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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh

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Over the last week, India and China have been in a war of words over Arunachal Pradesh or Tawang as China calls it. So what is this land dispute with China all about. I doubt whether many Indians would be aware about it. The mainstream media all also rarely covers such issues.

It all goes back to the ancient times. The present Arunachal Pradesh was a part of Tibet. Tibet was an independent country Tibeten culture was distinct from Mandarin culture. By now Buddhism had spread to Tibet. However, from the 13th century onwards Tibet was under the control of the Mongolsho also controlled vast stretches of China. It was now that Buddhism began to spread rapidly in China and Mongolia. Tibet has had wars with the kingdoms of Ladakh, Bhutan and Nepal, losing many battles and winning a few.

Since the early eighteen century, the Manchu rulers of China have made claims on Tibet. However, the China empire was in a decline and Tibet managed to assert its independence. With rise of Communist Russia, the British began extending its influence in the region.The British forced the Tibetans to sign a trade treaty which opened Tibet’s borders to British India. In 1907, Britain also entered into a treaty with Russia which recognised Chinese suzerainty over Tibet.

After China was defeated by Japan in a series of battles in the early twentieth century, Chinese control over Tibet waned. Britain, Tibet and China held negotiations in Simla in 1913 and 1914 to resolve the boundaries between India, China and Tibet. The negotiations broke down and Henry McMahon, the then British Indian foreign secretary and the chief British negotiator, unilaterally demarcated the Indo-Tibetan border. Approximately 9,000 square kilometres of traditional Tibetan territory in southern Tibet (the Tawang region) was given to India (which now forms the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh). McMahon also recognised Chinese suzerainty over Tibet and affirmed that Tibet was a part of China. China did not agree to this Simla convention and hence, this treaty became a bilateral agreement between India and Tibet.

This border is also the McMahon Line or Line of Actual Control(LAC). Chinese refuse to recognise Tibet as a separate country and thus according to them the 1913 agreement between India and Tibet is not valid. While the Indian side claims that Tibet was independent and thus Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India.

To add to India acknowledged that Tibet was a part of China in a treaty concluded in April 1954. The Chinese did not bring up the border issue at the 1954 conference, the issue was supposed to be settled. China which had occupied Tibet began land reforms. As a result of Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 which created a lot of sympathies for the Tibetians in India. Chinese began suspecting that India had designs on the region. China attacked India in 1962 and easily captured the disputed territory. It was however forced to retreat after the US, USSR and UK pledged millitary support to India.

Like all border issues, this one doesn't looks to be solved anytime sooner.


1. Wikipedia

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