Dr. Bhashyam Kasturi has written extensively on terrorism, intelligence systems and Special Forces, in Indian and international journals/newspapers He is presently Associate Editor of Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund in New Delhi. He was awarded Ph.D from Delhi University in 1995 for his research on Mahatma Gandhi. He has taught in several colleges of Delhi University and also served as Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review. Bhashyam Kasturi has written extensively on international affairs and national security in Indian and foreign journals. His first book, “Intelligence Services: Analysis, Organisation and Function” was published in 1996.
It is not the first time that Beijing has officially taken note of and objected to the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh, an area they call as Little Tibet. Therefore, the Chinese official statement in response to the Prime Minister's visit to Arunachal Pradesh as part of the election campaign for the Congress party should have surprised no one. I think it is time to say 'Beijing mind your own business.' For far too long, India has lived under the shadow of the 1962 war and has baulked from contesting outright any statement made by the Chinese.
In the world of diplomacy it may seem that such a reaction would generate ripples across the Chinese lake and lead to unnecessary tensions. But in the world of realpolitik, the answer to this is precisely to state the situation as it is. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has maintained a sanguine silence on the matter, the experience of the last round of media hysteria over the incidents of alleged incursions across the Line of Actual Control in August-September have also demonstrated the lack of a single point public voice on foreign policy.
The frequency of Chinese statements on Arunachal Pradesh is not very close, is of their choosing and timing has to do with certain Indian actions. But each time the statements are substantive. One can go back to 1986, when Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Shuquing said that "some 90,000 square kilometres of Chinese territory" was under Indian occupation. He added that unless India "resolves this key to the overall situation" it would be impossible to reach a settlement. This was followed by Chinese incursions into the Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, which overshadowed the 7th round of border talks in July 1986.
Twenty years later, on November 20, 2006, the China's Ambassador to India Sun Yuxi, said that "the whole of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese territory. And Tawang is only one of the places in it. We are claiming all of that. That is our position." Then in early 2008 when Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing immediately lashed out expressing 'unhappiness' over the visit.
Therefore, one needs to watch out for future Chinese statements such as the one recently made on the PM's electoral visit to Arunachal Pradesh and be prepared for a speedy, single point and clear remark from the Ministry/Minister of External Affairs telling Beijing to back off.
A reading of the Chinese statement emanating from their foreign ministry makes it clear that it means business. It states: Beijing is strongly dissatisfied with the visit to the disputed region by the Indian leader disregarding China's serious concerns. The foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in Beijing: 'We demand the Indian side address China's serious concerns and not trigger disturbance in the disputed region so as to facilitate the healthy development of China-India relations.'
Given this sort of statement can there be any doubt of their intentions? Recall that in June this year, the Chinese refused to endorse the country partnership strategy for India at the Asian Development Bank meeting in Manila, in the board on the grounds that it involved technical assistance funding for the flood and river erosion management project in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims is its territory.
New Delhi has perhaps, belatedly, in the aftermath of the Chinese statement on the PM's visit told Beijing not to get involved in economic infrastructural activities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, particularly in the Northern Areas. This is similar to New Delhi's protests, occasionally made when some infrastructure project is launched in POK.
President Hu Jintao recently made a commitment to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani during the latter's visit to Beijing that China would help in the upgradation of the Karakoram highway that connects Pakistan and China, and support the Neelam-Jhelum hydroelectric project in PoK. China is reported to have something like $1.5 bn in investments in POK in the fields of telecom, infrastructure and mining. And not to forget a major stake in the maintenance and upgradation of the Karakoram highway, built over a twenty year period and operationalised in 1986.
The most telling statements from Beijing can now be expected in November when the Dalai Lama visits Arunchal Pradesh, between 8-15 of the month. And when the leader of the Tibetan government in exile lands in Tawang, it will remind us of the necessity of the Prime Minister doing the same. After all in the game of shadow boxing symbolism often has greater significance than mere word play.
At the end of the day, one needs to situate the entire issue in the prism of India's national interest. The answer to most questions in this regard would be -- yes, we need peace on the borders with China. Yes, we do not want a conflict situation arising. But that is not to shirk from making statements that defend our position clearly and unambiguously. And it has be one voice which states it, authoritatively. To say 'mind your own business' to Beijing does not mean that we are being jingoist. All one is trying to say is let us set our house in order and tell the world who we are.