Tuesday, October 13, 2009



As the time approaches for the proposed visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh next month to declare open a hospital built with contributions from the Tibetan exile community, China has stepped up its rhetoric against India. The recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh to canvass for the candidates of his party in the just concluded elections to the State Assembly of Arunachal Pradesh on October 12 has been used as a pretext for the renewed criticism of the Indian policy on Arunachal Pradesh. Dr.Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh has been projected as his visit to the so-called Southern Tibet.

2. China never fails to bring on record its protests and concerns over the visits of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh for whatever purpose.The fact that it has done so after the recent electoral visit of Dr.Manmohan Singh should not, therefore, have been a matter of surprise and undue concern. What is disturbing is the kind of language used by a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Office in commenting on the visit and the even stronger language used by the "Global Times", in an editorial on the subject on October 14,2009. The "Global Times" is a sister publication of the Party-controlled "People's Daily".

3. The fresh campaign against India on the subject was triggered off by the comments of a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.Ma Zhaoxu, the spokesperson, was quoted by the "Global Times" as saying on October 13 that China was "seriously dissatisfied" by the visit of the Indian Prime Minister, who was accused of "ignoring China's concerns by visiting southern Tibet". The "Global Times" quoted the spokesperson as saying further as follows: "China and India have not reached any formal agreement on the border issue.We demand that the Indian side pay attention to the serious and just concerns of the Chinese side and not provoke incidents in the disputed region, in order to facilitate the healthy development of China-Indian relations."

4.There has been a difference in the translation into English of the spokesperson's remarks by the BBC and the "Global Times". While the BBC quoted the spokesperson as telling India "not to trigger disturbances in the disputed region", the "Global Times" spoke of the spokesperson telling India " not to not provoke incidents in the disputed region."

5.The editorial of the "Global Times" titled "Indian PM's visit a provocative move" described the Indian Prime Minister's visit as a "provocative and dangerous move" and alleged that the visit was designed to put the area under India's de facto administration. It accuses India of encouraging the "immigration of more than one million Indians to the region" and warns: "India, however, will make a fatal error if it mistakes China's approach for weakness. The Chinese government and public regard territorial integrity as a core national interest, one that must be defended with every means......The disputed border area is of strategic importance, and hence, India's recent moves – including Singh's trip and approving past visits to the region by the Dalai Lama – send the wrong signal. That could have dangerous consequences."

6. The text of the editorial is annexed.

7. The conventional wisdom is that since any military confrontation could affect China's economic development and its aspirations of rising as a major power on par with the US, Beijing will restrict itself to angry rhetoric and will not indulge in any ground action in the Arunachal Pradesh area. This wisdom has some validity, but overlooks the fact that China is feeling increasingly insecure in its peripheral areas because of the recent violent uprisings by the Tibetans last year and the Uighurs this year. Its increasing nervousness and feelings of insecurity in its border areas could lead to irrational and unpredictable reflexes vis-a-vis the Arunachal Pradesh issue.

8. We should avoid countering China's renewed rhetoric with our own rhetoric. While maintaining our cool, we should press ahead with the construction of the infrastructure in the Arunachal Pradesh area and strengthening our defensive capabilities there without talking about them from the roof-top. We should not advise His Holiness not to visit Tawang. When he visits Tawang, we should pay close attention to his personal security. The period before and after the visit of His Holiness to Tawang should call for extra vigilance from our side. China may not
indulge in any ground action till the visit of President Barack Obama to China next month is over. What it might do after Obama's visit is a matter which needs close monitoring. (14-10-09)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies.E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


"Global Times" editorial of October 14,2009

Indian PM's visit a provocative move

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made another provocative and dangerous move by visiting the East Section of the China-India Boundary, which India calls Arunachal Pradesh, on October 3 ahead of a local legislative election.

The visit is designed to put the area, a disputed border region between China and India, under the de facto administration of India.

China has completed land border demarcation with all of its neighboring countries but India.

Territorial disputes stand as a seemingly intractable issue between the two largest emerging economies in the world.

Though in similar developmental circumstances, China and India seem to have more confrontations than common ground.In the past decades, more than 10 rounds of negotiations held at various levels and through different mechanisms

The 120,000 square kilometers of the so-called Arunachal Pradesh, around the size of South China's Fujian Province, is at the center of the controversy. India currently occupies 90,000 square kilometers of the area.

Over the years, India has intensified its effective control over the area by encouraging the immigration of more than 1 million Indians to the region, and applying for loans from international bodies for public facilities projects in the region.

India is also increasing military deployment, along with sophisticated equipment, in the area. India's hawks are dangerously fanning public sentiment fearing a "China threat."

China favors peaceful resolution of territorial disputes through negotiation and consultation with its neighbors.

