A lot has been said about the violent protests in Tibet. The question that arises now is, how is India affected by this conflict and how can we support their struggle, if at all? Recently, the Indian Prime Minister visited Arunachal Pradesh. While addressing a rally in Itanagar, he said that Arunachal Pradesh is India’s land of the rising sun. China lodged its protest on Manmohan Singh’s assertion over this claim of India. China has always said that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of China. Officials on the Indian side are numb since then over an issue, which has the potential to turn into a controversy.
Pranab Mukherjee said, on February 27, that China has claimed 9000 sq km of Indian territory including Tawang in Arunachal. China even denied a visa to IAS officer from Arunachal Pradesh when around 100 IAS officers were going for official visit to China, sometime back. However, India did not react to that issue. China has been claiming Arunachal Pradesh as a part of its territory for a long time, but, the silence from New Delhi is definitely a concern.
What is the dispute all about?
China officially claims 90,000 sq km of land in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. But it is mainly interested in Tawang district. This district borders Tibet and Bhutan. China says that district belonged to Tibet and hence, wants India to return it in order to settle the border dispute.
Coming to the current crisis in Tibet, the country has a history of at least 1300 years of Independence from China. In 821 A.D. both countries signed a treaty and recognized Tibet and China to be independent nations. During the 13th and 14th century, both China and Tibet came under the influence of the Mongol Empire. Mongols conquered China while Tibetans and Mongols established the unique ‘priest patron’ relationship, also know as CHOYON. The Mongol Empire ended in the mid 14th century. Mongolia became a separate country and by 15th century, political authority in Tibet passed into the hands of religious hegemonies and then, the institution of the Dalai Lama was formalized, and became a legitimate political representative of Tibet. In 1639, the fifth Dalai Lama established another CHOYON relationship with the Manchu Empire. Manchu occupied China and established the Manchu dynasty. Manchu officials lived in Tibet from 1728 to 1911. In 1911, Sun Yat Sen, declared Manchus as foreigners and not ethnic Chinese and declared China as a republic. In 1914, China claimed Tibet but Tibet continued to be fully sovereign, until it was invaded by China. China claims that both China and Tibet came under influence of Mongols, so it is believed to be one nation. But this claim was not recognized for, which China carried on gross violations of human rights post 1949 invasion. This invasion marked the border dispute with India.
When Tibet declared itself as independent nation in 1912, the British rulers in India convened a meeting at Simla to ensure that violence in Tibet did not reach India, which lead to signing of Simla convention between China, India and Tibet. The accord gave China suzerainty over most of Tibet and boundary defined under this treaty know as McMahon line. However, later after signing the treaty, China reneged saying the ‘provincial government’ of Tibet had no right to sign such an accord. It then went on to stake claim to huge areas of land surrounding Tibet, which included Aksai Chin in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh in east. After occupying Tibet, China occupied a large tract (approx. 38000 km) of Aksai Chin and build national highway 29, connecting it to eastern province of Xinjiang, which was considered as an illegal occupation by China.
Tibet suffered after it was invaded by China. It made a plea to the United Nations (UN) but UN was unable to take any decision at that time. India also never protested against Chinese intrusion in Tibet. India now looks to maintain a healthy relation with China due to pressure from the business community and hence, the Tibet issue had taken a backstage. The government must realise that they have some responsibility towards Tibet, and India has failed so far to exert any pressure on China.
In November 2007, MPs from Arunachal Pradesh brought in notice to government of India that Chinese incursion into the state are becoming more frequent. The official figures quote 146 incursions in 2007. Chinese are even preventing locals from going up to regions where they had been going for years. China is pursuing the same policy it followed in Aksai Chin, ‘claim-repeat the claim-grab-hold-let time pass’. China openly claims Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of their country. India today has no support or sympathy from the world when China made such claims. Indian government has not learnt any lesson from Aksai Chin. The silence from New Delhi can cost us Arunachal Pradesh. It even disturbs the local people on both sides ion the line of control, for which India needs to take bold steps.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dittmeyer/2356883007/]