Barack Obama’s move to defer a meeting with the Dalai Lama during his visit to Washington DC is being criticized as a “retreat” on human rights issues, with the president being accused of caving to Chinese pressure ahead of a Sino-US summit in Beijing next month. (India Journal, Oct. 15) Chinese authorities have meanwhile protested a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to a Himalayan enclave in the state of Arunachal Pradesh claimed as Chinese territory. “China expresses its strong dissatisfaction on the visit by the Indian leader to the disputed area in disregard of China’s grave concerns,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.
China claims that a mountainous northern stretch of Arunachal Pradesh, known as Tawang, has historically been part of Tibet and therefore should belong to China. New Delhi and exiled Tibetan leaders say a self-governing Tibet signed a treaty with Britain in the early 20th century that ceded Tawang to British-ruled India. China this year tried to block a loan from the Asian Development Bank to India, because Delhi intended to use some of the funds to support flood control projects in the disputed territory. (NYT, Oct. 13)
Tawang was one of the issues in the brief but bloody Sino-Indian war of 1962, when Chinese forces launched a cross-border incursion into Indian-held territory. The fighting ended after China declared a unilateral ceasefire, but a formal agreement ending the conflict was never signed and the disputed territorial claims remain unresolved. In 1996 the two sides signed a pact to maintain “tranquility” along their shared border, agreeing to hold border resolution talks, the most recent of which took place in August. (AlJazeera, Oct. 14)
China is now India’s second-largest trade partner, but in the aftermath of the 1962 war Arunachal Pradesh served as a staging ground for CIA operations in support of Tibetan guerillas.