Asks India to refrain from actions that could “complicate” the border dispute

China on Saturday called on India “to refrain from taking any action that could complicate” the border dispute, in a statement that appeared to hit out at Defence Minister A.K. Antony's visit to Arunachal Pradesh earlier this week to mark the 25th anniversary of its statehood.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry “asked India to work with China to maintain peace and stability in border areas”, in a statement issued here on Saturday evening through the official Xinhua news agency.

The statement was a response to news reports of Indian officials “participating in activities organised by the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh' region,” Xinhua said. China, which holds claims on the State, refers to the region as “south Tibet.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said China's position on border issues, as well as the dispute over the eastern section of the border, was “consistent and clear-cut.” “China advocates seeking a fair and rational solution through equal and friendly negotiations,” he said, adding that India needed “to refrain from taking any action that could complicate the issue”.

While the statement did not directly mention Mr. Antony's visit, his attendance at the February 20 celebrations in Itanagar, marking the 25th anniversary of Statehood Day, was the apparent trigger. It, however, remains unclear why the Foreign Ministry waited five days to issue the statement.

Speaking at Monday's celebrations, Mr. Antony had described border security as a “topmost priority,” and said that New Delhi would give serious consideration to proposals made by the State government to boost infrastructure in border areas, according to media reports. He did not, however, directly refer to either China or the border dispute in his remarks.

China first began to strongly stress its claims and refer to the region as “south Tibet” in the late 1980s, coinciding with the declaration of Statehood. Chinese analysts have said they viewed the move as an attempt by India to enforce its territorial claims.

15 rounds of talks

India and China have held 15 rounds of talks over the long-running border dispute, making little progress towards arriving at a framework to resolve disputes in the western, middle and eastern sectors. Before the late 1980s, analysts say, China had appeared more concerned about the western sector and the Aksai Chin region, which is presently under its effective control. However, it has since begun to increasingly stress its claims on Arunachal, particularly the Tawang region which is the site of an important Tibetan Buddhist monastery.

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