No K-talk, India asks China to be sensitive to concerns

Modi, Xi agree to keep up “Wuhan Spirit”, build on “Chennai Connect” even as two sides keep J&K off the table during second “informal summit” between leaders.

Xi Jingping and Narendra Modi during informal summit. (DH Photo)

India subtly asked China to be “sensitive” about its “concerns”, even as the two sides managed to keep the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) off the table during the “informal summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Kovalam near Chennai on Friday and Saturday.

They concluded the two-day “informal summit” on the shore of Bay of Bengal, agreeing to keep up the “Wuhan Spirit” and build on the “Chennai Connect”. The two leaders also reiterated that India and China would “prudently manage” differences without allowing them to turn into disputes.

Though Beijing’s repeated statements over the past few weeks echoing Islamabad and criticizing New Delhi’s August 5 decisions on J&K cast a shadow over the “informal summit”, Xi chose not to raise the issue during his discussions with Modi. With New Delhi maintaining that its move on J&K was its “sovereign decision” and not an issue to be raised suo motu in discussion with foreign leaders, Prime Minister, himself, too did not broach the subject.

Modi, however, did subtly convey to Chinese President New Delhi’s displeasure over Beijing’s recent statements against his government’s decision to strip J&K off its special status and reorganize the state into two Union Territories.

He reminded Xi that they had agreed to be “sensitive to each other’s concerns”.

Prime Minister referred to the consensus he and Chinese President had reached when they had held the first “informal summit” at Wuhan in central China in April 2018.

Xi, however, did tell Modi to his meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who had visited Beijing just days before Chinese President’s arrival in Chennai for the “informal summit” with his counterpart in India. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that Prime Minister had just listened to Chinese President.

A joint statement issued by Beijing and Islamabad after Khan’s meeting with Xi on Wednesday irked New Delhi, as China again joined Pakistan to call for resolving the dispute over J&K in accordance with the United Nations charter and Security Council’s resolution. New Delhi had to protest, as it had gone against its position that J&K was an integral part of India and 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.

China has been opposing Modi Government's August 5 decisions to strip J&K of its special status and to reorganize the state into two Union Territories – not only to stand by its “iron brother” Pakistan, but also because it was concerned over implication of the moves on its protracted boundary dispute with India. Beijing perceived New Delhi's decisions on J&K as “unilateral” moves by Modi Government to change the status quo in the disputed territory and 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.

New Delhi was also irked by Beijing’s support to Islamabad at the United Nations, not only when Pakistan in August tried to bring back the issue of J&K back on the agenda of the Security Council, but also when it raised the issue at the General Assembly.

Prime Minister and Chinese President spent almost eight hours together in the two days – sipping coconut water, visiting monuments, enjoying cultural performance and having dinner on Friday and again holding a tête-à-tête, leading delegations for talks and taking a quick lunch on Saturday. They did try to send across the message that the “personal rapport” they developed over 17 meetings since 2014 remained intact in spite of the irritants. As they agreed to keep holding such engagements, Xi invited Modi to visit China for the third informal summit. 

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