Five days to go for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s likely visit to India for an informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there is no official confirmation from Beijing on it.
The two leaders are expected to meet in Mamallapuram near Chennai on October 11-12. Sources said the next 24 to 48 hours are key to the announcement of the visit, stressing that the two sides have a very robust diplomatic communication in place. The announcement, sources said, would be done in coordination with each other once the confirmation comes through.
In 2018 too, the announcement of the informal Wuhan summit between Modi and Xi had been announced by then External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on April 22, five days before the summit took place on April 27 and 28.
New Delhi has made preparations in Mamallapuram to receive Xi, including sprucing up the temples around the town. As per the proposed schedule, Xi would arrive in Chennai on October 11 and leave the next day.
On Sunday, China’s Ambassador to India Sun Weidong tweeted, “Since Wuhan Informal Summit, the relations have witnessed steady progress. Glad to see our leaders’ consensus… transformed into cooperation. Hope more impetus for our friendship.”
There are reports in Nepalese media that Xi may visit Kathmandu as well after his India visit, while PTI reported on Sunday from Beijing that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan would be visiting China starting Tuesday.
On Saturday, India had lodged a “strong protest” with China through diplomatic channels over comments made by the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan on Kashmir, and “sought clarification” on what was seen as a departure from Beijing’s stated position on Jammu and Kashmir.
Ambassador Yao Jing had said that China would stand by Pakistan on the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. “We are also working for Kashmiris to help them get their fundamental rights and justice. There should be a justified solution to the issue of Kashmir and China will stand by Pakistan for regional peace and stability,” he said, according to Pakistani daily The Express Tribune.
Yao has served in New Delhi as deputy chief of mission earlier. Delhi viewed his comments as a departure from Beijing’s stated position of Kashmir being a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, to be resolved by the two countries, and as interference in India’s “internal matter” and “not keeping in spirit” with the proposed visit by Xi.
While there has been no official response from Beijing on Delhi’s protest, Chinese government sources told The Indian Express on Sunday that China’s position has been “consistent”, and it always “endeavours to promote peace and stability in the region and hopes that both sides can solve problems through dialogue and consultations”.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had not come to India for the Special Representative-level talks, expected to be held on September 9.
On September 17, when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was asked about it during a press conference, he had said, “On this question of Wang Yi’s rescheduling of visit, look… and this is not specific to this particular question… often people float dates. For me no dates are dates until (MEA spokesperson) Raveesh Kumar says so because you get speculation of various kinds… There was no rescheduling. So at this moment I think the National Security Advisor who is our Representative SR for these talks, he was preoccupied. It was one of those things which didn’t happen. So I don’t think more should be read into that.”
On President Xi coming for the informal summit, Jaishankar had said, “I think you will have to be a little patient.”
There have been a string of other statements and moves in the last few weeks impacting the environment between the two countries. Chinese Vice Minister in Foreign Ministry Luo Zhaohui, who was earlier the Chinese envoy to India, last week raised the issue of the Himgiri military exercises in Arunachal Pradesh with Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale.
On Saturday, Chinese Embassy spokesperson Ji Rong disputed a report in the media that the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi were held on the Indian Embassy premises in Beijing because the relevant local authority denied permission for it at the chosen venue, Chaoyang Park of Beijing.
Earlier, at the UN General Assembly, Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had raised the issue of Kashmir on September 27, the same day as Modi and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke on it.
Responding to Wang’s statement, the MEA spokesperson had said, “We expect that other countries will respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and desist from efforts to change the status quo through the illegal so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.”