PM Narendra Modi and Japan PM Shinzo Abe have agreed to deepen strategic ties (Reuters)
Reacting to Japan's plan to step up investments in the northeastern states in India, China said it was against the involvement of a "third party" in the region where it has boundary disputes with India.
Keeping in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Act East' policy, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe - who was in India on a two-day visit earlier this week - announced increased Japanese investment in infrastructure projects such as road connectivity and electricity in the northeast, a region New Delhi sees as a gateway to Southeast Asia. A joint statement issued on Thursday after a bilateral meeting between the two leaders announced the setting up of the Act East Forum.
"You also mentioned Act East policy. You must be clear that the boundary of India and China border area has not been totally delimited. We have disputes on the eastern section of the boundary," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
"We are now trying to seek a solution through negotiations that is acceptable to both sides. Under such circumstances, various parties should respect such aspects and any third party should not be involved in our efforts to resolve the disputes," Ms Hua said.
Shinzo Abe's visit came days after New Delhi and Beijing agreed to end the longest and most serious military confrontation in Doklam, near Sikkim. The 70-day stand-off started in June when India sent troops to stop China building a road in the Doklam area, a remote, uninhabited territory claimed by both China and India's ally Bhutan. Delhi says the road is a serious security concern because it changes the status quo at the tri-junction of the borders of India, China and Bhutan.
The Chinese spokesperson, however, said there was no mention of China anywhere in the India-Japan joint statement nor has she seen any "innuendos" referred to Beijing as stated by the media. "We are also closely following the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to India. I read the joint statement carefully but I have not found the statement mentioned the term China at all," she said.
The India-Japan joint statement said, "the two Prime Ministers welcomed the India-Japan cooperation on development of India's North Eastern Region (NER) as a concrete symbol of developing synergies between India's Act East policy and Japan's Free and Open Indo Pacific Strategy."
"India and Japan are important countries in Asia. We hope the normal development of the relationship can be conducive to regional, peace and development and play a constructive role in this process," the Chinese spokesperson said.
In an indirect reference to Japan, Hua said, "We also hope various parties can uphold the rights to freedom of navigation of over flights by countries in various waters." China and Japan have a dispute over the uninhabited islands called Senkakus by Japan and Diaoyu islands by China in the East China Sea where naval ships of both the countries aggressively patrol the waters around the islands.
Relations have deepened between India and Japan - Asia's second and third largest economies - as Mr Abe and PM Modi, who enjoy a close personal relationship, increasingly see eye-to-eye to balance China as the dominant Asian power.