China’s Reaction to India PM Visiting Disputed Northeastern State

China’s Reaction to India PM Visiting Disputed Northeastern State

Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu standing with Indian military officers and other officials during Sela Tunnel dedication ceremony on March 9th, (Photo: X, formally Twitter/@PemaKhanduBJP)

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Modi’s Visit to Arunachal Pradesh

On March 9th, Indian Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi traveled to the city of Itanagar, the capital of the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. During his visit, he inaugurated the Sela Tunnel as well as announced other infrastructure projects, such as roadways and power plants, in both the city and wider region.

Sela Tunnel

The Border Roads Organisation began construction of the approximately 2.49-mile (4-kilometer)-long, two-lane tunnel in April 2019 with construction ending in early 2024. The tunnel is located approximately 97 miles (156 km) east of the city, near the Sela Pass. The new tunnel is also considered the highest in India, at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) above sea level. It is located along the Balipura-Chariduar-Tawang Road and provides all-weather movement from the town of Tawang to Tezpur, Assam state. Furthermore, the tunnel would allow for increased socio-economic development in the area and wider region. While the tunnel will provide better access to services and to the rest of Arunachal Pradesh, it will also enable the Indian military to move equipment and personnel throughout the region and the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Inside of Sela Tunnel during March 9th inauguration ceremony (Photo: X, formally known as Twitter/@PemaKhanduBJP)

China’s Reaction

 

China reacted negatively to Modi’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh and the announcement of the tunnel, primarily through their Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). On March 11th, MFA spokesperson Wang Wenbin answered a question from a reporter from Beijing Daily about Modi’s visit. Wang said that Zangnan (Arunachal Pradesh) is Chinese territory, and the “Chinese government has never recognized the so-called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ illegally set up by India and firmly opposes it.”

He then pointed out that the boundary question between the two countries is not solved and that India has no right to “arbitrarily develop the area. The country’s moves will only complicate the question and disrupt “the situation in the border areas,” said Wang. The spokesperson then said that the country “strongly deplores and firmly opposes the Indian leader’s visit to the East Section of the China-India boundary” and raised the issue with India.

China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin during daily press conference on March 11th (Photo: X, formally known as Twitter/@MFA_China)

On March 13th, Wang also answered a question from the Indian news outlet, Press Trust of India, about Indian External Affairs Minister’s Dr. S. Jaishankar’s comments about the border. He first pointed out how both countries “believe that an early settlement of the situation” will serve the interests of both China and India. Wang then said that both countries will follow the understandings “between the leaders of the two countries and the spirit of relevant agreements, maintain communication through diplomatic and military channels” to find an acceptable solution to the border issues. Wang then further stated that the country “stressed multiple times that the boundary question does not represent the entirety of China-India relations.”

He urged India that the country should place the issue appropriately in bilateral relations and manage it appropriately. He then said that China hopes that India will “work in the same direction with China” and advance the bilateral relationship from a long-term perspective. Wang then outlined how both countries could advance their relationship by enhancing mutual trust and avoiding misunderstandings and misjudgments. He also said that China and India should increase dialogue and cooperation to avoid creating any obstacles. Wang then finished answering the question by urging that both countries should “handle differences properly and avoid creating disputes” to further develop bilateral relations.

Analysis

The Sela Tunnel is the latest infrastructure project India completed along the LAC to increase its mobility in the region. The various projects will allow for increased economic growth in the region and enable the inhabitants to receive government services easier than previously. Furthermore, the tunnel and other projects will also allow India to solidify its claims in the state and wider region. The tunnel will also significantly increase Indian military logistical capabilities along the Balipura-Chariduar-Tawang Road and the wider state.

The ability for India to solidify its claims and for its military to increase its logistical capabilities is why China reacted so negatively to both Modi’s visit and the tunnel. China understands that it currently has the advantage since the country has the necessary infrastructure in place to adequately move and supply its troops along the LAC. However, India understands that it does not lack the necessary infrastructure and is trying to rectify the situation by building bridges, roadways, and tunnels in the region. By completing the infrastructure projects, India would negate China’s advantage in infrastructure in the LAC.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.
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