India on Saturday reacted sharply to a new Chinese map that shows Arunachal Pradesh as part of China, the latest flare-up of a territorial dispute that has festered between the Asian giants for decades.
India’s foreign ministry dismissed the new map issued by Chinese authorities this week, saying cartographic depiction did not change the reality that Arunachal was part of India.
Arunachal Pradesh is one of the biggest bones of contention between the Asian neighbours who are competing for global influence and resources. The row over the map comes amid reports that Chinese troops intruded into Indian territory in Ladakh earlier this week.
China and India still claim vast swathes of each other's territories along their 3,500 km Himalayan border which has largely remained peaceful since a 1962 war, but their unsettled border remains the biggest single impediment to better relations, despite growing bilateral trade.
"The fact that Arunachal Pradesh in integral and inalienable part of India has been conveyed to Chinese authority at several occasions including at the very highest level," an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday.
China lays claim to 90,000 sq km of land on the eastern sector of the border in Arunachal Pradesh. After two decades of talks, India and China exchanged maps on the least controversial middle segment of their frontier in 2000 and three years later special envoys were appointed to map out a resolution of the dispute.
In 2005, China formally abandoned its claim to the Himalayan state of Sikkim, but there has been no concrete progress on demarcating the international border.
In the past, China has refused to issue visas to Indians from Arunachal Pradesh saying they did not need permission to travel to China.
In 2009, India protested against a Chinese policy of issuing different visas to residents of Kashmir, a state which India and arch-enemy Pakistan rule in part but claim in full. Beijing supports Pakistan's claims to Kashmir. India has accused Chinese troops of brief intrusions on several occasions in the past.
Referring to the new controversial map and the intrusion by Chinese troops on June 24, experts say, such incidents could hamper any fresh start in bilateral relations under a new government in New Delhi.
The Indian foreign ministry spokesman indicated that the map issue could be raised by the Indian delegation, headed by Vice President Hamid Ansari, currently in China to participate in an event to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of Panchsheel or Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.
"It is normal practice to raise all issues of bilateral concerns," the spokesperson said.