China is not expressing its uneasiness openly but Beijing will be watching with some amount of diplomatic disquiet as Arunachal Pradesh, known here as South Tibet, goes to polls in the second phase of India’s general election on Wednesday.
China claims Arunachal as an integral part of its own territory and has often strongly criticised the visits of top Indian leaders – including President Pranab Mukherjee’s in November, 2013 – visits to the state. The border in Arunachal is one of the areas of dispute between the two countries with conflicting border claims.
Both the general and state assembly elections are slated in Arunachal for Wednesday.
On Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, deflected a question on tomorrow’s election there.
“We hope Indian elections can be carried out on smoothly. As for territorial disputes you mentioned, our position is clear,” Hong said told a daily presser.
The said position includes not giving visas to residents including athletes, bureaucrats and army officers from Arunachal visiting China.
Academics and diplomats here have closely followed BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful, Narendra Modi’s Arunachal visit last month.
Addressing a rally at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh Modi had said: "Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and will always remain so. No power can snatch it from us. People of Arunachal Pradesh didn't come under pressure or fear of China."
He had added, "China should shed its expansionist policy and forge bilateral ties with India for peace, progress and prosperity of both the nations."
Hu Shisheng, a leading South Asia expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told HT that China wasn’t too worried about Modi’s rhetoric.
“I personally don't believe that Mr. Modi's policy on border disputes could be much harder. It is not serving India's National interests. As for border disputes, the only approach could only be give and take, and peacefully and diplomatically seeking mutually accepted solutions,” Hu told HT.
“If it couldn't be solved in the near future, both governments could develop cooperation in some other more strategically important areas with strengthening the global and regional governance in particular. His (Modi’s) remarks upon the disputed area could mostly be related to his election campaign,” Hu said.
On Tuesday, the official media, however, did not lose the chance to criticise the Indian government’s policies in the northeastern states.
Commenting on the first phase of the Indian general elections, Beijing said: “India’s northeastern states isolated, neglected”, in a commentary published in the official news agency, Xinhua.
The unrest and insurgencies in the region geographically close to the disputed border were fuelled by New Delhi’s continuous apathy toward the region, it added.
It added: “During every election, all the major political parties -- the Congress and the BJP) -- assure development of the region, plagued by unemployment and rampant corruption, but only time will tell whether the people trust the national parties anymore.”