NEW DELHI: As expected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brief visit to Arunachal Pradesh’s capital Itanagar provoked strong protests from Beijing.
Modi was in Itanagar for a brief trip on Thursday to inaugurate a massive convention centre and the new state civil secretariat building, and to lay the foundation stone of the Academic Block of the Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Science before leaving for poll-bound Tripura in the late afternoon.
The state has been ruled by the BJP since last year, after Chief Minister Pema Khandu switched sides to join the party along with 33 legislators. Modi’s last visit to the state—which China claims as a part of what it calls ‘southern Tibet’—in 2015 led to similar howls of protest from Beijing.
Modi flew in from Assam’s Lilabari airport around noon. Addressing a large gathering in Itanagar, he announced that his government plans to have a hospital in each of the three Parliamentary constituency areas of the state. Stressing the state’s Indian credentials, Modi told a rally, “If you travel to Arunachal Pradesh for a day, you will hear more ‘Jai Hinds’ than you would hear after travelling the entire country for a week.”
Hours later, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing would lodge “stern representations with the Indian side” over this visit. Asserting that “China’s position on the China-India boundary question is consistent and clear-cut”, he said the “Chinese government has never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh and is firmly opposed to the Indian leader’s visit to the disputed area”.
At a time when the two sides were working to resolve the territorial disputes through negotiation and consultation, “the Chinese side urges the Indian side to honour its commitment and abide by the relevant consensus, and refrain from taking any action that may complicate the boundary question”, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Geng as saying; “(These three areas) located between the illegal McMahon Line and the traditional customary boundary between China and India, have always been Chinese territory”.
Beijing had also voiced strong objections to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, President Ram Nath Kovind, the Dalai Lama, and then US Ambassador to India Richard Verma’s visits to Arunachal Pradesh over the past year.