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All of India's Border Disputes Explained

Updated: Jun 21, 2020

India - Pakistan

"More than a million people died in the savagery that accompanied the freedom of India and Pakistan; Lines meant lives."

- Shashi Tharoor

• In October 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) agreed to merge with India, in exchange for the Indian armed forces helping them tackling an invasion from Pakistani tribesmen.

• This led to a full-fledged war between India and Pakistan, which ended on 1st January 1949, after the United Nations arranged a ceasefire line (temporary border) and recommended that a referendum take place. As part of the referendum, Kashmiris would vote to decide whether or not J&K would join India, but the referendum was never held.

• After three wars that ended in unsuccessful ceasefires, there was hope again; the Ceasefire Pact of 2003 prevents the Indian or Pakistani army from firing at each other. Despite that, Pakistan’s military had recorded 705 ceasefire violations by the Indian Army since the beginning of 2020 up till May. The Indian Army data showed 1,197 violations made by the Pakistani army during the same period.

• But there's more to the story. Pakistan doesn’t just want Kashmir because it's a Muslim-majority region. The Indus river, which further splits into six rivers that flow from J&K in India to Pakistan is of high importance. The Indus Water Treaty assigns three rivers to Pakistan and three to India. But, there is always the perceived risk of India not abiding by the treaty during a conflict or a war between the two nations. And, the consequences of that wouldn't be so pretty.

India - Nepal

• India and Nepal are both claiming ownership of three areas- Limpiyadhara, Kalapani, and Lipulekh.

• In November 2019, India released a map that showed Kalapani, a disputed territory, as a part of it.

• On 8th May 2020, The defense minister of India inaugurated an 80-kilometer road that goes through Lipulekh. The purpose of this road is to make the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra more convenient. The Nepalese government was upset because the Indian government did not consult them before constructing the road. But, India responded by saying that the region always belonged to them, and there was no need to consult Nepal.

• After these incidents, protests erupted in Nepal. And, on 15th May, the Indian Army Chief added salt to the injury by saying that these protesters were being supported by China.

• All this led Nepal to release a map showing Limiyadhra as a part of its country.

• After the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814 between the Britsh and Nepal, the Sugali treaty was formed. It decided that Nepal's borders would be two rivers- the Makali river and the Mechi River, but the Makali river is the tricky part of this story.

• As the Makali river flows north, it further splits into an eastern river and a western river. The Eastern river is narrow and the western one is wide. Obviously, the British chose the wide river to define Nepal. Nepal got some extra land in this process. Decades later, the British wanted to take that land back in order to trade with China. They changed the maps and started to show Nepa's borer as the eastern river instead of the western one. Nepal did not object to this, and since then, the eastern border has been considered as Nepal's border.

• Kalapani and Lepulekh were always shown by India and Nepal as their territories in maps, but the controversy is over Nepal all of a sudden showing Limiyadhara as a part of its country.

• Recently, the Nepalese government gained access to the old maps and started to claim ownership of all three of these regions.

• Nepal is looking from the legal perspective by arguing that the Sugali treaty should be treated as a basis for this border dispute. But, for years, the new map has been considered and no one had objected to it. However, Nepal argues that democracy came there in the 1990s and the monarch was ruling earlier; they say that the Nepalese government represents the best interests of the people and claim that all three of these regions rightfully belong to them.

India - China

"We don't want differences to turn into disputes"

-PM Narendra Modi

• Twenty Indian soldiers were killed on 15th June in Galwan valley, Ladakh. There have been casualties in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, but no precise number has been provided.

• India and China said that there was no firing and the soldiers fought with bare hands, stones, and iron rods.

• Galwan valley is an arid and inhospitable area. It is strategically important because it gives direct access to Aksai Chin. Aksai Chin was once a part of India until it was seized by China during the 1962 war.

• The immediate cause of the issue as given by the Indian army was that China was trying to set up posts in a grey area- an area between the Indian and Chinese border that is not claimed by any of these countries.

• The 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (Border between India and China) between India and China states that neither side shall use force at the Line of Actual Control, which is the de facto border. However, clashes have taken place at the LAC multiple times in the form of hand-to-hand combat, the same way they are taking place now.

• Satellite images show that China is constructing roads in the Galwan valley and potentially damming the Galwan river.

• Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he was unaware of this, and said that the Indian army had illegally crossed the border and entered into Chinese territory.

• But, these tensions aren't just limited to the Galwan valley. They extend to the Pangong Lake and the Hot Springs near Kongka Pass as well.

• China has physically occupied a region along the Pangong lake that is 8 km long. This occupied territory consists of a grey area and Indian territory. There are approximately 4,000-5,000 Chinese soldiers stationed here.

• By occupying heights at the Galwan valley, the Chinese soldiers are at a great advantage. The heights overlook the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road, which was built by India. The Indian troops that travel on this road would face the threat of being targeted by the Chinese army or PLA, making it dangerous for them to make use of this road.

• However, there have been de-escalation efforts. The ten Indian soldiers that were held captive by China after the incident on June 15, were released on 18th June. They were not ill-treated and were found to be in good health after a medical examination.

Reporter: Haneen Farid