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Brief History Of India China Relations History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

China and India share a very old history and relationship. Throughout the first millennium, they were the centres of spiritual and religious activities. The two countries suffered from western colonialism during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, political contacts between them were few. Culturally, it was mostly from India to China.

“Maha-Cheena” and “Cheen-Amshuk” In Kautilya’s “Arthashastra” indicated trade links between Mauryan-India and China. Emperor Harshavardhan sent representatives to China reciprocated with two missions sent by Tang emperor Tai-Tsung. [4] Unfortunately, Harshavardhan’s successors attacked a Chinese mission leading to battle won by Chinese, the only battle in India-China relationship until 1962. [5] 

Religious and cultural interactions existed between them during the first few centuries. The Islamic invasion in India made two countries living as strangers until nineteenth century, when Europeans colonised both. Before European colonisation, China and India accounted for about 33 percent and 25 percent respectively of the world’s manufactured goods. China under the Song (960- 1279) and Qing (1644- 1912) dynasties was the superpower. Under the Guptas (c. 320- c.550 ce) and Mughals (1526- 1857), India’s economic, military, and cultural prowess was an object of envy. Then European powers overshadowed the Asian civilisations which declined, decayed, disintegrated and were eventually conquered by.

Post Colonisation

During The British colonisation, China had limited trade relations with India. In early twentieth century, a great resurgence in Asia deeply influenced India and China who looked at each other with sympathy, admiration and sought mutual inspiration. In 1941 when the Japanese invade China, Indian national Congress dispatched a medical mission to China headed by Dr Kotnis. He died in action and remembered in both countries as a symbol of solidarity. [6] 

In 1947 India became independent. India established diplomatic relations with nationalist Kuomintang Chinese Govt in 1948. The communist People’s Republic of China when established on 1st Oct 1949 after the military defeat of the Kuomintang Govt, India was one of the first non-communist countries to immediately recognize it.

Relations between 1949 – 1962

During this period the Chinese ignored India’s independent status and demonstrated unhappiness about India’s non-alignment policy. Mao Ze Dong openly stated that one can either be towards imperialism or with socialism and a third road didn’t exist [7] ; he called Nehru a hireling of anglo-american imperialism. However, Prime Minister Nehru viewed Indian independence and Chinese revolution as parallel expressions of resurgent Asian nationalism and wanted them to be friendly. Nehru visualised China as the future third great power but hastened to add India as the fourth [8] . The visits by prime ministers of China and India from June 1954 to Jan 1957 strengthened the friendly feeling.

The Tibet issue disturbed the cordial neighbourly relation. India acknowledged China’s suzerainty over Tibet subject to Tibet’s autonomy. The Chinese army invaded Tibet on 7th Oct 1950. India stressed on peaceful negotiation of Tibet problem; china dismissed Indian interference claiming Tibet as its internal affairs. In 1954 they signed “India-China agreement on trade and intercourse” following China and Tibet May 1951 treaty.

In 1954 the signing of an eight year agreement on Tibet initiated India-China relationship based on Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (or Panch Shila); with the slogan – ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’. In 1954, new Indian maps included the Aksai Chin region within its boundaries. The detection of a completed Chinese road in Aksai Chin of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir region instigated serious and frequent Indian protests and border clashes. In January 1959, PRC premier Zhou Enlai informed Nehru that China never accepted the Mcmahon Line defining the eastern border between India and China; rejecting Nehru’s contention that the border was based on treaty and custom.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetan people, required asylum in India. In March 1959, thousands of Tibetan refugees with the Dalai Lama settled in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. China immediately proclaimed 104,000 sq km of Indian Territory as their demanding “rectification” of the entire border.

China wanted Aksai Chin back in exchange of its claim on India’s north-east. The Indian government rejected the idea as being humiliating and unequal. Relations further deteriorated during 1960s. Border disputes resulted in a short border war between the People’s Republic of China and India in 20 October 1962. The PRC pushed the unprepared and inadequately led Indian forces to within forty-eight kilometres of the Assam plains in the northeast and occupied strategic points in Ladakh, until the PRC declared a unilateral cease-fire on 21 November and withdrew twenty kilometers behind its contended line of control.

Relations between the PRC and India deteriorated during the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s while the Sino-Pakistani relations improved; Sino-Soviet relations worsened; affecting Indo_China relation adversely. In late 1967 Indian and Chinese forces in Sikkim fought two battles, first – the “Nathu La incident” and second – the “Chola incident”. They clashed again in 1984 in the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.

Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to China in 1988 initiated a new era. A joint statement emphasizing the necessity to revive warm relationship, increasing bilateral ties in diversified areas and moreover, resolving the border issues, was issued. Confidence-building measures continued in 1993. Different meetings were held to solve the “line of actual control” issue, deployment of armed forces along it and mutual knowledge about military exercises etc.

India’s nuclear test in May 1998 again deteriorated the relationship when the Indian Defense Minister stated China as ‘India’s greatest threat’. In 2000 the Indian President’s visit to China; in 2002 the Chinese Premier’s visit to India; in 2003 the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China improved the relationship greatly. China’s accepting Sikkim as an integral Indian state is a positive step towards solving the border problems. [9] 

At present both countries have a cordial relation barring a few incidents of scoring diplomatic points over each other and both countries are concentrating on their respective growth stories. Certain issues however remain sore point between them and must be solved through mutual dialogue.


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