New Delhi - India Monday expressed its objections and surprise at China's protest over Defence Minister A.K. Antony's visit to Arunachal Pradesh and protested against any outside interference in the state.
"Arunachal Pradesh is a part and parcel of India. The defence minister is entitled to go anywhere in the country he considers necessary," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters here.
The question of any country raising objection does not come into consideration, said Krishna.
Antony, who visited Arunachal Pradesh Feb 20 for the Silver Jubilee celebrations of its statehood in state capital Itanagar, called the Chinese comments "objectionable". He had also announced a slew of infrastructure development projects for the border state that day.
Antony said he had the right and the duty as the defence minister of India to visit all border states any time.
""I was surprised to see such a reaction. I feel it is most unfortunate and, at the same time, it is really objectionable. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India," he told reporters here on the sidelines of a National Maritime Foundation (NMF) function.
"I have the right and the duty as the defence minister of India to visit all border states of the country," he added.
Objecting to the Indian defence minister's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei had Saturday asked "India to work with China to maintain peace and stability in border areas".
Hong had asserted that China advocated seeking a fair and rational solution through equal and friendly negotiations, adding that Bejing's stance on Sino-Indian border issues, including disputes regarding the eastern section, has been consistent and clear-cut.
He also called upon India to desist from taking any action that could complicate the issue.
He was reacting to media reports about Indian officials participating in activities organised by the "so-called Arunachal region", without directly referring to Antony's visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
The latest Chinese assertion on Arunachal Pradesh came more than a month after special representatives of India and China held the 15th round of boundary talks here to discuss a framework that can form the basis for resolving their decades-old boundary dispute.
Beijing's claims on Arunachal Pradesh are part of the boundary negotiations between the two rising Asian powers.
In the boundary negotiations, China hardened its stance on Arunachal Pradesh, part of its negotiating tactic to extract concessions from India in any final boundary settlement.
Last month, China had denied visa to a senior Indian Air Force officer belonging to Arunachal Pradesh to visit that country as part of a defence delegation visiting that country. This had prompted New Delhi to scale down the size of the delegation.