India should not “complicate the situation” along the disputed border, China said Wednesday, reacting sharply to reports of New Delhi’s plans to build a road along the McMahon Line in Arunachal Pradesh.
Media reports Tuesday had quoted Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju saying India planned to construct a 2,000km road along the international boundary, from Mago-Thingbu in Tawang to Vijaynagar in Arunachal.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said the government needed to verify the details, but added, “There is a dispute about the east(ern) part of the China-India border. Before a final settlement, we hope India won’t take any action that may further complicate the situation. We should jointly safeguard the peace and tranquility of the border area and create favourable conditions for a final settlement.”
China claims Arunachal — which it calls South Tibet — as its territory.
Hong also said China was “highly attentive to the situation” on the India-Pakistan border, and advised the two countries to exercise restraint and cease fire.
In Delhi, a home ministry official countered China’s displeasure over its efforts at infrastructure improvement, saying, “China has already spread their road and rail network near the border. What we make on our territory should not be China’s concern.”
The unnamed official, quoted by Reuters, added that the road project was waiting for cabinet approval.
China defeated India in a brief war in 1962 and the border has remained unresolved since, despite 17 rounds of talks. The two armies cannot even agree on where the Line of Actual Control, or the ceasefire line following the fighting in 1962, lies, leading to face-offs between border patrols.
In September, India eased curbs on building roads and military facilities within 100 km of the contested border in remote Arunachal Pradesh, so as to hasten construction of some 6,000 km of roads.
The move came as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited India, in a bid to defuse the deep distrust between both countries, despite growing trade and business ties.
Last month, India and China agreed to pull back troops ranged against each other on a remote Himalayan plateau on the other side of the country from Arunachal Pradesh, ending their biggest face-off on the disputed border in a year.
The two armies had mobilised about 1,000 soldiers each in Ladakh, each accusing the other of building military infrastructure in violation of a pact to maintain peace until a resolution of the 52-year territorial row.
India has previously also announced plans to refurbish civil and military infrastructure in the remote mountains, but progress has been slow.
For instance, it has completed just a tenth of a 2,400-km highway to link the middle portion of the sprawling state, plans for which were announced by the previous government in 2008.
An Arunachal Pradesh government official said the administration was committed to the highway, some parts of which will overlap with the new project.
On the recent exchange of fire between India and Pakistan, Hong said, “They should make joint efforts for South Asia’s peace, stability and development.”
China considers Pakistan an “all weather friend” and has pumped in huge amounts of money to build its military and civil infrastructure.
(With Reuters inputs)