For the first time since taking office, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju attended a meeting with Chinese officials today. As Mr Rijiju is lawmaker from Arunachal Pradesh which China claims includes a part of its territory, he had been kept off the meetings with Chinese officials so far. Today's move is seen as a message for Chinese authorities, Home Ministry insiders said.
"Mr Rijiju, who was initially included in the Indian team led by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, was dropped, supposedly due to the pressure from the Chinese delegation led by Zhao Kezhi, China's minister for public security," a senior official told NDTV.
According to the official, while the meeting was in progress between Mr Singh and Mr Kezhi, Mr Rijiju was asked to reach North Block. He was at his residence at that point of time.
The minister of state for home rushed to the North Block and attended the meeting, in which the India-China security cooperation agreement was signed.
As of now, it is not known whether the union home minister had informed his Chinese counterpart that Mr Rijiju would be coming.
Until today, the Narendra Modi government had conceded to Chinese sensitivities by keeping Mr Rijiju away from bilateral meetings. For instance he was conspicuous by his absence from the delegation-level talks during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India in September 2014. He also skipped the President of India's state banquet for his Chinese counterpart during that visit.
Mr Rijiju was reportedly denied a visa to visit China over a decade back. However, he did manage to visit the neighbouring country in 2008 as part of India's Olympic delegation, given his involvement with the Archery Federation of India.
His presence at today's meeting is significant as it comes after a series of objections from China regarding Arunachal Pradesh.
During the visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh in April 2017, China had warned that it would take "necessary measures" to defend its territorial sovereignty and accused India of "obstinately" allowing the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit the "disputed" parts of the Northeastern state, causing "serious damage" to bilateral ties.
In November 2017, China had objected to President Ram Nath Kovind's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying India should refrain from "complicating" their border dispute when bilateral ties were poised at a "crucial moment".
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Arunachal Pradesh in February 2015, China had said that it has never recognised the state and is "opposed" to the prime minister's visit to the "disputed area".
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