China again echoes Pakistan on J&K, India protests

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping looking on in a house boat, at East Lake, in Wuhan. (Photo by Reuters)

Beijing's support to Islamabad on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) remained an irritant in India-China relations even as both sides on Wednesday confirmed the venue and the dates of the second “informal summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Shortly after New Delhi and Beijing announced that Modi and Xi would hold the second “informal summit” at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu on Friday and Saturday; China once again echoed Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir, triggering a strong protest from India.

A joint press-release issued by Islamabad and Beijing after a meeting between Chinese President and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed that the issue of Kashmir Kashmir issue was “a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the United Nations Charter, relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements”.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese Government had on Tuesday subtly dropped reference to UN resolutions on Kashmir while calling upon India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute through dialogue. It had been perceived as a move by China to soothe the ruffled feathers in India ahead of the second “informal summit” between Indian Prime Minister and Chinese President.

Beijing, however, returned to its old position on Wednesday, with Xi assuring Khan that China was paying “close attention” to the current situation in J&K in the wake of New Delhi's August 5 move to strip the state of its special status and to reorganize it into two Union Territories. China also joined Pakistan to reiterate that the issue of Kashmir was “a dispute left from history” and it “should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements”.

Beijing's return to its old stand once again irked New Delhi, which has been maintaining that the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan and the 1999 Lahore Declaration had left no scope for the UN or any third party to play any role in resolving the “outstanding issues” between the two South Asian neighbours.

A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi underlined India’s “clear and consistent” position that J&K was “an integral part of India”. “China is well aware of our position. It is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the MEA, said.

Beijing's consistent support to Islamabad on J&K struck a jarring note to the bonhomie that marked the relations between India and China ever since Prime Minister and Chinese President held the first “informal summit” at Wuhan in the communist country in April 2018. It also cast a shadow over the second “informal summit”. But after a meeting between Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui in New Delhi, both sides decided to stay course and arrange the meeting between the two leaders, notwithstanding the strains in ties.

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