BEIJING (AFP) - China on Monday rejected remarks by Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi that it has an “expansionist mindset", saying it has never grabbed the territory of another nation.
“I believe all of you can see that China has never waged a war of aggression to occupy any inch of land of other countries,” foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing.
Mr Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and favourite to win this year’s polls, was speaking during an election rally on Saturday.
He warned China to shed its “expansionist mindset” as he toured the remote northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, an eastern stretch of the Himalayas that China claims as its own.
“The world has changed. An expansionist mindset will not be accepted. China will also have to do away with such a mindset,” Mr Modi said. “Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and will always remain so. No power can snatch it away from us.”
China and India fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962 over Arunachal Pradesh and now share a de facto frontier known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which has never been formally demarcated.
The unresolved border dispute has soured relations which are often prickly and marked by mutual distrust.
Ms Hua said the dispute was one “left over from history", adding it was “very sensitive and complicated”.
She added that while it cannot be immediately resolved, both countries were committed to doing so peacefully.
“There have never been any armed clashes in border areas over the years, so there is very strong evidence that we have the capability to maintain peace there.”
The border dispute with India flared again last April, with New Delhi accusing Chinese troops of intruding deep into Indian-held territory. A three-week stand-off was only resolved when troops from both sides pulled back.
The two countries have since signed accords and held meetings to maintain peace on the border.
At an annual defence and security dialogue in New Delhi on Monday, the two countries agreed to hold a high-level military meeting in India this year to discuss “practical measures for management of border issues,” a statement said.
The talks, led by Indian defence secretary R.K. Mathur and China’s deputy chief of general staff Wang Guanzhong, also decided that their next joint army exercise would be in India in 2014 after a “successful” one in China last year.
China has been embroiled in a series of territorial and other disputes with its neighbours over the years, which on occasion have led to armed conflict.
Beijing has controlled the whole of the Paracel Islands, a cluster of about 40 islets, sandbanks and reefs in the South China Sea, since a battle with South Vietnamese forces in 1974.
China also invaded Vietnam’s northernmost provinces in February 1979, angered by Hanoi’s ousting of the Beijing-backed Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.
The short but bloody conflict claimed thousands of lives on both sides and ended with Chinese forces withdrawing and both Hanoi and Beijing claiming victory.
Beijing is also involved in multiple other disputes in the South China Sea, and has a bitter row with Japan over islands in the East China Sea.