The US Ambassador to India, Ken Juster, is visiting Tawang, a town in the state of Arunachal Pradesh known for its monasteries. Buddhist followers from across the globe visit this place of religious importance in thousands, but the visit by the American envoy seems to have a message. Amid US-China trade war, and China's objection on Kashmir, the attendance by the US Ambassador is not just a routine appearance in a region but of a larger message to Beijing or at least that is what some would argue.
The American envoy is on a three day trip to Arunachal to attend the Tawang Festival. Organised by the Department of Tourism of the Arunachal Government, the festival kicked off on Monday 28 October and would continue till Thursday 31 October. Started in 2012 the festival aims not only to attract tourists but also promote the traditions and cultures of the state. While the place has seen a surge in the number of tourists over the years, this visit by the American Diplomat is beyond the realm of tourism.
Juster who is also joined by Pattie Hoffman- the US Consul General in Kolkata, West Bengal is the second US envoy to visit the eastern region in the last three years. In 2016, the then US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma attended the Tawang Festival attracting sharp reactions from China because of the India-China border dispute. India calls Arunachal Pradesh as an integral part of the country but China refuses to recognise it. For China it is a part of South Tibet hence the entire region has been a bone of contention between the Asian giants who went to war in 1962 for the same.
The Tawang Festival is held close to what is called the McMahon Line- a line of demarcation that acts as an invisible boundary between India and China. During the previous visit by the US Envoy, China had used strong words to express its dissent calling it an attempt to escalate tensions between the countries that might disturb the peace in the region. It had also accused the United States to interfere in the border dispute between India and China.
The US Ambassador, on the other hand, took to Twitter to thank the Chief Minister of the state Pema Khandu and Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports for “warmly welcoming” him and his “colleagues to Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh”. He posted the message with #USIndiaDosti. Mr Khandu too welcomed the American Envoy and thanked him for participating in the festival.
This visit is also important as it comes shortly after the informal summit between India and China, where the countries attempted to sort their differences. It is also important as China has objected to India's decision on Kashmir and called it unilateral. On the previous occasion, the then US Ambassador had visited at the backdrop of India-China face-off at the UN over Masood Azhar. China had blocked India's move to get Masood Azhar designated a global terrorist by the UN Security Council.