Friday, June 22, 2007

Sparring with China over Arunachal Pradesh

China has shown a disconcerting tendency to resurrect its claims over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh every now and then. A few weeks ago, the Indian governement decided to call off a study trip to China by IAS probationers because the Chinese government refused a visa to a probationer who happened to be from Arunachal Pradesh. China's rationale: AP is part of China, hence the question of issuing a visa to somebody from there does not arise.

In his most recent meeting with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of a G-8 meet in Germany, PM Manmohan Singh sought to soft pedal the dispute over Arunachal. However, B Raman notes in an article in Rediff that India has finally chosen to do some plain-speaking on the subject, even if the plain talk does not emanate from the PM.

Raman writes:

While our prime minister has not openly articulated any sense of unease over the Chinese determination to get Tawang and over the strengthening of China's military-related capabilities in Tibet right up to its border with India, other senior ministers such as External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony have shown a refreshingly new readiness to call a spade a spade in public.

Talking to journalists in Shillong on June 16, Mukherjee said 'he had made it clear to his new Chinese counterpart that any elected Government of India is not permitted by the provisions of the Constitution to part with any part of our land that sends representatives to the Indian Parliament.'

The minister added: 'The days of Hitler are over. After the Second World War, no country captures land of another country in the present global context. That is why there is a civilised mechanism of discussions and dialogue to sort out border disputes. We sit around the table and discuss disputes to resolve them.'

The international community has recognised that the days of coveting the territory of another country in the name of historic legitimacy are over, but unfortunately, not China and Al Qaeda.

Antony told journalists in New Delhi on June 18, 'China has been building infrastructure (near the Line of Actual Control). We are also building infrastructure. Nobody can prevent both sides. There is nothing wrong in that. They have the right to build infrastructure on their territory. We have the right to do that on ours. We are also trying to hasten the development of our infrastructure. They have their perception (about Arunachal Pradesh). On our part, we are very categorical that Arunachal Pradesh is part of India.'

This tough talk is appropriate but one wonders how much it changes the ground realities. There are two areas of dispute: Aksai Chin in the west and Arunachal in the east. Aksai Chin then was more crucial to China than Arunachal because through Aksai Chin ran the road linking Sinkiang with Tibet. China believed the road vital to maintaining its grip on Tibet. As a result, it was willing to forgo its claims in Arunachal in return for Indian concessions in Aksai China. Nehru rebuffed the offer. After the war, China tightened its grip on Aksai China and withdrew to pre- war positions in Arunachal.

In recent years, China's approach has been to treat Aksai Chin as history and to re-assert its claims on Arunachal. At the very least, it would like the Tawang region there to be handed back to it. As Raman notes, China now believes that it needs Tawang to seal its hold over Tibet once and for all.

Raman also notes a point I have made earlier. The Indo-US alliance is not so much about India (and the US) wanting to encircle China as about India reacting finally to China's determined attempts to encircle India ini collaboration with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and, possibly, Nepal. India has thus far not been able to respond effectively for two reasons. One, its historical estrangement from the US. And, two, the relative weakness of its economy (which has duly reflected on its defence capability).

Both these factors have changed dramatically in recent years. The Indian economy's fortunes have changed for the better. And the US, while recognising India's economic strength, also recognises India's usefulness as a counter to a rising China. The Indo-US nuclear deal is really about this strategic alliance between India and the US. The nuclear part is a sideshow but a necessary one. The US cannot transfer sophisticated defence and other technologies to India unless it is seen to have brought India broadly within the non-proliferation regime.

There you have the answer to a question that many critics of the Indo-US nuclear deal have raised: why can't we have a closer relationship with the US minus the nuclear deal? You can't because, without some understanding being reached on India's nuclear status, the rest of it can't happen.


Vivek Kumar said...

16 years into the service.. and the 1991 batch of IAS is still in probation! Heh.

Krishnan said...

