China said on Thursday that its new land border law will not affect the implementation of existing border treaties and urged relevant countries to avoid making “undue speculation” about a “normal legislation”.
China’s national legislature – the National People’s Congress (NPC) – on October 23 adopted the new law on the protection and exploitation of the land border areas which drew sharp reaction from India as it was passed amid the protracted military standoff between the two sides in eastern Ladakh region.
On Wednesday, India hit out at Beijing for bringing out the new land border law and said it expects China to avoid taking any action under the “pretext” of the legislation that could “unilaterally” alter the situation in the border areas.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi described China’s decision to bring out the law as a matter of “concern” as it can have implications on the existing bilateral pacts on the management of the border and the overall boundary question.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
Responding to questions on the Land Border Law, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “it is a normal domestic legislation that serves our realistic needs and also confirms to international practice.”
“This law has clear stipulations on China’s cooperation with its neighbouring countries and the handling of the land border issues,” he said at a regular foreign ministry briefing here.
In an apparent response to India’s concerns, Wang said, “it will not affect China’s implementation of existing border treaties nor will it change existing practice in our cooperation with neighbouring countries.”
“It does not mean that there is a change in our position on the border development issue,” he said.
To a specific question about India’s criticism of the law, Wang said, “I just briefed you on the considerations behind the law. We hope relevant countries can avoid making undue speculation about the normal legislation in China.”
Earlier, elaborating on the provisions of the new law adopted by the NPC last week, Wang said President Xi Jinping signed a decree No.99 on the same day announcing that the law will come into effect from January 1, 2022.
“The Article 62 of the law identifies the leading mechanism and duties of 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,” he said.
“China has 22,000 kms 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,” he 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 confirms to international practice,” Wang said.
India and Bhutan are the two countries with which China is yet to finalise the border agreements, while Beijing resolved the boundary disputes with 12 other neighbours.
While India-China border disputes cover 3,488-km along the Line of Actual Control, the China-Bhutan dispute covers about 400 km.
India and China have already held over 20 rounds of border talks under the framework of the Special Representatives dialogue which was set up to find an early solution to the border dispute.
Both sides have been maintaining that pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas.
In his statement, the MEA Spokesperson had also said that India expects 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 the Government of India has consistently maintained is an illegal and invalid agreement,” the spokesperson said.
Bagchi was responding to media queries on China’s new land boundary law that came in the midst of a 17-month border standoff between the two countries in eastern Ladakh.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
The tension escalated following a deadly clash in Galwan Valley on June 15 last year.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February and in the Gogra area in August.
The last round of military talks on October 10 ended in a stalemate following which both sides blamed each other for the impasse.