New Delhi: China on Monday objected to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh over the weekend, saying India should refrain from “complicating” their border dispute when bilateral ties were poised at a “crucial moment.”
Beijing’s objections to Kovind’s visit follows its criticism earlier this month of a weekend visit by Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Arunachal Pradesh. China has routinely slammed visits by Indian leaders to the state that it claims is Southern Tibet.
The Chinese criticism comes at a time when the Asian giants are slowly trying to stabilise ties rocked by a 73-day military standoff on the Doklam plateau in Bhutan that ended on 28 August. It also comes ahead of a visit to New Delhi by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi for a Russia-India-China trilateral meeting as well as talks between the special representatives of India and China on the boundary dispute—festering since their 1962 war.
“The Chinese government never acknowledged the so-called Arunachal Pradesh and our position on the border issue is consistent and clear,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing, according to a PTI report. “China firmly opposes the Indian leader’s relevant activities in the relevant region when China-India relations are at a crucial moment,” Lu said.
“We hope India could work in the same direction and maintain general picture of bilateral ties and refrain from complicating border issue and work to create favourable conditions for border negotiations and for the sound and stable development of bilateral ties,” he said.
Both countries are “in the process of settling this issue through negotiation and consultation and seek to reach to a fair and reasonable solution acceptable to all,” Lu said. Pending a final settlement, all parties should work for peace and tranquillity, he said.
India on its part has dismissed Beijing’s objections and said that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of its territory with Indian leaders free to visit the state as they are to any other part of the country.
Arunachal Pradesh was the first stop on a three state visit by President Kovind on Sunday. The president was also to visit Manipur and Assam during his tour of the northeastern region, a government statement on the visit said.
The Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China stretches 3,488km. Despite 19 rounds of talks at the level of officials, both countries have not been able to delineate their border. The 20th round is expected to be held next month in New Delhi, though dates have not yet been announced as yet. National security adviser Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi are the designated special representatives for the boundary talks.