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New law on China’s land border amid standoff with India

China’s legislature enacted a law on the protection and exploitation of land border areas, which could have serious repercussions on Beijing’s border dispute with India. China asserts that its sovereignty and territorial integrity are ‘sacred and inviolable’. Standing Committee members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) approved the law at the end of a legislative session on Saturday, state-run Xinhua reported.

According to the law, which will go into effect on January 1 next year, ‘the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China are sacred and inviolable’. Reports state that states should take measures to safeguard the territorial integrity and land boundaries, guard against acts that weaken territorial sovereignty, and combat any such acts.

According to the law, the state shall also take measures to improve border defense, to promote economic and social development in border areas, to improve public services and infrastructure in such areas, to encourage and support citizen life and work in such areas, and to foster coordination between border defence and social and economic development. According to the accord, the state shall deal with land border-related affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues, following the principles of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation. There are only two countries with whom China has not finalized a border agreement, while Beijing has settled boundary disputes with 12 other neighbours.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the Foreign Secretary, said last week that the developments along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh had ‘seriously disturbed’ the peace and tranquility in border areas, and this has obviously impacted broader relations. At a seminar on ‘Leveraging China’s Economy’ on Oct 21, the foreign secretary also referred to comments made by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar that India and China’s ability to work together would determine the Asian century. To become a reality, peace and tranquility in the border areas are necessary. Jaishankar has also explicitly stated that the development of our ties should be based on mutuality – mutual respect, mutual sensitivity, and mutual interests.

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‘We hope that the Chinese side will work with us to bring a satisfactory resolution to the current issues so as to make progress on our bilateral relations keeping in view each other’s sensitivities, aspirations and interests,’ the foreign secretary said. India-China border disputes cover 3,488 km along the Line of Actual Control, but the China-Bhutan dispute covers about 400 km. A new land border law was enacted amid the ongoing standoff between Indian and Chinese militaries in eastern Ladakh. A Memorandum of Understanding signed by China and Bhutan on October 14 establishes a three-step road map for accelerating border negotiations. According to Beijing, the MOU will make a significant contribution to speeding up border negotiations and establishing diplomatic relations.

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