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J&K and Ladakh integral part of India, asserts MEA in a rebuff to China

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday asserted that the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh "have been, are, and would" remain its integral part, and in a tough message to China said it expects countries not to comment on India''s internal matters as much as they expect the same of others.

In a strong response to China''s objection to development of infrastructure on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), New Delhi also asserted that Beijing has no locus standi to comment on India''s internal matters.

The comments by External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava came in response to China''s contention it does not recognise the union territory of Ladakh as well as the state of Arunachal Pradesh and that the development of border infrastructure by India was the "root cause" of tensions between the two countries.

"Our position on this has always been clear and consistent. The union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been, are, and would remain an integral part of India. China has no locus standi to comment on India''s internal matters," Srivastava said at a media briefing.

"We hope that countries will not comment on India''s internal matters, as much as they expect the same of others," he said.

"Our position on Arunachal Pradesh has also been made clear several times. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India. This fact has also been clearly conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions, including at the highest level," he added.

After Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a number of new bridges in certain border areas on Monday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Tuesday said China does not recognise the Ladakh union territory "illegally set up" by India as well as Arunachal Pradesh.

Separately, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India and China are engaged in talks to resolve the border standoff and that what is going on is "something confidential" between the two sides.

Asked specifically about the outcome of the ongoing diplomatic and military talks during an online conclave, he said the "discussions are going on and it is a work in progress."

At the same time, Jaishankar said there has been a troop build-up along the LAC and in many ways it has no precedence in the recent past. He even talked about the military casualties at the de-facto border after a gap of 45 years, in a reference to the Galwan Valley clashes in eastern Ladakh in June. India and China are locked in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh for over five months.

"Discussions are on; what is going on is something confidential between us and the Chinese," he said when the moderator at the Bloomberg India Economic Forum pressed the minister to give a clear status of the evolving border situation.

"There is not very much that I am in a position to say in public. I certainly do not want to prejudge it," he added.

Asked about the situation in Tibet as well as developments along the LAC, Jaishankar said, "I do not think we should get into other issues which frankly has nothing to do with the situation currently in Ladakh."

On whether India was looking at reducing the extent of trade ties with China, he did not give a direct reply but said disturbing the very foundation of the relationship will have consequences.

"My concern is for many of us who have seen this relationship grow, if you disturb its foundation so to speak then you know you cannot be sort of impervious to the fact that it will have consequences. It is nobody''s desire to have those consequences. But that problem in a sense was not created on our side," he said.

Though the minister maintained that an early restoration of peace and tranquility along the border would be good for everyone, but noted that both sides have been having the trade issues for almost two decades.

"These are not new problems. I remember, I was ambassador in China from middle of 2009. Even in 2009, we were concerned about lack of market access in China, about the non-reciprocal nature of trade, about the mounting trade deficit which to our mind was not a natural outcome of our comparative advantages," Jaishankar said.

He said though India''s IT and pharmaceutical companies were present across the world, it was not the case in China.

"..but in the Chinese market, we were not able to make a dent at all. The trade issue has been a difficult conversation for more than a decade now," he added.

"In a sense, we have two independent autonomous issues here; one, the fact that the basis of cooperation has got disturbed by the disturbance to peace and tranquility in the border areas, and the other is that there are structural problems in the India-China trade," he said.

When asked at the media briefing about China''s objection to development of border infrastructure by India, the MEA spokesperson said it is focused on improving livelihood and economic welfare of people.

He said India gives specific attention to development of border areas for economic development and to meet India''s security and strategic requirements.

On the border standoff in eastern Ladakh and the outcome of the bilateral military talks, Srivastava referred to a joint press statement issued by the two armies after their dialogue on October 12, calling the meeting "positive and constructive".

"Disengagement is a complex process that requires redeployment of troops by each side towards their regular posts on their respective sides of the LAC," Srivastava said.

"To achieve this, the two sides will maintain the current momentum of communications based on the guidance of our leadership to not to turn differences into disputes and work towards a mutually acceptable solution for complete disengagement in all the friction areas along the LAC and restoration of peace and tranquility in the India-China border areas," he added.

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PTI