BEIJING: China firmly opposes a visit by India’s home minister to Arunachal Pradesh and views his activities in the area as violating Beijing’s territorial sovereignty, a foreign ministry spokesperson told a news briefing on Monday.

China has renamed some places in what India regards as its eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as part of its territory.

“Zangnan is China’s territory,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in response to a question on the visit by Indian Home Minister Amit Shah.

“The Indian official’s visit to Zangnan violates China’s territorial sovereignty, and is not conducive to the peace and tranquillity of the border situation.”

Zangnan is the Chinese name for Arunachal Pradesh.

China and India have had several skirmishes over the disputed border and clashes in mountainous regions in recent years have seriously strained ties.

Uplift scheme

Amit Shah visited Arunachal Pradesh to launch a 48 billion rupee ($585 million) development scheme he said would add to the security of the unmarked border.

He said the programme, which will cover nearly 3,000 villages in four states and one federally administered territory on the Chinese frontier, was aimed at helping reverse migration out of border areas.

Arunachal Pradesh has become a new flashpoint between New Delhi and Beijing, whose relations have been strained since bloody clashes between their armies elsewhere in the western Himalayas in 2020 in which 24 soldiers were killed.

In December last year, troops from the two sides engaged in scuffles in the state’s Tawang sector, and last week India rejected the renaming by China of 11 places, including five mountains, in Arunachal Pradesh.

A map released last week showed the 11 places renamed by China as being within “Zangnan”, or southern Tibet in Chinese, with Arunachal Pradesh included in southern Tibet.

Shah, a close confidant of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and considered the second most powerful leader in the government, said Indians in the hinterland were able to sleep in peace because of the “bravery and sacrifices” of the troops on the border.

“They have ensured that no one can eye our borders,” Shah told a public meeting in Kibithoo, a border village in the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, one of India’s last inhabited settlements just miles from the Chinese frontier.

“Today we proudly say, gone are the days when anyone could encroach on our territory,” Shah said, without naming China.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2023

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