THIS is a familiar exercise. China resents India’s rule over Arunachal Pradesh. New Delhi, on the other hand, ignores the protests and treats the Northeast territory its own. Beijing has been irked by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. The noise was, however, louder when the Dalai Lama went there earlier. China and India have seldom agreed on where the actual border line lies. Beijing attacked India in 1962 when New Delhi tried to get back its territory. However, this time India showed its muscles with the stand-off at Doklam. China had to withdraw its forces behind the present border. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s presence at BRICS in September after the face-off, did reduce tension.
The positive side of the trip is the reiteration by the two countries to fight against terrorists. But here too Beijing elucidated its own. It has again renewed the proposed UN resolution which sought to put a ban on Azar Masood, a well known terrorist. He could not be punished. The friendship of China and Pakistan is only getting stronger to the concern of New Delhi. Not long ago, Beijing had begun stapling visas of Indians visiting Arunachal. China wanted to indicate that it was a “separate territory” not part of India. New Delhi bore humiliation quietly. In the past China had accepted without demur the maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as India’s territory. To recall the dispute, is over a small territory lying between Arunachal and China’s border. The status of Arunachal Pradesh has been seldom questioned. Tibet for China is like India’s Kashmir which too has raised the standard of independence. There is, however, one difference: Dalai Lama is willing to accept an autonomous status within China. Kashmir today wants independence. Maybe, Kashmiris will come round to accept a similar status one day. The problem is so complicated that a minor change can lead to a major catastrophe. It is not worth risking.
I have visited Bomdila Pass from where the Dalai Lama entered India to seek asylum. His land, Tibet, had been occupied by China, which also has destroyed the Tibetans culture. The Chinese have imposed communism and shown no respect for either Dalai Lama or his monastery. The Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh has brought back the memories of the days before the Chinese annexed Tibet. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, did not raise any objection at that time because he was on personal terms with Chinese Premier Chu-En Lai. It is another story that he betrayed Nehru and attacked India. It occupied thousands of kilometers of India. It has shown no intention to vacate it.
Tibet is another story of betrayal. True, it was under the suzerainty of Beijing but the autonomy of Tibet was considered unviable. Suzerainty means a government exercising political control over a dependent state. Suzerainty does not mean absorption. Tibet was not even a part of China when India agreed to its suzerainty of China. Beijing betrayed Nehru again when it made the Dalai Lama’s stay at Lhasa impossible. The biggest betrayal was when China attacked India eight years later, in 1962. The Dalai Lama’s visit may not have raised doubts about Tibet but it renewed the debate of its annexation by Beijing once again. China called his visit a “provocation”. It’s warning to India that the Dalai Lama’s visit would affect the normal relations between the two countries. It intensified with Doklam. Yet, India managed to hold its own.
In fact, China’s problems with India have roots in the British demarcation of the India-China border. China refuses to acknowledge the MacMahon Line that demarcates Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of India. Any activity that takes place in this area is viewed by China skeptically. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to the “disputed’’ territory despite Chinese protest showed that New Delhi was prepared for hostilities of it comes to that pass. Then the Indian soldiers did not have shoes for a mountain combat. India is now a power to reckon with.
It looks as if China would go on provoking India to exhausts patience. When war is ruled out this is the only option China has. How to retaliate, without resorting to hostilities is the situation India faces. Beijing is trying to revive the India-China Bhai Bhai scenario. New Delhi cannot trust Beijing, particularly when it is trying to encircle India. China has given a big loan to Nepal. The port which Sri Lanka is building is at the behest of China. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is happy that China is trying to placate her. All should realise that India is no push over now. Apart from war, India has many options. Taiwan is a trump card. It can revive the debate on two Chinas. The question of terrorism is always there. Prime Minister Narendra Modi agreed with a Chinese leader that they share common concern over terrorism.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.