The bipartisan resolution condemns China for the “use of military force” to change the status quo at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and its other provocations.
In a rare bipartisan signal of unequivocal support to India, three powerful Senators introduced a resolution on Thursday in the United States (US) Senate that reaffirms that the state of Arunachal Pradesh as an “integral part of India”, supports India’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”, condemns China for the “use of military force” to change the status quo at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and its other provocations, and lauds the government of India for the steps it has taken to “defend itself” against the “aggression and security threats” from China.
The resolution — introduced by Jeff Markley and Bill Haggerty and co-sponsored by John Cornyn — also supports India’s defence modernisation and diversification, applauds India’s development efforts in Arunachal including improving border infrastructure, commits to deepening US assistance in the region, encourages likeminded partners to bolster their assistance to Arunachal, and expresses support for the US-India bilateral partnership, including the recent initiative on critical and emerging technologies (ICET)
The political importance of the resolution
Markley is a progressive Democratic Senator from Oregon who also serves as the co-chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China. Haggerty is a former US ambassador to Japan. Both are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). And Cornyn is the co-founder and co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, a former Senate majority whip, and a current member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The introduction of the resolution, which is titled “Reaffirming the state of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory and
condemning the People’s Republic of China’s provocations in South Asia”, is a first step. It has been referred to the SFRC and will be taken up if the chair Bob Menendez so chooses. If it goes through committee, it may go to the floor as either a standalone resolution or as a part of larger legislation.
But the introduction of the resolution, in itself, is a powerful symbolic message of support for several reasons. One, while the US government officially recognises Arunachal as a part of India and there was a resolution condemning China for its incursions and aggression post-Galwan in 2020 in the US Congress, this is the first time that there is a detailed resolution of this nature echoing India’s position on Arunachal Pradesh and wider Chinese aggression at the LAC in the Senate. Two, it goes beyond condemning China’s actions to explicitly support and commend India for the position it has taken with regard to Chinese actions. And three, it is bipartisan in nature and has the support of both the progressive end of the Democratic spectrum and the conservative end of the Republican spectrum.
Support for India’s positions, critique of China’s actions
Laying out the background, the resolution begins by stating that since the Sino-India war of 1962, the US has recognised McMahon Line as the international border between China and the “Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh” and the US recognises Arunachal “not as disputed territory” but as an “integral part of the Republic of India” and this recognition isn’t qualified in any way.
The resolution says that China claims Arunachal as its territory, terms it “South Tibet” and has invoked these claims as a part of “its increasingly aggressive and expansionist policies”. It then refers to a December 2021 map of Arunachal published by China’s ministry of civil affairs that assigned Mandarin-language names to 15 geographic features, “including eight residential settlements, four mountain peaks, two rivers, and one mountain pass, as well as the names of the administrative regions where each of these are located”. Referring to the recent clashes in the eastern sector, the resolution points out how in December 2022, Chinese and Indian troops engaged in a skirmish in Arunachal along LAC, “the biggest clash in the Eastern Sector in six years”.
It also states that China’s People’s Liberation Army has engaged in “provocative moves” in the Western Sector along the LAC in April 2020, “including increasing troop deployments, building new infrastructure in contested areas, and harassing Indian patrols, particularly around the Depsang Plains, Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, and Pangong Lake”. These provocations by China, the resolution says, upended the then improving India-China relationship and led to the Galwan valley clash resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers.
China, the resolution says, also constructed two Chinese villages close to the LAC near Arunachal and expanded its territorial claims in Bhutanese territory in the Eastern Sector. It says that Arunachal includes Tawang (“home to the revered Tawang Monastery” and the “the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso”), and refers to China raising diplomatic objections to Dalai Lama’s visits to Arunachal and refusing to grant visas to “residents of the Indian state” for travel to China.
China’s provocations, the resolution claims, “impede poverty alleviation and economic development in Arunachal Pradesh, where nearly 25 per cent of the population lives in multidimensional poverty according to In- India’s 2021 National Multidimensional Poverty Index, leading many international donors to be cautious of providing assistance due to the state’s perceived status as disputed territory”.
It then lays out India’s actions, pointing out that the government has increased its funding for border infrastructure, village infrastructure, housing, tourist centers, road connectivity, and decentralised renewable energy production through the Vibrant Villages program. India has also “taken steps to defend itself from aggression and security threats” from China, including through securing its telecommunications infrastructure and conducting investment screening.
It is in the US’s interest to work with India bilaterally through the comprehensive global strategic partnership and multilaterally through Quad and I2U2, the resolution states. It recognises that there is significant and continuing progress in the US-India Major Defense Partnership, “including ambitions for building an advanced and comprehensive defense partnership in which the armed forces of the United States and India coordinate across all domains” and recognises that India is playing a significant leadership role on the global stage, including as G20 president this year.
In this background, the resolution commits the Senate to “unequivocally” recognise Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of India and support the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The resolution “condemns” China’s “use of military force to change the status quo” along the LAC and its “additional provocations”, including construction of villages in contested areas, expansion of territorial claims in Bhutan, and publication of maps assigning Mandarin-language names to cities and features of Arunachal Pradesh.
The resolution then goes on to commend India for taking steps to defend itself against aggression and security threats from 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”.
The resolution also supports the joint vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and India’s defence modernisation, including its diversification “away from countries that fail to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations”, a not-so-subtle reference to Russia. It applauds India for increasing its development efforts in Arunachal, including for improving border infrastructure, connectivity, and energy security, including renewable energy production.
And finally, the resolution commits to deepening US assistance to the region including through the State Department and USAID “using funding mechanisms such as the Countering PRC Influence Fund”. It encourages “like-minded international partners and donors to likewise bolster their assistance efforts to Arunachal Pradesh”. And it supports the strengthening of the bilateral partnership through “enhanced defense interoperability and information-sharing especially for early warning systems”, ICET, further economic cooperation, broad and long-standing people-to-people ties and multilaterally through Quad, East Asia summit and other international platforms.