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'China does not have legal claim on Tawang'
February 03, 2008 20:08 IST
Indicating that China does not have a solid legal claim on Tawang as it withdrew from there after capturing it in 1962, a former foreign secretary has said its withdrawal from the area in Arunachal Pradesh was a de facto acceptance of the McMahon Line.
"In 1962, China had captured Tawang and yet it withdrew from it and the rest of Arunachal Pradesh largely to what is the McMahon Line, thereby de facto accepting its validity. In the western sector, it did not go back to the pre-1962 line and retained the fruits of its aggression," former top diplomat Kanwal Sibal has said.
In an article in the forthcoming issue of Indian Defence Review, he said if Beijing [Images] needed to hold on to Tawang for religious or security reasons or felt that their legal claim was rock solid, 'they would not have withdrawn'.
Describing Beijing's latest demand on the area now as 'sheer political effrontery', Sibal said, "Its Tawang claim shows absence of any real desire for a border settlement and the tactic is to contrive an issue so as to transfer the responsibility for an impasse on to the Indian side".
Taking a tough line, Sibal said China had rejected the approach of first delineating the Line of Actual Control 'as an attempt to maintain the status quo'.
It was now trying to make the "subsequent approach unworkable by demanding significant territorial adjustments in the east, laying claim on Tawang, notwithstanding the provision in the guidelines on not disturbing settled populations".
Maintaining that two draft Framework Agreements were under discussion of the Joint Working Group, he said once a joint document was finalised on the border issue, the next step of demarcation could begin.
Describing the Chinese as 'tough, unyielding negotiators', Sibal said negotiations with them would be a long haul and 'an early border settlement can be ruled out'.
"With Russia [Images] and its central Asian neighbours, as well as with Burma, China has reached border settlements without any significant territorial give and take, despite initial Chinese demands. The lesson for us is that we have to be resilient and firm," he said.
Maintaining that Chinese military occupation of Tibet had 'dangerous strategic consequences' for India as a buffer was removed, he said this 'should have rung alarm bells' then, "But New Delhi harboured the illusion that it could unilaterally demarcate the boundary on the maps on the basis of historical data and earlier cartographic lines. This strategy failed disastrously".
Though India 'rightly' granted asylum to Dalai Lama [Images], it erred in laying a condition that he would not engage in any political activity on Indian soil, he said.
"We gave up thus the Tibetan card voluntarily and despite the 1962 conflict, we have not retaliated by using Dalai Lama's presence in India and his affinity with us to pointedly pressure China in Tibet," Sibal said, adding the massive infrastructure development in Tibet was intended 'not for border trade but for border domination' by Beijing.
The former foreign secretary, however, welcomed the normalisation process and increased bilateral trade and other relations with China and said whatever the differences, leadership of both nations must maintain a constant dialogue and find common ground as much as possible.
"Better India-China relations also serve our diplomatic needs well in southeast Asia and beyond," he noted.