There is nothing unexpected about the reactions of the Chinese and Indian governments to the official bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir which came about on October 31 as scheduled. Beijing has a stake in challenging the Modi government’s decision to divide the state into two Union territories with a slice of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir having been ceded to China earlier and the ongoing construction of a road linking a part of China to the Pakistani port of Gwadar. The latter would facilitate Chinese access to the Arabian Sea both for trade and for spreading Chinese hegemonic influence. If the Chinese were not to challenge Indian sovereignty over Ladakh the Indian claim over that territory will be re-affirmed and India’s continuing desire to some day wrest control over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will be clothed with greater legitimacy. At the same time, India has re-affirmed her unstinted assertion that Kashmir is not a disputed territory and by scrapping Article 370 the Modi government has broken down the “temporary wall” between Indians which encouraged separatism and terrorism. By declaring that India’s claim over Ladakh is “unlawful” and “void”, the Chinese are only trying to keep their claim of Ladakh belonging to the Chinese alive on paper.
To set the record straight, Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar has reiterated India’s official position that the matter of reorganisation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh is entirely an internal affair of India and India does not expect other countries including China to comment on matters which are internal to India just as this country refrains from commenting on internal issues of other countries. The issue currently rests at that with both sides having asserted their position. It is desirable that the Chinese not escalate their rhetoric and jeopardise their trade, investment and diplomatic interests. The recent parleys between Prime Minister Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping have cemented ties between the two countries and it would be imprudent for China to disturb that apple-cart and inject an element of bitterness into the relationship. It goes without saying that there is mutuality of interests between India and China which must be kept in mind by governments of the two countries. With the US having imposed trade tariffs on Chinese imports on a major scale, Beijing would be prudent to not ignore Indian sensibilities.