MAHABALIPURAM, India (AFP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in India yesterday for an ‘informal’ seaside summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed at mending relations between the historically prickly Asian giants after sharp words over Kashmir.
China was irked by India’s August move to split Jammu and Kashmir in two because it will make the state’s Ladakh region – part of which is claimed by Beijing – a separate Indian administrative territory.
India, meanwhile, has been enraged by China’s diplomatic backing for Pakistan, which controls a much larger part of Kashmir.
Part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure mega-programme is planned in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and Xi held talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan in Beijing just two days before meeting Modi.
When Xi said he supports Pakistan’s “legitimate rights”, India’s foreign ministry thundered it was “not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India”.
The Indian Express newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying Modi would urge Xi to be more “sensitive” to India’s concerns, and to “explain to the Chinese president the reasons behind Delhi’s decision on Kashmir”.
Delhi feels Beijing has broken an understanding to be aware of each nation’s “sensitivities and concerns”, the paper said, noting India had stayed silent over the current upheaval in Hong Kong.
“Frankly, the optics surrounding this visit don’t look very promising at the moment,” Harsh Pant, an international relations professor at King’s College London, told AFP.
China’s backing of Pakistan “has left a very bad taste in India’s mouth”, Pant said.
India and China have never been the best of friends, going to war in 1962 and engaging in a series of Himalayan standoffs since.
The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader and long a thorn in China’s side, has been allowed to live in and travel the world from his base Dharamsala in northern India since 1959.