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BOOK CORNER: INDIA-CHINA GRIDLOCK OVER ARUNACHAL … A Challenge to India’s Polity – R.D. Pradhan

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    Have you ever been to the Northeast of India? If not, I suggest, please go there. It’s a beautiful place. A heaven on earth. Well, today I have for you a book from that area titled ‘INDIA-CHINA GRIDLOCK OVER ARUNACHAL … A Challenge to India’s Polity’ by RD Pradhan. RD Pradhan was the first governor of Arunachal Pradesh from 1987-1990. He has travelled extensively in the far-off and remote northeast areas, especially the state’s border areas. He has also interacted with the people and got acquainted with their social and cultural heritage. The author had retired as the Union Home Secretary and was appointed by Rajiv Gandhi as the Governor of the newly formed state of Arunachal. In the book, he has presented issues relating to India’s sovereignty that unless resolved early, will continue to pose a threat to India’s integrity.

    The subject book is a publication of Chinar Publishers. The price is Rs 395. Though it was published in 2013 yet the narration feels fresh and relevant as it comprises both the history and geography of Arunachal Pradesh and the strategic initiatives required to protect the sovereignty of India. The author has rightly used plain—simple English to convey his point of view. Although the book is of a medium spine comprising 169 pages, it has a long Table of Content of some thirty chapters. The central theme of the narration is Independent India’s inheritance of her geographical boundaries from the British on 15th August 1947. It talks about China’s claim on the territory of present-day Arunachal Pradesh. China claims that the territory of the state belonging to the Tibet Region has been occupied by India illegally after the British left their Indian colony of the two succeeding governments of India and Pakistan in 1947. The book mentions that the Sino-Indian boundary has never been delimited and there is only a traditional customary boundary line between the two countries.

    It talks about the inner line—misconception. But what is the inner line? Well, it is aptly explained in the book. In a nutshell, the Chinese have claimed Arunachal Pradesh on the basis of their claim line along the southern border that was delineated on the then-available cartography maps by the British. Actually, till the North East Frontier (NEFA) was notified as the present, Arunachal Pradesh was very much a part of the Assam Province of the British and post-independent India. Its southern boundary was known as the Inner Line. But what is this so-called Inner Line and its relevance to the evolution of British rule in the northeast? In any event, that line had nothing to do with Tibet. The Inner Line only indicated the limits of the administrative areas and in no way defined the actual boundary of the British possessions. The book describes the land of Arunachal and its people quite vividly. The name Arunachal is most appropriate for the region. At the touch of dawn each morning, the sun’s rays first touch the Indian soil at its northeastern tip which awakens India to a new day. The cultural and spiritual life of the Monpas (The major tribe of Arunachal Pradesh) revolves around the Tawang Monastery, founded over 350 years ago. It is by far the biggest lamasery in India, at an altitude of 3048 metres and houses over 500 lamas. The author also touches upon wildlife. Arunachal is a stronghold of the Indian elephant. Tigers are found in some places along the foothills, while leopard, sloth bear and the Himalayan black bear are common in higher reaches. The author has also dwelled on the early history of the place. A reference he makes about the existence of a temple of Rukmini which is there. It is said that Rukmini, an Idu-Mishmi tribe girl, and Lord Krishna rested here, when they eloped from Bhismak Nagar, her father’s kingdom situated 100 km to the east along the Brahmaputra river valley. It also talks of the Tawang Area—the heart of Buddhism. Tawang Monastery is Tibetan. The book explains the Shimla Agreement which the Chinese government refused to ratify. It talks about Sir Henry McMohan and the McMohan line. In reality, the Indo-Tibetan boundary was delimited but never demarcated on the ground.

    The book covers Buddhism in Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, and China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh. In September 2007, a Chinese official made a claim on the Tawang area on the ground that it was inhabited by people practicing Buddhism. Also, the Monastery and the fact that the Sixth Dalai Lama was born here established the fact that the area was part of Tibet. It is firmly believed that the famous Indian monk Padmasambhava who arrived in Tibet in 747 A.D. in response to an invitation from the Tibetan King Thisrong Detsen finally established Buddhism here. Kameng Frontier Division became a household name when China attacked the borders in the northeast in September 1962. Till then, hardly anyone, on India’s mainland knew or cared to know about the land. Kameng Frontier Division was designated as a district in 1972. In many respects, the people inhabiting the Kameng district are distinctly different to the tribes inhabiting the rest of Arunachal.

    In the other chapters, the author describes his visit to Tawang. He also describes a shameful incident of the 1962 war when an Indian Commander of a division along with his men in panic run away towards the Bhutan boundary instead of facing the enemy. And after weeks of trekking in the jungles, they eventually reach Tezpur. In contrast, the author also narrates the brave story of the unforgettable hero Jaswant Singh in whose name, a place has been christened there as ‘Jaswantgarh.’ The book also takes you on a tour of the Tawang Monastery which has a link to Tibet and Buddhism. It also takes you beyond Tawang and into the problems of locals crossing the border and also cattle grazing across the borders.

    The author also recollects his trip to Namka Chu Valley called ‘THE VALLEY OF DEATH.’

    The book is a mix, of a bit of adventure, history and flora and fauna. You’ll be richer in terms of knowledge of this area after reading the title. The book also has some historical pictures. The author also covers the easternmost Lohit district along with his visit to other northern areas. The book talks about the Brahmaputra hence I would call the narration a combination of history, geography, travel, strategy and mythology. It gives a vivid description of the areas along the Myanmar Border—the people of the Lohit and Changlang districts. It describes the population of Wanchoo, the Nocte, and the Tangsas along the Myanmar border near the Patkoi range.

    As part of the history, it covers the consolidation of Boundry—the Pre 1947 efforts. Post-Independence Evolution—Nehru’s policy framework, Cartographic aggression, the border talks in the Nehruvian era, the border talks in the Indira era and the Deng package. It also brings to the fore the Border Talks in the Rajiv Gandhi Era which is a one-up-man-ship. They say the Chinese cannot be trusted. See how the Chinese changed the goalpost, post-Wandung. In the summing up part of the book the author redefines the parameters of India, post the Rajiv Gandhi era.

    The legitimate question that the book asks is: How is it that the border issue has been kept alive for over four decades when both China and India have moved ahead in their chosen ways and now established mutually beneficial relationships in trade and several other endeavours? Why couldn’t Pandit Nehru resolve the border issue in his lifetime feels the author.

    It is an interesting read and quite descriptive. Apart from the border issue, the narration captures the flora and fauna, locales, culture and tradition, and the description is in a detailed manner. If you are fond of travelling then too this book is very interesting. The chapters are short say 4-5 pages each but crisp. I would give the book an A grade.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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