Both China and India are two of the fastest growing economies attracting a tremendous amount of global attention. Since the past decade pulsating economic links has been a vital part of their bilateral partnership. Both the countries have vouched to enhance their bilateral and multilateral co-operation and are constantly on the process of forming better policies to facilitate this. However, the biggest impediment that the two countries face on their path of improved bilateral ties is the massive border conflict between them.
China and India for long have been engaged in border disputes where China claims most part of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as its own.
China claims India’s Northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and refers to the region as South Tibet or Zangnan. The border issues have escalated in the recent past with the frequent intrusion by Chinese troops in the Indian territory.
Both the countries, after signing numerable pacts and agreements, are facing challenges for the peaceful borer negotiations.
China and India fought a border war in 1962 and the border issues concerning Arunachal Pradesh has since escalated and no resolution has evolved.
The border negotiations between China and India is not visible in the foreseeable future but further conflict, especially centered around the Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang region is plausible.
Importance of Tawang
China’s growing interest in the Arunachal Pradesh and particularly in the Tawang region raises an array of questions around it. Why is China interested in claiming Arunachal Pradesh? What is China’s ulterior motive behind it? There could be various speculations to these questions. The starting point of which could be numerous political and strategic reasons behind China’s agenda of fiercely claiming Arunachal Pradesh.
China bases its claim on Arunachal Pradesh by citing reason that there existed historical ties between the Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh and the Lhasa Monastery of Tibet and hence, since Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China so should be Arunachal Pradesh. Also China says that the sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso was born in Tawang and therefore Arunachal is more so a part of Tibet that makes it a territory of China.
There are a number of reasons behind this assertion of Arunachal Pradesh being a part of China.
Firstly it is the Tibet factor. The Upper Siang district in Tawang has a visible and strong Tibetan presence and China is threatened by a clandestine Pan-Tibetan Movement from across the Indo-China border. The fears of this movement are vindicated by the presence of Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.
Further, Arunachal Pradesh and particularly the region of Tawang holds a place of major strategic importance in the Chinese context. By geographical contiguity, Arunachal Pradesh provides security to the Kingdom of Bhutan in its entire eastern flank. If Tawang is absorbed by China, then Bhutan would be surrounded by China on both its flank which would be unfavorable for India’s security and very alluring for China.
Again, if any future conflict with China arises then Arunachal Pradesh is the shortest route to China, therefore making it a location of key strategic importance to India which is highly disadvantageous for China.
Also if China plans any air operations, then Arunachal Pradesh would provide India with multi- layered air-defence deployments on the ground as deterrence which would be detrimental for China.
Another area of core importance is that if China manages to encroach upon Tawang; it would also give China easy access to the Siliguri Corridor or the Chicken’s neck of India which is a location of imperative strategic importance.
The Siliguri Corridor is a narrow stretch of land that connects India with its northeastern states. There is a major threat that India faces from China which is of an operation that could be launched by the People’s Liberation Army of China to block the Siliguri Corridor and thus disconnect the entire region of Northeast India in an enormous thump.
China, realizing the immense strategic importance of this region, is allegedly involved in funding various insurgency groups in India’s northeast, who can be of help to China in future. These insurgency groups are anyway fighting for various causes against Indian government. This is a severe concern for India’s security and sovereignty.
The above mentioned political and strategic motives provide enough reason for the People’s Republic of China to acquire Arunachal Pradesh and predominantly the region of Tawang.
Implications for India
China’s aggressive stance towards the region of Arunachal Pradesh and principally towards Tawang should be like a clarion call to India as a threat to its security and sovereignty. India cannot afford to ignore such major belligerence by China towards the region of Arunachal Pradesh as simply a case of muscle flexing.
In terms of security measures, India has to install the best possible defence for the Siliguri Corridor, which is one of the most volatile locations. Indian artillery must dominate the whole of the Chumbi valley where the Siliguri Corridor lies and the India Air Force must be prepared at all times to counter an air attack by China.
In terms of infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh, a huge plan has to be implemented to improve its dilapidated situation. The border roads in Arunachal are almost non-existent, therefore even if the number of troops stationed there has been increased, the roads make logistics and supply line very arduous to maintain.
The dangerous mountain terrain also makes it difficult for air traffic to flow. All of these factors prove to be utterly adverse for the smooth employment of adequate defence forces by India. Hence these factors must be seriously considered by India and immediate measures should be taken to improve the situation.
Another factor is also the trust of the local people of Arunachal Pradesh towards the Indian government. Although allegiance of the local people of Arunachal Pradesh is towards the Indian Government, the pitiable infrastructure in the state does raise a sense of neglect amongst the people of the region.
The state of Arunachal Pradesh suffers from lack of sufficient power supply, education facilities, health care, livelihood avenues and surface communication. The Indian government has spent ample funds on its infrastructural development but when it comes to the execution of the plan, it always remains inadequate.
Hence, the Indian government has to ensure proper implementation of its plans to better the infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh so that the local people don’t feel neglected and get lured by the phenomenal improvement in the infrastructure of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China.
India should also provide a certain sense of assurance and security to the people of Arunachal Pradesh in terms of transparency in the measures being taken by the Border Security Forces to ensure their safety and well being.
Considering how volatile the Sino- Indian border dispute is, the possibility of a mutually acceptable agreement doesn’t seem possible anytime soon. And hence India should take the above mentioned measures and more to ensure its safety and sovereignty on the face of any possible conflict in the near future.
However, it can safely be said that if India and China can find a suitable concord to overcome their border disputes, the bilateral ties between them will reach a startling high which will derive wondrous results for both India and China’s economy and progress.