Modi-Xi to meet: China hosts Khan, but shifts J&K stand

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China's President Xi Jinping. (Photo by Reuters)

Beijing on Tuesday tried to balance its ties with Islamabad and New Delhi— hosting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, and, at the same time, striking the right note with India by subtly dropping reference to United Nations resolutions on Kashmir while calling for a settlement of the dispute.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi likely to hold the second “informal summit” with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon, China called upon India and Pakistan to resolve the issue of Kashmir through dialogue, but significantly dropped the reference to the United Nations resolutions.

“China hopes that India and Pakistan will strengthen dialogue on disputes, including Kashmir, enhance mutual trust and improve relations,” Geng Shuang, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese government, told journalists in Beijing.

What was conspicuously missing from his statement was the reference to United Nations resolutions on Kashmir. Ever since Modi government on August 5 decided to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its “special status” and reorganised the state into two Union Territories, China has been echoing Pakistan in opposing what it called “unilateral” moves by New Delhi to change the status quo in the disputed territory.

Beijing's latest statement on J&K came on a day Pakistan Prime Minister had a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Li assured Khan of “China's firm support to Pakistan in defending its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and legitimate rights,” according to a report on the website of communist country's state-owned China Global Television Network.

Beijing has been repeatedly stating over the past several weeks that the issue of Kashmir should be resolved in accordance with the United Nations charter and Security Council resolutions in addition to the bilateral agreements. The communist country's stand 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.

Beijing's repeated statement opposing New Delhi's August 5 move on J&K struck a jarring note to the bonhomie that marked the relations between the two nations since the first “informal summit” between prime minister and Chinese president at Wuhan in central China in April 2018. The omission of the reference to the UN resolutions in the latest comment by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chinese government, however, signalled a subtle change in the position of the communist country, apparently aimed at soothing the ruffled feathers in New Delhi ahead of the second “informal summit” between Modi and Xi. Though neither New Delhi nor Beijing has officially announced the summit, it is likely to be held at Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu on Friday and Saturday.

“China and India have a tradition of high-level exchanges. Both sides are also in communication on the next stage of bilateral high-level exchanges,” Geng said in a statement circulated by the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday. “The two sides should jointly create a favourable atmosphere and environment for high-level exchanges.” He noted that since Modi and Xi had held the first informal summit last year, China-India relations had shown “a sound momentum of development”. “The two sides have steadily advanced cooperation in various fields and properly managed differences and sensitive issues,” he said.

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