Xi doesn’t raise Kashmir with Modi as they seek to reset ties


MAMALLAPURAM: The developments in Kashmir related to New Delhi’s decision to do away with J&K’s special status was “neither raised nor discussed” during the Modi-Xi summit here as both leaders looked to effect a major reset in relations between the world’s two most populous nations.
Briefing journalists after the summit, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had covered a wide range of topics in the six hours of direct discussions but there was no mention of Kashmir. “The issue was not raised and not discussed. Our position is anyways very clear that this is an internal matter of India,” he said.
Asked about China’s references to Pakistan ahead of the summit, Gokhale said Xi briefed Modi about Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s October 8 visit to Beijing and the Indian PM heard him out.
Gokhale said there was convergence on the challenges of terrorism and radicalisation for large countries with diverse populations. In his post-summit remarks, Modi said the leaders decided to prudently manage their differences and remain attuned to each other’s concerns. During official discussions, Xi said he and Modi had candid and “heart-to-heart” conversations like friends.
A detailed statement issued by the Chinese foreign ministry later on Saturday evening was completely silent on Kashmir. In his conversation, Xi gave Modi an unvarnished version of the Pakistan PM’s visit, relaying Imran’s complaint that India had refused to talk to him. Modi chose not to respond, sources said.
In the run-up to the summit, the Indian side was clear that Modi would not raise the Kashmir issue during the summit, but would be prepared to explain India’s August 5 decision in detail if asked by Xi. The Indian government has made it clear to the world that its decision to abrogate Article 370 and reorganise J&K is an internal decision and a sovereign act.
China had reacted sharply to the reorganisation of Ladakh as a Union territory alleging implications for border management. India has asserted, including at the level of the foreign minister, that India would not be raising any additional territorial claims and that China would not be impacted.
Xi’s decision to brief Modi about Imran’s visit could be part of a confidence-building exercise with India. Khan’s Beijing visit sparked off a series of apparently contradictory statements by the Chinese foreign ministry, where China was first seen to be favouring a bilateral resolution to Pakistan and, within 24 hours, reversing it to include UN resolutions.
Whether they are part of an evolution in the Chinese position or a tussle between different factions of the Chinese system is not clear. Regardless, the Indian foreign ministry was compelled to respond sharply, to push back against these positions, just hours before Xi was due to land in India.
It created some avoidable dissonance in the pre-summit scene setting, which is always seen as important in the India-China context.
The Indian government has believed for some time that the Chinese official system is much more hidebound than Xi. This was one of the big takeaways during the Doklam crisis, which was put on a path to resolution only after the Chinese President intervened. That was one of the triggers for Modi proposing the informal summit with Xi — to build a one-on-one channel for unfettered communication at the highest level. Today’s conversation about the Imran visit is likely to be seen in the same light by New Delhi.


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