At a time when New Delhi is still to confirm a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, India Wednesday “rejected” what it said were “uncalled for” comments he made while referring to Jammu and Kashmir at a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Islamabad.
It reminded the leadership in Beijing that “India refrains from public judgement of their internal issues”. This has been conveyed in a demarche sent via diplomatic channels, The Indian Express has learnt.
This could impact the fate of Wang’s visit expected this week. He plans to be in Nepal from March 25 to 27.
In Islamabad for the OIC meeting, Wang said: “On Kashmir, we have heard again today the calls of many of our Islamic friends. And China shares the same hope.”
This drew a sharp reaction from the Ministry of External Affairs. Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the MEA, said: “We reject the uncalled reference to India by the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his speech at the Opening Ceremony (of the OIC meeting).”
It is quite unusual to name a Foreign Minister while criticising a statement, and this reflects the hardening of position in New Delhi.
“Matters related to the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir are entirely the internal affairs of India. Other countries, including China, have no locus standi to comment. They should note that India refrains from public judgement of their internal issues,” Bagchi said.
While the reference to J&K as “internal affairs” of India and that China has “no locus standi” are standard templates in Indian government responses, the reminder that India refrains from “public judgement of their internal issues” is not used very often.
India usually does not criticise China over its internal issues including those related to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, human rights violations and atrocities against Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. So, this is a stern message to Beijing from New Delhi.
The MEA’s sharp reaction to Wang’s comments comes at a time when Beijing, after two years of the military standoff along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, has reached out to New Delhi to revive bilateral dialogue and set the stage for the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit in China later this year.
Beijing has proposed a series of events to kickstart the dialogue, starting with possible high-level visits from both sides. China’s ultimate and clear objective is to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the in-person BRICS summit which will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin as well. China, which also holds the chair for the RIC (Russia-India-China) trilateral this year, could also host the leaders’ summit on the sidelines of the BRICS summit.
On March 19, India said ties with China cannot be “business as usual” until and unless the border standoff in Ladakh is resolved. This was the first comment from New Delhi — it was made by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla — after Beijing’s outreach.