Another Message To China After Modi's Call To Dalai Lama? Kiren Rijiju Becomes First Union Cabinet Minister From Arunachal
Experts argued that Rijiju's elevation may not have been dictated by the need to send a message to Beijing but gives out a signal nonetheless, just days after Prime Minister Modi's phone call to the Dalai Lama.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a strong message to China by making a phone call to the Dalai Lama on his birthday and following it up with a public acknowledgement on Twitter in the middle of a tense military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
Now, foreign policy and security experts point out, the government may have sent another signal to Beijing on Wednesday (7 July) with the elevation of Kiren Rijiju to the cabinet minister rank.
With his appointment as the Minister of Law and Justice, Rijiju has become the first cabinet minister from Arunachal Pradesh.
China, which claims the state of Arunachal as 'South Tibet', has in the past objected to Rijiju's presence in an Indian delegation in a bilateral security meet with China. In October 2018, when India and China held talks on internal security, China had reportedly made a "strong representation to object" to his participation and "asked for correction of this wrong move".
In the past, China has also objected to the visits of Indian cabinet ministers, the Dalai Lama and foreign dignitaries and diplomats to Arunachal, claiming that the territory is disputed.
In 1997, when the then chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh Gegong Apang applied for visa to visit Kunming in China’s Yunnan province for a conference, the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi told him that he did not need one because he was a Chinese national.
China has never recognised the “so-called 'Arunachal Pradesh', which is China's south Tibet region”, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said last year.
Satellite images show China has been building a village in Arunachal's Upper Subansiri, a territory that it has controlled since 1959.
China's interest in Arunachal, experts say, comes from its desire to control Tawang, which is an important centre of Tibetan Buddhism outside Tibet. China fears the Dalai Lama may find his successor in Tawang, which was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama and also hosts one of the largest monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism outside Tibet.
In the past, China had offered to give up its claims on Arunachal in exchange for India dropping its claims to Aksai Chin. But of late, Beijing has rescinded this offer, insisting that Arunachal is part of Tibet.
Till 2003, even the Dalai Lama claimed that Tawang was Tibetan. His stand on the issue has changed since then and the Tibetan spiritual leader now says that the town is part of India.
Experts argued that Rijiju's elevation may not have been dictated by the need to send a message to Beijing but gives out a signal nonetheless, just days after Modi's phone call to the Dalai Lama.
These developments come as India and China are preparing to hold the 12th round of meeting to discuss the standoff in eastern Ladakh.
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