China has renamed six places in Arunachal Pradesh in retaliation against the Dalai Lama’s visit to India’s easternmost state. The move is apparently aimed at reaffirming Beijing’s territorial sovereignty to the region.
China’s civil affairs ministry carried out the name changes on April 13, a day after the Dalai Lama left Arunachal Pradesh following a nine-day high-profile visit. The visit angered China, which calls Dalai Lama a separatist out to carve an independent homeland within the Chinese mainland.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said: “Let me stress that the Indian government’s indulgence of Dalai Lama activities in disputed eastern section of the India-China boundary and also about his anti-China activities; this is something we are firmly against. These activities are also against the Indian government’s commitments to China.”
Changing the names was a “legitimate” action done in line with Chinese law, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday (April 19), adding it supported Beijing’s territorial claim.
China’s Global Times tabloid reported on Tuesday the civil affairs ministry had “standardized in Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet the names of six places in South Tibet, which India calls ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, in accordance with the regulations of the State Council”.
The report added, “The official names of the six places using the Roman alphabet are Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidêngarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bümo La and Namkapub Ri.”
Foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said Wednesday: “These names reflect from another side that China’s territorial claim over South Tibet is supported by clear evidence in terms of history, culture and administration.”
Meanwhile, Long Xingchun, director of the Centre for Indian Studies at the China West Normal University, told Hindustan Times: “This is a very strong signal from China. It seems to be because of the Dalai Lama visit. China could have been prepared to this and was waiting for the right time and opportunity. India seems to have miscalculated China’s response (to the visit).”
Beijing says Arunachal Pradesh, on the 3,488-km disputed border, is part of South Tibet with close Buddhist links to the Tibet Autonomous Region. Official Chinese maps show the state as part of South Tibet.
The Global Times reported Sino-India border disputes were centered in South Tibet. The Chinese government has never recognized Arunachal Pradesh, it added.
According to Hindustan Times, the Chinese government, state media and experts perceive a pattern in how India is “using” the issue of Tibet and the Dalai Lama – the invitation to the leader of the Tibetan government in exile to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration in May 2014, the Dalai Lama’s meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee in December and now his visit to Arunachal Pradesh indicates to China that India has hardened its stand on Tibet-related issues.
Concession on Tawang can resolve India-China border dispute
The border dispute between China and India can be resolved if New Delhi accepts Beijing’s claim over strategically vital Tawang region in Arunachal Pradesh, the Hindustan Times quoted a former Chinese diplomat as saying last month.
Dai Bingguo, who served as the China’s boundary negotiator with India from 2003 to 2013, said, “If the Indian side takes care of China’s concerns in the eastern sector of their border, the Chinese side will respond accordingly and address India’s concerns elsewhere.”
Elaborating China’s stand, Dai said, “The disputed territory in the eastern sector of the China-India boundary, including Tawang, is inalienable from China’s Tibet in terms of cultural background and administrative jurisdiction.”
He said that colonial British government which drew the “McMahon Line” accepted Beijing’s claim on Tawang. “Even British colonialists who drew the illegal McMahon Line respected China’s jurisdiction over Tawang and admitted that Tawang was part of China’s Tibet,” Dai said.
Interestingly, former National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon who was India’s Special Representative for border talks till 2014, has mentioned the issue in his recently released book “Choices: Inside the Making of India’s Foreign Policy”.
While China demanded concessions in the Western sector before the 1962 war, it changed the line to East after 1980s. “Chinese officials began saying in the 1980s that Beijing would compromise only if India made major adjustments first, adding that once India indicated concessions in the East, China would indicate concessions in the West,” Menon wrote in the book.
“In 1985, China specified that the concession it was seeking in the East was Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, something that any government of India would find difficult to accept, as this was settled area that had sent representatives to every Indian Parliament since 1950,” he wrote.
“The Indian Supreme Court also held in the Berubari case in 1956 that the government could not cede sovereign territory to another government without a constitutional amendment, though it could made adjustments and rectifications in the boundaries of India,” according to Menon.
Menon wrote that former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during his visit to India in 1960 “suggested that China might recognize the McMahon line boundary in the East in return to India accepting China’s claim in the West” to provide strategic depth for China along the Aksai Chin road between Xinjiang and Tibet, which is now China National Highway 219.
Menon said India for the first time had Chinese troops at the border only after the People’s Liberation of Army (PLA) took control of Tibet.
In 2014, hundreds of Chinese troops moved into a territory claimed by India, sparking the standoff on the remote mountainous frontier of Ladakh. India said the Chinese troops wanted to extend a road they were building on their side of the border into territory claimed by India. China agreed not to extend the road into the disputed territory. In return, India agreed to demolish a recently built observation hut, according to the Global Security.