Kashmir seems to be casting a shadow on the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping this weekend in the coastal town of Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu.
The Indian and Chinese foreign ministries announced the summit on Wednesday, a day after China seemingly dropped its recent references to the UN charter and UN Security Council resolutions while speaking of finding a solution to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
China omitted any reference to the UN in relation to the Kashmir dispute during a visit to Beijing by Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan for seeking Chinese endorsement for its position on the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
On Wednesday, hours after both sides announced Xi’s visit, a Xinhua news agency report quoted the Chinese president as saying during a meeting with Khan that he was watching the situation in Kashmir and would support Pakistan on issues related to its core interests.
The response to this, put out by the Indian foreign ministry, was firm.
“We have seen the report regarding the meeting of Chinese President Xi Jinping with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, which also refers to their discussions on Kashmir," said foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar. “India’s position has been consistent and clear that Jammu and 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," Kumar said.
Earlier in the day, the Indian foreign ministry said that the Chinese president would be visiting Chennai on 11-12 October for the second informal summit.
“The forthcoming Chennai informal summit will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to continue their discussions on overarching issues of bilateral, regional, and global importance and to exchange views on deepening the India-China Closer Development Partnership," it said.
A person familiar with the development said on the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 that had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir, “irrespective of whichever country we are dealing with, our position is very clear that matters relating to the Constitution are a sovereign function. So the issue of having a discussion with anybody on this matter does not arise."
Redesignating Ladakh as a Union territory after bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir, was in response to a demand from the local population, the person said. India had previously explained to China that reorganising Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into two Union territories was a purely internal matter with no impact on India’s external boundaries, the person said. “We claim a certain boundary in our map... There is an alternative perception of the boundary by China. Neither perception has changed as a result of the creation of the Union territory of Ladakh," the person said. The boundary dispute could figure among issues the two leaders take up at the informal summit, said the person.
“I would hazard a guess that what they would discuss would be first how to ensure that peace and tranquillity remains in the border areas and whether the current measures are adequate or whether we need supplementary measures. Second, of course, it is in the interest of both sides to find a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. So there may be some discussion in that regard," the person mentioned above said.
“Defence and security are also something that they are likely to share views on....We have seen wherever incidents have occurred in the past few years we have been able to handle them in a sensible manner. However, what we are looking at is possible additional CBMs (confidence building measures)," said the person.
“In general political relations have gone well," the person said with regard to the progress made since the Wuhan summit in April 2018.
“On the trade side, the deficit remains a matter of concern. There has been encouraging progress on the regulatory side. Nonetheless, while we see good progress on the regulatory side, it is yet to translate in any meaningful way into trade figures, in terms of trade statistics, in terms of volume and in value—both."
The trade deficit stands at more than $ 50 billion, which has been a matter of concern for India, which China has repeatedly said it would address. At Wuhan, China agreed to import non basmati rice and some other products to narrow the trade deficit.