Upset with India for allowing exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month, China on Thursday issued standardised spellings of the names of six places in Arunachal Pradesh.
Arunachal Pradesh is an eastern Himalayan state administered by India but claimed by China as Southern Tibet.
Last week, China’s civil affairs ministry released a list of six places in the region disputed with India, with what China considers to be their formal names, in Chinese, Tibetan and English to assert its sovereignty. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the move was appropriate and reflected the names used by Chinese ethnic groups, such as the Tibetans, over a long time.
Despite efforts by China and India to improve ties over recent years, deep suspicions persist, especially over their border dispute.
Here is what we know so far:
* Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama visited Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh from April 7 to 11.
* China lodged a diplomatic protest with India when the Dalai Lama began his visit to Arunachal Pradesh on April 4. China said that Dalai Lama’s visit will have a “negative impact” on China-India ties and New Delhi should not use the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader to “undermine” Beijing’s interests. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman warned that Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh will “have serious damage on bilateral relations.”
* Indian officials dismissed China’s criticism of the Dalai Lama’s second visit to Arunachal Pradesh in eight years, saying he is a spiritual leader who has a devoted following in the region.
* Days after Dalai Lama’s visit, China issued standardised spellings of the names of six places in Arunachal Pradesh. “These names also reflect, and explain from one aspect, that China’s territorial claims on Southern Tibet have an obvious historical, cultural and administrative jurisdiction basis,” Lu told a daily news briefing. The ministry of civil affairs in Beijing issued an order on April 14 saying that, “The official names of the six places using the Roman alphabet are Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidengarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bumo La and Namkapub Ri”. It did not give the existing names of the six towns in Arunachal Pradesh, but Bumo La could be BumLa, an area that was captured by China in 1962 but from which it later withdrew.
* Chinese media supported the move saying, “China should not hesitate to answer “blows with blows” if India chooses to play dirty by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh”.
India dismisses China’s claim
India has categorically given a stern message to China that renaming towns of Arunachal Pradesh doesn’t make illegally held territory legal.
Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said “every inch” of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to India and China has “no business” to name any Indian place.
“Arunachal Pradesh is totally part and parcel of India. China has no business to name any of the district. I don’t know why they have taken this step,” said Naidu.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Gopal Baglay also asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. “Assigning invented names to towns of your neighbour does not make illegal territorial claims legal. Arunachal Pradesh is and will always be an integral part of India,” Baglay told reporters.
China’s ploy an old thing
China had used a similar ploy naming islands in South China Sea or pulling out ancient records showing old Chinese names of islands to support its claims over the sea areas, and fight back similar claims from other countries including Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines.
The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled Lhasa following a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The influential leader is reviled by Beijing, which views him as a threat to China’s control of Tibet.
India to upgrade defence infrastructure
India moved to upgrade its defence infrastructure along the border with China, announcing the construction of two Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) at Tawang and Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday, a day after Beijing gave its own names to six places in the northeastern state.
Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar held a high-level review meeting with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and discussed the ALGs to be constructed in Dirang and Tawang.
Khandu has promised to speed up clearance of pending issues to expedite construction of the airfields.