China's top legislature on October 23 voted to adopt a new law on the protection and exploitation of the country's land border areas, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022 as per the Xinhua. The law was approved at the closing meeting of a legislative session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
In response India's Ministry of External Affairs, in a press release on October 27 stated, "We have noted that China has passed a new "Land Boundary Law” on 23 October 2021. The law states among other things that China abides by treaties concluded with or jointly acceded to by foreign countries on land boundary affairs. It also has provisions to carry out reorganisation of districts in the border areas. It may be noted that India and China have still not resolved the boundary question. Both sides have agreed to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable resolution to the Boundary Question through consultations on an equal footing. We have also concluded several bilateral agreements, protocols and arrangements to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC in India-China border areas in the interim".
The MEA Press Release added, " In this regard, China’s unilateral decision to bring about a legislation which can have implication on our existing bilateral arrangements on border management as well as on the boundary question is of concern to us. Such unilateral move 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 tranquillity along the LAC in India-China Border areas. We also expect that China will avoid undertaking action under the pretext of this law which could unilaterally alter the situation in the India-China border areas. Furthermore, the passage of this new law does not in our view confer any legitimacy to the so-called China Pakistan "Boundary Agreement” of 1963 which Government of India has consistently maintained is an illegal and invalid agreement.”
The main focus of the law is to stipulate, “sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People's Republic of China are sacred and inviolable”.
The Law makes it incumbent of the state to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines territorial sovereignty and land boundaries, it says.
While this was in any case the role of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), constitutional and legal approval to the deployments has now been confirmed as per the law.
This is likely to increase the PLA’s vigilance and also assertiveness on the border given that now it is legally bound to implement the mandate for safeguarding territorial sovereignty.
The law also stipulates that the state shall take measures to strengthen border defense, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas, improve public services and infrastructure in such areas, encourage and support people's life and work there, and promote coordination between border defense and social, economic development in border areas.
While these actions were already in vogue as China has been carrying out establishment of dual locations the law will further strengthen the PLA and border forces attempts to improve the habitat and also seek greater resources for strengthening the socio economic and defence construct can be allocated.
The Law indicates that, state shall, following the principle of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighboring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues.
Importantly the stipulation that borer disputes should be resolved through negotiations is significant in the context of ongoing India China Standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
India also has an expansive border area development programme.
India’s Border Area Development Programme (BADP) was introduced in the year 1993-94 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
The implementation of BADP is on participatory and decentralized basis through the Panchayati Raj institutions, Autonomous Councils and local bodies.
India will have to evolve an accelerated BADP on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the McMahon Line to compete with the build up.
There is unlikely to be an impact on resolution of the India China Boundary issues as the Border infrastructure and Boundary will be seen differently.
Border villages in many areas are in the depth and not necessarily on the front line, thus this does not in any way denote China's acceptance of the boundary with India and this should not be seen as creation of a fait accompli