Chair & Moderator: Ambassador Ashok K. Kantha, Director, ICS
Discussant: Col. Gautam Das, Adjunct Fellow, ICS
China has been making strident remarks with respect to Arunachal Pradesh for some time now. Most recently, China reacted strongly when news about the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state was announced in October 2016. Initially, it remarked that the invitation “will gravely damage peace and stability of the border areas, as well as bilateral relations’. It called upon India to “meet its political commitments on the Tibet-related issues and abide by the consensus reached by the two sides on border issues”. It further called upon India “to not provide platform for separatist activities of the Dalai Lama clique”. Similarly, when US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, visited Arunachal Pradesh around the same time, while warning against “third party meddling”, it reiterated that the visit would “damage the hard-earned peace and tranquillity of the China-India border region”.
Days preceding the Dalai Lama’s visit, China remarked that “India only stands to get hurt” if it fails to “earnestly honor its political pledges”. Just about two days before the visit, it announced that it will take “necessary measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and legitimate interests” and called upon India “to stop its erroneous act of using the Dalai Lama to undermine China’s interests”. It further reminded that “Tibet-related issues bear on China's core interests”. In another official statement on 6 April, China went further to state that “The boundary question and Tibet-related issues bear on China’s core interests”. Thus China progressively heightened its comments on the issue. Following the visit, the Chinese side “stress(ed) that the boundary question and Tibet-related issues bear on the political foundation of China-India relations”.
The Chinese media too picked up their cudgels on the issue. A Global Times editorial remarked: “New Delhi probably overestimates its leverage in the bilateral ties with China” and asked, “can India afford the consequence”? Ye Hailin from CASS warned that the Dalai Lama will become a “bomb” after the latest showdown making India-China relations “more dangerous”. A Chinese scholar suggested that China should use all its resources, including economic, cultural and eventually, military means to preserve its core interests.
Just days following the Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang from 7-11 April, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs on 14 April issued a notice, which transcribed the names of six places in Arunachal Pradesh in the Chinese pinyin format including in Chinese characters and Tibetan alphabets while failing to indicate the original existing names. Significantly, all the five, except for Mechuka (Mainquka as per the latest Chinese nomenclature) falls inside the Tawang district. The notice also included geographical coordinates of the places. China explained that the move was “in accordance with Regulations on the Management of Geographical Names and relevant regulations of the State Council”. It added that the names reflect “China's territorial claim over South Tibet is supported by clear evidence in terms of history, culture and administration”. Further, “more standardized names will be released when the time and condition is right”. The Chinese media, which carried quotes by Chinese scholars was more candid: one opined that the exercise “could serve as a reference or leverage when China and India negotiate border issues in future”.
A number of questions arise as a result: what might the rationale and objective of the recent Chinese actions be? What more might be in store, considering the notice terms the announcement as the first in more to come. Can China’s response this time be considered strident compared to the past given that the Dalai Lama has visited Arunachal Pradesh six times already? If so, what is the reason for the current stridency? What is China trying to signal with its threats and by changing nomenclature of places in Arunachal Pradesh? How seriously must India take their threats? How should India respond to these Chinese actions? The Roundtable will discuss and attempt to address the above and related questions. The dialogue will include review of coverage in the Chinese language media with respect to the latest spate, as well as China’s overall posturing on ‘Zangnan’ and attempt to understand the implications for the border issue and overall India-China relations in the backdrop of the recent tensions.
About the Speakers
Dr. Hemant Adlakha is Associate Professor and Chairperson, Centre for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is also Honorary Fellow, the Institute for Chinese Studies, Delhi. His research on China includes domestic political discourse, foreign policy, language and literature, and cinema. His areas of interest include political culture and civil society discourse in China, state and society in Chinese political theory, political and economic history of modern China.
Ms. Suhasini Haidar is the Diplomatic Editor of The Hindu, one of India’s oldest and most respected national dailies. Prior to this, Suhasini was Foreign Affairs editor and prime time anchor for India’s leading 24-hr English news channel CNN-IBN (2005-2014), where she presented the signature show “WorldView with Suhasini Haidar”, and Correspondent for CNN International’s New Delhi bureau before that. In 2015, she was the recipient of the most prestigious Indian print journalism ‘Prem Bhatia’ award, and has won a series of awards for her work in Television as well. Over the course of her 20-year reporting career, Suhasini has covered the most challenging stories & conflicts from the most diverse regions including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Libya, Lebanon and Syria.
Dr. Tshering Chonzom Bhutia is an Associate Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies. She has a PhD from the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Her thesis was titled ‘Applying Negotiation Theory to the Sino-Tibetan Talks, 1979-2006’. Currently, she is heading a research project that seeks to compare the Indian and Chinese government’s ethnic minority policies. She has a varied work experience including research, editing and programme coordination with organisations such as the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies and the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
About the Discussant
Col Gautam Das is an Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies. He has been fascinated by many aspects of Chinese culture since an early exposure in the Kolkata of the early 1950s. He was practically involved with the Sino-Indian border issue while an Army officer in the period 1968-1991, during which he had both ground exposure as well as General Staff exposure to the Sino-Indian border issue. His interests include Chinese art (painting and three-dimensional), Chinese cuisine, and the Chinese martial arts. He is also interested in Mongolian history and Mongolian horsemanship. He is the author of several books on military matters – military history, Sino-Indian border issues and the border war of 1962, defence policy, and counter-insurgency policy for North-East India.
Chair and Moderator: Ambassador Ashok K Kantha, Director, Institute of Chinese
Chair & Moderator: Amb Ashok K Kantha, Director, ICS
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