China makes audacious protest

Beijing keen on ensuring Arunachal remains a disputed area


The latest salvo by Beijing, publicly questioning the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the north-eastern state, takes the cake as this is seen as the most audacious protest raised by China over Arunachal. The strong Chinese statement, of course, made no reference to Singh by name.

Singh had toured and addressed an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh on October 3.
Although China had time and again been an irritant for India whenever the issue of Arunachal Pradesh cropped up, Tuesday’s public statement of Beijing exemplifies its stubbornness to ensure that the hilly state is seen as a disputed territory.
This is the first time that China has so strongly protested when it came to Arunachal. It did protest against the PM’s visit to the state earlier this year but did so informally. Singh visited Arunachal on January 31 and February 1, a few days after returning from a trip to China.

Over the last few months, the media has been agog with reports of Chinese incursions in the state. However, India always tried to downplay these as non-events, sometimes not without reason. 

New Delhi did not even protest strongly when China, in August 2009,  successfully blocked  part of a loan worth $ 60 million to India from the Asian Development Bank earmarked for projects in Arunachal Pradesh. Soon after this, it protested against the proposed visit of the Dalai Lama to the state.

Only this month did it come to light that the Chinese embassy in New Delhi has been issuing visas on a separate sheet of passport to residents of Jammu and Kashmir.
Last year, China initially opposed at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group the waiver on trade with India but went along with the consensus at the end.

The two countries have a long history of bilateral tensions culminating in the 1962 war. Despite the warming up of relations in the last two decades, the neighbours also saw nervous ties in the last few years.

China, which has recognised Sikkim, treats Arunachal as a disputed region. This is because the mountainous state shares a 640-mile (1,030-kilometre) unfenced border with China. India says Arunachal is part of its undisputed territory and points at the British-era border known as the McMahon Line that designated the region as part of India. China, however, does not recognise the Line. Rather, it accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.
In its Tuesday statement, China said the two countries had never officially settled the demarcation of their border, and that its stance on the eastern section of the China-India border was consistent and clear-cut. If Arunachal is the irritant on the north-eastern side, India has headache to bear in the north, too. China occupies a chunk of territory in Kashmir that India regards as its own and it runs in to 43,180 sq km of Jammu and Kashmir.

Chinese expert Alka Acharya says it was time there was intervention at highest political level by the two countries to resolve the contentious issues.
A Professor at the Chinese Studies Centre for East Asian Studies, JNU, Acharya admits that  China’s  Tuesday statement was unusually harsh and it followed an increase in tensions on both sides for the last two sides.

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