China’s stand on India’s J&K move jars Modi-Xi bonhomie

Delhi hopes Jaishankar-Wang meeting in Beijing to help ease strains

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will visit Beijing from August 11 to 13 to jointly chair with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi the second meeting of the India-China High-Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges. Reuters file pho

With Beijing's repeated critical statements on New Delhi's recent moves on Kashmir striking a jarring note to India-China bonhomie, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government is relying on External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's visit to the neighbouring country to ease the strain in the bilateral relations.

Jaishankar will visit Beijing from August 11 to 13 to jointly chair with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi the second meeting of the India-China High-Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges. He and Wang will also hold discussion on India-China bilateral relations.

With Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi visiting Beijing to drum up support against New Delhi, China on Friday once again tacitly asked India to refrain from unilaterally changing the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). “The pressing priority is that the relevant party should stop unilaterally changing the status quo and avoid escalation of tension,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Chinese Government said in a statement issued in Beijing – albeit without directly referring to New Delhi's decisions on Kashmir.

Qureshi had a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Friday.

Wang told Qureshi that China was seriously concerned about the latest escalations of tensions in Kashmir.

“The Kashmir issue is a dispute left from the colonial history. It should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN (United Nations) charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement,” said Wang, adding: “China believes that unilateral actions that will complicate the situation should not be taken.” He also assured Pakistani Foreign Minister that China would continue to support Pakistan in safeguarding its legitimate rights and interests and uphold justice for Pakistan on the international arena.

China had earlier almost echoed Pakistan in expressing concerns over the situation in J&K and in criticizing India's decision to reorganize the state into two Union Territories (UTs).

Beijing had also denounced New Delhi's decisions as “unilateral” and “unacceptable”.

With Beijing repeatedly criticizing the recent decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government to strip Jammu and Kashmir of the special status and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories, New Delhi is expecting that Jaishankar's meeting with Wang will clear the air and make it sure that the issue does not turn into a major irritant for India-China bilateral relations.

“China is a very important partner (of India). There are many channels available to us to discuss all bilateral issues,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said in response to a query on Beijing's criticism on New Delhi's decisions on Kashmir. “It is expected that bilateral issues will come up for discussion (during meeting between Jaishankar and Wang). We will discuss the forthcoming informal summit (between Prime Minister and Chinese President),” added Kumar.

New Delhi has been maintaining that its moves on J&K was "internal affairs" of India.

Beijing had criticized New Delhi's decisions on Kashmir – not only to express solidarity with its “all-weather ally” Islamabad, but also because the communist country perceived India's moves to “unilaterally” change changing its domestic law as the ones that undermined territorial sovereignty of China.

What had irked Beijing was Modi Government's reiteration that just as the entire J&K state had remained an integral part of India, the two new UTs too would include, not only India's territory under illegal occupation of Pakistan, but also areas Pakistan had illegally ceded to China in 1963 as well as Aksai Chin – a territory, which both India and China claim as their own.

New Delhi, however, had earlier this week countered Beijing saying that it did not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and would similarly expect other countries to do likewise.

India, however, has been carefully avoiding irking China on the issue of Tibet and Taiwan as it has been trying to mend its ties with its eastern neighbour over the past one-and-a-half years. It has not joined the US and other western nations to criticize China for repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. New Delhi has also been mum on protests in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.

The complex relations between India and China had hit a new low over the military stand-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in June-August 2017. But the first “informal summit” between Modi and Xi at Wuhan in central China in April 2018 brought about a thaw in the relations.

The Special Representatives of India and China have been holding negotiations since 2003 to resolve the long-pending boundary dispute.

“So far as the India-China Boundary Question is concerned, the two sides have agreed to a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the boundary question on the basis of the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of India-China Boundary Question,” the MEA spokesperson had said in response to the statement issued by his counterpart in Beijing. “Pending such a settlement, both sides have agreed to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas on the basis of the relevant agreements,” Kumar had added in a statement issued in New Delhi.

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