In what could escalate into another India-China diplomatic row, Beijing has asked New Delhi not to include youth from Arunachal Pradesh in the annual youth exchange delegation next month, leading to protests from the Youth Affairs Ministry that now wants the entire exchange stopped.
Youth Affairs Minister Jitendra Singh has shot off a strongly worded letter to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, asking him to cancel the trip unless China drops the condition.
“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,” wrote Singh, who is also Minister of State for Defence.
According to Singh’s letter, the Chinese embassy conveyed to his Ministry that “no youth from the state of Arunachal Pradesh be included in the youth delegation” after which the matter was referred to the Ministry of External Affairs for advice and guidance.
The MEA, however, sent no response, a fact that has also been recorded by Singh in his letter. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports sent its first letter on March 12 stating that they had been “informed orally” by the Chinese side to avoid any nomination from Arunachal Pradesh. The letter, therefore, sought “necessary direction” on the subject. This was followed by another reminder on April 3.
While the MEA never got back with a firm direction, sources said, it withdrew the political clearance given to the Minister and 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 his comments were sought, Singh said he never intended to travel as he was preoccupied with electoral work and that even last year, he had sent a ministry official instead. But he said he was 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 said.