Beijing asks New Delhi to ‘stop taking actions that would complicate and expand the boundary issue’
Amid continuing tensions between them in Ladakh, India and China on Wednesday exchanged sharp statements on Vice President Venkaiah Naidu’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. New Delhi said it “rejected” a Chinese statement “firmly opposing” the visit.
On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response to a Chinese state media question on the visit, asking India to “stop taking actions that would complicate and expand the boundary issue”.
Mr. Naidu, on a tour of the Northeast, was in Arunachal over the weekend.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) responded that it “reject[s] such comments”. “Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India,” its spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stated. “Indian leaders routinely travel to the state of Arunachal Pradesh as they do to any other state of India. Objecting to the visit of Indian leaders to a state of India does not stand to reason and understanding of Indian people,” he noted.
Neither China issuing a statement on an Indian leader visiting Arunachal nor India responding to it was unusual in of itself; what was new was the sharpness of the exchange, underlining the current state of ties, the lowest since 1988, with an 18 month-long LAC crisis still unresolved.
Mr. Bagchi also rejected China’s contention that the visit would “complicate” boundary issues, amid ongoing tensions in Ladakh. “As we have mentioned earlier,” he said, “the current situation along the LAC in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas has been caused by unilateral attempts of Chinese side to alter the status quo in violation of the bilateral agreements. Therefore, we expect the Chinese side to work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC in Eastern Ladakh while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols rather than trying to link unrelated issues.”
China’s statement came days after the latest round of military talks ended in a stalemate.
The question to the foreign office on Mr. Naidu’s visit was posed by a state media outlet, in this case Xinjiang Television, suggesting the authorities wanted to make a statement on the issue.
Zhao Lijian statement
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in response,“The Chinese government never recognises the so-called Arunachal Pradesh established unilaterally and illegally by the Indian side, and is firmly opposed to the Indian leaders’ visits to the area concerned. We urge the Indian side to earnestly respect China’s major concerns, stop taking any action that would complicate and expand the boundary issue, and refrain from undermining mutual trust and bilateral relations. It should instead take real concrete actions to maintain peace and stability in the China-India border areas and help bring the bilateral relations back on to the track of sound and steady development.”
China claims up to 90,000 sq km in Arunachal in the eastern sector, while India sees China as illegally occupying 38,000 sq km in Aksai Chin in the western sector. While recent tensions have been focused on Ladakh in the western sector, both sides have also had recently face-offs in Uttarakhand, in the middle sector, and last week near Tawang in Arunachal, where some Chinese soldiers of a large patrol were detained for a few hours by the Indian Army after a minor face-off near Yangtse, according to reports last Friday.
Chinese State media reacted angrily to the reports, and the Chinese military responded by leaking on social media images from last year’s clashes in the Galwan Valley, purportedly showing injured Indian soldiers detained by Chinese troops.
Talks end in impasse
Amid the latest reports of a face-off in Arunachal, the 13th round of talks on the still unresolved Ladakh crisis held between Corps Commanders on Sunday ended in an impasse. The Army, in a statement on Monday, said the Indian side made “constructive suggestions” for resolving the “remaining areas” while the Chinese military in a statement said India had made “unreasonable and unrealistic demands.”
The two sides have so far undertaken disengagement from Pangong Tso and Gogra areas in Ladakh, and are discussing disengagement in Hot Springs. Differences also remain in Demchok and Depsang, as also in ongoing discussions to come up with new patrolling norms in the wake of last year’s LAC crisis, which saw China amassing thousands of troops in forward areas in contravention of past boundary agreements aimed to keep the peace.