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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

India rejects China's claim to region

NEW DELHI - China's ambassador to India reiterated his country's claim to a wide swath of northeastern India, prompting a sharp rebuke from Indian officials Tuesday who said the diplomat shouldn't negotiate in the media.

The war of words between the two neighbors comes almost a week ahead of a Chinese President
Hu Jintao visit to India Nov. 20-23 and could overshadow high level meetings he has scheduled with Indian President A.P.J. Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The important thing is that the raising of the issue just before the Chinese president's visit does not add to the climate that should be positive," said Sujit Dutta, an expert on Chinese affairs with the government-run Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses.

The territorial dispute stems from wars the two countries fought in 1962 over northeastern India's Arunachal Pradesh state and the Aksai Chin region of the northwestern state of Jammu-

China grabbed about 50,000 square miles of mountainous territory — slightly smaller than New York State — in both areas in the war, but did not get all it wanted and still claims the land that it failed to take.

India says China still controls 16,000 square miles of its territory in Kashmir, while Beijing claims land in Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 650-mile border with the Chinese region of Tibet.

On Monday, Chinese Ambassador Sun Yuxi told the CNN-IBN news channel that "the whole of what you call the state of Arunachal Pradesh is the Chinese territory. ... We are claiming the whole of that."

Early Tuesday, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee struck back, saying "Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India."

Arunachal Pradesh Gov. S.K. Singh went further, suggesting the Chinese envoy should not be "negotiating through the media."

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China's position on the issue "has been clear."

"It can be resolved through friendly consultation," Jiang said without elaborating.

Hu is slated to travel to New Delhi, as well as the cities of Agra and Mumbai, said India's External Affairs Ministry. The visit is a part of a series of high-level exchanges between the neighbors.

Relations between the one-time adversaries have warmed recently and the two countries have expanded economic ties, including plans for joint collaboration in oil exploration and information technology.

Still, stronger ties have done little to help settle the territorial dispute. The two countries have held repeated talks over the issue — most recently in June — without being able to come to an agreement.
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