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The Lessons of the China-India War

NEW DELHI – This month marks the 50th anniversary of China’s military attack on India, the only foreign war that communist-ruled China has won. Yet that war failed to resolve the disputes between the world’s two most populous countries, and its legacy continues to weigh down the bilateral relationship. While their economic heft is drawing increasing international attention, their underlying strategic rivalry over issues ranging from land and water to geopolitical influence in other regions usually attracts less notice.

The international importance of the China-India relationship reflects the fact that together they account for 37% of humanity. Although they represent markedly different cultures and competing models of development, they share a historical similarity that helps shape both countries’ diplomacy: each freed itself from colonial powers around the same time.