China has expressed strong opposition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the border state of Arunachal Pradesh, saying that "China has never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh."
The Indian goverment must bear in mind the common interests of the two countries and cherish the momentum of improvement in bilateral ties and refrain from any action that may lead to an escalation of disputes or complicate the border issue, Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as saying. She was responding to a query of a journalist on PM Modi's visit to Arunachal Pradesh on Saturday.
“China's position on the China-India border issue is consistent and clear-cut,” said Hua, adding that the Chinese government has never recognized the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh, Xinhua reported.
Later, India issued a strong rebuttal to China’s objections, reiterating that Arunachal Pradesh remains “an integral and inalienable part of India.”
“This consistent position has been conveyed to Chinese side on several occasions," said a spokesperson from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Modi inaugurated and laid foundation stone of projects worth approx. Rs 4,000 crore in the border state. He laid the foundation stone for construction of greenfield airport at Hollongi and inaugurated the resumption of operations of an upgraded airport in Tezu. He also addressed a public function in Itanagar, where he stressed that improving connectivity to the north-eastern state was important.
The strong public reaction from the Chinese government came despite the leaders of two countries, PM Modi and President Xi Jinping, having met four times last year, most recently on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires in December.
PM Modi had tweeted back then that there was a “perceptible improvement” in India-China relations and that regular interactions had added "significant strength” to the bilateral ties.
"Our regular interactions have added significant strength to India-China ties," he had said.
The two leaders had met in the Chinese city of Wuhan for an informal summit in April last year, where they had agreed to provide "strategic guidance" to their respective militaries to avoid the recurring of Doklam-like incidents. Modi has extended an invitation to Xi for another informal summit this year.
The 73-day standoff between Indian and Chinese armies on the Doklam Plateu at the tri-junction with Bhutan had seriously affected the bilateral ties, following which a series of high-level meetings between the political and military leaderships have been held in an effort to improve relations.
Despite positive public overtures from the Indian leadership, visits of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh have continued to raise hackles in Beijing. In Nov 2017, China had attacked President Ram Nath Kovind over his visit to north-eastern state.