Tawang belongs to India, and China won’t give up Aksai Chin either

What does one make of the comments by China’s veteran diplomat and border negotiator, Dai Bingguo?

In an interview to a Beijing-based magazine, Dai, who participated in 15 rounds of border talks with four different Indian Special Representatives (SRs), claimed that it was India that “held the key” to resolving the long-running boundary dispute, and that “If the Indian side takes care of China’s concerns in the eastern sector of their border, the Chinese side will respond accordingly and address India’s concerns elsewhere.”

The heart of the dispute is in the western and eastern sectors. India sees China as illegally occupying 38,000sqkm of its territory in Aksai Chin, while China claims 90,000sqkm in Arunachal Pradesh.

First things first. There is nothing new in what Dai said, and China has been saying so since 1985. As India’s former NSA and SR Shivshankar Menon writes in his book Choices:

“In 1985, China specified that the concession it was seeking in the east was Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh, something any government in India would find difficult to accept, as it was a settled area that had sent representatives to every Indian Parliament since 1950. The Indian Supreme Court had also held in the Berubari case in 1956 that the government could not cede sovereign territory to another government without a constitutional amendment, though it could make adjustments and rectifications in the boundaries of India.”

Secondly, nowhere in the interview does Dai talk about ceding entire Aksai Chin in return for Tawang, as some headlines suggested. What he talks about is “concessions” being made by both sides in western and eastern sectors.

This is hardly new or surprising. The fact is that publicly, both sides have ruled out a status quo solution. Cold, hard logic tells you that any solution will involve mutual adjustments in west and east – by both China and India. If neither is willing to make any adjustments, there’s no solution. Simple as that.

Thirdly, there is no way China would consider a major concession in the western sector, even in return for Tawang as some speculated. Dai doesn’t say so, and suggesting it is a figment of media imagination.

For starters, China doesn’t even recognise there is a dispute in the west! It merely considers the vast 38,000sqkm area of Aksai Chin as a part of its Xinjiang province. Any Chinese leader – let alone Xi Jinping, the most powerful and nationalist in decades – giving up a large swathe of territory would be committing political suicide, as evinced by China’s current hard-line approach to other disputes, notably in the South China Sea.

Fourthly, Dai makes some questionable claims on Tawang, which underline a very unrealistic Chinese stand that all but rules out any chance of settling the border.

Here is what Dai says in the interview: “The disputed territory in the eastern sector of the China-India boundary, including Tawang, is inalienable from China’s Tibet in terms of cultural background and administrative jurisdiction. In fact, not until February 1951 was the local government of Tibet forced to stop its actual administration of Tawang. Even the British colonialists who drew the illegal ‘McMahon Line’ respected China’s jurisdiction over Tawang.”

This 1951 reference is disingenuous to say the least, as Tibet was, that year, invaded and occupied by the People’s Liberation Army. India recognises Tibet as a part of China at present, but does not endorse China’s questionable historical claims on Tibet’s historical status as always belonging to China.

This also underlines why Tawang in particular is so sensitive an issue – it ties in to the very complicated question of Tibet’s historical status, and there is no reason why India would even consider endorsing a very deeply contested Chinese claim.

What Dai said in the interview is also not very different from what he spells out in his book, which India Today reported in May last year where he said both sides “have no intention to solve the boundary question talis qualis [as is]” and both “will make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments” in the west and east.

Therein lies the challenge. Realistically, any solution would likely involve “meaningful adjustments” that are minor and do not affect the interests of settled populations – as in Tawang – and Dai himself knows that ceding large chunks of territory is untenable for any government in Delhi, and for that matter, in Beijing.

As Menon put it in a 2015 interview, “It is a big thing to do because it means we have to change the way we learnt to draw the map of India in our schools because you will never get 100 per cent of what you want from a settlement. The Chinese also have to learn to change the way they learnt to draw the map of China in their schools. A settlement will mean give and take. It will mean adjustments.”

And as long as China has a maximalist view on Tawang, the fact is that will remain out of the question.







Source:- Dailyo.in

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