Arunachal Pradesh: pawn in the new Great Game

Last month's US-India nuclear deal obviously signaled a rise in Sino-Indian tensions, seen by Beijing (accurately) as part of an encirclement strategy. The deal called for inclusion of India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which drew immediate criticism from China. The NSG is comprised of 46 nuclear supplier states, including China, Russia and the US, that have agreed to coordinate export controls on civilian nuclear material to non-nuclear-weapon states. The group has up to now been made up of signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—which, as China was quck to note, does not include India (or Pakistan, or the "secret" nuclear nation Israel). More to the point, India is not a "non-nuclear-weapon state." (The Diplomat, Feb. 14; Arms Control Association)

Now India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes a provocative visit to the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh—a move guaranteed to elicit protests from Beijing, which claims part of the territory. Sure enough, China called in India's ambassador to Beijing, Ashok K. Kantha, to express  "strong dissatisfaction and staunch opposition" to Modi's visit to "the disputed area" on the China-India border. "The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called Arunachal Pradesh," a foreign ministry representative said. (Times of India, Feb. 21)

Arunachal Pradesh has long been handy for India's and China's leaders to bash each other with whenever the occassion demands, and it doesn't hurt that there is oil there. Modi's visit was a provocation, and China's response perfectly predictable: that's why they call it a Great Game. We note that neither side seems particularly interested in demands for greater autonomy by the actual residents of Arunachal Pradesh. The Arunachal Times noted in December 2013 protests by the Mon indigenous people for creation of an autonomous region in their territory along the Burmese border—to no response from Delhi.

Meanwhile, the US, which (plausibly) tells us that Iran's supposedly civilian nuclear plans really mask ambitions to join the elite "club" of nuclear-armed states, wants us to believe that providing further nucear aid to "club" member but NPT outlier India complies with the spirit of the NPT. Around it goes.