In the past the Chinese government has sought to build consensus in border negotiations through making concessions in exchange for reciprocal action.

China has maintained that same approach with India. India, however, will make a fatal error if it mistakes China's approach for weakness.

The Chinese government and public regard territorial integrity as a core national interest, one that must be defended with every means.

A stable border is crucial to the economic development of both China and India.

The disputed border area is of strategic importance, and hence, India's recent moves – including Singh's trip and approving past visits to the region by the Dalai Lama – send the wrong signal. That could have dangerous consequences.

Furthermore, India's actions add to the difficulties that have stalled negotiations on the region in the past.

It looks as if a breakthrough in talks is unlikely to happen any time soon.


Ashok said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neo said...

@ Ashok
I guess the issue is more than winning arguments. When words don't resolve issue, we must have something more than words to defend us, which I'm sorry to say, we don't.


Anjaneya said...

ramanji, the similarities in Chinese behaviour between 1962 and now are too many to be coincident. However, i am happy to note that India is being much more circumspect. I believe the opposition has been taken into confidence in this matter and hysteria is being avoided. This is good from the point of preventing a public backlash, but why not inform the public about infrastructure projects going on in the border areas. PM and home minister must visit many places and do some "ribbon cutting" of roads, airfields and hospitals. surely, China is more that capable of interpreting such symbolism. HH Dalai Lama MUST visit Tawang. Every scenario and argument works in favor of HH Dalai Lamas visit to Tawang. The only thing is if GOI has the confidence.

Shaan said...

I completely agree with you. Instead of responding to rhetoric with rhetoric we must do some real work on ground. Slowly the Arunachal issue is getting internationalized with many international journalists arguing that the dispute dates back to the imperialistic British Raj. It is irritating when they say that Arunachal Pradesh was part of Tibet and since Tibet is now a part of China, Arunachal Pradesh has become a dispute between China and India. Here is an article by Jeremy Kahn a journalist with Newsweek - http://thefastertimes.com/india/2009/10/12/tibet-is-the-new-taiwan-india-and-the-world-ought-to-worry

My response to his article is given below.

"China's success lies in making the majority, including you to accept the logic that it is perfectly okay for China to claim Tibet based on historical influences (though they shrink and expand with time). If it is perfectly okay for China to claim Tibet in this manner, then it should be perfectly okay for Britain to claim India, the United States and many other countries and for India to claim Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and many other countries. This is a dangerous logic, which if allowed will set a precedent and lead to endless conflicts all over the world.

By the way I need to only point out that even the word 'Himalaya' is Indian (Sanskrit) and hence India has more claim to the Himalayan regions than China. Throughout history there had been limited cultural exchanges directly between China and India which proves that China was never our neighbor. For many analysts/writers it is easy to call upon India to compromise and handover territory or suppress the freedom of the Tibetan refugees. But it is very difficult for the Indian govt to do this because 1) Himalayas is a region that is entwined with the culture and religions of India 2) Even though India has hostility with countries like Pakistan, culturally we are similar, so any compromise with Pakistan or any other nation of the Indian subcontinent will be easier to make than a compromise with China, a country that does not fit into the South Asian cultural landscape. 3) In India guests are considered as Gods (Adhithi devo bhava) and the Indian public is well aware of the plight of Tibetans, though the Indian govt has accepted Tibet as a part of China in principle to avoid conflict.

I also want to make it clear that conflicts with China over Himalayan regions is a question of culture and hence it is very different from the Taiwan issue where it is just a question of political structure."

walterreally187 said...

"There is a
growing realisation in recent months that the cause of international and regional peace and security might be served better by treating China as a possible security partner than as a security threat."

"A positive change in the attitude of the Indian civil society to China can come about only if this Indian perception of Chinese malevolence is lessened."

Bet you're tongue-tied now, aren't you Mr. Raman? Reading articles claiming the Indian media's demonisation of China are insulting to Indians all over the world. And your reproduced words written earlier only add to that.

Our security establishment retorts with feeble remarks claiming that the land is ours. Do we even have to indulge in such frail behaviour?

Have you seen the voter turnout in the recent Arunachal Pradesh elections? No? Well I suggest you get right on it. That is reflective of what the people think of China's claims to their territory. But of course, to you and other learned members of the security establishment, that is demonisation of China. How stupid of the people. A statement by a leader to the effect of saying that 'we don't respond to the same nonsense more than once' would do wonders to show who's running the debate. Rather than claim land that belongs to you by seemingly nervous assertions.

It's unbelievable to read such articles by otherwise well informed commentators. Case in point - Jeremy Kahn's recent article in Newsweek about how India needs to tread carefully in its own territory! And how China's actions are nothing but a manifestation of its concerns in Tibet, which, according to him, extend to AP!

Would like to see your views on the recent article.