Amid a simmering border dispute, Beijing and New Delhi ratcheted up the rhetoric on Wednesday as they traded barbs over their conflicting territorial claims.
The latest spat was centered around Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh, a province in northeastern India that is not recognized by China.
Naidu was in Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, last week on a three-day trip, which was his first to the region that borders China.
“China’s position on the China-India boundary issue is consistent and clear-cut. The Chinese government has never recognized the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ established unilaterally and illegally by the Indian side and firmly opposes the Indian leader’s visit to this above-mentioned area,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference.
He urged New Delhi 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 [India] should instead take real actions to maintain peace and stability in the China-India border area, and help to bring China-India relations back onto the track of sound and steady development,” Zhao said.
New Delhi responded by asserting that “Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India.”
“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,” said Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Indian Foreign Ministry.
The sharp exchange comes just days after fresh talks between military officials failed to end a border standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the de facto border between China and India in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region’s Ladakh area.
Tensions have been heightened since last June, when at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers were killed in a clash in Ladakh.
Though the situation calmed down after several rounds of talks, the two sides are yet to reach a resolution and have increased military deployment along the border.
Negotiations this past Sunday ended with both sides trading blame: Beijing termed India’s demands “unreasonable and unrealistic,” while New Delhi said the Chinese “could not agree on or provide any forward-looking proposals.”
Bagchi reiterated India’s assertions on Wednesday, saying “the current situation … has been caused by unilateral attempts of the Chinese side to alter the status quo in violation of the bilateral agreements.”
“We expect the Chinese side to work towards early resolution of the remaining issues along the LAC … while fully abiding by bilateral agreements and protocols rather than trying to link unrelated issues,” he said.