Within days of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, China has reinforced its claims on the State by naming six places there in standardised Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabets.
On April 14, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on its website that the State Council, China’s Cabinet, had issued the new regulations. The state-run Global Times reported that the six places in South Tibet — the name ascribed by Beijing to Arunachal Pradesh — were named Wo’gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidêngarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bümo La and Namkapub Ri.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang asserted on Wednesday that the standardisation of names was a “legitimate action by the Chinese government”, in tune “with our regulations”. He stressed that China’s position on the eastern section of our boundary was “consistent and clear”.
Mr. Lu underscored that China was “firmly against” the “Indian government’s indulgence of Dalai Lama activities in the disputed eastern section of the India-China boundary and also about his anti-China activities.” He added: “These activities are also against the Indian government’s commitments to China.”
Xiong Kunxin, a Professor of Ethnic Studies at Beijing’s Minzu University of China, said, “The standardisation [of names] came amid China’s growing understanding and recognition of the geography in South Tibet. Naming the places is a step to reaffirm China’s territorial sovereignty over South Tibet.”
The latest move by China follow a string of warnings issued by the Foreign Ministry and state media regarding the Dalai Lama’s visit. On April 5, China’s Foreign Ministry slammed India by saying that the Dalai Lama’s visit had “severely damaged” Sino-Indian ties.
The Ministry also asserted that the Tibetan leader’s visit to the State “will escalate the dispute in border areas.” There were also references in the Chinese state-media that by green-lighting the visit, India was questioning Beijing’s “one-China policy,” the core of the country’s statehood. An editorial in the state-run China Daily had earlier taken exception to remarks by the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju that: “China should not object to the Dalai Lama’s visit and interfere in India’s internal affairs.”
“[Mr.] Rijiju might think himself cute in borrowing a line from Beijing’s diplomatic representations, but he has ignored the fundamental distinction here: Like Taiwan and any other part of China, Tibet is a part of Chinese territory no matter whether New Delhi agrees or not.”
In an interview with Reuters, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu was quoted as saying: “As far as the boundary issue is concerned, I have also maintained that we don’t share our boundary with China, but we share our boundary with Tibet”. Analysts say that the statement was interpreted as questioning the “one-China” principle.
But in New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay made it “absolutely clear that there is no change whatsoever in the Government of India’s policy towards the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.” “Similarly, our approach to seeking a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question remains unchanged.”
The Global Times quoted Guo Kefan, a research fellow at the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, as saying: “Standardising the names from the angles of culture and geography could serve as a reference or leverage when China and India negotiate border issues in future.”