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China eyeing the North Eastern states of India: An insight

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The Tawang and Anjaw district has been the focus for the Chinese troops. The geographical positioning makes the area a strategic importance for both China and India. The Tawang and Anjaw district has been the focus for the Chinese troops. Bhutan borders Tawang to the west whereas Tibet to the north and Anjaw borders China on the north. The National Highway 13, a part of the Arunachal highway network connects the Warlong cantonment of the Anjaw district in the south west and to the Tawang district in the northwest. The Indo-China border is around 25KM from the Warlong Cantonment which again lies near the banks of river Lohit. The river is transboundary river rising from Tibet which later on transcends as the tributary to the river Brahmaputra. However, over the past few years it has been noticed and reported that these river routes are being used by the Chinese troops to enter Indian territories.

Activities of these troops have also witnessed a steady growth in the Tawang district. Back in 1962, when the India-China War was being bought in two frontiers-Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, it was already evident during those times that the Tawang region provides a smooth entry for foreign troops into the Brahmaputra valley and other north-eastern states. Therefore, the positioning of Tawang had been exposed to the Chinese making their obsession for the region to only grow in bounds even decades later.

The historical claims which the ‘dragon’ time and again reiterated lies between the Tawang monastery and the Lhasa monastery of Tibet. The 6th Dalai Lama (Tsangyang Gyatso) was born in Tawang, hence giving the region a religious attachment. The autonomy of Tibet was captured by China and given the proximity between India and China via Tawang, the target set by the Chinese troops seems crystal clear. During the 1914 Shimla Conference, China and Tibet decided the status of Tibet and the conclusion drawn out of it was the demarcating line known as the Mac Mohan line between Tibet and the then British India. Since then, India has always respected it as legal border quite contrary to the Chinese, who have rejected the Mac Mohan line. The story presented by China has always remained the same whereby Tibet not being a sovereign state cannot have the power to accept conditionalities of any treaty.

Apart from the religious attachments, the cultural aspects are high to remain unnoticed. Tribes like Tagin, Nyishi and Galo have similar lineages to the Tibetan people as they are the descendants of the Mongolian race. But the presence of these tribes in Arunachal Pradesh could be a possible threat to China, given the pro-democratic movements quite prevalent in the northern region of Dharamshala. There will always be a fear with regards to the present Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. As easy it may appear for the Chinese troops to enter vicinities of Indian territory, the reality could be a complete opposite.

Arunachal Pradesh provides security to the Bhutan from the Eastern side, so if China captures Tawang then Bhutan will be surrounded by China on both eastern and western side. On western side of Bhutan, China has constructed a motorable road G204 which connects the Chinese National Highway G318 near India-China-Bhutan tri-junction border. In 2017 the Doklam incident took place near this area. Tough Doklam is a part of Bhutan but India as a part of Operation Juniper supports Bhutan’s claim in this incident.  China’s road extension towards Bhutan will also impose a security threat for India. As it has also put the Siliguri corridor under check. China has also led some railway development which can be used for military and other logistic supplies near Arunachal Pradesh border. This could turn unfavourable for both India and Bhutan’s security. To expand the intrusion further China wants to shift its tri-junction corridor to further south so that it can move more closer to the Siliguri corridor.

The Siliguri corridor is nearly 25KM which connects mainland India from North-Eastern states, popularly known as the ‘Chicken’s neck’. South to the Siliguri corridor we have Bangladesh and north of the corridor is Nepal. With the recent developments in the geopolitics concerning India, Nepal in particular has not showcased any friendly treat given the Chinese have invested a lot there and not to mention the Pithoragarh fiasco between India and Nepal last year. Therefore, bearing in mind, the strategic importance of the Siliguri corridor, China has also funded some anti state elements in Bangladesh and West Bengal, whereas the North-eastern states has been negotiating with Indian government for their own demands. All these internal tensions, might assist China to plan further for any further intrusion into Indian Territories.

India-China relation has always been on a high pitch, which led to many wars and stand-offs in the past. Even border technicalities have been a constant contentious factor in this bilateral relationship over the last seven decades. Something which has changed between the two is the temperament of the current regimes, which focus more on national strength and integrity. The cultural and economic relations between India and China dates from the Silk Route Era and even till date, this same route is being pursued. In 1980s both the countries have successfully rebuilt diplomatic and economic ties and in 2008 China became India’s largest trading partner and the two countries have also extended their strategic and military relation. Given all the these, to assess the bilateral relation between the two maybe a difficult introspection, but normalization is all that can be expected.

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