Underlining that the future of India-China relations will depend on “mutual sensitivity to each other’s core concerns”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Monday told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that recent changes in India’s Constitution had “no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China”. He also said that the move would not impact the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan.
Jaishankar told Wang that India was not “raising any additional territorial claims” and that China’s concerns were “misplaced”.
As Wang, State Councillor and Foreign Minister, raised India’s move to revoke the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state, Jaishankar made it clear that this was an “internal matter”.
During the bilateral meeting in Beijing, Wang also raised “rising tensions” between India and Pakistan as a result of these changes. Jaishankar reiterated that it was an “internal matter” that had “no bearing on Pakistan”.
Asking the Chinese side to “base its assessment on realities”, he pointed out that India had shown “restraint in the face of provocative Pakistani rhetoric and actions” and “stood for normalisation of ties in an atmosphere free of terror”.
This is the strongest position taken so far by the Indian government on views expressed by China and Pakistan on the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K.
Last week, China had objected to the formation of Ladakh as a Union Territory, saying it undermined its territorial sovereignty. It had also expressed “serious concern” about the situation in the region and said “relevant sides need to exercise restraint and act prudently”.
Delhi had responded to Beijing at the time, with the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson saying that “India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise”.
After Monday’s bilateral meeting, India issued an unusually terse and candid readout, which read: “During the bilateral meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister also brought up developments pertaining to legislation passed recently by the Indian Parliament on Jammu & Kashmir. External Affairs Minster conveyed that this was an internal matter for India. The issue related to changes in a temporary provision of the Constitution of India and was the sole prerogative of the country. The legislative measures were aimed at promoting better governance and socio-economic development. There was no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.”
It said: “India was not raising any additional territorial claims. The Chinese concerns in this regard were therefore misplaced. EAM also conveyed that so far as the India-China boundary question was concerned the two sides had agreed to a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the Boundary Question on the basis of the 2005 Political Parameters and Guiding Principles.”
The latest discussions took place days after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi travelled to Beijing on August 9 to seek China’s support for his country’s attempts to take India’s move to revoke on J&K to the UN Security Council. Jaishankar’s visit had been finalised before the government announced its decision on Article 370.
On Monday, after the Jaishankar-Wang meeting, India said: “The Chinese Foreign Minister also referred to rising tensions between India and Pakistan as a result of these changes. EAM emphasised that these changes had no bearing on Pakistan as it was an internal matter. It did not impact the LoC. Where India-Pakistan relations are concerned, Chinese side should base its assessment on realities. India, as a responsible power, had shown restraint in face of provocative Pakistani rhetoric and actions. India has always stood for normalisation of ties in an atmosphere free of terror.”
In another important signal, Wang appeared to place the onus of ensuring peace and stability in the region on Delhi. On “regional tension” between India and Pakistan and its “possible ramifications”, Wang said: “We follow these developments very closely. We hope that India would also play a constructive role for regional peace and stability.”
Jaishankar, who did not refer to J&K in his public remarks, reiterated that the two countries have to manage their differences and not let them become disputes.
Recalling the spirit of the Wuhan summit, he said: “Since the Wuhan Informal Summit, there has been progress in overall relationship. The two countries agree that maintenance of peace and tranquility in border areas is essential for smooth development of our relations.”
The External Affairs Minister said: “The future of the India-China relationship will obviously depend on mutual sensitivity to each other’s core concerns. It is natural, both as neighbours and large developing economies, that there would be issues in our ties. Properly managing differences is therefore vital. As our leaders agreed in Astana, differences should not become disputes. That is how India-China relations can remain a factor of stability in an uncertain world.”
The two sides also discussed India’s trade deficit with China. Besides, four bilateral pacts were signed on culture, traditional medicine, sports and museum management.
The two ministers also co-chaired the second meeting of the High Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges. Jaishankar, who reached Beijing Sunday, met China’s Vice President Wang Qishan, a close confidante of President Xi Jinping.