Flights Of Fantasy
[M Panging Pao]
Recently on 2 April, 2023, China audaciously renamed 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh with Chinese names. This is the third time that China has renamed places in Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier, China renamed six places in Arunachal in 2017, followed by renaming 15 places in 2021. The renamed places include mountains, rivers and places like Mechukha, Manigong, Tawang, Sela, Walong, etc. China regularly claims Arunachal Pradesh as southern Tibet or ‘Zangnan’.
China regularly issues stapled visas to officials, sportspersons from Arunachal Pradesh planning to visit China. In few cases like myself, China said visa not required to visit China! China regularly objects to visits by central ministers or senior officials to Arunachal.
China traces back this dispute to the McMahon Line. The McMahon Line demarcates the eastern border between India and China. The 890 kms long McMahon Line followed the watershed principle and runs along the highest ridges of these eastern Himalayan ranges running from east of Bhutan to the trijunction of India, China and Myanmar. The McMahon Line was created during the Shimla Agreement of 1914. The British Indian representative was Henry McMahon, then secretary in the Indian foreign department. The Tibetan representative was Lama Lonchen Shatra and Chinese representative was diplomat named Ivan Chen. After almost a year of negotiations, the McMahon Line was initially presented on 22 April, 1914 along with an attached map. On 25 April, 1914, the Chinese representative submitted a memorandum with a number of objections to the boundaries between Inner Tibet and Outer Tibet and Inner Tibet and China. There were no objections by the Chinese representative on the border between Tibet & India. Thereafter, on 27 April, 1914, the Chinese representative initialled both the documents and the map without any objections. However, the actual agreement documents were kept secret till 1937 when the McMahon Line was first published in a Survey of India map. If the Chinese representative had no objections to the border between Tibet and India and have initialled the documents and map during Shimla Agreement of 1914, why are the Chinese still claiming Arunachal as ‘Southern Tibet’? This claim is bogus, hegemonic and not supported by documents and facts.
Arunachal Pradesh is mentioned in the ancient Indian epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kalika and Bhagavad Purana (10th century AD). Having studied Chinese language and hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, it may be firmly stated that people of Arunachal Pradesh, comprising many tribes, are culturally, traditionally, linguistically and racially different from the Han Chinese. Arunachalees are patriotic Indians and have never been part of mainland China.
Why does China continue this aggressive behaviour, especially with respect to Arunachal Pradesh? Isn’t it time for us to give back to China? The government of India should also start issuing stapled visas to few key Chinese officials. Another way could be to rename Chinese cities like Chengdu as Modinagar, Kunming as Bharatnagar and Nyingchi as Arun Nagar. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)