11/16/2006, 00.00
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Buddhist political and religious leaders in Indian border state fear Chinese territorial ambitions

by Prakash Dubey
China's ambassador to India claims Arunachal Pradesh. Local leaders call on New Delhi to show resolve against Beijing.

Siliguri (AsiaNews) – Buddhist leaders in a disputed Indian border state continue to protest and express their concern over China's territorial ambitions vis-à-vis their land. Remarks by China's Ambassador Sun Yuxi that the state of Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India was part and parcel of China were a "manifestation of illicit territorial ambition".

The Chinese diplomat's statement on Monday has led to diplomatic tensions between the two countries just a few days before planned state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to India scheduled for November 20-23.

Now local Buddhist leaders and lawmakers have called on the government to show to resolve against Beijing's claims.

Since the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the two countries have been discussing the 3,500 kilometre-long border. For decades China has proposed to cede to India Aksai Chin, which is part of Kashmir (20 per cent of territory) in the west in exchange for the Arunachal Pradesh in the east. However, India has steadfastly rejected any demand that involves ceding inhabited areas. This means that transferring Arunachal Pradesh to China is out of the question.

But Tawang and its monastery, a vestige of Mahayana Buddhism located in the state, are the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama, proof if any, according to the Chinese, that the area is part of Tibet.

Discussions over its status have been held since 1981, but with little progress.

T. G. Rinpoche, a local Buddhist spiritual leader and a state lawmaker, said that most of the "people of our state bordering with China are Buddhist and everybody here rejects Beijing's claims."

"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should take up this sensitive matter during the Chinese president's visit next week and try to get a commitment from Beijing not to rake up such issues again," he said.

Nabam Rebia, a Union (i.e. federal) MP from the state, insisted that "New Delhi must say explicitly that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and that such statements [like those of the Chinese ambassador] should not be made in future."

In fact India has already strongly reacted to the ambassador's claims. Foreign Minister Pranav Mukherjee said in no uncertain terms that "Arunachal Pradesh was an integral part of India".

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