ResearchED: Explainer On China Claiming Arunachal Pradesh Areas And Renaming Parts Of It
By Palak Dogra -
China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs recently released a list of 11 locales that have been renamed or “standardized.” There are two land areas, two residential areas, five mountain summits, and two rivers on the list.
According to China’s state-run media, some experts believe that the move to “standardize” some “geographical places” falls under Chinese sovereignty.
This is not the first time China has tried to stoke the flames of India-China ties by renaming sites. Instead, it has done so twice previously. The first list of six locations was revealed in 2017, following the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, and the second list of fifteen names was released in 2021.
In response to China’s proposal, India’s Ministry of External Affairs emphasised that Arunachal Pradesh is an important part of India. “We have seen such reports,” said MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi. “This is not the first time China has attempted something like this. We categorically reject this.”
Bagchi added that Arunachal Pradesh will always be an integral and inalienable part of India and that China’s attempt to invent names will never alter the reality.
This list came only days after the Dalai Lama visited Arunachal Pradesh, which China vehemently condemned. Evidently, India and China have opposing views on the Dalai Lama and Arunachal Pradesh.
According to India, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist community and hence has the authority to minister to his followers in the vast Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Tawang. And, because Arunachal Pradesh is a state of India, whatever happens there is entirely up to India.
However, in China’s opinion, Arunachal Pradesh is not truly India’s. Though it is officially part of India, it is only because of the McMahon Line, a boundary drawn by British imperialists in 1911 that China no longer recognises. Arunachal Pradesh is known as South Tibet by the Chinese government.
Allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh, according to China’s spokesman, might undermine bilateral relations, with India “facing the consequences.”
The Ministry of External Affairs first attempted to assuage China, stating that “ no additional color should be ascribed to the Dalai Lama’s religious and spiritual activities.” Additionally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government reiterated its respect for the “One China” policy, urging China’s government not to generate “ artificial controversies.”
Why Does China Keep Doing This?
The Line of Actual Control (LAC) separates India and China, yet it has been a source of contention for decades. Arunachal Pradesh, the largest state in northeast India, is considered by China to be part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
This interest in Arunachal Pradesh stems from the Tawang district, which is home to Tawang Ganden Namgyal Lhatse or Tawang Monastery, the world’s second-biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery. To support its claims to Arunachal Pradesh, China cites historical linkages between the Tawang monastery and Tibet’s Lhasa monastery.
When the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, he crossed into India via Tawang and sought refuge at the Tawang monastery for a time during China’s crackdown.
Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh is strategically important for India from a military standpoint. Thus, control over the state would benefit China. China is also interested in Arunachal Pradesh’s resources.
Significantly, India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, whereas China estimates it to be roughly 2,000 km. Back in 1949, the Chinese government withdrew the country from “unequal” international treaties it had signed during its “century of humiliation,” and called for a redistribution of all its borders.
Furthermore, China is irritated by India’s growing engagement with the former’s adversaries such as the United States, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam. Furthermore, Indians are dissatisfied with China’s consistent anti-national policies.
Such as China’s attempt to derail UN sanctions against Pakistani terrorists and its refusal to support India’s participation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Many saw India’s move to officially recognise the Dalai Lama as a long-overdue response to Chinese hostility.
Tibet lies at the heart of India-China’s battle for Asian domination. The occupation of Tibet altered the asymmetry between the two sides. China was able to assert geostrategic influence over most of South Asia, challenging India’s regional dominance.
India acknowledges that the loss of Tibet as a buffer zone has weakened the security of its northern borders, necessitating it to keep hundreds of thousands of soldiers along the Himalayan border. Neither of the two sides is correct.