India hits back at China, PM trip to Arunachal justified


New Delhi: India hit back at China Wednesday by asking it not to help set up projects in Pakistani Kashmir as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee rejected Chinese denunciation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh, a region Beijing claims.

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“We hope the Chinese side will take a long term view of India-China relations and cease such activities in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan,” the external affairs ministry said, a day after Beijing came out with an unusually strong criticism of the prime minister’s visit.

During a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Tuesday, Chinese President Hu Jintao talked about upgrading the Karakoram highway that connects China and Pakistan and help with a hydroelectric project in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

“We have seen the Xinhua report quoting the president of China as stating China will continue to engage in projects with Pakistan inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said.

Prakash underlined that Pakistan was in “illegal occupation” of parts of Jammu and Kashmir since 1947, when Britain divided the subcontinent into India and Pakistan.

“The Chinese side is fully aware of India’s position and our concerns about Chinese activities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” he said.

On Tuesday, India rejected a Chinese government statement protesting Manmohan Singh’s Oct 3 visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the northeastern state over which China claims ownership. Manmohan Singh went there to campaign for the Congress party in Tuesday’s assembly elections.

Speaking in Kolkata, Pranab Mukherjee made it clear that “Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India” and that the just-concluded assembly elections were held under the Indian constitution.

He said at the Congress party office: “It was therefore appropriate that the prime minister of the country should visit Arunachal Pradesh as leader of the Congress for election campaign.

“I too visited Arunachal Pradesh for campaigning and we consider it as our legitimate right. It is a proper action on our part.”

Meanwhile, Air Marshal P.K. Barbora said China had no right to criticise the construction by the Indian Air Force (IAF) of facilities on the Indian side of the border.

He also wondered why the Chinese were criticising Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal when they made no comment when President Pratibha Patil went to Tawang.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meanwhile urged Manmohan Singh to call an all-party meeting to discuss India’s relations with China.

“The BJP demands that the prime minister must call an all-party meeting at the earliest to have wider consultations and consensus on the entire design of China, the nature of our relationship and the kind of response that is required to be given,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

He said the response of the external affairs ministry to China’s comments about Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh “raises serious doubt in the minds of the people about the government’s will and capability to safeguard the territorial integrity of the country”.

India and China fought a border war in 1962. They claim each other’s territory.