New Delhi: A bilateral draft resolution in the United States Senate seeks to “reaffirm” that the country continues recognising the state of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory. The US government has recognised the state as part of India for nearly 60 years.
The bipartisan draft resolution (S.Res 75) was introduced in the Senate on February 16. It is titled, “Reaffirming the state of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory and condemning the People’s Republic of China’s provocations in South Asia”.
The text has been co-sponsored by Republican senator Bill Hagerty and Democrat senator Jeff Merkley. It has also garnered support from another Democrat senator from Texas, John Cornyn. After being introduced, the draft resolution has been referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Only after approval from the senate committee will it come to the floor of the Senate.
China has laid claim to the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh, around 90,000 square kilometres, which it describes as “south Tibet”.
The first line of the draft resolution noted that “since the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the United States has recognized the McMahon Line as the international boundary between the People’s Republic of China and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh”.
It then notes that China has refused to grant visas to residents of Arunachal Pradesh and has been making “provocative moves” on various parts of the line of actual control.
As per a press release dated February 16, Senator Merkley said, “This resolution makes clear that the United States views the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of the Republic of India – not the People’s Republic of China – and commits the U.S. to deepening support and assistance to the region, alongside like-minded international partners and donors”.
It also quoted Senator Hagerty as stating that “when China continues to pose grave and gathering threats to the Free and Open Indo-Pacific, it’s critical for the United States to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our strategic partners in the region—especially India”.
These words were again repeated in a press release issued by Senator Hagerty’s office on March 14.
From the continuing stand-off in Ladakh and the recent clash in Arunachal Pradesh between Indian and Chinese troops, the draft resolutions mentioned various recent differences between India and China over the border.
In April 2017 and December 2021, China also published maps of Arunachal Pradesh, assigning Mandarin language names to geographic features. India said in 2021 that “assigning invented names” to places in Arunachal Pradesh will not change the fact that it is an integral part of India.
The senators also noted that China had “constructed two Chinese villages close to the Line of Actual Control near Arunachal Pradesh and expanded its territorial claims in Bhutanese territory in the Eastern Sector”.
The draft resolution calls on the senate to “unequivocally” recognise the state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of India and condemn China’s use of force to change the status quo along LAC.
It also sought to commend New Delhi for “taking steps to defend itself against aggression and security threats from the People’s Republic of China, including through securing its telecommunications infrastructure, examining its procurement processes and supply chains, implementing investment screening standards, and expanding its cooperation with Taiwan in public health and other sectors”.
During a visit to the state in April 2016, the US consul general in Kolkata, Craig L. Hall, had clearly said that Arunachal was a part of India. Six months later, then US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, became the first foreign diplomat to be the guest of honour at the annual Tawang festival.
His successor Kenneth Juster also attended the same event in 2019. The US had described the visit as a show of support for Indian sovereignty. China had, of course, vociferously protested all the visits by senior US officials to Arunachal Pradesh, but India had dismissed them.