure at the border. There is recognition on both sides, like in all previous agreements — 1993, 1996 and 2005 — that “the border is asymmetrical, that what is on their side is different from our side. Each side will approach its security in its own way.” With these agreements both the sides hoped that it would help maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
What is the border dispute between India and China?
On of the disputes is that China claims around 90,000 square km of land in Arunachal Pradesh, while India says China is occupying 38,000 square km of territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas.