India-China Informal Summit: Modi Won't Bring up 370, But Will Brief Xi if He Wants

Since this is an “informal” summit, there will be no joint communiques or agreements on Saturday, just like last year.

New Delhi: Even as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tours Beijing just ahead of India-China informal summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may outline New Delhi’s position on the changed status of Kashmir, but only if Chinese President Xi Jinping brings it up himself, Indian officials asserted on Wednesday.

The formal announcement of the informal summit’s second edition was made on October 9 morning, in both Delhi and Beijing.

The Ministry of External Affairs stated that the Chinese president will be visiting Chennai on October 11 and 12. This meeting – their third since May this year – would “provide an opportunity for the two leaders to continue their discussions on overarching issues of bilateral, regional and global importance and to exchange views on deepening India-China Closer Development Partnership”.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chinying issued a one-line notice that President Xi will visit India and Nepal from October 11 to 13.

The Pakistani prime minister’s official visit to China began on Tuesday, with Premier Li Keqiang promising to support Pakistan in “safeguarding its independent sovereignty and territorial integrity, and legitimate rights and interests”.

Li stated that there are “no strings” attached to our relationship, but added that “it is not targeted at any third party”.

Indian government sources, however, played down the significance of the timing of Khan’s Beijing visit. Asserting that it wasn’t a re-hyphenation of India and Pakistan, they claimed that the Pakistani prime minister’s trip is “not a matter of concern for us”. “Our summit is beyond one issue,” they said.

Beijing had objected to India’s carving out of a separate union territory of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir as it would “impede China’s sovereignty”. China claims sections of Ladakh as part of the ongoing boundary dispute with India. New Delhi had snubbed China by saying it doesn’t expect other countries to comment on internal affairs.

Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar visited Beijing on August 11, but that was not enough to stop China from pushing for a discussion on Kashmir at the United Nations Security Council. The US-France axis ensured that the discussion was held behind closed doors and no press communique was issued after its conclusion.

Ahead of the informal summit, sources asserted that India will not bring up Article 370 on its own.

“On Article 370, irrespective of whichever country, we have made it clear that matters related to constitution is sovereign. So, having a discussion does not arise.”

However, if the Chinese visitor brings up the topic, India would be glad to explain. “But if President Xi wants a better understanding, then it can be taken up.”

Since this is an “informal” summit, there will be no joint communiques or agreements on Saturday, just like last year.

Instead, there will be a “unstructured’ dialogue, where both countries are likely to raise their national priorities.

Also read: What Does China Expect from Modi 2.0?

At the first summit in April 2018, the two leaders had given “strategic guidance” to their militaries to improve communication and implement various confidence-building measures (CBMs). The decision to hold an informal summit was, of course, an outcome of the normalisation of relations following tensions over a stand-off between the Indian and Chinese armies in Bhutan’s Doklam area.

Indian sources indicated that the two leaders could discuss additional CBMs on Saturday. This was also a sense from the first summit, when the two sides had talked about reviewing the efficacy of the border agreements. “Many of the agreements were signed in the early 90s, when many of the current technology had not been invented.”

But no announcements of new CBMs will be made this time; they will rather be pushed to a future date.

Sources added that India will bring up the subject of combatting terrorism, which is a pet subject for New Delhi.

China is the current chair of the international watchdog on money-laundering and terrorist financing, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which will decide Pakistan’s compliance on standards in the next plenary meeting in Paris next week. However, sources did not expect India to include FATF in the limited period of talks, as it was a very technical subject.

Trade and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will also be on the table, with Indian officials continuing to be concerned with the deficit and market access. “We need to see how China is willing to move so that we can accommodate them too.”

With 2020 marking 70 years of diplomatic relations, India and China are also likely to soon firm up a calendar to promote people-to-people exchanges.