India blasts Wang on OIC Jammu Kashmir remark, visit unclear

Speculation was rife on Wednesday that Mr Wang may reach New Delhi for a brief visit sometime on Thursday and leave for Kathmandu on Friday

New Delhi: India late on Wednesday evening hit back at Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi for raking up the Kashmir issue at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers’ conclave hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad, saying that China has no locus standi to comment on Jammu and Kashmir, which is an internal matter of India, and reminding Beijing that India refrains from commenting publicly on China’s internal issues.

The late-evening spat comes amidst a possible plan for Mr Wang to visit New Delhi on Thursday and stay on till Friday, although New Delhi had refused to officially confirm any visit by the Chinese foreign minister in the first place. Despite the latest row, however, the possibility of the visit has not been ruled out.

Mr Wang was quoted as saying at the OIC conclave in Islamabad, which he attended as a special guest: “On the Kashmir issue, we have heard the voices of many Islamic friends again today, and China has the same desire for this”, an apparent reference to a resolution of the issue as per the UN resolutions.

An angry New Delhi lashed out: “We reject the uncalled-for reference to India by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during his speech… Matters related to the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir are entirely the internal affair of India. Other countries, including China, have no locus standi to comment. They should note that India refrains from public judgement of their internal issues.”

Speculation was rife earlier on Wednesday that Mr Wang may reach New Delhi for a brief visit sometime on Thursday and leave for Kathmandu on Friday. There was also the possibility that he may visit Kabul for a few hours on Thursday to meet the Taliban leaders there before undertaking a brief visit to Delhi.

If Mr Wang’s visit does takes place, it could indicate the beginning of a thaw in Sino-Indian relations at the top level, especially since the Ukraine conflict has altered geopolitics quite significantly. The West, including the United States and President Joe Biden, is upset with India which has refused to condemn Russia for the military offensive in Ukraine, while calling for a cessation of violence and resolution through dialogue between the warring sides. This could be seen by the Chinese as an opportunity to mend ties with India. China is now seen globally as the main backer of Russia, which is also a time-tested friend of India. There is also a desire both in Moscow and Beijing to strengthen the trilateral Russia-India-China (RIC) forum, which is not possible till Sino-Indian relations are normalised.

If the visit does take place, it will be the first time a top-level visit will take place from either country to the other after the deadly conflict at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh between Indian and Chinese troops two years ago. External affairs minister S. Jaishankar and the Chinese foreign minister have held meetings in third countries, including in Moscow, as well as had telephonic conversations in the past two years, but neither has visited the other country after the June 2020 Galwan Valley clash.

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