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Arunachal: The land of rising ire
February 12, 2008
During his recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh [Images], lovingly referred to it as 'our land of the rising sun'. But, actually, it is fast turning into a land of the rising ire on both the Chinese and Indian sides. Of the two, India has always meticulously adhered to diplomatic circumspection, whereas China has been direct and forthright without worrying about protocol or propriety, or even about damaging good relations.
For instance, just on the eve of the Chinese President, Hu Jintao's Delhi visit in November 2006, the Chinese Ambassador publicly set forth his country's claim to Arunachal Pradesh, knowing full well that this would cast a dark shadow on the visit, robbing it of any significance.
Neither this categorical assertion nor the earlier ones had ever been contradicted by the Chinese government at the highest levels. Indeed, the pattern in the timing of the claim suggests that the Chinese deliberately intend it to neutralise any undue importance being attached to VIP visits from either country. Any number of agreements signed and declarations issued on confidence-building measures and the harping on the five principles of panchsheel have not deterred the Chinese government from sticking to their position on the border dispute.
Indeed, as regards Arunachal Pradesh, the situation has got worse. Whereas in the past China's interest was confined to the district of Tawang, in recent times, it has blatantly enlarged its claim to cover the whole state. China had no qualm in blocking the visit to China of IAS probationers from Arunachal Pradesh on the ground of non-recognition of the state as part of Indian territory. The latest episode in which China has ticked off the prime minister for visiting Arunachal Pradesh beats all previous record of brazenness in dictating to a country of India's credentials on what it should do or desist from doing.
These painful digs at India are becoming increasingly frequent. They raise the question whether China is at all interested in forging a friendly relationship with India. Such a question assumes piquancy in the light of the history of China's behaviour from the time of Jawaharlal Nehru and Zhou En Lai. Whenever China felt that it had a right to a territory or a course of action, it had never hesitated to exercise it, regardless of protest or criticism. It annexed Tibet without a thought to its independent status, and appropriated 38,000 square km of Aksai Chin, falling within Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir [Images], and built a highway connecting it with its eastern province of Xinjiang.
I was in charge of political developments and security affairs in the Union home ministry before, during and after the China's invasion of India in 1962 and have personal knowledge of the virulent abuses ('running dog of imperialism' was the mildest) it showered in its broadcasts day in and day out on Nehru who gave respectability to China by being the first to recognise the regime, fought for a quarter of a century in the Security Council and UN bodies for installing it as a permanent member and went all out to cultivate its friendship, even to the extent of turning the other cheek, as it were, when it occupied Tibet and Aksai Chin.
Knowing Pakistan-instigated terrorist attacks on India, China has helped build its nuclear arsenal and supplied over 70 per cent of its military equipment, including some deadly missiles.
From all these instances, it is obvious that China can be impressed not by conciliatory or euphemistic responses, but only by bluntly telling it where it gets off in its own language.