Well ... if the Minister said that the days of Hitler were over, he better go talk with Bal Thackeray ... Here is a quote from an article in the New Republic posted on May 18, 2007 authored by a Isaac Chotiner

"As for Thackeray's affection for the F├╝hrer, he told an Asian newspaper, "I am a great admirer of Hitler, and I am not ashamed to say so! ... Actually, we have too much sham-democracy in this country. What India really needs is a dictator who will rule benevolently, but with an iron hand."

I suppose the Shiv Sena can decide to secede Maharashtra (and Mumbai) from India throw all the foreigners out and require Visas and Passports.

T T Ram Mohan said...

Vivek, I seem to have got the detail wrong- if, as you say, it is the 1991 officer batch and not probationary officers, I stand corrected.


Anonymous said...

We have seen stuff like this in the past. China's economy is essentially state capitalism. State Capitalism uses instruments of the state like military power to expand markets. They want Arunachal (a small market which they could have given their huge manufacturing base if they cooperate economically with India) and then the next step will be the Bay of Bengal.

Remember the Nazis. That was a state capitalist system. They tried to take over Europe and fell flat on their face. They have now achieved the same thing in a cooperative manner--the EU--no blood no tears.

Private capitalism competes on the basis of price and quality. The Chinese will be much better served if they study history and do not emulate the Nazis.

Having travelled in Arunachal including Tawang I can testify that people there, mostly Buddhist, are very comfortable being a part of India. China is alien to them.

Anonymous said...

Indian side blabbers a lot. Nehru also did after in his folly we lost Aksai Chin territory. We are always in a beggar situation, even from Pakistan. India never asserts itself, does not develop defense technology. Our military today cannot take an onslaught from the Chinese. The only way to deter them will be Nuclear, alas our missile does not reach Beijing of Shanghai, and there is nothing in eastern China.
Chinese military ventured 12 miles into India, detained and disarmed the Indian soldier is plain shameful, if not shot at least they needed to be apprehended and returned to the Chinese thru correct channels. India lacks the technology and the initiative to defend it borders and wants history to repeat. In fact the government has strict instruction not to say anything to the Chinese that repeatedly violate the LAC. We are such a big country and still just look at smaller countries like Pakistan as adversaries. It is like a man trying to fight with a child. Look at China, building roads, infrastructure, and population right on the LAC.
There has been recent buildup of forces all along the border. Why? Are we provoking a war? Why have they military buildup right on the border?
My father served the Indian Army. Served both the Eastern and the Western sector, even fought all 3 wars. These lost lives were futile. The Indian Army is slave to the leadership and thus will never insist on strengthening it borders. We have to be diplomatic and not be aggressive, but in this situation we are ceding territorial sanctity for which Lata may sing “Aye mere watan ke logon, phir aankh mein bhar lo pani”, which is plain timid.
Why has our defense budget not skyrocketed, just a plain 20 billion rupees a year (from 570 to 590, which was absorbed by increases in pay) is not way near that of China? This timid nature has left us into very hot waters many times and we cannot let that happen.

Anonymous said...

We can only dream. Once China has South Tibet, we can send the Indians packing from Assam. We can only dream. Perhaps one day it will be a reality.

Anonymous said...

India should'nt give in to those criminals and communists in china. We indians have problems, but we try to solve them with ballots and with help of our allies like england and the US.

Communist china and pakistan are the two enimies of culture and civilization in asia!

An Indian in Germany

Anonymous said...

Arunachal Pradesh has been part of China for thousands of years.

Arunachal Pradesh was signed over to the BRITISH during the BRITISH INVASION OF TIBET.

This land rightfully belongs to China, INDIA HAS NO CLAIM ON IT. Just because the British stole Arunachal Pradesh from China doesn’t mean that YOU GET IT!

Anonymous said...

Legally, China have every right to claim Arunachal as their's. Morover I am more than confident that Arunachal can only develop under China, because Chinese can eradicate corruption easily, which is a sole detriment to development.