India-China standoff: ‘New law will not alter China’s position on border issues’
China’s new land border law will not impact existing boundary treaties or change the country’s position on border-related questions, Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday.
A ministry spokesperson added, without naming India, that countries should avoid speculating about a Chinese domestic law.
Beijing’s response comes a day after New Delhi expressed concerns about the legislation.
China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), passed the law last Saturday specifying how the military and local authorities will govern and guard the country’s 22,000km of land border shared with 14 countries including India.
The new law, which will be implemented from January 1, has been promulgated amid a protracted military standoff between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border, in eastern Ladakh.
The law, which says China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are “sacred and inviolable”, merges military defence of China’s land borders with improving social and economic development in border areas.
When specifically asked about India’s concerns on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin said: “We hope relevant countries can avoid making undue speculation about the normal legislation in China. This law has clear stipulations on China’s cooperation with its neighbouring countries and the handling of the land border issues. It will not affect China’s implementation of existing border treaties nor will it change existing practice in our cooperation with neighbouring countries.
On Monday, India’s external affairs ministry had put out a statement voicing its concerns about the legislation. “China’s unilateral decision to bring about a legislation which can have implications on our existing bilateral arrangements on border management as well as on the boundary question is of concern to us,” the ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, however, said it will not change China’s position on border issues.
“It (the new law) does not mean that there is a change in our position on the border development issue,” Wang said in his response to a question on the implication of the law.
Explaining the law, Wang said the law identifies the leading mechanism and duties of the departments of military and localities in implementing the law. “It sets the rules for the demarcation procedures and also covers the areas of defence and management of borders as far as international cooperation (is concerned),” he said.
“China has 22,000km of land borders. It has 14 land neighbours. The promulgation of the law is to coordinate and have unified standards for strengthening border management and advance relevant cooperation,” Wang said.
“This is an important measure in advancing the rule of law. It is a normal domestic legislation that serves our realistic needs and also conforms to international practice,” he said. “This law has clear stipulations on China’s cooperation with its neighbouring countries and the handling of the land border issues.”
Wang only made a passing reference to the Chinese military’s role in border management but the new law strengthens a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) policy to work closely with civilians staying in border areas.
“Under the leadership of the Central Military Commission, relevant military organs shall organise, guide and coordinate the defence and control of land borders, maintain social stability, handle emergencies and cooperate in border defence and other related work,” Article 7 of the law says.
India and China have been locked in a border row for 17 months, a standoff which has seen a deadly skirmish in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on June 15, 2020, when troops from both sides fought each other hand-to-hand and with rods and stones for hours.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash, the first fatalities on the LAC since 1975; four Chinese soldiers were also killed and one injured.