Indian PM visit to southern Tibet sparks China's ire

09:39, October 14, 2009      

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The Foreign Ministry of China said Tuesday that it was "seriously dissatisfied" by the visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to a disputed Himalayan region, marking the latest tense exchange between the two neighbors over border areas claimed by both.

Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman of the ministry, accused the Indian leader of ignoring China's concerns by visiting southern Tibet, an area roughly the size of Austria.

"China and India have not reached any formal agreement on the border issue," Ma said. "We demand that the Indian side pay attention to the serious and just concerns of the Chinese side and not provoke incidents in the disputed region, in order to facilitate the healthy development of China-Indian relations."

Singh traveled to the area of southern Tibet, which India calls Arunachal Pradesh, earlier this month to woo residents there ahead of an 'assembly election' Monday.

"Well, regardless of what others say, it is the government of India's stated position that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. We rest at that," Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna said later that day, adding that New Delhi was "disappointed and concerned" over China's objection.

An online poll conducted Tuesday by huanqiu.com, the website of the Global Times' Chinese edition, indicated that an overwhelmingly majority of users were against the visit.

About 96 percent of the over 6,000 respondents agreed that they felt agitated by the frequent visits by Indian leaders to the disputed area, while about 2 percent disagreed and 2 percent said they didn't care.

Ma Jiali, a senior researcher on South Asia at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that Singh, as a head of government, sets bad precedents with his visit.

"The repeated visits by Indian leaders can make others believe the area is part of India and solidify the existing strategies they have applied to control the area, such as using administrative jurisdiction in the area and courting sympathy from the international community," Ma said.

China and India share a long border spanning more than 4,000 kilometers, with about 125,000 square kilometers of disputed territory.

On its western end is the Aksai Chin region, an area the size of Switzerland that sits between the Chinese autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Tibet. The eastern border, between Myanmar and Bhutan, comprises the southern Tibet area.

The two countries fought a brief but bloody border war, partly over southern Tibet, in 1962, and while trade between the two has since flourished, the border disputes have never been resolved. Mistrust remains close below the surface and appears to have resurfaced in recent months.

Source: Global Times
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