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Modi govt’s move to make Ladakh a UT reopens an old front with China

China says it is ‘seriously concerned’ about the situation in J&K. India responds, saying it’s an internal matter that New Delhi expects other countries not to comment on.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s decision to scrap Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories has not just angered Pakistan but also drawn the ire of China.

A day after New Delhi’s controversial move, Beijing Tuesday said it is “seriously concerned” about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. It specifically pointed towards making Ladakh a separate Union Territory.

However, India responded saying it is “an internal matter concerning the territory of India. India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise”.

The exchange comes just a month before India and China are due to hold yet another round of boundary talks between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister and state councillor Wang Yi. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is also set to visit Beijing from 11-13 August.

Shah’s Aksai Chin reference

Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha Tuesday that when the government talks of the reorganisation, it refers to the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Aksai Chin. Sources told ThePrint that this has also raised concerns in China, and the country is planning to raise the matter during the Doval-Wang talks.

“China has always opposed the Indian side’s entry of the Chinese territory in the western section of the Sino-Indian border into the administrative jurisdiction of India,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

“This position is firm and consistent and has never changed. Recently, the Indian side has continued to damage China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally modifying the form of domestic law. This practice is unacceptable and will not have any effect.”

China has been laying claims on Aksai Chin since the 1950s. It seized the region in the 1962 war, and a year later, as part of a pact, Pakistan also ceded a northern part of PoK to China. Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had raised the matter in 2000, but it has remained unresolved.

Experts’ view

Jayadeva Ranade, president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, said China may not raise the issue seriously right now.

“Ladakh has always been a part of India. It is true that China continues to claim Ladakh and some parts of PoK. But it is now firing the gun from Pakistan’s shoulders. It may not raise the issue seriously now,” said Ranade, a former intelligence officer, explaining that it has more pressing issues to handle — such as the widespread protests in Hong Kong and the on-going trade war with the US.

Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, concurred.

“China will protest the decisions taken by India. But it also knows that India will not occupy Aksai Chin by force. India will not grab it,” he said.

“China is saddled with several important issues right now, be it its economic growth rate, the protests in Hong Kong, the South China Sea problems with Vietnam or the US trade war.”

Jaishankar’s visit

Minister Jaishankar is set to visit Beijing from 11-13 August, his first trip there since becoming part of Modi’s new cabinet.

His priority will be to pave the way for the next round of informal talks between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India, likely to take place in October. The first round of informal talks took place in Wuhan, China.

Jaishankar will also co-chair the second meeting of the India-China High Level Mechanism on Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges with Wang.


Also read: India must rethink strategies on national security if it wants to join ranks with US, China


 

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1 COMMENT

  1. I heard the word Aksai Chin after a very long time. The prospects of its being restored to India are a little more dim than PoK or Gilgit – Baltistan. Making these issues salient for the purpose of domestic politics can have a downside. China is a cold, calculating entity. These flurries of visits do not change anything substantive. On the boundary question, the talks could go on for decades, moving at the pace of an arthritic snail.

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