The K-word may not have been raised by the Chinese during the Xi Jinping-Modi informal summit in Chennai last month. But they made up for it on Thursday, the very day J&K and Ladakh became union territories. The shots were fired from Beijing during the foreign ministry press briefing. Spokesman Geng Shuang put it bluntly: “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.”
India responded with the External Affairs Ministry saying: “China is well aware of India’s consistent and clear position on this issue. 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”.
The spokesman underscored another point, that “the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are integral parts of India. We expect other countries to respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
All of which is frankly old hat. In fact, if one takes a look at the Chinese statement on August 6, the day India abrogated Article 370, it’s little different from the latest statement. On that day, the Chinese statement went thus: “The recent unilateral revision of domestic laws by the Indian side continues to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty, which is unacceptable and will not have any effect.”
China watchers in Delhi say the latest Chinese statement makes no reference to Article 370 either. In their view, the Chinese statement is proforma, something which had to be issued, given their publicly articulated criticism of India’s reorganisation of J&K. The absence of any statement would give the impression they had no issues with what New Delhi did.
But they warn that it is important to monitor statements from Beijing over the next few days. If there are none or remain the same, all’s well (if there is such a thing in India-China relations).