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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

China's locus standi on Arunachal?

October 20, 2009

Brahma Chellaney, Strategic Affairs Expert
Times of India
October 16, 2009

The basis of its territorial claim is laughable

Has China got any locus standi on Arunachal? A
"yes" answer would be an invitation to India to
assert its locus standi in the matter of Tibet,
given that China’s claim to Arunachal is based
not on any Han connection, but on alleged
historical links with Tibet. In making that
claim, Beijing indeed advertises that Tibet is
the core issue and that it covets Arunachal as a
cultural patio to Tibet — a classic attempt at incremental annexation.

The Dalai Lama has publicly said that Arunachal
historically was not part of Tibet. That is why,
as he has explained, the 1914 Simla Agreement, of
which the then-independent Tibet was a party, did
not include present day Arunachal Pradesh in
Tibet. China does not recognise the McMahon Line
because its acceptance of the 1914 border will be
admission that Tibet was once independent,
seriously undercutting the legitimacy of its
control over an increasingly restive Tibet.

Beijing thus fashioned its claim to Arunachal
originally as a bargaining chip to compel India
to recognise Chinese control over Aksai Chin.
That was the reason why in the 1962 war, China
withdrew from the Arunachal areas it invaded but
retained its territorial gains in Ladakh.

But as part of its hardening stance toward India,
China has since 2006 publicly raked up the
long-dormant Arunachal issue. The basis of its
territorial claim, however, is laughable. Just
because the 6th Dalai Lama was born in the 17th
century in Arunachal’s Tawang district, Beijing
claims that the state belongs to Tibet and thus is part of China.

By that argument, it can also lay claim to
Mongolia as the 4th Dalai Lama was born there in
1589. The traditional ecclesiastical links
between Mongolia and Tibet actually have been
closer than those between Arunachal and Tibet. In
fact, as part of its cartographic dismemberment
of Tibet, China has hived off the birthplaces of
the 7th, 10th, 11th and present Dalai Lama from Tibet.

The issue in India-China relations up to 1962 was
Aksai Chin; the issue now is Arunachal. If
history is not to repeat itself, India must put
the spotlight on the source of China’s claim -- Tibet.

There is also a China-bashing lobby at work

It is an accepted norm that when bilateral
negotiations are on, the conflicting parties do
maintain the status quo. Two decades after the
Sino-Indian border clashes, during Rajiv Gandhi’s
premiership, India and China agreed to make a new
beginning to resolve all disputes between the two countries.

The basic principle of restarting the
negotiations was that the two sides will
concentrate on confidence-building measures and
will not rake up the more complicated issues like
the border dispute. It worked well for over two
decades and the two sides built an atmosphere of
mutual confidence. In a much better situation,
the two countries appointed high-ranking
representatives to resolve the border dispute.
The 13th round of talks resulted in considerable progress.

Unfortunately, during this period China did not
strictly adhere to the norm of maintaining status
quo. On several occasions, it issued statements
that did threaten the shattering of confidence.
The latest is the statement on the PM’s visit to
election-bound Arunachal Pradesh. In the interest
of retaining mutual confidence, China should have
avoided its belated statement.

But that does not justify the China-bashing
campaign conducted by a certain section of the
Indian media. During the last two-three months,
certain sections of the media, both electronic
and print, have attempted to create an anti-China
hysteria. Cooked-up stories of border violations
were flashed up. The campaign reached absurd
levels. It was so ferocious that the government
had to threaten the journalists indulging in it of legal action.

After the government’s threat the campaign
subsided for a while. Now the statement of the
Chinese foreign ministry on Arunachal Pradesh has
provided a fresh weapon to these China baiters.
There seems to be a certain lobby, most probably
the arms manufacturers of the developed
countries, who are interested in promoting hostilities between India and China.

The two countries are incidentally the most
promising ones in economic development. That is
another aspect that needs to be kept in mind
while taking a position on the present
controversy. It will be in the larger interest of
the two countries to avoid such controversies and
concentrate on confidence building measures.
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