India, China voice differences over Kashmir but decide to rebuild bridges

By Atul Aneja (BEIJING, 12 August 2019) – India and China on Monday voiced their differences over the recent developments in Kashmir, with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar calling upon Beijing not to deviate from the gains of the Wuhan informal summit and Astana consensus and his counterpart Wang Yi urging New Delhi to make special efforts to build regional peace.

 “When it comes to the regional tensions between India and Pakistan and possible ramifications, we follow these developments very closely. We hope that India would also play a constructive role for regional peace and stability.” Mr. Wang said. 

His remarks follow his meeting in Beijing on Thursday with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who dashed to the Chinese capital after India revoked the special status to Jammu and Kashmir on August 5.

UN intervention

During that meeting, Mr. Wang opened the door for United Nations intervention, apart from proposing that a “bilateral agreement” — a veiled reference to the 1972 Shimla accord — as the templates for resolving the Kashmir issue. 

Mr. Wang, who is also China’s state councillor — a higher ranking position than Foreign Minister — stressed that the Kashmir issue “should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN charter, relevant Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement,” according to the Chinese foreign ministry readout.

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

In his remarks, Mr. Jaishankar reminded Mr. Wang that two years ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a meeting in Astana, recognised that India-China relationship had a very unique place in global politics. They had “reached a consensus…that at a time of global uncertainty, India China relationship be a factor of stability.”

The Minister also reiterated that whenever tensions rose, both countries should automatically make a conscious effort to ease frictions, to ensure that “differences between us if any should not become disputes, if any”.

Public support

He also counselled his opposite number that it was important that to build public support for the relationship there should not be any deviation from the understanding, built over the years, of “being sensitive to each other’s core concerns, by managing our differences properly, and by working on the positive convergences that we have on the relationship”.

Besides, Mr. Jaishankar signalled that the two countries should not fritter away the gains of last year’s Wuhan informal summit between Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi. Referring to the Wuhan meeting as “a matter of great of satisfaction,” he said that during their interaction there, the two leaders had “a very deep and constructive and open exchange”.

He added: “We have seen the impact of that in our bilateral relations also. Today I think we are looking at the effort (that) while our leaders give guidance to growth of our relationship, I hope that today the discussions we have help us translate those convergences into many more shared activities and collaborations.”

Five principles 

Mr. Wang, on his part, tuned into the five principles of peaceful coexistence that had anchored China-India ties in the Fifties as the template for the New Delhi-Beijing relationship in future. 

The back and forth between the two took place in two rounds. A restricted meeting, which lasted 45 minutes, where a handful of officials from both sides were present, was followed by delegation-level talks that were initially open to the media. 

Despite the surfacing of differences, there appeared to be a conscious effort by China to dial down diplomatic tensions.

On Monday, state-run tabloid Global Times highlighted that the three-day visit by India’s top diplomat to China, which comes amid rising tensions between Pakistan and India over territorial disputes, was expected to help stabilise the situation and avoid further conflicts arising from misjudgement or irrational decisions.

“China and India will have sufficient communications over the issues during the Indian Minister’s visit, and India is expected to explain its concerns and plans to the Chinese side in a frank manner to earn understanding from the Chinese side,” the daily said, quoting a researcher from Tsinghua University. 

Nevertheless, the creation of Ladakh as Union Territory has riled China. Referring to Ladakh, its foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday that 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 was “unacceptable” and would not have any effect.

Mr. Jaishankar began his official engagements in Beijing on Monday by calling on Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishang. 

This article first appeared in The Hindu.

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