Beijing hopes New Delhi could meet halfway to safeguard overall interests of bilateral ties

China on Friday issued what observers described as an unexpectedly muted response to the visit by President Pranab Mukherjee to Arunachal Pradesh — parts of which China has territorial claims on — with Beijing calling on India “to meet halfway” and “work together” to maintain peace and tranquillity along the border.

In a marked contrast from Beijing’s response to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in 2009, when the Chinese government said it voiced “grave concerns” and hit out at India for “creating problems,” the Foreign Ministry here issued a more measured reaction to the President’s two-day visit, which began on Friday.

“China’s position on the disputed area of the eastern section of the China-India boundary is consistent and clear-cut,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement to The Hindu issued in response to questions.

“The China-India relationship maintains a sound momentum of growth,” the statement added, “with the two sides exploring ways to solve the boundary question through friendly consultations at the special representatives’ meeting.”

“We hope that the Indian side could meet China halfway to safeguard the overall interests of bilateral relations, refrain from taking actions that complicate the boundary question, work together with us to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas and create conditions for boundary negotiations.”

Bilateral relations between both countries were strained in 2009, when an increasingly assertive China, under former President Hu Jintao, appeared to take a hard line on all territorial disputes.

Ten days after Dr. Singh visited Arunachal in October 2009, the Chinese government said it was “deeply upset” that “an Indian leader went to the disputed area despite our grave concerns.” The government said then it was “strongly dissatisfied” with the visit and demanded that India “address China’s serious concerns and not trigger a disturbance” in relations. That year, China also attempted to block a $60 million Asian Development Bank flood management programme for Arunachal.

The statement issued on Friday, however, did not directly express opposition to the visit, only saying it hoped India “could meet China halfway” and “refrain from taking actions that complicate the boundary question.”

More In: World | International | News