China’s claim that Arunachal Pradesh is nothing but southern Tibet and hence it’s part of China has had interesting repercussions. Historians have been quick to point out that the first person to conquer Tibet was Genghis Khan and if Arunachal Pradesh was really southern Tibet than it should belong, not to China, but to Mongolia. While the Mongolian government has not yet claimed either Arunachal Pradesh or Tibet, it is simultaneously dazed and entranced with the idea.
Meanwhile, the Chinese claim has also enthused the leaders of Uzbekistan, one of whom has pointedly remarked that the Mughal emperor Babar was from Samarkand in Uzbekistan. A committee of Uzbek historians is considering whether Uzbekistan can claim Delhi on that basis. Not to be outdone, Tibetans living in India have laid claim to Beijing on the basis of the tribute that the Chinese had to pay to a Tibetan strongman called Songsten Gampo 1,300 years ago. They propose to lodge a strong protest against Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent public appearances in Beijing, claiming he had no business to be there.
Indian states have been quick to take advantage of this fascinating new trend. Tamil Nadu politicos, for instance, have lost no time in pointing out that Sumatra and Java were part of the vast Chola empire and have proposed renaming Angkor Wat as East Gummidipundi. Bihar has laid claim to Mauritius and Guyana on the basis of the thousands who migrated there. They plan to rename Mauritius as South Begusarai, while Guyana will be New Jhumri Talaiya.
Other countries too have jumped into the fray. Iran is studying whether Nadir Shah’s invasion could lead to a claim on Delhi. That has led to a sharp rebuke from Uzbekistan. Afghan president Hamid Karzai, tired of ruling his war-torn country, has applied for the post of governor of West Bengal, as Afghan chief Sher Shah Suri ruled the place some 500 years ago. A Myanmarese general claimed Assam because the Ahom people there were originally from the Shan states, part of present-day Myanmar. He was shocked when Assam turned around and claimed the Shan states instead. While historians say Pakistan and Afghanistan were part of Chandragupta Maurya’s empire, India has understandably not been very keen to claim those Taliban-infested regions. And finally, fed up with all these petty rivalries, Namibia has laid claim to the entire planet, on the basis that all human beings originated from their country before migrating to the rest of Africa and then to the world. But China insists that all those cities that have Chinatowns should belong to them.
Meanwhile the Indian government has sought to play down the Chinese threat, merely saying that it is pained and disappointed with their attitude. This has irked some Indians, who do not understand why their government hasn’t immediately de-recognised the frivolous Chinese claims on Tibet and Xinjiang. “We demand the government should immediately send Raj Thackeray to Tibet to kick out the Han outsiders there,” said a Shiv Sena leader. But a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party worker said that rumours of Raj being forced to secretly learn Tibetan are not true.
At an emotional meeting in New Delhi, Opposition leaders claimed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had even been seen eating chow mein at a recent public dinner. The Prime Minister’s Office has issued a strong denial, alleging this was a foul canard being spread with ulterior motives. “He was merely eating spaghetti,” clarified a government spokesman.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
(The views expressed by the author are personal)