Monday, September 28, 2009

Dealing With The Dragon: Tawang Monastery the bone of contention?

Let's face it, the recent increased Chinese pressure and posturing on Arunachal Pradesh is real. The response needs to be measured, and not hysterical. Dissuasive deterrence holds the key- Namrata Goswami

The intended visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh in the second week of November 2009 to inaugurate a hospital in Tawang district, for which he had donated Rs 20 lakh, is raising Chinese ire.

Border Problems
Once again, the picturesque state of Arunachal Pradesh, the historical bone of contention between India and China, is back in news. China claims 90,000 square kilometres of territory from India; the total land area of Arunachal Pradesh is 83,743 sq km.

The incompatibility between India and China has a historical context and is based on a lack of proper demarcation of the 3,500-km border in the eastern sector. China questions the 1914 McMahon line and argues that the area now known as Arunachal Pradesh belonged to Tibet historically, with the Tawang Monastery having tributary relationship with the Dalai Lama. Since Tibet is now a part of China, goes their argument, so is Arunachal Pradesh. The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, agrees with the Indian position and recognizes Arunachal Pradesh as a part of India. The Buddhist monks in the Tawang Monastery also argue strongly against Chinese claims on their land as having no historical basis or legitimacy whatsoever. The Chinese insecurities become apparent when seen in the perspective of revival of protests in Tibet last year, as the status of Tibet itself remains contested by the Tibetans, both within and outside Tibet.

Another major problem regarding the eastern border between India and China is the different perceptions both countries have about the actual physical demarcation of the border. The worrisome aspect for India in this context is that despite more than two decades of negotiations, India is the only country with which China has not settled its border dispute.

The Chinese activities in Tibet itself, with their plans of diverting the Yarlung Tsangpo (the source of the Brahmaputra in India) is another area of grave concern for us. This diversion will have an enormous negative impact on the eco-system and the people of Northeastern India and Bangladesh. The residents of Arunachal Pradesh will be the first to be affected with possible drought and lack of fresh water because of this change of course. The border dispute between India and China could take on the added dimension of water security, seen by many srategic analysts as the most likely source of conflict in the future.
Dealing with the dragon: Tibet and Tawang Monastery

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