India should "return" Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to China for resolving the vexed border issue as Beijing does not want to see instability in Tibet, a leading Chinese scholar has said.
"Tawang is central to the resolution of the Sino-Indian border issue," Professor Ma Jiali with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, a leading government think-tank said.
Ma also said that if India returns Tawang, a sacred place for Tibetan Buddhists, the Chinese side could be "magnanimous" in settling the border in the Western and Middle Sectors of the disputed boundary. "If the border issue is not dealt well, the Chinese central government could face problems from local Tibetan people, who consider Tawang as part of Tibet," Ma told PTI in an interview.
"The Chinese government cannot afford to ignore popular feelings," he said. "Some Tibetans could use this issue to foment trouble in Tibet if Tawang is not returned to China," Ma said as Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on Tuesday described the India-China boundary dispute as an issue "left over from history."
Ma asserted that no Chinese government or leader can accept the McMahon Line, drawn by "British imperialists."
Interestingly, Li, in his customary press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's parliament, mentioned that the India-China boundary issue was imposed by the "Western colonialists" on the Chinese and Indian people when they were not masters of their countries.
But India has ruled out any "populated areas" as part of a border deal, which makes concessions in Arunachal Pradesh unacceptable. The area of Tawang is one of the main sticking points since China claim it to be central to Tibetan Buddhism given that the sixth Dalai Lama was born there. Further, New Delhi has ruled out the idea of handing over Tawang to China as such a move would make the country strategically vulnerable in the Himalayan region.
But the Chinese foreign minister, who visited New Delhi last month, appeared confident that the two countries could properly settle the boundary issue. "I believe the Chinese and Indian people, who have won the struggle for national liberation, have enough wisdom and capability to find a proper solution to the issue left over by history," Li said.
Guided by the China-India Joint Declaration, the strategic partnership of the two countries has been moving forward in an all-round way, which has also created a favourable condition for the settlement of the boundary issue, Li said.
"I believe as long as the two sides bear in mind the overall situation of China-India friendship and act in the spirit of peace and friendship, consultation on equal footing, mutual respect and understanding, we will be able to find a proper solution to this issue acceptable to both countries," he said.
However, Ma was not that optimistic. "I think the Sino-Indian boundary issue cannot be resolved in the short-term. It would require give and take and mutual concessions," he said. At the same time, Ma noted that the Special Representatives of India and China have held nine rounds of negotiations and have worked out the political guiding principles to resolve the border issue.
Among other things, these guiding principles commit both India and China sides to arriving at a "package settlement" of the boundary question in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding.
India says China is illegally occupying 43,180 sq kms of Jammu and Kashmir including 5,180 sq km illegally ceded to Beijing by Islamabad under the Sino-Pakistan boundary agreement in 1963. On the other hand, China accuses India of possessing some 90,000 sq km of Chinese territory, mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.