External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

New Delhi: India and China on Monday seemed to have stepped back from allowing Kashmir to become an unmanageable irritant between the two countries. In doing so, the two sides may well have blunted Pakistani efforts to internationalise Kashmir and drag ally China into what India sees as an internal matter. China has control of a section of Kashmir ceded to it by Pakistan and hence is seen as a stakeholder too.

In his remarks at a meeting in Beijing with Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi referred to recent tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi revoked Article 370 that bestowed special status on Jammu and Kashmir.

“On the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, we (India and China) can have mutually beneficial cooperation. This is in the fundamental and long-term interest of our two peoples and also contribute to world peace and human progress," Wang said.

“At the same time, China and India as two big nations, also have important responsibilities for upholding regional peace and stability," he added.

“When it comes to the recent tensions between India and Pakistan and the possible ramifications, we follow these developments very closely. We hope that India would also play a constructive role for the regional peace and stability," Wang said.

An Indian statement said the Chinese foreign minister brought up the revocation of Article 370 in his discussions. Jaishankar, on his part, informed Wang that the “legislative measures were aimed at promoting better governance and socio-economic development. There was no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. India was not raising any additional territorial claims".

On Pakistan’s objections, Jaishankar added that the Indian move did “not impact the (de facto line of control) LoC. Where India-Pakistan relations are concerned, Chinese side should base its assessment on realities".

Wang’s seemingly measured remarks come two days after Pakistan said it would move the UN Security Council with the help of China to censure India for removing the special status for Kashmir.

This was after Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made a quick visit to Beijing to discuss the Indian move to integrate Kashmir more closely with India, which Pakistan condemned.

China, too, had objected to India naming Ladakh a Union territory, similar to Jammu and Kashmir. India, on its part, has said the change was its internal matter.

Given that Pakistan had on Saturday said China would help move its censure resolution in the UN Security Council, there was speculation that Beijing may support Islamabad.

But on Monday, the accent seemed to be on bilateral ties and how to take relations forward.

Jaishankar, who is on his first visit to China as foreign minister, arrived in Beijing on Sunday. His visit was planned in advance of the Indian parliament revoking Article 370 and aimed at preparing the ground for a visit to India later this year by Chinese President Xi Jinping for an informal summit.

Speaking at an India-China High Level Media Forum on the occasion of his visit to Beijing, Jaishankar described his meeting with China’s vice-president Wang Qishan as “cordial" and his meeting with foreign minister Wang as “productive."

“The future of the India-China relationship will obviously depend on mutual sensitivity to each other’s core concerns," Jaishankar said. “It is natural, both as neighbours and large developing economies that there would be issues in our ties. Properly managing differences is therefore vital," the Indian foreign minister said, pointing out that Modi and Xi had previously agreed that “differences (between India and China) should not become disputes".

“That is how India-China relations can remain a factor of stability in an uncertain world," he said, adding that a previous informal summit between Modi and Xi in Wuhan had opened up “a world of new convergences".

Of the talks he had with Wang on Monday, Jaishankar said: “We discussed the full gamut of issues relating to views on the international situation, regional aspects and our very important bilateral relations."

“Our discussions were especially significant as we prepare for President Xi Jinping’s visit to India for the 2nd Informal Summit later this year and celebrating the 70th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations next year," he said.

The Wuhan summit in April “provided positive direction to our relations," Jaishankar said. Since then, “there has been progress in the overall relationship," Jaishankar said. “The two countries agree that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas is essential for smooth development of our relations. For this, the two armed forces have enhanced communication and are implementing various confidence building measures," he said. On economic ties, Jaishankar said the increasing trade deficit “is a matter of some concern".

Bilateral trade last year touched $95.5 billion but the balance of trade was over $57 billion in favour of China.

“We appreciate the steps taken in the last few months by the Chinese side to enhance imports from India. These efforts could expand to include measures to enable greater access for our pharmaceutical and IT products and services in the domestic Chinese market," Jaishankar said.

In his response, Wang said China appreciated India’s concerns over trade imbalances and was ready to continue to provide facilities to Indian exports to China. The two countries also needed to think of broadening cooperation in investment, industrial production, tourism, border trade and other areas, he said. The two countries also need to strengthen cooperation mechanisms including more defence exchanges to achieve more practical results.

Analysts welcomed the seemingly smooth visit of Jaishankar. Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal noted with approval the determination of the two sides to ensure the Modi-Xi summit was on track. “One good thing is that at this sensitive juncture there are no visible differences," Sibal said. “The most important thing is that the momentum for a successful Modi-Xi summit has been kept up and the developments do not see, to signal any shadow over the summit to expand bilateral ties," he said.