The Kashmir issue, which lay low during the informal Mahabalipuram summit, reared its head on Thursday, with China protesting India’s “unilateral move” to create the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, which it said challenges “China’s sovereignty”.
India responded, saying the reorganisation of the state was an “entirely internal affair” which it does not expect other countries, including Beijing, to comment on.
During the Mahabalipuram informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, both sides had skirted the uncomfortable issue of Kashmir, following India’s revocation of its special status. India has conveyed to China, through External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, that the matter is internal to India and would in no way impact its boundaries with Beijing.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, in a statement, said that the matter of reorganization of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir into the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh is entirely an internal affair of India.
“We do not expect other countries, including China, to comment on the matters which are internal to India, just as India refrains from commenting on internal issues of other countries,” he said.
He said that the two UTs are an integral part of India. “We expect other countries to respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
He said that “China continues to be in occupation of a large tract of area in the two UTs. It has also illegally acquired Indian territories from Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) under the so-called China-Pakistan Boundary Agreement of 1963.”
“India has consistently conveyed its concerns to both China and Pakistan on the projects in so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which is in the territory that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947,” the spokesperson said.
On the boundary question, he said that the two sides have agreed to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually accepted solution to the issue through peaceful consultations on the basis of the political parameters and guiding principles that were agreed in 2005.
“This was reiterated also in the 2nd India-China Informal Summit between Prime Minister and President Xi in Chennai earlier this month. In the interim, the two sides have also agreed to maintain peace and tranquility in the border area.”
In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the media on Thursday that “India unilaterally changed its domestic laws and administrative division challenging China’s sovereignty.”
“This is unlawful and void and this is not effective in any way and will not change the fact that the area is under Chinese actual control,” he said.
“China’s stance on the Kashmir issue is clear and consistent: The region is a dispute left over from colonial history and should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN Charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements,” Geng said.
“Relevant parties should settle disputes through dialogue and negotiation to maintain regional stability,” he added.
China has sided with Pakistan in opposing India’s revocation of Article 370 that gave special status to Kashmir.