J&K on top of Jaishankar’s China agenda

Kashmir, Ladakh situation likely to dominate talks with Chinese foreign ministry officials

Published - August 12, 2019 02:00 am IST - BEIJING

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has arrived in Beijing to prepare for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, apart from familiarising his hosts about New Delhi’s decision to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir.

Ahead of his arrival, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had taken exception to India’s decision to create Ladakh as a separate Union Territory, saying the decision could alter the status quo along the China-India border.

Referring to Ladakh, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday the Indian side had “continued to damage China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally modifying the form of domestic law”. She pointed out that this practice is “unacceptable” and will not have any effect.

On Article 370

On the revocation of Article 370, the Chinese position has been shifting. On Tuesday, Ms. Hua counseled the “parties concerned” to “exercise restraint and act with caution, especially to avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo and exacerbate the tension”.

She stressed that China was “seriously concerned” about the situation in Kashmir, but, without making any reference to the United Nations, proposed that India and Pakistan should resolve relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation and safeguard regional peace and stability”.

However, the Chinese stance shifted after Thursday’s “urgent” visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Beijing . Following talks, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi opened the door for UN intervention, apart from proposing that the “bilateral agreement” — a veiled reference to the 1972 Shimla accord — should be the template for resolving the Kashmir issue.

Mr. Wang stressed that the Kashmir issue “should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement,” according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry readout.

After concluding his visit to China, Mr. Qureshi told a press conference in Islamabad that he shared Pakistan’s intent to take the latest situation in Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council.

“I want to tell the nation that they [Chinese leadership] have assured us of their complete support. Not only that, they have also issued instructions to their New York representative to remain in contact with our representative and to keep their consultations ongoing,” Mr. Qureshi quoted as saying in the Dawn newspaper. He also said the foreign ministries of both countries had named a focal person at the director general level responsible for coordinating “a joint strategy”.

It is unlikely that the Indian side will not raise the “internationalisation” of the Kashmir issue through the UN route during Mr. Jaishankar’s talks in Beijing.

On Monday, Mr. Jaishnkar is expected to meet a Chinese leader, but neither the Chinese side nor the Indian embassy in Beijing has given details of this engagement. Later, the visiting Minister will participate with Mr. Wang in the second meeting of the India-China high level people-to-people exchanges mechanism.

Varanasi summit

While the focus of this mechanism is on people-to-people exchanges and culture, all topics of India-China ties, including detailing of the Varanasi summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi, will be covered, except for trade and commerce, highly placed sources told The Hindu .

Prime Minister Modi and President Xi are expected to meet on October 12, in tune with the 70th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

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