Hours after New Delhi and Beijing officially announced Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India for the second informal summit in Mahabalipuram on October 11 and 12, India took strong exception to a reference to Kashmir in a meeting between Xi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. India said it is “not for other countries to comment” on its internal affairs.
While government sources said Delhi will not raise Jammu and Kashmir unless Xi brings it up, the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “India’s position has been consistent and clear that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India. China is well aware of our position. It is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India.”
The Kashmir reference came up in a joint statement issued by China and Pakistan. “The Pakistan side briefed the Chinese side on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, including its concerns, position, and current urgent issues. The Chinese side responded that it was paying close attention to the current situation in Jammu & Kashmir and reiterated that the Kashmir issue is a dispute left from history, and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements,” it said.
“China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation… Parties need to settle disputes and issues in the region through dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” it said. Incidentally, Khan was accompanied by Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa in Beijing.
What has irked Delhi is Chinese state media reports quoting Xi as telling Khan during their meeting in Beijing that China has been “paying close attention” to the situation in Kashmir and the “facts are clear”.
China had criticised India’s decision on Kashmir and its Foreign Minister Wang Yi even raised it at the UN General Assembly last month. Sources said India has a “very clear position” and it was explained to all the countries that matters related to the Constitution are “sovereign issues” and there was no question of any discussion.
While Modi will not brief Xi on Kashmir, sources said in case the Chinese President wants to understand the issue, the Prime Minister will provide an “outline”.
The two leaders will meet in an informal setting, where they are expected to discuss issues pertaining to terrorism, trade and celebration of the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties. According to sources, Xi will be accompanied by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. From the Indian side, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will travel to Mahabalipuram, and may hold separate meetings with Wang.
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 Wednesday, China referred to the “strong personal chemistry” between Modi and Xi to make the informal meeting possible. The summit will be the first overseas visit for Xi after China’s 70th anniversary celebrations last week.
While formally announcing the summit in Beijing, Luo said it “is driven by the national interest of the two countries and personal relationship between the two leaders”. Further, in the backdrop of globalisation and trade protectionism on the rise, Luo said the discussions will uphold free trade and advance economic globalisation.
“From the domestic perspective, both countries are growing their economies and deepening reform. China believes in pursuing the Chinese Dream and India has put forward the vision of a New India. The two leaders will exchange views on governance experience and how to better align their development strategies,” he said.
The Vice Foreign Minister said talks will take place in three contexts. “Unilateralism, trade protectionism and bullyism are on the rise. World multipolarity and economic globalisation are facing many twists and turns. International community is facing common threats and challenges. As the biggest developing countries and emerging economies, China and India have greater responsibility to inject positive energy into the complicated world,” he said.
“With China having just celebrated its 70th anniversary and is pursuing the two centenary goals while Prime Minister Modi has set a target of making India a US$ 5 trillion economy after elections in May this year. Both countries are at a similar development stage and have similar objectives. This will provide an impetus to bilateral ties,” he said.
Luo also said that after last year’s Wuhan summit, both sides have had smooth strategic communication and cooperation, and “peace and tranquillity has been maintained in the border areas”.
“Bilateral trade volume is approaching US$100 billion, and investment and energy cooperation has achieved new progress… Bilateral trade last year exceeded US$ 95.5 billion and personal visits between the two countries crossed 1 million,” he said.
Referring to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has been a point of contention between the two countries, he said: “It is a major public good by China to the world. We hope both countries can further explore connectivity cooperation, including BCIM cooperation. We hope that our cooperation can even extend to Africa, and in that sense this is not China-India Plus Cooperation but China-India plus plus cooperation. No cooperation is excluded under this framework.”
Responding to Chinese media on whether India’s largescale military exercise in Arunachal Pradesh could impact the summit, Luo said: “We have no worry at all because that is not true… As far as we know, the so-called military exercise is not a fact, it is not true.” Sources in India said it is an operational issue.