June 19, 2008
Now it is Sikkim's turn
In November 2006, China's Ambassador to India confirmed what everyone knew: China still laid claim to Arunachal Pradesh. That he did it a few days before Hu Jintao's visit to India made his claim even more brazenly un-diplomatic.
If we thought the last couple of years has seen some improvement in relations over the border dispute, it is time think again. Going by news reports, earlier this month, Chinese troops intruded 1 km inside of Indian territory across the China-Sikkim border.
The Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha had called for an indefinite bandh in the Darjeeling area to up the ante over their demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The bandh resulted in a blockade on a national highway which is pretty much Sikkim's only road link with the rest of the country.
While it is not clear how long ago China's incursion happened and indeed if it is related to Sikkim being cut-off, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of it recurring especially of the blockade of the highway continues. In fact, External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, was in China in early June. If at all China had intruded into Sikkim then, they're basically asking India to go take a hike on the border dispute.
In this context, it is impossible to agree to Subramanian Swamy's plea in his article in 'The Hindu' yesterday that the two sides must look beyond the border issue. The maxim, with China, must always be "Don't trust, verify". In addition, I think India lost a golden opportunity to arm-twist China when there was large-scale rioting in Tibet. Earlier this year, when the monks wanted to go across the border on the anniversary of the uprising against the Chinese government, India should have let them go. The argument should have been that if China considered Tibet to be part of China, there should be nothing wrong in letting Chinese citizens go back to their homeland! That would have potentially given India a lot of leverage.
But, India ended up sucking-up bigtime with China, possibly in the hope that this would result in better relations and progress on the border dispute. Obviously China saw it differently!
On a side note, I really wonder why 'The Hindu' gives so much space to non-entities like Subramaniam Swamy or Veerappa Moily. Almost on a daily basis quotes, articles & comments from them end up in this newspaper. The other person is Deve Gowda, but at least he is a former PM and is still a major power centre in Karnataka. I don't even know when was the last time Swamy or Moily won a Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly election!
Labels: arunachal pradesh, border, china, dispute, india, sikkim, the hindu