Sujan R Chinoy: Oregon’s Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley introduced a resolution in the US Senate on February 16 reaffirming the state of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory and condemning China’s provocations in South Asia. Tennessee’s Republican Senator Bill Hagerty and Texas’ Republican Senator John Cornyn co-sponsored the resolution. The resolution has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Senator Hagerty’s term as US Ambassador to Japan (2017-2019) overlapped with mine (2015-2018). I recall candid one-on-one discussions with him about China’s rise and the emerging challenges in the Indo-Pacific. Senator Hagerty has vast experience of Asia and knows his facts.
This is not the first time a resolution regarding Chinese aggression has been moved in the US Senate. Senator Cornyn had introduced a resolution, co-sponsored by his Democrat colleagues, in the Senate on August 13, 2020, condemning China’s use of military aggression to change the status quo at the Line of Actual Control between India and China.
The three Senators have done the right thing by introducing a resolution rejecting China’s specious claims to Arunachal Pradesh and reaffirming India’s position.
The US position on Arunachal Pradesh has been helpful since 1962. At that time, Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Carl Keysen proposed that the then Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith make a public statement that “we recognise the McMahon line as the traditional border between India and China (this is the Northeast border)” in his Memorandum to President John F Kennedy on October 26, 1962. The Memorandum was meant to be a background note to the President before his meeting with Ambassador B K Nehru. Galbraith was authorised vide telegram 1663 on the same day, to announce that “the United States recognised the McMahon Line as the traditional and generally accepted international border and fully supported India’s position in that regard.” This was days after China launched a massive attack on India on October 20, 1962, with simultaneous aggression in Ladakh as well as along the McMahon Line.
The historical significance of Galbraith’s announcement lay in the fact that it reversed the earlier US policy, as expressed in the acting US Secretary of State Christian A Herter’s public statement of November 12, 1959, that “the US had not taken ‘any side on the border dispute’ and as far as the legalities of rival border claims were concerned the US had ‘no views’.”
In his well-researched book India China Boundary Issues: Quest For Settlement, the late Indian diplomat R S Kalha states that “when the Chinese ambassador, Wang Bingnan, remonstrated with the US interlocutor, Ambassador John Cabot, at their meeting at Warsaw on 13 December, 1962, about the change in the position of the US on the McMahon Line, Cabot had said that in the US view it was clear that China, by military action had taken territory that had long been in Indian hands. Cabot also conveyed that while the US had no particular view on the merits of the border dispute, yet its policy was that ‘any settlement’ must be one ‘which India could accept with honour’. The US felt this Chinese ‘blunder’ had opened for them an unprecedented opportunity to win over India to its side.”
The latest Resolution reaffirms is noteworthy in that it also covers recent military provocations and aggressions by the PLA that have upended India-China relations. It mentions the Chinese villages (the so-called “Xiaokang” or “well-off” villages) constructed along the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh.
It also underlines China’s questionable narrative on the visits by “the Dalai Lama and other leaders [to Arunachal Pradesh] and has refused to grant residents of the Indian state visas for travel to China.” It accuses China of impeding poverty alleviation and economic development in Arunachal Pradesh as its behaviour compels “many international donors to be cautious of providing assistance due to the state’s perceived status as disputed territory.” In any case, a reading of Tibet And Its History by H E Richardson suggests that Qing presence in Tibet began to emerge around 1720, following intervention in the internecine succession struggle after the death of the Sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1706). There is no basis, therefore, to the Chinese claim over Tawang on the flimsy grounds that it is the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama, since China, in any case, had no locus standi in Tibet at the time.
Official US maps depict Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India. At the same time, Washington’s position on the India-China boundary issue is far from perfect. The US Department of State’s international travel advisory maps clearly show Aksai Chin and some other parts of the western sector as disputed. China is in illegal occupation of 38,000 sq km of Indian territory in Ladakh and has usurped a further 5,180 sq km of Indian territory in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) through the so-called “Agreement on the Boundary Between China’s Sinkiang and the Contiguous Areas” concluded in Beijing on March 2, 1963.
The fact that the US has an ambiguous stand even today on the boundary dispute in Ladakh limits the possibility of a ground-level tandem between India and the US in the western sector, unlike the wider possibilities for naval cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
As things stand, the US position of neutrality on the India-China boundary dispute over Aksai Chin contradicts its supportive position on the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh, even though the fiction of “historical” Chinese claims to these territories and the proclivity of the PLA to engage in unilateral military provocations are common to both sectors. It is time for the US to reject China’s fictitious claims and the illegal possession of Aksai Chin as well.
জুমবাংলা নিউজ সবার আগে পেতে Follow করুন জুমবাংলা গুগল নিউজ, জুমবাংলা টুইটার , জুমবাংলা ফেসবুক, জুমবাংলা টেলিগ্রাম এবং সাবস্ক্রাইব করুন জুমবাংলা ইউটিউব চ্যানেলে।