The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s ceremonial but top legislative body, has passed a new land law for the ‘protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas’ which will come into effect from 1 January, state media Xinhua reported.
Asserting that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China are ‘sacred and inviolable’, the country’s national legislature adopted the 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 1 January next year, stipulates that ‘the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China are sacred and inviolable.’
The law is not meant specifically for the border with India; however, the 3,488-km boundary remains disputed, and some experts feel it could create further hurdles in the resolution of the 17-month-long military standoff. Others think the law is just words — what has vexed ties is not domestic Chinese legislation, but their actions on the ground. According to the new law, ‘the state shall take effective measures to strengthen border defence construction, support the economic and social development of the border and open up to the outside world, promote the action of strengthening the border and enriching the people of the border, improve the level of border public services and infrastructure construction, improve the production and living conditions of the border, and encourage and support border residents in border production and life, and promote the coordinated development of border defence construction and border economy and society’.
India on Wednesday hit out at China for its ‘unilateral’ decision to bring about a new land border law and said it is a matter of concern as the legislation can have implications on the existing bilateral pacts on border management and on the overall boundary question. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India expects that China will avoid undertaking action under the pretext of the law that could unilaterally alter the situation in the India-China border areas. He said such a ‘unilateral move’ will have no bearing on the arrangements that both sides have already reached earlier — be it on the boundary question or for maintaining peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). While protecting one’s land is important, expansionism can’t be accepted.