Chinese plans to build an observatory in the Tibet autonomous region (TAR) will not impact India if it is not in an area that is in dispute between the two countries, diplomatic sources have said.
A leading Chinese astronomer was last week quoted by the official Xinhua news agency that a “…remote area in southwest China's Tibet autonomous region may be chosen as the location for a new international astronomical observatory.”
The article quoted scientist Yao Yongqiang as saying the planned observatory will enable scientists from China, Japan and South Korea to build large-scale telescopes and carry out joint research programs.
He indicated the observatory could come up near Shiquanhe town in Ngari prefecture of the TAR. The town, known in Mandarin as Ali, is 100 kilometres in Chinese territory from the international boundary, said diplomatic sources in New Delhi, and is an area that is accepted as Chinese territory by India. “This is well within Chinese sovereign area,” said a source.
Diplomatic sources in Beijing said the exact point where the planned observatory will be build was not clear from the scientist’s interview.
“Shiquanhe is not far from the LAC. But the location is not clear and as long as it is not in the disputed area, there should not be any problem,” a diplomat added.
The Aksai Chin areas in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Arunchal Pradesh are two border dispute flashpoints between the two countries.
Some Indian media reports mistakenly claimed that “Shiquanhe” is the Chinese name for Aksai Chin. This was disputed by Chinese officials in New Delhi who said the Chinese name for Aksai Chin is “Akesaiqin”.
Yao told Xinhua that the place near the town of Shiquanhe, with easy access to traffic and limited clouds and vapors but high transparency, would be ideal for observation activities and has therefore been recommended by the East Asia Core Observatories Association (EACOA) at a recent meeting in Beijing, he said.
“EACOA, comprising astronomers from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Japan and the Republic of Korea, made the recommendation after two years of joint site surveying with the National Astronomical Observatories on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region,” the article said.