Chinese needle

The upping of the ante by China on Arunachal Pradesh is a matter of serious concern for India and calls for a considered and firm response from New Delhi. China has always claimed Arunachal, which it calls lower Tibet, as its territory and has been needling India with its claims, as part of the wider border dispute, but the assertions have recently become more strident and aggressive. The protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the state is the latest. Earlier this year, China had unsuccessfully tried to block an ADB loan to Arunachal, taking the bilateral issue to a multilateral forum. Since then, Beijing has tried to put pressure on New Delhi on a number of issues. Border violations by Chinese troops have increased. China has not yet given a satisfactory explanation for issuing stapled visas to residents of Kashmir intending to visit that country.

China timed its expression of ‘strong dissatisfaction’ over the prime minister’s visit with the elections in the state. It is also upset with the proposed visit of the Dalai Lama, persona non grata for Beijing, to the Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, which India has cleared against strong Chinese objections. The protest against the prime minister’s visit is the strongest to date in the recent past and even couches a warning against disregarding China’s concerns and “triggering disturbances in the disputed region.’’ New Delhi has rejected Beijing’s objections and asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. It needs to go beyond routine rejections, look for the possible motives behind China’s increasingly hostile postures and shape its responses accordingly. New Delhi has done well to convey to Beijing its unhappiness over China undertaking projects in PoK.

It is possible that China, Pakistan’s best friend, is putting pressure on India when Indo-Pak relations are in a difficult phase. It might also be conveying its unexpressed apprehensions about India’s growing relations with the US. China might also be viewing India as a future rival for influence in the immediate neighbourhood and the world. Its motives and tactics are often opaque. While India needs to try its best to settle the border dispute, it should also be prepared for more provocations and spoilers and a further souring of relations. Any sign of weakness will not serve India’s national interests. Above all, India should not be found wanting in the eventuality of any qualitative escalation of the present situation.

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