New Delhi - Expressing surprise over China's objection to his visit to Arunachal Pradesh on February 20, Defence Minister AK Antony on Monday made it clear that this strategically-located state is an integral part of India, and it his duty to ensure that all borders of India are safe.
China had objected to Antony's recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh to take part in the state's silver jubilee celebrations, asking India to refrain from taking any action that could complicate the border issue.
"I was surprised to read the Chinese reaction. It is very sad and highly objectionable. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. As the Defence Minister of India, it is my duty to ensure that all the borders of India are safe," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Annual Maritime Power Conference 2012.
"Statements by China are objectionable. Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India like J&K. Northeast and any other state of India. As Defence Minister, I can visit anywhere within my country," Antony added.
Antony also said that he has been associated with the state for the last 27 years since 1984.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said: "India will not tolerate external interference of China into the Indian territorial affairs," reminding Beijing that Arunachal Pradesh is a "part and parcel" of India.
Antony had visited Itanagar on February 20, and said that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India.
India has been keeping close tabs on China's massive build-up of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control. A range of issues pertaining to the disputed 2,000 km long boundary have been discussed from time to time by Indian and Chinese officials at various levels. In Arunachal Pradesh, India and China share a 1,080 kilometre-long border.
Antony, who attended the silver jubilee statehood day celebrations of Arunachal Pradesh as the chief guest at the Indira Gandhi Park in Itanagar, had said: "By and large, the border is peaceful, and at the same time, India is taking care of strengthening the capabilities to protect our national interest from any kind of challenges from any quarters.
"The eastern border is safe and we will make it safer, (and) for that, whatever is needed to strengthen our security apparatus, we are taking care of it continuously in a systematic manner. India is strengthening its security capabilities in the eastern border. Along with that, we are also taking care of the socio-economic development of the border areas."