New Delhi: Close on heels of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s attempts to persuade Beijing to support Islamabad on its move to take the Jammu and Kashmir issue to the United Nations, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar flew to China on Sunday to set the records straight on this and other issues.
India’s historic step of August 6, scrapping the “special status” of J&K and its reorganization as two Union Territories, has triggered a wave of protests in Pakistan which expelled the Indian High Commissioner, shut down trains and buses and the minuscule bilateral trade, threatened to increase terror attacks or even go to war, and announced it would take the matter to the UN.
These knee-jerk reactions may be more for public consumption to keep the lid on the internal chaos than a cold calculation of geopolitical realities. For, except Turkey, no other major country has supported Islamabad. The USA’s reaction has been muted while Russia and the UAE have supported India. Even China “advised” the two countries to settle their issues peacefully.
It was in this backdrop that Jaishankar’s three-day China visit assumes importance. Jaishankar may find it easier to convince China as he had cultivated Beijing well as India’s Ambassador in the 2009-13 period.
Even if Pakistan secures China’s support in raising the matter in the UN Security Council, it may not succeed because even one veto from among the Five Permanent Members (the US, UK, France, China and Russia) would close the issue in the initial stage itself.
So, Jaishankar’s first visit to China after taking oath as the EAM assumes significance in the wake of last week’s decision of Indian Parliament regarding J&K.
During his visit from August 11 to 13, the EAM will hold bilateral meetings with his Chinese counterpart Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi in order to prepare for the second informal Summit between the Indian and Chinese leadership, to be held in October this year.
Jaishankar will also be meeting some other leaders in Beijing. He and Wang Yi will co-chair the second meeting of the India-China High-Level Mechanism (HLM) on cultural and people-to people exchanges on August 12 and address the closing session of the forum.
Reacting to the J&K matter, China, on its part, had raised the issue of Ladakh being made a UT since, according to it; the Indian decision violates Beijing’s “territorial integrity”. Sources said the matter could be raised by Wang Yi for discussion during the meeting.
While Pakistan believes that China reacted “positively” to Islamabad’s plea, the Chinese Foreign Minister’s statement has guided both the sides to resolve matter “bilaterally”. Wang said, “China and India had important responsibilities in upholding regional peace and stability. On the basis of the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence’, we can have mutually-beneficial cooperation. This is in the fundamental and long-term interest of our two peoples and also contributes to world peace and human progress.”
Without mentioning the recent developments in J&K, Wang said, “When it comes to the recent tension between India and Pakistan and the possible upshots, we follow these developments very closely. We hope that India would play a constructive role in regional peace and stability.”
In his statement, Jaishankar said, “As you know the India-China relationship has a very unique place in global politics. Two years ago, our leaders recognized the reality and reached consensus at Astana that at a time of global uncertainty, the India-China relationship should be a factor of stability.”
“It was important to ensure that difference between us, if any, should not become disputes. It was a matter of great satisfaction that at the Wuhan summit last year, there was a very deep, constructive and open exchange of views between our leaders. We have seen the impact of that on the bilateral relations since,” he added, referring to the summit meeting between PM Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping.