New Delhi: Continuing with its series of provocative moves against India on the disputed border, Beijing has now announced its planning to upgrade two Tibetan towns on the border with Arunachal Pradesh to city status, reports South China Morning Post. This step is likely to further inflame tensions between the two Himalayan neighbours, placing the Modi government under renewed pressure against its attempts to underplay the Chinese belligerence.
The authorities in Tibet said on Monday that two counties along the eastern sector – Milin and Cuona – would be upgraded to city status and taken under the direct administration of the regional government, reports the Hong Kong-based newspaper. Both areas have populations of less than 25,000 but Milin, which is also known as Mainling, is an important border town and transport hub whose territory abuts 180 km of the border with India. It is linked by rail to the regional capital Lhasa and lies along a highway linking Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as having its own airport.
Cuona, which is also known as Cona or Tsona, borders Bhutan to the southwest and lies across the border from the Tawang sector. A part of territory claimed by China as part of the new city of Cuona falls in India, reports the newspaper. In December, soldiers from both countries clashed in the Tawang sector, leaving dozens with what the Indian army described as “minor injuries”.
No further details of the new changes were given but under China’s administrative system, such an upgrade usually sees more resources being allocated to local development and the local authorities being given more powers.
This announcement of a new city status for two border towns came a day after the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing said it had “standardised” the names of 11 places, including five mountains, in the region and published a map that included Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet. Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that his country rejected the renaming plan “outright”. “Arunachal Pradesh is, has been, and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India. Attempts to assign invented names will not alter this reality.”
Reacting to the Indian statement, Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesman Mao Ning said the name changes were “completely within the scope of China’s sovereignty”. “The southern Tibet region is Chinese territory,” Mao told reporters in Beijing.
The two countries have also been involved in a prolonged stand-off in Ladakh since 2020. As per a report presented at a government conference, Indian security forces have been denied access to 26 of 65 Patrolling Points on the Line of Actual Control in the area. Opposition parties have criticised PM Narendra Modi for staying silent on the subject and blocking any questions and debate in Parliament. The Congress party yesterday demanded an all-party meeting to discuss the situation on the border.