Border disputes between India and China has historical roots. India and China, both were British colonies and the Tibetan plateau was a buffer zone. When the British left India and China, Tibet was expected to remain as a buffer zone between two large nations India and China.
In 1950 china annexed Tibetan land as part of older Chinese kingdom. Following this annexation India and China became neighbours and there developed border disputes.
India-china border disputes have many dimensions or many geopolitical reasons. The prime reason is the high altitude terrain of Tibet region. It is said that those who control Tibet controls Himalayan piedmont and those who control Himalayan piedmont can control the whole of Asia.
Tibet regions in Ladakh plateau, chumby valley and Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh are the pinpoints of Indo-China border dispute. They are strategically important locations whose control gives access to number of Himalayan passes. Those passes are very important for multiple purposes.
Secondly, border disputes are closely related with softpower. If a nation has an advantage over other in a border dispute, it has an advantage over the other and is considered to be stronger nation.
If china can win over India through stronger claims on border lands, Chinese image in the south-Asian region becomes stronger. A stronger nation can win support and can exert considerable influence on smaller neighbours. Thus china aims to build close associate nation in Indian subcontinent similar to Pakistan. Many smaller nations in the Indian subcontinent are door ways to IndianOcean. Presently china depends heavily on Malacca strait for its trade and oil imports.
Similarly India also aspires to become a regional power by pressing its demands strongly on border claims. India needs to control border lands to gain access to Himalayan Rivers and its sources. It is very much important for its energy security. Only a tough image can help India to influence its neighbours, which is very important for building support for its stance on Kashmir problem. It also underlines Indianlegitimacy over Kashmir land which is a message for Pakistan.
Though china argues border land continuously, there are minimum chances India and china go into a full-fledged war.
It can only be considered as game of words. The present situation is mutually accepted by both India and china through an accord signed by both nations long ago. Tensions can arise and may heat up unusually but chances of war are much lesser. Both India and china are nuclear powers. World nations cannot simply sit and watch any possible war between two nuclear powers.
This century is considered as 'century of Asian power'. The geopolitical and economic power pole is shifting towards Asia which was in western region upto last century. In the Asian dominated world, china and India aims to become a super power. China has many economic problems surrounding them which have recently become more glaring. India is on the path of an economic leap forward with its huge demographic dividend, a positive political mood for reforms and a stable democracy. Any slowdown in economic growth will cost both nations heavily, politically and economically. For china it even gets worse by an internal rebellion against communist party domination and restricted civil liberties.
Thus costs of war are too much when compared with the possible gains after war. World has changed a lot, a turmoil in one region will not benefit other regions but will draw down whole world because world is now more connected. Inclusive growth is the norm of the day and a stable south East Asia is a necessity for global aspirations for sustainable and inclusive prosperity.
-- Krishna PrajnaRao