A YEAR AGO, the Narendra Modi government announced that it would repeal Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave symbolic autonomy to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The home minister, Amit Shah, in his address to parliament, made clear that when he spoke of Jammu and Kashmir, “I include Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin”—an area administered by China, on the eastern side of Jammu and Kashmir. When a parliamentarian tried to ask a question, Shah shouted him down, saying “Jaan de denge iske liye!”—We are ready to give our lives for this [land]! Shah was later quoted as saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “shown Pakistan its place by abrogating Article 370.”
However, Shah and the rest of the Modi government seemed to have forgotten about an important stakeholder in the matter—China. The day after the announcement, the Chinese foreign ministry put out a statement calling the Indian government’s decision “unilateral” and objecting that it “undermined China’s territorial sovereignty.” India’s minister of external affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, rushed to Beijing to meet his counterpart, Wang Yi, and tried to assure him that the move was not going to affect the status quo between the two countries on territorial and border issues. Regardless, as a top Chinese intellectual associated with the government wrote recently, Wang conveyed to Jaishankar China’s strong opposition.
In November, India released a new political map showing the two union territories newly created by the abrogation of Article 370—Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. It included as Indian territory Aksai Chin, and Gilgit and Baltistan, governed by Pakistan since Independence. Unsurprisingly, China perceived this as cartographic aggression.