A furious China on Saturday summoned India’s envoy AK Kantha to lodge Beijing’s protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh on Friday, saying it undermined the country’s territorial sovereignty.
Kantha was summoned by the foreign ministry in Beijing within hours of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi lodging its strong opposition to the visit on Friday night.
Earlier on Friday, the foreign ministry spokesperson’s office had told HT that officials here were closely tracking PM's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own territory, a part of South Tibet.
Modi’s visit and China’s subsequent angry reactions over two days – including the rare summoning of the Indian ambassador – could dampen the spirit of apparent bilateral bonhomie that had marked relations in the last few months.
It is too early to say whether this will cast a shadow on Modi’s much-anticipated visit to China in May.
But the developments over the last two days could cast a shadow over NSA Ajit Doval’s visit to Beijing next month to continue the border talks under the Special Representatives’ mechanism.
What can also be said is that China has seized the opportunity to drive home the point about its stand on Arunachal Pradesh. And that, the border dispute looms large – if not always in the open – on bilateral relations between the two most populated countries with nuclear arsenal.
Liu Zhenmin, vice-foreign minister expressed "strong dissatisfaction and staunch opposition" to visit, said the terse statement issued by the official news agency, Xinhua, late on Saturday night.
Liu dissatisfied with “Indian side's insistence on arranging the visit by its leader to the disputed area on China-India border”, the statement added.
Liu told Kantha that Modi’s visit undermined “China's territorial sovereignty, right and interests.”
Liu said China’s stand on the dispute was clear -- the Chinese government “has never recognized the so-called 'Arunachal Pradesh' unilaterally set up by the Indian side”.
“It's an universally recognized, unevadable fact that significant disputes do exist on the eastern section of the China-India border,” Liu said.
He said such act by the “Indian side artificially amplified differences between the two countries on the border issue and thus went against the principles and consensus that the two sides reached on properly addressing the issue”.
Liu advised India to “treasure the sound momentum in the growth of bilateral relations” with China and “abide by important consensus on the border issue”.
He indicated that such actions by India could further complicate the border issue.
India and China have held 17 rounds of talks to settle the issue through the mechanism of Special Representatives but both sides remain tight-lipped about putting a time frame to resolve it.
Reacting to China's move, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from the state, dismissed China's s protest saying there can't be a dispute as far as the whole territory and state is concerned.
"There can be a dispute about one-two kilometres as far as the boundary is concerned. But there can't be a dispute as far as the whole territory and state is concerned. Discussions with regard to the boundary will continue," he said.