DHARAMSALA, April 21: A senior Indian government official has expressed his anger in protest against Beijing’s demand not to include youth from Arunachal Pradesh in the annual youth exchange delegation next month.
Youth Affairs Minister, Jitender Singh has shot off a strongly worded missive to External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid asking him to cancel the trip unless China drops the precondition, the Indian Express reported on Sunday.
“I believe these incremental steps by China to challenge India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh and its other territories must be nipped in the bud, lest these lead to bigger and more direct challenges. Hence, youth from Arunachal Pradesh should form part of the youth delegation from India to China and if this is not acceptable, the exchange of youth delegation should be stopped,” the report quoted Singh, who is also Minister of State for Defence, as saying in the letter.
After the Chinese embassy made the demand, the matter was referred to Ministry of External Affairs for advice and guidance, the report noted.
When the Ministry of Youth Affairs did not receive any response from the MEA, it sent its first letter on March 12 stating that they had been “informed orally” by the Chinese side not to include any youth from Arunachal Pradesh. The ministry also sent another reminder on April 3.
Though the MEA did not provide any firm direction, the report noted that it withdrew the political clearance given to Minister and the Secretary of Youth Affairs to head the delegation on grounds that India was in “election mode” and it may not be the right time to undertake a visit as bilateral issues may arise.
When asked for his comments, Singh said he never intended to travel to China as he was preoccupied with electoral work and that he was in fact, outraged by China’s decision to exclude youth from Arunachal Pradesh.
“I think that is very serious. I find it disturbing and absolutely absurd. How can China dictate whom we can include in our delegation and from where? That’s for us to decide. I have taken it up with the External Affairs Minister and asked that the delegation not be allowed to go if China insists on this condition,” Singh was further quoted as saying.
It is not the first time that China has questioned India’s sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh. In October last year, two young archers from Arunachal were unable to participate in the World Archery Championship in China as they were given stapled visas by the Chinese authorities.