China’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh is meaningless, Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu tells Teresa Rehman
China is objecting to the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Tawang monastery next month.
The Dalai Lama is our spiritual leader. He is coming to inaugurate a hospital for which he has also contributed Rs 20 lakh. He is a refugee in India and can go anywhere in the country. Whatever China is doing is meaningless.
Who are they to stop us? They torture the Tibetans and don’t allow them to practice their religion. We condemn China’s action.
But the Dalai Lama is also the president of the Tibetan government in- exile. Doesn’t his visit also have political connotations?
The Dalai Lama is coming only as a spiritual head of the Buddhists. He is not involved with any political party in India. He does represent the Tibetan government-in-exile but we have nothing to do with it. We will welcome him as our religious guru.
Do you think people along the Indo-China border are feeling insecure?
I don’t see people as insecure as they were in 1962. India was not prepared then. Now both the countries are strong. India is no longer the India of 1962. If there is a war, both countries will be ruined. Both should instead talk about building strong political, economic and diplomatic ties. The trade route between both the countries should be opened. A war means going back another 100 years.
Why do you think China claims that Arunachal Pradesh is its territory?
We share a border with Tibet. The sixth Dalai Lama was born in Tawang. Does that mean Arunachal Pradesh is theirs? The fourth Dalai Lama was born in Mongolia. Does that mean that Mongolia is theirs?
China also opposed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
If our prime minister does not visit us then will the prime minister of China come to visit us?
China is said to have developed a lot of infrastructure along the border.
China has built roads along the border and done border electrification. India is also building infrastructure along the Indo-China border to match the other side. The Centre has approved a 1,850-km trans-Himalayan highway in Arunachal Pradesh. The road, close to the border, would give inter-valley connectivity. The Centre has also given Rs 550 crore for border electrification.
Now the Centre is setting up 11 airports in different locations in the state. We have urged the Centre to set up 5-6 battalions of Arunachal Scouts, on the pattern of the Ladakh Scouts or the Sikh Regiment. Local people are better acclimatised to the heights and the difficult terrain here.
How do you see the future of the Tibetan refugees in your state?
They are settled in their designated camps. We provide them land, water and electricity. They are economically self-reliant and practice agriculture and horticulture.
They also weave beautiful carpets and teach the skills to our people. They have also opened their own schools. Their future is dependent on their government-in-exile.