Arunachal Pradesh in the Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Constant Claims, Changing Politics

Published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘Arunachal Pradesh in the Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute: Constant Claims, Changing Politics’, in Gurudas Das, C. Joshua Thomas and Nani Bath (eds), Voices from the Border: Response to Chinese Claim over Arunachal Pradesh (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2015), 48-62.

Abstract

The main point of contention in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute was originally the Aksai Chin area in the Indian northwest. In the mid-1980s, however, the core of the dispute shifted eastward to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. This essay makes the argument that while Arunachal Pradesh remains central to the boundary dispute its significance for the two parties to the dispute has varied over time. For China, the shift in emphasis to Arunachal was in large measure tied to the Tibet question, and this emphasis has, if anything, become more important in recent years as instability and protests in Tibet have increased. For India too, Arunachal’s significance has grown, owing mostly due to the increased Chinese attention. But India also appears to be moving from defending Arunachal militarily within a purely bilateral context to defending Arunachal and strengthening Indian claims in the international context.

This essay also argues that Arunachal ought to be seen in the Sino-Indian relationship not only within the context of the boundary dispute but also within the framework of centre-periphery relations in China and India and in the larger context of the differences between the Chinese and Indian political systems. The nature of Arunachal Pradesh’s relations with the rest of India, including the Indian central government, is important not just for the Indian body politic but also for Sino-Indian relations and for Beijing’s relations with Tibet. If in India, this centre-periphery relationship is a just and equitable one, maintaining a fair and necessary balance between local aspirations for peaceful and sustainable development alongside national security considerations, then India and Arunachal can become the model to follow for China and Tibet – it is in this way that Arunachal will best fulfill its role as the ‘first line of defence for India.’

This essay is divided into four sections including a conclusion. The first section looks at how Arunachal Pradesh is currently involved in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute, the second, looks at how China’s stress on Arunachal is a part of its inability to stabilize Tibet; and the third section looks at India’s own relationship with Arunachal.

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China and Pakistan: Towards Increasing Dissonance?

Presentation titled, “Sino-Pak Partnership: Changing Strategically” at International Workshop on Recent Security Challenges in the Asia Pacific and India-China Relations, Institute of Chinese Communist Studies, Taipei, Taiwan, 31 July 2013.

A. an important objective of the Sino-Pak relationship is to keep India off-balance.

a. Sino-Pak military cooperation is the primary method                                 i.      this involves the Chinese sale of conventional weapons  as well as earlier transfers of nuclear weapons

ii.      today, there is also transfer of civilian nuclear technology that can no doubt be put to dual use by Pakistan

iii.      cooperation with the Chinese military further strengthens the Pak military and helps to undermine still further the Pak civilian government’s attempts at putting down deep roots.

iv.      however, could there also be Chinese concerns about Pakistani military capabilities, if not Pakistani reliability in general, given the Abbottabad attack on Osama bin Laden’s hide-out by US special forces?

b. Sino-Pak political cooperation is secondary  Read more

2012 Kicks Off: No Visas and More Boundaries

In Sino-Indian relations, it would appear that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Or do they?

2012 was still young when another ‘visa issue’ cropped up between China and India. This time the Chinese refused a visa to an Indian Air Force officer from Arunachal Pradesh slated to leave for China as part of a 30-member Indian military delegation.  Contrary to expectations, however, the visit actually carried on with the delegation being halved in size and the IAF officer in question one of the 15 who were dropped. One can wonder about the wisdom of deliberately including an Arunachali in any delegation to China when the person is sure to run into a (great) wall. But perhaps this was, as is normal in the practice of statecraft, simply a testing of the waters? Read more

Arunachal: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward?

In July 2011, China issued stapled visas to Arunachali members of an Indian karate team to China, who were later duly stopped from proceeding by Indian immigration authorities. This Chinese action is the latest in a long list of moves designed to highlight their claim over Arunachal Pradesh.

Yet, it would be a mistake to call this a provocation. There is a difference between stapled visas being issued for Kashmiris and those for Arunachalis. Read more

Sino-Indian Relations at 60: Looking Ahead to the Next Decade

Original Presentation: “Sino-Indian Relations at 60: Looking Ahead to the Next Decade,” Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, Beijing, 13 December 2010.

Summary: The year 2010 marked the sixtieth anniversary of established diplomatic relations between China and India. Despite the initial euphoria attached to the concept of “Chindia,” the bilateral relationship between China and India continues to face numerous challenges.

 

While institutional links, dialogues, exchanges, and high-level visits will grow and flourish between India and China, they will not necessarily signify better relations. Both countries will continue to be wary of each other and their relationship will see a mix of cooperation and competition that is unlikely to change in the near to medium term.

 

Even if future armed conflict is unlikely, there is potential for a rivalry of U.S.-Soviet proportions and a “cold peace,” where proxies in other parts of the world are used to wage battles of influence by adopting either the Indian or Chinese model of political and economic development.

 

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