No Map in Sight: The India-China Boundary Dispute

Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to India is the latest in a continuing series of high-level political exchanges between both countries. Political and economic relations have not been better since the 1962 war. 
Mutual economic dependence is growing stronger every year with bilateral trade increasing at a brisk pace. However, despite prolonged negotiations at the political level to resolve the outstanding territorial and boundary dispute between the two countries, there has been little progress over this issue - one that will ultimately decide whether the two Asian giants will clash or cooperate for mutual benefit. 
China continues to be in occupation of and lays claim to large areas of Indian territory. At Aksai Chin in Ladakh, China continues to be in physical possession of approximately 38,000 square kilometres of Indian territory . In addition, Pakistan illegally ceded about 5,200 sq km of Indian territory in the Shaksgam Valley of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, just north of the Siachen Glacier, to China in 1963 under a boundary agreement that India does not recognise.
Through this area, China built the Karakoram highway that now provides a strategic land link between Sinkiang , Tibet and Pakistan. China continues to stake its claim to about 96,000 sq km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh. China 's often stated official position is that the reunification of Chinese territories remains its sacred duty.
It is not so well known that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China , implying de facto control after the 1962 war, is yet to be physically demarcated on the ground and reflected on military maps. The LAC is quite different from the disputed 4,100 km boundary along the McMahon Line. The un-delineated LAC is a major destabilising factor as incidents such as the Nathu La clash of 1967 and the Wang Dung standoff of 1987 can recur. 
The only positive development has been that after over a dozen meetings of the Joint Working Group and the Experts Group, maps reflecting the respective versions of both forces have been exchanged for the least contentious Central Sector, that is, the Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh borders with Tibet, where no fighting had taken place in 1962. The fact that this has not opened the doors to similar exchanges in other sectors highlights how intractable the problem remains. 
Early in 2005, India and China agreed to identify "guiding principles and parameters" for a political solution to the five-decade old dispute. Many foreign policy analysts hailed it as a great leap forward. This is not the first time both countries have signed a "feel-good" agreement with each other. The Border Peace and Tranquility Agreement (BPTA) signed with the Chinese in 1993 and the agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the military relations signed in 1996 were expected to reduce the operational commitments of the army from having to permanently man the difficult LAC with China. However, it has not been possible to withdraw a single soldier from the LAC thus far. 
In fact, despite the 1996 agreement, several incidents of Chinese intrusions at Asaphi La and elsewhere in Arunachal Pradesh have been periodically reported in the press and discussed in the Indian Parliament. While no violent incident has taken place in the recent past, there have been occasions when Indian and Chinese patrols have met face-to-face in areas like the two "fish-tail" shaped protrusions in the north-east corner of Arunachal Pradesh. Such meetings have an element of tension and despite the best operating procedures, the possibility of an armed clash can never be ruled out. 
In the western sector in Ladakh, the LAC is even more ambiguous as the lack of easily recognizable terrain features on the Aksai Chin makes it difficult to accurately co-relate ground and map. Both sides habitually send patrols up to the point where they assume the LAC runs. These patrols leave tell-tale signs behind in the form of burjis (piles of stones), biscuit and cigarette packets and other similar markers in a sort of primitive ritual to lay stake to territory and assert their claim. 
In this light, the Chinese government's unwillingness to exchange maps showing the alignment of the LAC in western and eastern sectors, while at the same time talking of lofty guiding principles and parameters to resolve the territorial and boundary dispute, is neither understandable or condonable. 
It can only be classified as another attempt to put off resolution of the dispute "for future generations to resolve", as Deng Xiao Ping had reportedly told Rajiv Gandhi in 1988.
The military gap between Indian and China is growing steadily. It would not be far-fetched to assume that China 's strategy is to resolve the dispute when it is in a much stronger position in terms of comprehensive national strength so as to dictate terms at best, and maintain the status quo at worst.