Three powerful United States (US) senators from both sides of the political divide introduced a significant resolution in the Senate Thursday (16 February), affirming that Arunachal Pradesh is an "integral part of India."
The resolution condemns China for "trying to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) through military force" and backs multiple initiatives by India to meet the Chinese challenge.
Jeff Markley, Bill Haggerty, and John Cornyn are the senators behind the resolution. Markley, a progressive Democrat from Oregon, serves as co-chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China. Haggerty is a Republican from Tennessee who was the US ambassador to Japan.
Both Markley and Haggerty are members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).
Senator Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is the co-founder and co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, a former Senate majority whip, and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The resolution is titled ‘Reaffirming the state of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory and condemning the People’s Republic of China’s provocations in South Asia’.
It has been referred to the SFRC and is scheduled to be taken up by the committee chairman, Menendez.
The resolution is a significant one; it goes well beyond merely backing India’s suzerainty over Arunachal Pradesh. It is a strong censure of China’s misadventures and expansionist designs in South Asia.
Why the resolution is momentous:
– It goes beyond the US government’s official recognition of Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India, since it calls out Chinese aggression along the LAC.
– It also goes beyond merely condemning China, by lauding and unequivocally endorsing the counter-measures adopted by India to meet the Chinese threat across the LAC.
– Though a resolution was passed in the US Congress after the Galwan incident (2020) condemning China for its incursions and aggression, this is the first time a resolution mirroring India’s position and fully backing India against China has been tabled.
– The resolution is a first because it details various aggressive moves by China, including the release of a map by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs in December 2021, assigning names in Mandarin to human settlements, mountain peaks and passes, and rivers in Arunachal Pradesh, which, the resolution notes, China refers to as ‘South Tibet’.
– The resolution is bipartisan and has the complete backing of not only progressive Democrats, but also conservative Republicans.
Weighty parts of the resolution:
– The resolution expressly states that the US stand on Arunachal Pradesh, that it's "an integral part of the Republic of India," is unqualified and unambiguous.
– It says China’s claims over Arunachal Pradesh is part of its "increasingly aggressive and expansionist policies."
– It places on record the clashes that have erupted between Indian and Chinese forces as a result of Chinese expansionist policies and aggression along the LAC.
– China’s People’s Liberation Army has engaged in "provocative moves" in the Western Sector along the LAC in April 2020, "including increasing troop deployments, building new infrastructure in contested areas, and harassing Indian patrols, particularly around the Depsang Plains, Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, and Pangong Lake."
– "These provocations by China," the resolution says, "upended the then improving India-China relations and led to the Galwan Valley clash resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers."
– The resolution is critical of China’s diplomatic objections to the Dalai Lama's visits to Arunachal Pradesh and China’s refusal to grant stamped visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh to visit China.
– The resolution takes note of the construction of villages by China along the LAC and "expansion of Chinese territorial into Bhutanese territory."
– It says that China’s claims over Arunachal Pradesh and its provocations along the LAC "has impeded poverty alleviation and economic development of the state” since international donors are “cautious of providing assistance due to the state’s perceived status as disputed territory."
– The resolution endorses India’s counter-measures like building border roads and developing border infrastructure, and also India’s ‘vibrant village’ project “to defend itself from (Chinese aggression) and security threats”.
– It also backs other measures taken by India, like screening overseas investments to prevent Chinese investments in critical sectors and securing telecom infrastructure.
– Crucially, the resolution says it is in the US' interest "to work with India bilaterally through the comprehensive global strategy partnership and multilaterally through Quad and I2U2."
– It notes the progress in the US-India Major Defense Partnership to build "an advanced and comprehensive defence partnership in which the armed forces of the United States and India coordinate across all domains."
– It also recognises India’s "significant leadership role on the global stage."
– The resolution expresses strong support for India’s defence modernisation and for strengthening US-India defence ties through "enhanced defence interoperability and information-sharing, especially for early warning systems."
– It also calls for "deepening US assistance to the region" through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and through funding mechanisms like the Countering PRC (People’s Republic Of China) Fund.
– The resolution then calls on the US government to step up bilateral ties through multiple initiatives, including the US-India Initiative On Critical & Emerging Technology (ICET), and enhancing economic cooperation as well as people-to-people ties.
– It also calls on the US government to deepen engagement with India at multilateral forums like Quad and the East Asia Summit.
Strategic affairs experts say that the resolution is momentous and signifies further solidification of Indo-US ties.
They say that the censure and condemnation of China, and simultaneous praise and unequivocal support for India, in a strongly worded bipartisan resolution like this is unprecedented.
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