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Interview with M Taylor Fravel, the premier expert on China's border disputes

Last updated on: October 13, 2009 13:15 IST

Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao share a toast at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing January 14, 2008.
Photographs: Ng Han Guan/Reuters
M Taylor Fravel believes that India has little reason to worry about the alleged Chinese incursions near Mount Gya and that an increased troop density and the resultant increase in problems do not presage an aggressive move by China.

Dr Fravel is perhaps the premier expert on China's border problems -- although he himself denies it. As MIT's faculty site describes him, Dr Fravel, the Cecil and Ida Green Career Development Associate Professor of Political Science and member of the Security Studies Program at MIT, studies international relations, with a focus on international security, China and East Asia.

He has also authored a book on China's border disputes, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China's Territorial Disputes. A Rhodes Scholar who studied at Oxford University, he has a PhD from Stanford University and a graduate degree from the London School of Economics.

In an interview with's P Rajendran, Dr Fravel argues that China has beefed up border security and associated infrastructure along all of its borders not just the one with India, although it has settled all its land border disputes, except those with India and Bhutan. He also suggests that India has tried to make most of the concessions that China was willing to offer, thus influencing the intensity of the conflict.

Dr Fravel believes that while territorial disputes are always intensely emotional, both sides need to sit down and reach a mature compromise on the matter.

As you see it, what is the genesis of India's border problem with China?

The problem goes back to the period of state formation of both modern India and the People's Republic of China.

Are you referring to issues over the McMahon Line?

No, I'm referring to the period after which in