TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on Tuesday that China’s request to change a Taiwanese-managed war grave located in the northeast of India into a tourist attraction was “totally inexplicable.”
The Indian media NDTV reported on Monday that a team of five Chinese officials led by Ma Zhanwu (馬占武), consul-general at the Chinese consulate in Kolkata, paid a visit to the historic cemetery on January 12 in a town named Ramgarh, part of India's northeastern state of Jharkhand.
Ma told the local officials that Beijing had formally requested the Indian state government turn the cemetery into a tourist spot.
Ma also said China would cooperate with the Indian authorities on the issue since the cemetery in Ramgarh had served as a witness to Indo-China friendship, reported NDTV.
However, the cemetery was never in the hands of China. Tien Chung-kwang (田中光), head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center (TECC) in India, told CNA on Monday that those who were buried in the cemetery in Ramgarh were soldiers of Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China who fought for the Allied forces during the Second World War.
Tien said the cemetery had been constructed, maintained, and managed by the Taiwanese government after gaining permission from the Indian authorities and that any suggestion made by the Chinese officials to develop it for other purposes was inappropriate.
Andrew Lee (李憲章), spokesperson for MOFA, said on Wednesday that the ministry found Beijing’s request “totally inexplicable”.
“It is too early to talk about relocating the cemetery to other places,” said Lee, adding that the ministry would not give in in the face of China’s pretext and that it would have the TECC continuing to negotiate with the Indian government.
According to the information on the website of the Veterans Affairs Council, the cemetery is measured at roughly 600 square meters. It accommodates more than 600 graves, and yet only 40 of them have been identified.
Lee mentioned that the country’s soldiers served in defiance of the Japanese army with the British forces during the Battle of Northern Burma and Western Yunnan in WWII. At one point the soldiers retreated to India, and many of them died and were later buried in the cemetery in Ramgarh.
Lee added that officials from Taiwan visited the cemetery every year to pay tribute to the dead.
The incident last week is not the first time that China has by hook or by crook claimed the cemetery in Ramgarh to be theirs. CNA reported that Chinese officials, including Ma, with a group of Indian armed men, broke into the cemetery which was usually locked in November 2015 without notifying the Taiwanese authorities.