Indian PM Modi’s Visit to Arunachal Pradesh Angers China

Tawang Monastery is a holy site for Tibetan Buddhists. (Image: Dhruba Jyoti Baruah via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)
Tawang Monastery is a holy site for Tibetan Buddhists. (Image: Dhruba Jyoti Baruah via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

When the Indian government announced that Prime Minister Modi would be visiting the state of Arunachal Pradesh to inaugurate a slew of projects, China was worried. Beijing has long claimed the Indian state as its own through its rule over Tibet and has even named the place “South Tibet.”

Visiting Arunachal Pradesh

“The state of Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India. Indian leaders visit Arunachal Pradesh from time to time, as they visit other parts of India… This consistent position has been conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement (NDTV).

After Modi visited the state, Beijing declared that it never recognized Arunachal Pradesh and asked India to not engage in activities that might “complicate the boundary question.” Both nations have conducted around 21 round of talks to resolve the issue and have failed to reach an agreement.

Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh was criticized by China. (Image: kremlin.ru / CC0 1.0)

In 2017, Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who is currently in exile in India, visited Arunachal Pradesh. This infuriated Beijing so much that it immediately renamed some of the places in the state to create a fake narrative that Arunachal Pradesh belonged to China.

“China urges the Indian side to bear in mind the common interests of the two countries, respect the interests and concerns of the Chinese side, cherish the momentum of improvement in bilateral relations, and refrain from any action that may lead to the escalation of disputes or complicate the boundary question,” Hua Chunying, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said in a statement (The Times Of India).

Conflict in the region

The main conflict about Arunachal Pradesh stems with regard to the Tawang region in the northern part of the state. Tawang houses the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Arunachal Pradesh. Given that the Chinese government has mostly suppressed Buddhism in Tibet, Tawang monastery is one of the few remaining ancient holy sites for Tibetan Buddhists.

Golden Pagoda, Namsai, Arunachal Pradesh. (Image: Jim Ankan Deka via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

Golden Pagoda, Namsai, Arunachal Pradesh. (Image: Jim Ankan Deka via wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0)

In 1914, Tibet had officially agreed that Tawang was a part of British India. When India became free, the status quo was maintained. However, when China took over Tibet in 1950, Beijing started claiming ownership of Tawang by arguing that the 1914 deal was invalid. The objective of the Chinese regime is to gain control over the Tawang monastery and crush what remains of Tibetan Buddhism. As such, many see India’s ownership of the region as the best way to maintain the culture of the Tibetans.

Except for the Tawang issue, any conflict between the two Asian nations over Arunachal Pradesh does not hold any value. “The territorial dispute between China and India is essentially meaningless because this disputed territory for India and China, not only difficult to develop but the moral, economic, political, and management costs are extremely high… In this case, it is hard for China to actually go to war with India for these chicken ribs as long as it does not hamper security interests,” Wang Tao Tao, a Chinese strategic analyst, said on social media (The Economic Times).

There is also a chance that China’s aggressive attempt to claim Tawang might incite Tibetans in their homeland since they might feel it as their duty to somehow save one of their last remaining holy sites from the clutches of the Chinese Communist Party.

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