Arunachal Pradesh is not part of China! Never has been and never will be!

In September 2020, after five villagers were abducted by members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army from the Upper Subansiri region in Arunachal Pradesh, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China has never recognised so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, which is ‘China’s south Tibet region’ This absurd response came amid tensions between the two countries in Ladakh. 

Arunachal (literally, Land of Dawn-Lit Mountains) Pradesh, with a population of nearly 1.8 million, divides China’s occupied Tibet and India in the latter’s north-eastern region.

On 9 December 2022, Indian and Chinese troops clashed in Yangste, the Tawang Sector in Arunachal Pradesh. Soldiers from both sides were injured in the clash. At least six Indian soldiers were wounded in the clash and were airlifted to Guwahati for treatment. More than 300 Chinese soldiers had attempted to get access to the top of 17,000-ft peak and were thwarted by Indian Army jawans, sources said. The Chinese troops wanted to uproot an Indian post, but the Indian side successfully foiled the attempt. 

Notably, the Indian troops had intercepted invading Chinese soldiers in the same region in October last year. Around 200 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers were intercepted close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in 2021.

China has long been claiming that Arunachal Pradesh is South Tibet more as a bargaining chip to make India stop putting pressure on Aksai Chin, which China occupied during the 1950s and consolidated its position after the 1962 War. It claims that Arunachal Pradesh was part of South Tibet and thus part of China, but this argument is flawed. What would the world say if Arab nations claimed Spain because they conquered it for 800 years? Or, if Austria started claiming territories that were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Mongolia, the territories it once conquered or Macedonia. These territories once were part of the empire built by Alexander the Great? It would be a joke. It’s the same lousy joke as China claiming Arunachal Pradesh because of its illegal invasion of Tibet.

The historical facts are the following:

1271–1368 China and Tibet were independent before the Yuan dynasty 

1251–1271 The Mongol Empire occupied Tibet. 

1271–1368 The Mongol Empire dissolved into several pieces. 

1372-1642 Tibet was under the de facto reigns of local Tibetan dynasties, such as the Ming dynasty, which did not influence it during that period.

1642-1717 A branch of Oirad Mongols invaded Tibet in 1642 and established the Khoshut Khanate. The Manchus (Qing) threatened the Ming dynasty with peasant uprisings, but they couldn’t do anything about it. Tibet completely broke away from the Ming dynasty. Two years later, the Ming dynasty collapsed, and the Qing dynasty took control. They accepted the Tibetan religious leaders as their spiritual advisers, and it was not surprising that they invited the Dalai Lama to Beijing.

1717–1719: The Dzungar Khanate invaded Tibet from the modern-day Xinjiang region and defeated the Khoshut Khanate.

1719–1911: The Qing dynasty drove out the Dzungars in 1719 and controlled Tibet since then. The British army invaded Tibet from India in the late 1800s 

1911–1951: Following the Xinhai Revolution against the Qing dynasty in 1912, Qing soldiers were disarmed and escorted out of Tibet, which declared independence in 1913. 

1951, Tibet was occupied and annexed to the People’s Republic of China by force, and the Tibetan government was abolished in 1959 after a failed uprising and His Holiness the Dalai Lama took the road to exile in India. He arrived at the Tawang monastery five days after he entered India in 1959 and was greeted with a guard of honour by the Assam Rifles.

War Memorial for the fallen of 1962 in Tawang ©Sanjay Agarwall

Since 1959, China has governed Tibet with an iron fist, with western and central Tibet as the Tibet Autonomous Region, while the eastern areas are now mostly ethnic autonomous prefectures within Sichua, Qinghai, and other neighbouring provinces.

Concerning the question of Tibet, the United Nations General Assembly passed three resolutions in 1959, 1961, and 1965. In all three resolutions, the United Nations called for respecting the Tibetan people’s human rights, freedoms, and cultural heritage, citing the principles set out in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Resolution 1723, the United Nations called explicitly for the respect of the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.  

