Amid Arunachal row, Chinese foreign minister heading to India

By Manish Chand, IANS,

New Delhi : Amid China’s renewed assertion of its claims over Arunachal Pradesh, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi comes here Wednesday for wide-ranging talks that will set the stage for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit here for the BRICS summit that New Delhi will be hosting this March-end.

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Yang will hold the annual dialogue with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

The two ministers are expected to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and firm up the agenda for the visit of the Chinese president’s bilateral talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the margins of the BRICS summit, government sources told IANS.

India will host the leaders of the five emerging economies of BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — here March 29.

Hu last came to India in 2006.

Yang comes to India barely weeks after Krishna went to Beijing early this month to inaugurate the new Indian embassy building in the Chinese capital. During the talks with Krishna, senior Chinese leaders and officials had sought India’s support to ease the Tibet crisis in the wake of a spate of self-immolations in the country.

The Tibetan issue is expected to figure in the discussions, with India set to reassure Beijing that it considered the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) as a part of China and reiterate New Delhi’s policy of not allowing anti-China activities on Indian soil.

The visit of the Chinese foreign minister comes amid verbal sparring between India and China triggered by Beijing’s objections to Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month.

Dismissing Chinese objections, India Monday asserted that the defence minister has the right to visit any part of the country and protested against any outside interference.

“Arunachal Pradesh is a part and parcel of India. The defence minister is entitled to go anywhere in the country he considers necessary,” External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters here.

The question of any country raising objection does not come into consideration, said Krishna.

Antony, who visited Arunachal Pradesh Feb 20 for the Silver Jubilee celebrations of its statehood in state capital Itanagar, called the Chinese comments “objectionable”. He had also announced an array of infrastructure development projects for the border state that day. Antony said he had the right and the duty as the defence minister of India to visit all border states any time.

“I was surprised to see such a reaction. I feel it is most unfortunate and, at the same time, it is really objectionable. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India,” he told reporters here.

Objecting to the Indian defence minister’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei had Saturday asked “India to work with China to maintain peace and stability in border areas”.

Hong had asserted that China advocated seeking a fair and rational solution through equal and friendly negotiations, adding that Bejing’s stance on Sino-Indian border issues, including disputes regarding the eastern section, has been consistent and clear-cut.