Written by By Lily He, CNN Beijing Written by Lily He, CNN
On Tuesday, the Indian government said China’s new law on sovereignty along its border with India is “grossly unfair to India,” and could jeopardize bilateral relations.
The law, introduced by China’s State Council in late September, lays out the process and territory China considers its “sovereignty over the Indian side” along the highly-disputed border between the two countries.
Despite the border being settled in 1953, the two Asian nations have been embroiled in a military stand-off near the city of Doklam for the past six months.
Military stand-off in the Himalayas
“It’s virtually impossible for a community like ours, with such a strong sense of history and tradition of harmony, which has existed for millennia, to grant recognition to somebody else’s sovereignty over our territory, and the confrontation is completely unproductive,” Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said at a briefing in Delhi.
“It will risk the maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas, which will be extremely unfortunate.”
Rajnath Singh, Indian Home Minister, speaks at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. Credit: SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
In a joint statement, China and India said they remained committed to peacefully resolving all disputes through dialogue and consultations, including those over the Doklam plateau.
However, China’s Foreign Ministry has refused to respond to India’s criticism, only saying that the law applies to any country and is “a natural consequence of China’s sovereignty determination.”
Instead, an unusually long statement on the development of China’s border law was released by the government late Tuesday evening, explaining why the law was necessary in the face of the Indian and US-led “string of pearls” naval expansion in the Indian Ocean.
From stone rings to bowhead whales
Chinese state media publication Xinhua said the “historic document” recognizes “the true history” of China’s sovereignty, “contours of the historical rights” of China, and “underscores sovereignty status of the geography,” in addition to laying out “binding conventions, procedures and the design for protecting China’s boundary integrity.”
“The borders should be defined in accordance with the agreed boundaries along the lines set out in China’s claim to sovereignty over the Indian side,” said Xu Guangyu, a military expert and former commander of a Chinese naval squadron, who did not attend the legislature meeting.
Xu said he had “no doubt” the new law would strengthen China’s sovereignty, and was not in reaction to the Doklam standoff.
“It is to make clear when other countries will respect China’s indisputable sovereignty,” Xu said.
“Is it the United States, Britain, Japan or India that must comply with China’s order to keep their sovereignty and territorial integrity? There will be no gap in this law between India and China.”
As state media, the focus has been on defending the new law, rather than debating the region’s colonial history and the historical nature of its claims.
While for many, the law has the potential to reshape the border, Wang Hao, a professor at Nanjing University, believes any relationship between the two countries is unlikely to change as a result.
“China and India are only natural allies. The Chinese government and Indian government are two big countries with two big cities, two big intellectuals and two big Internet users, and a shared destiny,” Wang said.