This historical background is essential regarding China’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh. India became independent in 1947, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949. Journalist Sudha Ramachandran argued that China claimed Tawang on behalf of Tibetans. However, Tibetans did not claim Tawang is in Tibet. 

What is now Arunachal Pradesh was established as the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) in 1954, and Sino-Indian relations were cordial until 1960. The resurgence of the border disagreement was a factor leading to the Sino-Indian War in 1962, during which China captured most of Arunachal Pradesh and was temporarily controlled by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. However, China soon declared victory, withdrew back to the McMahon Line, and returned Indian prisoners of war in 1963.

Bumla LA Pass is situated at 5000m above sea level,it represents the Indo-Ti

In January 2007, the Dalai Lama said that Britain and Tibet recognised the McMahon Line in 1914. In 2008, he said, “Arunachal Pradesh was a part of India under the agreement signed by Tibetan and British representatives”. As far as the Dalai Lama is concerned, “In 1962, during the India-China war, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) occupied all these areas (Arunachal Pradesh), but they announced a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew, accepting the current international boundary”.

After independence, the Indian government brought together various territories of the current tribes of the state and created the state in its current form. The areas of the state had their traditional boundaries, with 26 major tribes and more than 100 sub-tribes. The tribes in the olden days did not encroach into each other’s territories, or else war took place. Basically, the areas were territories ruled by certain tribes. Some had a chiefdom system, some had a clan system, and some even had their king.

More significantly, they are racial Mongoloids and do not have any Aryan race or Dravidian race or evenAustroasiatic/ Australoid race in this region. Linguistically, they speak a variation of Sino-Tibetan and Tibet-Burmese. Their attire is also like Tibet and Bhutan. Most of the population practice Tibetan Buddhism, and the rest of the tribes practice animism. Due to modern conversion, many have converted to Christianity. Hinduism has also influenced the culture and practice of the local tribes.

Tawang Monastery ©

What was known as the North-East Frontier Agency was renamed Arunachal Pradesh by Bibhabasu Das Shastri, the Director of Research, and K.A.A. Raja, the Chief Commissioner of Arunachal Pradesh, on 20 January 1972. It became a Union Territory and a state on 20 February 1987.

The Central government of India may officially call it the India-China border, but for the people of Arunachal, the border is with Tibet, occupied by China. Chief Minister Pema Khandu categorically stated that his state shares a border with Tibet, not China. “It is a fact that Arunachal does not share a direct border with China. The direct border is with Tibet. Nobody can erase history,” Khandu said in an interview. “It’s a different thing that China occupied Tibet. The world knows it,” he added.

The tensions between China and India reached a peak in 2017 during the Dalai Lama’s visit to the state, which was his sixth since he arrived in India in 1959. “‘When I got freedom, when I first reached India,’ the Dalai Lama said, ‘I entered through Arunachal Pradesh. I have an emotional connection with the state. It is a special place for me.”

Recent tensions in Arunachal Pradesh came after China’s parliament passed a law that gives the Xi Jinping government and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a free hand in furthering the regime’s grand ambition of recreating the Middle Kingdom of China.

This law calls upon the Xi Jinping government to “take measures to strengthen border defence, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas”. This means that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has been empowered to do whatever is required to complete the territorial map of China as the Chinese Communist Party claims to be its territorial expanse. The law says that the PLA “shall carry out border duties”, conduct “organising drills”, and “resolutely prevent, stop and combat invasion, encroachment, provocation and other acts”.

President Xi Jinping is now China’s most powerful leader in decades. He increased his dominance when he was named to another term as head of the ruling Communist Party in a break with tradition. He has promoted his allies who support his vision of tighter control over society and the struggling economy. China is heading back toward one-man rule, a reminder of its darkest historical period under Chairman Mao.

This territorial dispute between the two Asian giants is, in fact, a battle of ideas. There is a conflict between how the world’s largest democracy and the world’s largest dictatorship view the world. May the truth prevail. So far, India is handling the affair with prudence and political acumen.

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