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China visa row: India suspends defence ties
New Delhi/Hyderabad, Aug 27 (IANS):
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Published on 27 Aug. 2010 10:35 PM IST
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India Friday put all future defence exchanges with China on hold after Beijing refused to welcome an army general as he had Jammu and Kashmir under his command, well informed sources said.
Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, who heads the Northern Command that guards the borders with China and Pakistan, had been nominated to travel to China for a regular high-level defence exchange visit.
“Sometime, in July, we were informed that it would be difficult to take the visit forward since he (Jaswal) looked after an area which is ‘difficult’,” said the sources, adding that it was tantamount to saying that India was in adverse possession of Kashmir.
For the last few weeks, India had been speaking to the Chinese officials to resolve the issue. But, for the time being, India has decided to stop all exchanges in the defence area, the sources said, speaking only on condition they were not identified.
“We should not only introspect, but there is little point in taking forward defence exchanges unless this is resolved,” the sources told IANS.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, however, said the cancellation of Jaswal’s visit was “not the question of breaking ties.”
“There are occasional problems but that will not affect our broader approach,” he told reporters in Hyderabad.
As an immediate fallout of the Jaswal episode, three Chinese army officers have been denied visas. Two captains who were to visit Pachmarhi and a colonel had been invited for a guest lecture at the National Defence College here.
Meanwhile, the external affairs ministry called for “sensitivity” by Beijing and also summoned the Chinese envoy here. The Indian Army only said the general’s visit had been “called off” while both the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP) called for an appropriate response.
This is the second time that China has raised a question mark over Kashmir. Earlier, China had started issuing visas on loose paper stapled to the Indian passports of residents of Kashmir. “That in a sense has mushroomed to include regular defence exchanges...It is not something that we can accept,” the sources said.
The message given to China is that this is a question of Indian sovereignty. “This issue is as important to us as Tibet is to China,” the sources added.
They also pointed out that in variance with its official stance on Kashmir, China had made it clear that it only questioned India’s control of Kashmir.
“In Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, they (China) are building dams and roads. Chinese engineers are present in that place. So, their line that they are not taking sides, is not true”.
Indian officials said that they will continue to have a dialogue with China over the Jaswal issue, rather than open confrontation.
“We want a candid discussion with China to resolve this issue and till then, there will be no military ties with China... We want a fair resolution of all issues, which is a halt to practice of issuing stapled visas and making such statements on regular exchanges,” the sources said.
According to the sources, China has to take the first step to resolve the matter. “They have tied the knot, they have to untie it,” they said.
Accusing the Chinese of being inconsistent, the sources said the Chinese had issued a visa to Lt. Gen V.K. Singh to visit Beijing when he headed the Indian Army’s Eastern Command that has jurisdiction over Arunachal Pradesh, over which China has staked its claim.
They also said that Northern Command officials also had functional meetings with their Chinese counterparts during regular border meetings in the Ladakh region.
It was pointed out that China generally had an aggressive posture on boundary issues, referring to its recent position on the disputed territory in the South China Sea. “There is an increase in its assertiveness at staking claims on islands.. We are monitoring that,” the sources said.

 
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