Sunday, 15 Sep, 9.34 am Deccan Herald

Pak's 'iron brother' China reaches out to India at UN

Anirban Bhaumik,

China has finally reached out to India at the United Nations after echoing its 'all-weather ally' Pakistan for weeks to protest recent decisions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government on Jammu and Kashmir.

China's Permanent Representative to United Nations, Zhang Jun, of late met New Delhi's envoy to the international organisation, Syed Akbaruddin, in New York. The meeting came almost a month after Akbaruddin led New Delhi's diplomatic manoeuvre at the UN to block a move by Pakistan and China to bring back the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) back on the agenda of the Security Council.

Ever since Modi Government on August 5 moved to strip J&K of its special status and reorganised it into two Union Territories, China has been echoing Pakistan, accusing India of making an 'illegal' and 'unilateral' move to change the status quo in the disputed region.

Neither New Delhi nor Beijing made public what Akbaruddin and Zhang discussed during the meeting at the Permanent Mission of India at the UN.

Sources, however, told the DH that Akbaruddin - well-known to be a consummate diplomat - was certain to have utilised the opportunity to convey to Zhang the position of New Delhi on the issue of J&K.

Engagement is key to diplomacy

Welcome Amb. Zhang Jun. 

We @IndiaUNNewYork look to work
with @Chinamission2un , under your leadership, on a range of multilateral issues @UN .

— Syed Akbaruddin (@AkbaruddinIndia)

Though Beijing has not yet indicated any change in its stand on Modi Government's August 5 decisions on J&K, Zhang's move to meet Akbaruddin signalled its willingness to engage with New Delhi at a time India is preparing to counter Pakistan's propaganda at the UN General Assembly.

New Delhi has been maintaining that Modi Government's recent decisions on J&K are 'internal affairs' of India and aimed at safeguarding democracy and ensuring economic development and prosperity for the people of what had now been turned into a Union Territory.

What added to the significance of the meeting between Zhang and Akbaruddin is that it came ahead of a showdown between Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the UN.

The two leaders are likely to address the UN General Assembly at the headquarters of the international organisation in New York on the same day - September 27.

Khan is likely to use the opportunity to slam New Delhi for its recent decisions on J&K in order to add momentum to the diplomatic blitzkrieg Pakistan launched against India after August 5, particularly for the restrictions and the communication blackout Modi Government enforced in the new Union Territory as well as for the detention of the local political leaders.

Modi, on the other hand, is expected to tear into Pakistan's Government and its Army, not only for exporting terror to India, but also for the persecution of minorities in the neighbouring country.

Beijing has been alleging that New Delhi's moves on J&K also undermined the 'sovereignty' of China.

What in fact raised hackles in Beijing was Home Minister Amit Shah's statement in the Lok Sabha on August 6 that just as the entire J&K state had remained an integral part of India, the two new UTs too would include, not only India's territory currently under illegal occupation of Pakistan, but also areas Pakistan had illegally ceded to China in 1963 as well as Aksai Chin - a territory claimed by both India and China.

Beijing suspected that Modi Government's recent moves on J&K were in fact aimed at strengthening New Delhi's claims along the disputed India-China boundary.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar conveyed to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on August 12 that New Delhi's decisions had no implication for India's external boundaries and its de facto border (Line of Actual Control) with China. He also told Wang that the decisions had no impact on India's Line of Control or the de facto border with Pakistan too. China, however, was not convinced and went on to support Pakistan's move to internationalise the issue of J&K once again.

Akbaruddin and Zhang had a run-in on August 16 - the day the UN Security Council had a closed-door consultation on Pakistan's plea for an emergency session of the council to discuss India's decisions on the 'disputed' territory. Zhang represented China, one of the five permanent members of the UNSC, in the meeting and argued on behalf of Pakistan. But majority of the permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council endorsed New Delhi's view that India and Pakistan should resolve the issue of J&K bilaterally.

After the UNSC meeting, Zhang and Pakistan's Permanent Representative to UN, Maleeha Lodhi, spoke to media-persons and claimed that the members of the Security Council were 'deeply concerned' about the situation in J&K in the wake of New Delhi August 5 decisions. Just a few minutes later, Akbaruddin came to address the journalists and dismissed the attempts made by Zhang and Lodhi to pass off 'national statements' as 'the will of the entire UNSC'. The Security Council did not issue any statement or adopted any resolution on J&K after the meeting.

The recent meeting between Chinese and Pakistani Permanent Representatives to the UN was, however, more than a personal rapprochement between the two. It came at a time when Beijing's repeated critical statements on New Delhi's moves on J&K struck a jarring note to the bonhomie that marked the relations between India and China over the past 16 months, since Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had an 'informal summit' at Wuhan in Central China in April 2018. The 'informal summit' brought about a thaw in the India-China relations, which had hit a new low over the 72-day-long military stand-off at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan in June-August, 2017.

Modi is likely to host Xi for the second 'informal summit' next month. But the delicate détente between New Delhi and Beijing has already come under stress after China joined Pakistan to criticize India after August 5. Chinese Foreign Minister's proposed visit to New Delhi for boundary negotiations with Modi's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval earlier this month was postponed. India strongly objected to reference to J&K in the joint statement issued after Wang's recent meeting Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad. New Delhi also raised its pitch once again against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through J&K areas illegally occupied by Pakistan. India also echoed United States in criticising China's aggressive moves in the South China Sea.

Akbaruddin-Zhang meeting fuelled speculation not only about both sides once again making attempts to ease strains in ties but also about a bilateral meeting between Jaishankar and Wang on the sideline of the UN General Assembly to set the stage for Modi-Xi meeting next month.

Akbaruddin was the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi before being appointed as India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in November 2015. Zhang is one of China's top diplomats specialising in multilateral relations. He was appointed as China's Permanent Representative to the UN in New York on July 31 last.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Dailyhunt. Publisher: Deccan Herald