Why does the party now want Parliament to pass a resolution on the issue?
IN ITS eagerness to portray the Left parties as "anti-national" and corner the Government simultaneously, the Bharatiya Janata Party is now bent upon activities that can only be described politely as not in the best interests of the country.
A controversy over Arunachal Pradesh was unfortunately started just ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit by China's Ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi, through his remarks in a TV interview. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was quick to respond, stating that the border State was an integral part of India. One would have thought better sense would prevail and political parties and the media would let matters rest. For, as everyone knows, Mr. Sun and Mr. Mukherjee were only stating the four-decade-old positions of their own countries.
The Hu Jintao visit is over and, by all accounts, it has furthered the bond between the two Asian giants. However, the principal Opposition party is clearly not happy that Mr. Hu went so far as to declare that the growth of Beijing-New Delhi relations could help accelerate the process of settling the boundary issue. The BJP has now declared its intention to bring the Arunachal Pradesh issue to Parliament in the form of a resolution. Its calculation clearly expressed by some of its leaders seems to be that the Left would not support such a resolution and the Government would also try to wriggle out of it. The BJP would then present itself as the only "national party" that keeps the supreme national interest in mind.
The Leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani, apparently told Mr. Hu, when they met on Wednesday morning, that the border issue should not be allowed to hold hostage development of good relations between the two neighbours on all other fronts. But a day later in Parliament House, Mr. Advani made it clear that his party would like to raise the border question, especially related to Arunachal Pradesh, describing it as "the principle issue between the two countries." He suggested that a unanimous resolution be adopted in both Houses of Parliament.
His colleague, Sushma Swaraj, went on to say that a resolution in Parliament "would resolve the Arunachal Pradesh once and forever." The Kashmir resolution passed in Parliament with the BJP's encouragement during the Narasimha Rao Government's tenure has surely not solved that problem "once and forever." If resolutions could draw international borders in disputed areas, there would be no border trouble in the world and the Kashmir issue would have been resolved a long while ago.
Why did the BJP suggest the resolution on Kashmir when the Narasimha Rao Government was in power? And why does the party now want a resolution on Arunachal Pradesh? It is surely not the BJP's case that the Chinese "claim" on Arunachal Pradesh was never articulated before Mr. Sun's interview to a television channel. Why did the BJP not push for a resolution on Arunachal Pradesh when it was in power at the Centre and strengthen its own hands ahead of the Vajpayee visit to Beijing?
The party did its best to improve relations with China when it ruled the country at the head of the National Democratic Alliance coalition for six years from 1998 to 2004. Jaswant Singh made two visits to China as External Affairs Minister and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled to Beijing in June 2003 when for the first time China agreed to recognise India's control over Sikkim. Mr. Vajpayee, in turn, reiterated that India recognised that "the Tibetan Autonomous region is part of the territory of the People's Republic of China" and that it "does not allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China political activities in India."
It was at that summit meeting that the two sides exchanged views about the border issue and agreed to maintain peace and tranquillity pending an ultimate solution. They agreed to "each appoint a Special Representative to explore from the political perspective of the overall bilateral relationship the framework of a boundary settlement."
The fact is that after the 2003 visit the Special Representatives have held eight rounds of meetings to discuss the border issue. It is a fact that the entire stretch of the India-China border, including Arunachal Pradesh in the East and Aksai Chin in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, is on the table for discussion. It was discussed even when Mr. Vajpayee was Prime Minister and Mr. Jaswant Singh was External Affairs Minister. Yet on Thursday Mr. Singh and Mr. Advani were talking as if there was no other border but what the British drew on the map when they handed power to India at the time of Independence.
The BJP knows as well as anybody else that India and China have to display a spirit of give and take. To that extent Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin may well be linked, taking one could mean giving the other. The main Opposition party would be well advised not to play politics with serious issues related to border talks with China. If it wants to show up the Left or the Government it should find other issues.
Political parties across the board have a duty to prepare the people for a settlement of border issues, whether with Pakistan or China. And no border can be settled only on India's terms. If politicians go on indulging in sabre-rattling, they are doing a disservice to the country.