Awkward Neighbors: Why Chinese Don’t Migrate to India

Tibetans in India.
Tibetans from India are migrating to the West for better opportunities. (Image: Wonderlane via Flickr)

In July, the government of India released its census data for 2001-2011. Though the fact that the information was released eight years after data collection surprised many people, what made the statistics interesting are the numbers of Chinese migrants. During the 10-year period, the number of overall Chinese migrants fell from 23,712 to 14,951. The number of Chinese who stayed in the country for two decades or more declined by over 50 percent, from 11,588 to 5,164.

Dwindling numbers

The reason for the sharp fall in Chinese migrants is attributed to two reasons. The first is that the economic prosperity in China has thwarted many locals from migrating to India. When a Chinese person migrates to the U.S., he can save significant money and send it back home due to the higher value of the American dollar. However, such an advantage does not exist in India. A Chinese person will only be able to earn roughly the same or even less than what he earns back home, making the case for Indian emigration very unattractive.

The second factor is the drop in Tibetan refugees in India. After Beijing created a sort of digital prison along the Indo-China border, Tibetans find it increasingly difficult to cross into Indian territory. As a consequence, the number of Tibetan refugees coming to India has fallen from about 3,000 per year in 2007 to just 80 in 2017. The fact that India does not count the children of Tibetan parents as Chinese migrants, but as Indian citizens, is also responsible for the lower numbers. Plus, Tibetans already settled in India are leaving for better opportunities in the West.

The number of Chinese migrants to India has dropped between 2001 and 2011.
The number of Chinese migrants to India dropped between 2001 and 2011. (Image: shankar s via Flickr)

“Tibetan refugees in India are often at a disadvantage… Due to their citizenship, they face problems in buying properties or starting businesses. Since many live in rather insular communities, they also find it difficult to integrate into the mainstream… [The trend of Tibetans moving abroad] started with the United States taking in around a thousand Tibetans in the 1990s. Those who made it started bringing in their families. It had a knock-on effect,” Tenzing Sonam, a filmmaker who has documented the Tibetan conflict in China, said to the South China Morning Post.

Strengthening border defenses

India is also strengthening its border defense. In January, it was revealed that the government planned to build 44 new roads close to the Chinese border at a cost of US$2.9 billion. The roads were proposed to be constructed in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. The construction of new roads will give the country several strategic benefits.

India is building new roads along its Chinese border to deploy troops more efficiently during a conflict.
India is building new roads along its Chinese border to deploy troops more efficiently during a conflict. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

“First, this will bring connectivity, communication facilities and economic activity to border areas. Second, it will ease the military movement. Currently, it requires several days to reach remote points and that happens their patrolling… Third, the transfer of military equipment will be faster once the roads are in place. The transfer is presently time-consuming due to disassembling and reassembling,” according to Jayadeva Ranade, president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy (South China Morning Post).

The construction will be undertaken by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) in association with the Border Roads Organization (BRO), a group comprised of military personnel that operates under the defense ministry. Back in 1962, India suffered a defeat in a conflict with Chinese forces. A parliamentary panel report highlighted that the Chinese had taken advantage of their superior road network.

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