When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited India’s frontier state Arunachal Pradesh recently to inaugurate some projects, China objected to his visit, saying that it “firmly” opposed the trip. The spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry said China does not recognize Arunachal Pradesh as part of India and India has to respect China’s interest and concerns.
This is an atrocious claim by China as the state of Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India since India’s independence. Arunachal Pradesh has a democratically elected government and anybody from any part of India can go there freely, just as any resident of Arunachal Pradesh can go to any part of India to work, live or travel freely.
China’s objections clearly indicate its greedy expansionist policy. China has been targeting neighbouring countries to dominate and control them by launching economic or military aggression. There is little doubt that China thinks that it can say and do anything and get away with it. Obviously, the time has come to control and discipline China and make it realize that its expansionist policy will not go unchallenged.
In the 1950s, China forcibly entered Tibet claiming the place belonged to it. In the process, its military massacred innocent Tibetans, arrested and tortured protesting Tibetans and drove hundreds of them out of China as refugees, who had to seek safety elsewhere.
The respected Dalai Lama had to flee China to protect Tibet’s long term interests. Unfortunately and shamefully, the world’s conscience largely remained silent without condemning China’s aggression in Tibet and Beijing (then Peking) gleefully considered such silence as approval for its misdeeds there. Tibet continues to suffer and Tibetans worldwide do not know when, if and how Tibet could get back its freedom and become an independent country.
Over the past few decades, China has effectively brought Pakistan under its control by exploiting unstable governments in Islamabad and extending huge loans and grants and taking over several vital mines, ports and other installations.
Pakistan has gifted part of its occupied territory in Kashmir to China, accepting its claim over the territory. Pakistan is so much under China’s control that many suspect it to be an extended province of China. The only effective opposition to China in Pakistan may come from the Muslim clergy and extremist Islamic groups, who know that China would seek to suppress them sooner or later. Since the Chinese government can go to great lengths to suppress dissent, it is moot whether even the Muslim clergy can deliver Pakistan from Chinese control.
China has deceptively and cleverly got total control of Hambantota port in debt-ridden Sri Lanka and there is no way that Colombo can get rid of Beijing’s control in the foreseeable future.
In 1962, China launched a bloody military war against India in Ladakh, which it decisively won and now continues to occupy the “conquered territory” with no intention of giving up control of this region. The recent Doklam standoff with India initiated by China is yet another instance of China’s expansionist policy.
It is now very clear that China’s claim over Arunachal Pradesh is part of its long term strategy of occupying neighbouring countries, with little regard for fairness or decorum in dealing with them.
Unlike the case of Tibet, where China sent its military to take over Tibetan territory, it cannot do so similar mannerly in Arunachal Pradesh. Obviously, China is waiting for an appropriate opportunity to do so and will continue to adopt an aggressive posture with regard to the Indian border state.
When China forcibly occupied Tibet, the then Indian government did not protest enough and let China have its way. India let Tibet down in its hour of crisis. India continues to take a stand that Tibet is part of China. Though India has accommodated Tibetan refugees in India, it continues to apply restrictions on Tibetans in India subtly to prevent them from launching a Tibet liberation movement effectively.
By adopting a weak foreign policy towards China, to keep it in good humour in the case of Tibet, India is now paying a heavy price, with its own territory Arunachal Pradesh now being claimed by China.
It is now time that India must question China about its continued occupation of Tibet and persecution of Tibetans. To defend itself against China’s expansionist policy, India has to necessarily adopt an aggressive approach in dealing with China; so Beijing realizes that India cannot be taken for granted. India’s continued efforts to keep China in good humour has become counter- productive and is against Indian interests.
Given global circumstances today and the ongoing trade war between the US and China and several Western countries also realizing that China needs to be controlled, raising the cause of Tibet in every world forum would be the appropriate strategy for India.
(The author is a Trustee for the NGO Nandini Voice For The Deprived. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)