PM Modi and President Xi Jinping during the Wuhan summit.(HT PHOTO)
PM Modi and President Xi Jinping during the Wuhan summit.(HT PHOTO)

Jammu and Kashmir off the table as Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi all set for summit

Preparations for the summit have been clouded by China’s concerns about a military exercise underway in Arunachal Pradesh, and remarks by the Chinese envoy to Islamabad that appeared to back Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir issue.
Hindustan Times, Beijing/New Delhi | By Sutirtho Patranobis and Rezaul H Laskar
UPDATED ON JUL 09, 2020 02:47 AM IST

India expects that the second informal summit with China beginning on Friday will create an overarching road map to take forward bilateral ties, while the recent reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) won’t be up for discussion, people familiar with the developments said on Wednesday.

The Indian position was outlined even as President Xi Jinping said during a meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing that China is closely following the situation in Kashmir and would support Pakistan on issues related to its core interest, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

After weeks of speculation against the backdrop of irritants in India-China ties, including Beijing’s criticism of the reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir, the two sides formally announced the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping would be held at the seaside resort of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu during October 11-12.

 Watch | Second India-China informal summit: Decoding the larger issues at play

Preparations for the summit have been clouded by China’s concerns about a military exercise underway in Arunachal Pradesh, and remarks by the Chinese envoy to Islamabad that appeared to back Pakistan’s position on the Kashmir issue. In his speech at the UN General Assembly last month, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had said no unilateral action should be taken to change the status quo in J&K.

The summit is aimed at building on the rapport created when Modi and Xi held their first such meeting in Wuhan last year to put ties on an even keel after the military stand-off at Doklam in 2017.

The summit, the external affairs ministry said in a statement, will provide the two leaders an opportunity to continue discussions “on overarching issues of bilateral, regional and global importance and to exchange views on deepening India-China Closer Development Partnership”.

The scrapping of J&K’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and the region reorganisation into two Union territories is a sovereign and internal matter and won’t be discussed at the summit, said people familiar with planning for the event. If the matter is raised by Xi, the Indian side will outline its official position, they said.

“The issue of having a discussion on this matter with anybody doesn’t arise…There is no scope for a third country to discuss or mediate there,” said a person who asked not to be named.

Referring to Chinese opposition to the creation of a Union Territory comprising Ladakh, the people said both countries have differing perceptions of the boundary but these haven’t been changed by the creation of the new entity.

Instead, the people said the unstructured summit will be all about building contacts at the highest level, and exchanging views on strategic issues to create a broad pathway for taking forward bilateral ties.

There will be no signing of agreements or a joint communiqué, though Modi and Xi – meeting for the third time this year – are expected to discuss additional confidence-building measures (CBMs) for peace and tranquillity on the border, and India will also raise the need to comprehensively tackle terrorism, including the training, financing and support for terror groups.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss trade and the deficit of more than $50 billion that is a concern for India, the Indo-Pacific, reforms of the UN, and selective actions that are affecting global trade arrangements.

In the trade sector, there has been “encouraging progress” on the regulatory side, including access to the Chinese markets for Indian products such as rapeseed, soya, basmati rice and tobacco leaves but this is yet to translate into greater exports, the people said.

“We have to bridge the trade deficit and see how much China is willing to show flexibility on certain sectors and tariff lines to reach accommodation,” said the person cited above.

However, the shadow of Kashmir continues to linger over the summit, especially after Xi’s reference to the matter during his meeting with the Pakistani premier and his call for India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute through peaceful dialogue.

Responding to these remarks, external affairs ministry 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 people cited above acknowledged India didn’t see eye to eye on all issues with all countries, such as the trade differences with the US, but that New Delhi hadn’t taken any actions or decisions to cause concern to the Chinese side.

The Pakistani premier’s two-day visit to China, just three days before the informal summit, isn’t seen as “hyphenation of any kind” by India as the meeting between Modi and Xi will go “beyond a one-issue summit” and cover a swathe of bilateral, regional and global issues, the people said.

After Xi and his delegation arrive in Chennai in the afternoon of October 11, Modi will take the Chinese president around several temples and other structures at the world heritage site and explain to him the trade and other links between Tamil Nadu and China dating back several centuries. Modi will also host a private dinner for Xi at the site.

The following day, the two leaders will meet for one-on-one and delegation-level talks at a beachfront resort in Mamallapuram. Modi will also host lunch for Xi, during which they will have further discussions.

However, Xi’s visit of about 24 hours will be considerably shorter than the Wuhan summit nearly 18 months ago. Xi will also make a state visit to Nepal during his October 11-13 trip.

The official announcement from both sides was made barely two days ahead of the summit, but the people cited above dismissed speculation in this regard and said there had been a clear confirmation about the meeting for a number of weeks.

Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said it was important for India and China to stabilise relations as both dealt with domestic and regional issues. “The second informal meeting as such is significant given these ominous signals at bilateral, regional and global levels,” he told Reuters.

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