NEW DELHI: In a simmering spat with China involving border disputes, long-standing mistrust and domestic electoral politics, India’s Foreign Ministry has called on Beijing to halt work on all projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.The demand followed an announcement on Tuesday by the leaders of China and Pakistan that their nations would upgrade a cross-border highway and that China would lend support to a hydroelectric venture. Both projects are in the Pakistan-occupied portion of Kashmir, which India claims.India and China have eyed each other warily since at least 1962, when they fought a month-long border war. China has long been allied with Pakistan, which in turn has fought three wars with India over the past six decades.The latest Indian salvo followed a protest on Tuesday by China after India’s Prime Minister visited the state of Arunachal Pradesh, portions of which China claims, and allegations that Chinese troops fired into India and crossed the border, leaving ”China” painted in red ink on rock faces.China has begun issuing visas to Indian citizens from Arunachal Pradesh and disputed Jammu and Kashmir on paper separate from their passports. New Delhi has threatened to tighten visa rules for Chinese working in India and to discontinue granting them business visas in favour of more restrictive work visas.The Chinese construction projects and the visit of India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to Arunachal Pradesh were anticipated and hardly surprising. In fact, given that there were mechanisms to address the border disputes, the protests might be a bit of posturing on both sides for domestic consumption, analysts said.”I don’t think it will have any long-term impact,” said Rukmani Gupta, a research fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi. ”Still, these escalating protests are hardly conducive to the dialogue process.”Mr Singh’s visit focused on shoring up his governing Congress Party’s position in the lead-up to elections on Tuesday in Arunachal Pradesh and two other states.”Congress has to keep winning state elections; there’s no international objectives,” said R.Hariharan, a retired military intelligence specialist. ”They [the Chinese] don’t really understand that on the other side. They have no elections.”The two nations have held 13 rounds of talks over the past three decades to try to resolve their border disputes. These stem in part from the 1962 war but, more fundamentally, from demarcations made during the British empire that India recognises but China does not.Another factor in recent tensions, analysts said, was the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader living in northern India. He plans to travel to Arunachal Pradesh next month to visit a site revered by Tibetan Buddhists.Los Angeles Times
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