India hikes pitch on Aksai Chin post China's J&K remark

Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for Indian Foreign Ministry. (Photo by Reuters)

After China on Thursday termed the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir “unlawful”, India strongly reacted, raising its pitch to re-assert claim over its territories illegally occupied by the neighbouring communist country.

As the reorganization of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories came into effect on Thursday, China termed the move by India “unlawful” and “void”. New Delhi reacted strongly, reiterating that both the newly-created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh were integral part of India. New Delhi said that it expected other countries to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.

New Delhi also re-asserted its claim on India’s territories illegally occupied by China.

“China continues to be in occupation of a large tract of area in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said in New Delhi. “It has also illegally acquired Indian territories from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) under the so-called China-Pakistan Boundary Agreement of 1963.”

“The matter of reorganization of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh is entirely an internal affair of India,” the MEA spokesperson said in New Delhi.

“We do not expect other countries, including China, to comment on the matters which are internal to India, just as India refrains from commenting on internal issues of other countries,” said Kumar.

The war of words between New Delhi and Beijing came just weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping for the second “informal summit” between the two leaders at a seaside resort near Chennai on October 11 and 12. 

“The Indian government officially announced the establishment of so-called Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory and Ladakh Union Territory that included some of China’s territory into its administrative jurisdiction. China deplores and firmly opposes that,” Geng Shuang, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese Government, said in Beijing.   

Ever since New Delhi on August 5 moved to strip the state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories, Pakistan has been running a diplomatic campaign against India.

China too has been opposing Modi Government's decisions on J&K – not only to stand by its “iron brother” Pakistan, but also because it was concerned over implication of the move on its protracted boundary dispute with India. The Chinese Government perceived it as New Delhi's “unilateral” moves to change the status quo in the disputed territory and to strengthen its claim – not only on areas of Kashmir under occupation of Pakistan, but also on 5180 sq. kms of areas ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963 as well as on Aksai Chin – a disputed territory between India and China.

“India unilaterally changes its domestic laws and administrative divisions challenging China’s sovereignty,” the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in Beijing, as the state of Jammu and Kashmir ceased to exist and two new Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh officially came into existence on Thursday. “This is unlawful and void and this is not effective in any way and will not change that fact that the area is under Chinese actual control,” said Geng.

Beijing also called upon New Delhi to “earnestly respect” territorial sovereignty of China, abide by China-India treaties and “uphold peace and tranquility in the border areas and create favourable conditions for proper settlement” of the boundary dispute.

In its response, New Delhi also raised the pitch of its protest against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passed through India's territory under illegal occupation of Pakistan.

Beijing has pledged over $ 60 billion to invest in the CPEC, which is proposed to link China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region and the port city of Gwadar in southern Pakistan. It is one of the flagship projects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the ambitious cross-continental connectivity project launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping a few years back.

“India has consistently conveyed its concerns to both China and Pakistan on the projects in so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is in the territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947,” Kumar, the spokesperson of the MEA, said in New Delhi on Thursday.

Beijing on Thursday also irked New Delhi by reiterating that the dispute over J&K should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the United Nations charter, the relevant Security Council resolutions and other bilateral treaties.

New Delhi 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.

India on Thursday also reminded China that the two nations had agreed to “seek a fair, reasonable and mutually accepted solution” to the boundary dispute “through peaceful consultations on the basis of the political parameters and guiding principles” agreed upon in 2005.

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.

The two sides however managed to keep the issue of J&K off the table during the second “informal summit” near Chennai on October 11 and 12.

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