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China passes the Land Boundary Law

China approved the Land Boundary Law (LBL) on October 23rd, laying out a strategy for delimitation, defence, and administration of its land boundaries, as well as enabling international collaboration. This article aims to find out what the legislation is, as well as India's opinion and China's assurance.

The Land Boundary Law of China

The National People's Congress Standing Committee has passed the Land Boundary Law, which will take effect on January 1, 2022. The law, which has 17 chapters and 62 articles, aims to protect China's territorial integrity by enforcing its boundaries and keeping out forces that might jeopardize its sovereignty.

China's Proposal

China says that this measure is not intended to undermine or amend any of the accords it has previously signed. China's stance on border management remains unchanged.

According to a report in Chinese Daily, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated at a daily press conference that the bill is a routine legislative action that allows China to work on its national boundaries while adhering to international law and encouraging international collaboration. China's traditional border management remains intact.

Gao Jinlu, a member of the NPC's Foreign Affairs Committee said that the law is critical in ensuring China's territorial security and is also an essential aspect of China's legal system in terms of national security and international relations.

According to a report in Nikkei Asia, the law, which was passed by China's top legislative body mentions that "the People's Armed Police Force and the Public Security Bureau, which are in charge of maintaining public order in China, can be mobilised to shield borders in addition to the People's Liberation Army." This implies a more streamlined response in the event of a border conflict.

Furthermore, the report claims that “a provision on the protection of water resources is believed to have been made with India in mind” in terms of controlling transboundary rivers and lakes, and that China is “flirting with the possibility of limiting the volume of water in the Brahmaputra River during conflicts, citing ‘protection and reasonable use' as stipulated in the law.”

Experts doubt the claim's authenticity because India owns over 70% of the river's catchment region, but it's difficult to ignore the feeling that China is itching for a battle.

India’s interpretation of China’s new legislation

The 6200-character long law covers China's entire 22,457-kilometer land border, which is surrounded by 14 nations. Article 14 of the new legislation specifies that China "abides by treaties affecting land border matters negotiated or jointly engaged in with foreign governments." 

B. R. Deepak in his article writes that China has settled its land boundary with 12 of its neighbouring states. India and Bhutan are the only two nations with which China has not settled its border issue, with 3,488 and 477 kilometres of the disputed border, respectively.

The new rule gives no validity to the 1963 China-Pakistan Boundary Agreement, which India has long declared unconstitutional and illegitimate. India claims sovereignty over the area in northern Kashmir and Ladakh, which China and Pakistan had ordered in favour of each other as part of an arrangement. 

Arindam Bagchi notes that India and China are yet to work towards reducing border tensions and agreeing to a mutually acceptable resolution. "We have observed that China has approved a new "Land Boundary Law" on October 23, 2021," India's External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. The legislation stipulates, among other things, that China abides by land border treaties. It also includes measures for reorganizing districts along the border.

“China should avoid taking action under the pretext of this law that could unilaterally alter the situation in the India-China border areas,” India said, adding that “such unilateral action will have no bearing on the arrangements that both sides have already reached earlier, whether it is on the Boundary Question or for maintaining peace and tranquilly along with the LAC in India- China border areas.”

India's concerns are well-founded. According to China's border law, the PLA "must carry out border tasks," which include "organizing drills" and "resolutely preventing, stopping, and combating an invasion, encroachment, provocation, and other activities."

When combined with the declaration that China's territory and sovereignty are "inviolable," the interpretation of past events suggests that while China's territories are inviolable, it is free to violate the territories of other countries, and any pushback will be viewed as "provocation" that must be "resolutely prevented," if necessary, through "combat."

Given the power imbalance between the two countries, as well as current developments in bilateral relations, it's critical to maintain a close check on China's border management and make all conceivable interpretations.



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