New Delhi: In a move that could rile China, the 15th finance commission (FFC), which looks at the sharing of tax revenues between central and state governments, will launch its national level interactions from Arunachal Pradesh.
It will be the first time a finance commission will be doing so. Disclosing this, N.K. Singh, chairman of the FFC said, “It (the visit) is more than symbolic. We will be beginning with Arunachal Pradesh in April. After that we are scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir and after that Kerala."
In the process India is sending a clear signal to China that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of its sovereign territory.
It is likely to be taken note of in Beijing, which routinely objects to visits to the region by India’s president, prime minister and cabinet ministers.
China had also protested the visit to Arunachal Pradesh by then US envoy Richard Verma in 2016 and another by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, last year.
The FFC’s other members include former economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das, Georgetown University adjunct professor Anoop Singh, Bandhan Bank chairman and former chief economic adviser Ashok Lahiri and NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand.
The commission, whose recommendations will come into effect for the five years starting 1 April 2020, will submit its report by 30 October 2019.
Apart from performing its constitutionally mandated task of deciding on the distribution of shareable central tax proceeds among the centre, states and local bodies, for the first time in the post-goods and services tax (GST) era, the commission will also recommend the appropriate levels of general and consolidated government debt and deficit levels for both the centre and the states.
The commission’s visit is likely to provoke China, which claims more than 90,000 sq. km of Indian territory—i.e. Arunachal Pradesh. According to China, Arunachal Pradesh is part of what it calls South Tibet.
“Chinese protests (over Indian leaders’ visits) have lost their relevance," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal. “It has no impact on India," he said, shrugging off any possibility of India taking any note of protests lodged by China.
Last year, India slammed China for “renaming" six places in Arunachal Pradesh, saying it changes nothing on the ground.
The commission’s visit comes as India and China are looking to normalize ties rocked by their 73-day military standoff at Doklam, Bhutan, last year. Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale was in Beijing last week, where he held talks with the Chinese vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou, and called on foreign minister Wang Yi and state councillor Yang Jiechi. The two sides agreed on a calendar for bilateral engagements in the coming months.
Official-level dialogues exist in a number of areas including the boundary dispute, a legacy of the 1962 India-China war. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a G-20 meet in Argentina, besides a BRICS leaders’ meet in South Africa.