Top Indian commander holds talks with PLA officials

On a key visit to China after his predecessor was denied visa, the head of Indian Army's Northern Command has held talks with top defence officials

Beijing: On a key visit to China after his predecessor was denied visa, the head of Indian Army's Northern Command has held talks with top defence officials
here, focussing on fighting terror and maintaining peace on the Ladakh border, where many PLA incursions have occurred.

Lt Gen DS Hooda, who is heading a six-member military delegation of top officials of his Command, arrived here on December 14 on a six-day visit to interact with his
counterparts and to visit some of the military command centres which look after the India-China border.

He held talks with General Qi Jianguo, Deputy Chief of General Staff, at the People's Liberation Army Headquarters yesterday during which the two sides stressed on the need to ensure peace and tranquillity along the border, an Indian embassy statement here said today.


Hooda is the first Northern area commander to visit China since Beijing denied regular visa to his predecessor Lt Gen BS Jaswal in 2010 on the grounds that his command area included the "disputed" Jammu and Kashmir, which sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries.

During that time China also resorted to issuing "stapled visas" to residents of Jammu and Kashmir on the same grounds which drew strong protests from India. In retaliation, New Delhi also cancelled all military-to-military exchanges.

Indian officials argued that the bilateral military-to-military ties are not complete without the visit of the Northern Commander.

After hectic diplomatic parleys, China subsequently rolled back its decision to issue paper visas to Jammu and Kashmir residents and gradually increased its interactions
with the Northern area command whose area of operations covers 646 km of the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control between both the two countries besides border with Pakistan.

The Northern Command area has witnessed a number of incursions from the Chinese side in recent times resulting in tensions.

Both sides, however, dealt with the incidents through dedicated mechanisms to address such issues. Also they opened new border posts to step up interaction with the local
commanders. During the talks between Hooda and Qi, both sides hoped to further strengthen the bilateral defence exchanges by enhancing the frequency of interactions between the two armies, the statement said.

"Both sides agreed that in the recent past, the political and military interaction between the two countries has increased which has been instrumental in achieving the aim of
the leaders of both countries during their bilateral visits to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation," it said.

Also significantly, the statement said both sides "agreed to further cooperate on issues of fighting terrorism which is affecting both the countries". 

India-China militaries have held five rounds of counter terrorism exercises in the last few years.

The two countries agreed to step up anti-terrorism cooperation during Home Minister Rajnath Singh's recent visit here.

Commenting on Gen Hooda's visit last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry maintained that there is no change in China's stand in inviting the Northern Area Chief.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing that the visit is part of consensus reached by both sides to improve ties.

"Our position is consistent and subjected to no change. But our consensus is there," she said.

"We need to have more exchanges and mutual visits between two militaries so as to jointly uphold peace and tranquility of the border area," Hua said.

"China and India share very important consensus that is pending final settlement of the border question, both sides should remain committed to maintain peace and tranquility of the border area," she said.

"The visit (Gen Hooda's) is a step to implement the consensus. It will enhance military to military exchanges and mutual trust and help us to properly manage the border area
and better deal with emergencies and maintain peace and tranquility of the border area," she said. 

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