Gilgit-Baltistan:China has no military presence in GB

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XINJIANG: The Chinese authorities have strongly refuted the Indian Army Chief General VK Singh’s recent claim about the presence of the Peoples’ Liberation Army’s (PLA) troops in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, saying the charge is totally baseless and proves its ulterior motives.

Even though the supposed Chinese military presence in the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) of Pakistan has been a matter of intense speculation in New Delhi, it was the first time that a serving Army Chief went public with the Indian military establishment’s assessment about the kind of Chinese presence in the northern areas of Pakistan. “Around 4,000 Chinese including troops of the People’s Liberation Army are present in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, Army Chief General VK Singh told Indian journalists on October 5 in New Delhi.

However, some senior foreign office officials of China told this scribe during a briefing in Urumqi, the capital of the trouble-stricken Xinjiang Province, that the Indian Army Chief’s claim about the presence of the Chinese troops in the Northern Areas of Pakistan was untrue and must be based on some misunderstanding. While diplomatic ties between China and India have improved in recent years, they are still grumpy over territorial claims from both the countries, dating back to a border war in 1962.

While India and Pakistan control Azad Kashmir and Jammu Kashmir respectively, China also claims part of northeastern Kashmir that it says is part of Tibet. Therefore, Beijing is highly critical of India’s support for the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala.

With this background in mind, the Indian military establishment is raising hue and cry about the alleged influx of construction, engineering and communication units of People’s Liberation Army into Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.

The Indian military officials further allege that several thousand Chinese troops are also stationed in the Khunjerab Pass on the Xinjiang border of China to protect Karakoram Highway construction crews, with ready access to Gilgit-Baltistan.

The Indian Army Chief is not the first Indian military official to have talked about the alleged Chinese presence in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. In April this year, India’s Northern Army Commander Lt Gen KT Parnaik [while addressing a seminar in Jammu and Kashmir] had said that the Chinese footprint in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir was increasing steadily and its troops are actually present along the Line-of-Control.

“Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Northern Areas [of Pakistan] is increasing steadily. There are many who are concerned about the fact that if there was to be hostility between India and Pakistan, what would be the complicity of Chinese. Not only they are in the neighbourhood but the fact that they are actually present and stationed along the LoC,” Lt. Gen Parnaik had said.

But according to Zhang Xiaodi, the director general of the foreign affairs office in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, told The News in a meeting the other day that there was no truth in the allegation levelled by the Indian military officials. “There are only Chinese construction teams working in the Northern Areas of Pakistan on certain development projects being carried out by Pakistan and China jointly. But the presence of the Peoples Liberations Army’s troops there is out of question”, he added.

However, there are those in the Pakistani foreign office circle who view the recent allegation by the Indian Army chief in the backdrop of the Pakistan military leadership’s decision to include for the first time the Chinese troops in military exercises along the border with Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan. In fact, it was the 101 Engineering Regiment of the People’s Liberation Army that took part in military exercises with their Pakistani counterparts in August 2011.

Courtesy: The News

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