China on Wednesday said that India’s move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status under Article 370 was “illegal” and that the dispute must be resolved peacefully through dialogue, Hindustan Times reported.

“China follows closely the situation in the Kashmir region,” the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference, in response to a question on the impact of India’s decision to strip Kashmir of its autonomy a year ago. “China’s position on the Kashmir issue is clear and consistent. Any unilateral change to the status quo is illegal and invalid. This issue should be properly resolved peacefully through dialogue and consultations between the parties concerned.”

“This issue is a dispute leftover from history between Pakistan and India,” the spokesperson added. “That is an objective fact as laid out by the UN [United Nations] Charter, UN Security Council resolutions and the bilateral agreements between Pakistan and India.”

China added that peaceful coexistence would be in the best interest of both India and Pakistan. “Pakistan and India are neighbours that cannot be moved away,” the foreign ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Hindu. “China hopes that they [India and Pakistan] can properly handle the differences through dialogue, improve relations, and jointly safeguard peace, stability and development of both countries and the wider region.”

A year ago, the central government had passed two bills in Parliament that split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, stripped it of special status under Article 370 and repealed Article 35A, which ensured specific rights and protections to residents of the state. Since then, the region has been placed under the strictest lockdown in its history, with 4G internet services still suspended.

On Tuesday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had announced a complete curfew in the region ahead of the anniversary of the revocation of its special status.

China had in October criticised India’s decision to bifurcate the state into Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as “illegal and invalid”. China had said that India’s unilateral move challenged its sovereignty. India and China both claim sovereignty over the disputed Aksai Chin region, which Beijing controls. India, on the other hand, had sternly asked China to not interfere in its internal matters.

The tensions between India and China have heightened after the Galwan Valley clash. Twenty Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese troops were killed in a violent face-off along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh in June. Since then, four round of talks have been held between the commanders of the two armies to work out details of disengagement from the stand-off areas. India maintains that China has not disengaged from the disputed areas despite the talks.

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