New Delhi: A war of words has sparked between India and China over Union Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. While the Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement asking India not to complicate the border issue, India hit back strongly.
Antony had visited Arunachal to mark statehood celebrations, and China repeated its claims that all of Arunachal is its own, as part of southern Tibet.
A statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry read, "India should not take any action that complicates the border issue. India should work with China to maintain peace and stability in border areas."
In New Delhi, the response to Beijing's statement was equally sharp and predictable.
"Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India," said Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also echoed the opinion of the Congress on the issue.
BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "China should take care of its own territory. India will not tolerate any kind of foreign interference. Arunachal is a part of India."
China routinely takes exception to high level visits to Arunachal of members of the Indian government. It has also denied visas to people of Arunachal Pradesh as part of its claim over the state. On at least one occasion, India responded by scaling down the size of its delegation in protest.
On February 20, while in Arunachal, Antony too obliquely referred to the dispute over the border state.
He said, "There are some unresolved problems with China. Recently there had been talks with China. By and large the border is peaceful but at the same time, India is taking care of strengthening its capabilities to protect our national interest from any kind of challenges from anybody."
China's claim, particularly over Tawang, is routinely discussed in the annual border talks between special representatives of both countries. As many as 15 rounds have been held so far, but a resolution to the long standing dispute is not in sight.