India-China Territorial Dispute: Arunachal Pradesh Tensions Soar As Beijing Asserts Claims

India-China Territorial Dispute: Arunachal Pradesh Tensions Soar As Beijing Asserts Claims

The continuous back and forth between the two countries has sparked concerns of a potential escalation in hostilities between the two countries.

Rahul MUpdated: Tuesday, March 26, 2024, 01:49 PM IST
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Sela Pass, Tawang Gate, Arunachal Pradesh | Bishnu Sarangi/Pixabay

China's repeated territorial claims over Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh has seen a rise in a recent weeks. The country's foreign ministry renewed its territorial assertions following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month.

On Monday, Beijing continued to lay claims over the Indian state after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar labelled the Chinese assertion "ludicrous". Jaishankar maintained that Arunachal Pradesh was a "natural part of India". "This is not a new issue. I mean China has laid claim, it has expanded its claim. The claims are ludicrous to begin with and remain ludicrous today," he said at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Tensions between New Delhi and Beijing escalated after Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Arunachal Pradesh on March 9. During his visit, Modi inaugurated a significant Rs 55,600 crore tunnel project aimed at enhancing "all-weather" connectivity to the strategic Tawang region within the remote state. The project is expected to bolster India's defence infrastructure along its de facto border with China.

The continuous back and forth between the two countries has sparked concerns of a potential escalation in hostilities between the two countries. India and China share a 3,488-km long unmarked border known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). This border traverses through Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Given the lack of complete demarcation, determining and confirming the exact location of the LAC poses a significant challenge for both countries.

Arunachal Pradesh has been fraught with geopolitical tensions and has witnessed the longstanding territorial dispute between India and China, which has a history of laying claims on territories of its neighbours. Recent years have witnessed a renewed vigour in the dispute, with both Beijing asserting its claims over Arunachal Pradesh.

China's territorial assertion

The roots of the conflict can be traced back to historical ambiguities and colonial legacies, exacerbated by strategic interests and ethnic complexities. China, which refers to the region as Zangnan or South Tibet, contests India's control over Arunachal Pradesh, arguing that it is an integral part of its territory. China's aggressive infrastructure development in Tibet, including the construction of roads and military facilities near the disputed border, has raised alarms in India, further straining bilateral relations.

India, on the other hand, maintains that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of its sovereign territory, having inherited the region from British colonial rule. New Delhi has consistently rejected Beijing's claims, emphasising the demographic and cultural ties of the region with the Indian mainland. India's military buildup along the disputed border and the deployment of additional troops have been interpreted as defensive measures in response to China's assertiveness.

The Arunachal Pradesh dispute not only poses a significant challenge to regional stability but also has broader implications for the geopolitical dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region. As China asserts its influence and expands its strategic footprint, India seeks to safeguard its territorial integrity and assert its status as a regional power. The clash of interests between the two Asian giants is likely to shape the contours of regional security architecture in the years to come.

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