China and India are well know for their border dispute but at the same time it appears that not all of their border is disputed:

enter image description here

So why not open some road/rail crossings along the parts of the border which are not disputed? Surely this would be economically beneficial for connecting the worlds largest countries?


3 Answers 3


The political will doesn't exist to make it happen, and given the physical geography of the border region, it would take a lot of cash and political will.

The border between India and China is some of the hardest terrain in the world. It is a nearly unbroken line of mountains. In the areas in which the border is undisputed, it is because there is a clear ridge of mountains which mark the border. Connecting by an overland route would be very challenging. Building a tunnel would be very costly.

The area immediately north of India is Tibet. It is sparsely populated and there is an ongoing independence movement (which is supported by India). The route from the densely populated Ganges valley to the Eastern Lowlands of China would be a very long one. It is easier and probably cheaper to fly. China has little interest in building links between Tibet and India.

I don't know much about the local people. I suspect that many are semi-nomadic or tribal herders. I doubt they would find much use for a road.

For trade, there is a much simpler way: put on a boat and go round Malaysia to Shanghai or Hong Kong. It may be slower, but it doesn't require major infrastructure investment.

Or, if you really want to go overland, and can sort out the paperwork, you can go via Nepal or Myanmar.

India and China have both proved that they are capable of major works. If the will was there, a road could be built if both sides wanted it to prove something. Right now, though they both want no road to prove that they are unwilling to compromise on the border.

  • 2
    There was a connecting passage called the Chinese-Indian highway, which was the lifeline of the Chinese for necessary supplies to fight with the Japanese during WWII.
    – r13
    Apr 25, 2021 at 19:34
  • @r13: Quite a bit of those supplies went by air, over "The Hump", precisely because land travel was so difficult. Not that the air route was by any means easy: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hump
    – jamesqf
    Apr 26, 2021 at 2:47
  • @jamessqf Yes. The road was difficult but supplemented the airlift, which was the only way to get supplies prior to the road was constructed by the American and local laborers. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/….
    – r13
    Apr 26, 2021 at 3:15
  • @r13: But the reason for a road (the Ledo Road) over that route is that the Japanese had occupied most of Burma and closed the Burma road. It also seems (I can't find a decent map :-() to go across Burma, so is a much easier (though still difficult) route than anything that would go directly from India to China or Tibet. Note that there are road border crossings between China & Myanmar.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 26, 2021 at 17:15
  • @jamesqf Correct on all counts. But for reason that I wasn't clear of, the China-Myanmar route was less used/mentioned during WWII, maybe because of the Japanese occupation that cut off the road.
    – r13
    Apr 26, 2021 at 17:32

The distance between the most industrialized region of China, its Eastern coast and India is great enough such that maritime transport is likely going to remain the most economical mode of trade. E.g. the distance between Shenzen and Dehli is some 3,750km, well over the 1,500km taken to be the efficiency breakpoint between rail and naval transport. Still, Chongqing (in central China) is some 2,800 km away from Dehli. (China has been seeing a move of factories towards its inland as the coast becomes basically too expensive for industry and [thus] the hub for information and financial sectors.)

But the Western part of China is least industrialized. It's true that both China and India have been building their road infrastructure in the region mainly for the purpose of better military control at the moment, so a shift in industrialization and politics (i.e. cooler heads prevailing) could be such that they would see some benefits in using what they already built for more cooperative purposes. Ürümqi, the capital of Xianjing is only some 1,900 km from Dehli, but it's also utterly landlocked (the farthest city from any ocean, according to Wikipedia), so it would make some sense to build some kind of cross-border infrastructure linking it to India for instance. But also consider that at 3.5M to 4.3M inhabitants (depending whether you count nearby reagion) it's a relatively small city compared to many others in China (ranked somewhere below the 20 largest). And at least in the current circumstances (pertaining to their treatment of Uighurs) China has some trouble selling anything Xianjing-made under that "brand", at least in the West. So routing (final, e.g. assembly) production through other areas is beneficial for China in that way too...


Take a look at the following map.

enter image description here

*source of the map.

The entire India-China border is rigged with the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges which are at least 13,120 feet high from sea level. In order to open borders between India and China, and in order to make them economically viable, both countries will have to have the political and diplomatic will and also have a mindset of peaceful coexistence.

Resolving land disputes with China is practically impossible for India as China demands the sovereignty of an entire province of India named Arunachal Pradesh, and India demands the sovereignty of Aksai Chin, controlled by China. Hence, the disputes between India and China continue to stick out.

Since 1962, Pakistan resolved all land disputes with China and both of them constructed a long highway named Karakoram Highway which is now being used by China to transport goods for export through Gwadar Port under the arrangement of CPEC.

Very recently China signed a pact with Nepal to construct roads and railways so that Nepal can have access to the Chinese ports in the Eastern part of China.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .