Context: The skirmishes and the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at Naku La in Sikkim last month, in an area of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has highlighted the historical Sikkim-Tibet Convention of 1890 which is a proof of India’s ownership of the territory.

More on the news:

  • It was unusual for Chinese troops to open up a part of the LAC that has not been in contention before.
  • Although meetings between former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in 2003 and maps exchanged subsequently indicated that India recognised the Tibetan Autonomous Region as a part of China, and Beijing recognised Sikkim as a State of the Indian union.
    • The boundary at Sikkim, while undisputed, remains undemarcated on the ground.

About the convention

  • According to the Convention, the boundary in the area is based on the watershed principles. 
  • Its Article 1 states, “The boundary of Sikkim and Tibet shall be the crest of the mountain range separating the waters flowing into the Sikkim Teesta and its affluents from waters flowing into the Tibetan Mochu and northwards into other rivers of Tibet. 
  • It follows the above mentioned water-parting to the point where it meets Nipal Territory”.
  • No ambiguity: India accepted the 1890 treaty as “the basis for alignment”, but the treaty had only been “partially implemented on the ground”. 
    • Prior to Sikkim’s merger with India in 1975, the Chinese side accepted the Watershed based alignment of the International Border (IB).

Source: the Hindu


  • Hidden Chinese agenda: Diplomatic experts point out that China may also be opening up a front in Sikkim due to the ambiguous official position of the boundary.

With a perceptible shift in that stand, and incidents of more intrusive patrols by the PLA, experts surmise that not only will the two sides need to negotiate to resolve the stand-off at Naku La, but New Delhi should also have more diplomatic focus on laying down the line firmly to Beijing on the boundary in Sikkim.

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