Saturday, April 21, 2012

JJ Singh on Sino-India boundary dispute: Jumping the gun or testing the waters?


Former Army Chief and now Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, Gen JJ Singh created a bit of a stir last month by saying "India will have to move away from our position that our territory is non-negotiable," in context of the long-standing India-China boundary dispute.
He was speaking at a seminar in Itanagar. The proceedings of the seminar were first reported by BBC here (http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17738147).
Taking a cue from the BBC report, I contacted the Arunachal Pradesh Raj Bhawan and the Governor himself, but to no avail. Gen JJ Singh's staff kept insisting it was his personal opinion and should not be taken out of context but refused to react officially.
So on NDTV, I did a small report, followed by a discussion on Nidhi Razdan's programme, LRC. (Watch it here  http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/left-right-centre/give-and-take-necessary-to-solve-indo-china-border-dispute-ex-army-chief/229827)
The participants--not unusually--took their known positions. 
But the statements of the Governor had caught the establishment by surprise which explains why Gen JJ Singh was forced to issue a clarification on Friday in which he insists that those were his personal views which, to my limited understanding, is incorrect to say since a person holding a Constituional position, speaking at a public function, cannot have a personal view.
Be that as it may, the Press statement is reproduced in full, below. Judge for yourself whether JJ Singh was speaking out of turn or was he set up by the establishment to test the waters!

PRESS RELEASE 
This press release is issued in response to the news clippings displayed on some TV news channels which have attributed certain comments on the resolution of Indo-China border dispute through give-and-take and the non-negotiable status of Arunachal Pradesh to His Excellency the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh. It is clarified that when read in the overall perspective, the comments have been quoted out of context and an impression different from what was conveyed has been created.
His Excellency’s views have been purportedly taken from a speech that he had made at an intellectual seminar which was organized by an academic forum at Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar on 8th and 9th March 2012. It was not a State function and His Excellency had categorically mentioned that these are his personal views on the subject.
Our relations with China assume great importance for the overall peace, progress and development of the region. We have an ongoing strategic and co-operative partnership in place which began with the historic visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China in 1988 laying the foundations of a much more vibrant relationship between the two nations. The visit by Prime Minister Vajpayee in 2003 followed by the appointment of special representatives to solve the border issue has given a further thrust to the same.
Successive Governments at the centre, across the board and irrespective of party affiliations have always advocated a peaceful settlement of the border dispute in a pragmatic and mature manner, through mutual understanding and through dialogue to discuss the disputed areas. The question of dialogue will certainly imply discussion on certain disputed portions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and as a starting point for such a dialogue, the acknowledgement of give-and-take principle has to be recognized. This is in context of the overall boundary with China, extending from Aksai Chin in the west to North-East India in the east and for the North-east India, the McMohan line should certainly be the keystone of the edifice. The perceptional differences between both sides on disputed pockets along the border should be discussed by Govt. representatives at the highest levels. We need to display the highest levels of diplomacy, statesmanship and statecraft in solving this long pending issue.

Raj Bhawan
Itanagar

20th April 2012.

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