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BEIJING: In a rare, direct message to herdsmen living on the Chinese side of the Tibet-Arunachal Pradesh border, President Xi Jinping encouraged them to “set down roots in the border area” and safeguard China’s integrity.
“Without peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful life for millions of families,” Xi told two young girls of a family of herders, who wrote to him describing their border village Yumai in Lhunze county in Tibet, explaining their work in safeguarding it.
Yumai is in the eastern section of the boundary with Arunachal Pradesh. China claims 90,000 sq km in this state.
By releasing the letter, Beijing has signalled that border voluntarism might play an important role in China’s border strategy in the future, observers said. Herders have been widely used by Chinese authorities to make border claims in different areas including India and Bhutan in the past.
Xi’s message comes three days after he was re-elected for a second term as China’s President and chairman of the Central Military Commission. It’s also two months after India and China signed an agreement to settle the 10-week stand-off at Doklam in the Sikkim-Bhutan trijunction on August 28.
In his reply, Xi “acknowledged the family’s efforts to safeguard the territory and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area”, official Xinhua news agency said. It did not provide details of efforts the family had made to safeguard the territory.
The report further said, “He hoped that the family would motivate more herders to set down roots in the border area like ‘galsang flowers’, and become guardians of the Chinese territory and constructors of a happy hometown.” Galsang is widely found in Tibet and the word means ‘happiness’ in the Tibetan language.
Xinhua said the girls, Zhoigar and Yangzom, wrote to Xi while the 19th CPC National Congress was in session in Beijing and shared “their experiences in safeguarding the border area and the development of their township over the years”.
“Fresh off the 19th CPC National Congress, Xi told the family that the party would continue to lead people of all ethnic groups towards better lives,” Xinhua said.
China had earlier protested against the visit of Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh because it saw it as an attempt by the Tibetan spiritual leader to communicate with people across the border in Tibet. Beijing is worried any links between the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people would create a political challenge for it.