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BEIJING: Asserting that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are “sacred and inviolable”, the country’s national legislature has adopted a new law on the protection and exploitation of the land border areas, which could have a bearing on Beijing’s border dispute with India.

The law, which becomes operational from January 1 next year, stipulates that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China are sacred and inviolable”, it said.
The Land Borders Law will not necessarily change how border security is handled, but it reflects China’s growing confidence in its capability to manage its frontiers.

The state shall take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines them, the report said. Chinese military and military police — the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police Force — are responsible for guarding the border against any “invasion, encroachment, infiltration, provocation”.

The law stipulates that China can close its border if a war or other armed conflict nearby threatens border security
The state shall, following the principle of equality, mutual trust and friendly consultation, handle land border-related affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues, it said.

The law states that the Chinese military “shall carry out border duties”, including “organising drills” and “resolutely prevent, stop and combat invasion, encroachment, provocation and other acts”.

A significant aspect of the new law includes state support for the construction of border towns, improving their functioning and strengthening supporting capacity for the construction.

Members of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress approved the law at the closing meeting of a legislative session on Saturday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The law also stipulates that the state shall take measures to strengthen border defence, 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 defence and social, economic development in border areas, it said.

China in recent years has been strengthening border infrastructure, including the establishment of air, rail and road networks. It also launched a bullet train in Tibet which extends up to Nyingchi, the border town close to Arunachal Pradesh.

Besides that, China also began constructing a number of villages close to the border with proper infrastructure in Tibet which have become an essential and effective part of border defence, state-run Global Times reported on October 19.

“By the end of 2020, Tibet had built more than 600 well-off, high-standard border villages. The roads connecting border villages are also quite accessible. At least 130 border roads have been newly built or reconstructed with a total length of 3,080 km,” it quoted a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
The new law calls for the establishment of trade areas and border economic cooperation zones at the borders. It also calls for improving the ecological environment along the border besides epidemic control and maintaining flood and fire control.

India and Bhutan are the two countries with which China is yet to finalise border agreements. On October 14, China and Bhutan signed an MoU firming up a three-step roadmap for expediting the boundary negotiations, which Beijing said will make a “meaningful contribution” to speed up the border talks and establishment of diplomatic ties.

Last week, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the developments along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh have “seriously disturbed” the peace and tranquillity in border areas, and this has obviously had an impact on the broader relationship too.

The foreign secretary, in his remarks at a seminar on October 21 on “Leveraging China’s Economy”, also referred to foreign minister S Jaishankar’s remarks that the ability of India and China to work together will determine the Asian century.

“For this to materialise, peace and tranquillity in the border areas is a sine qua non. He (Jaishankar) has also clearly articulated that development of our ties can only be based on mutuality — mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests should guide this process,” Shringla said.

“We hope that the Chinese side will work with us to bring a satisfactory resolution to the current issues so as to make progress on our bilateral relations keeping in view each other’s sensitivities, aspirations and interests,” the foreign secretary said.

While India-China border disputes cover 3,488-km along the LAC, the China-Bhutan dispute covers about 400 km.

The new land border law was adopted amid the continued stand-off between the Indian and Chinese militaries in eastern Ladakh.