Published in The Tribune, 11 August 2021
To understand the significance of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Tibet, one needs to go back to the decisions taken at the Seventh National Forum on Work in Tibet on August 28-29, 2020. There was an important eight-character edict from Xi, which spelt out the key elements of the latest policy line on Tibet — ‘stability, development, ecology and border area consolidation’. The aspect of consolidation assumed significance in view of the clashes between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh in May-June 2020. These clashes were preceded by a tense standoff between the troops at Doklam located at the India-Bhutan-China trijunction in 2017. Therefore, the security aspect of managing Tibet has acquired heightened importance for China. At the forum, he placed top priority to the security objective when he said, “We must adhere to the strategic thinking that to govern the nation, we must govern our borders; to govern our borders, we must first stabilise Tibet.”
Note the singular importance given to Tibet in ensuring border security. No other border nor borders in general have been mentioned. This is why one must realise the enhanced threat to India’s security in Arunachal Pradesh.
There is a visible acceleration in the pace of infrastructure development in Tibet, particularly near the India-China border in the Arunachal Pradesh sector. Nyingchi, which Xi visited, is currently a major link in the proposed high-speed railway from Lhasa to Chengdu in Sichuan province. It lies only 15 km from the India-China border. The strategic importance of the rail link in moving troops and materials swiftly to the border in the case of an armed conflict should not be underestimated.
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