Thousands of Chinese troops active in Khunjerab Pass in Gilgit

A noted American South Asian expert on Wednesday said that thousands of Chinese soldiers are stationed in the Gilgit-Baltistan area in the occupied Kashmir in Pakistan.

Washington: A noted American South Asian
expert on Wednesday said that thousands of Chinese soldiers are
stationed in the Gilgit-Baltistan area in the occupied Kashmir
in Pakistan.

"The total number of Chinese personnel in and on the
border of Gilgit-Baltistan is uncertain, but most estimates
suggest a minimum of 7,000," Selig Harrison told agency.
He was responding to a question about the statement
made by the Pakistani foreign office which refuted his last
week`s New York Times article that Chinese troops are present
in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.

"Several thousand armed personnel of the PLA are
stationed in the Khunjerab Pass on the border of
Gilgit-Baltistan to protect the Karakoram Highway construction
crews," he said.

"China does not have combat forces in
Gilgit-Baltistan. The development work to which I referred is
being carried out by adjuncts of the People`s Liberation Army
under the direct supervision of the Xinjiang Military
District: the Production and Construction Corps, the
Engineering Corps and the Communication Corps, all under the
command of PLA officers," he said.

Reacting to the NYT article, Pakistan Foreign Office
spokesman Abdul Basit said, "Given Selig Harrison`s well-known
anti-Pakistan mindset, his gross misrepresentation of facts is
hardly surprising. Nor is it unexpected of India to create
unnecessary hype using Mr Harrison`s tendentious article."

"The fact of the matter is that China, at our request,
is helping us in repairing the Karakoram highway, which has
been severely damaged by the recent floods and landslides.
Anything beyond this is one`s figment of imagination," Basit
had said.
"China wants a grip on the strategic area to assure
unfettered road and rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan",
the NYT said, and for this purpose is building high-speed
rail and road link.

The link up would enable Beijing to transport cargo
and oil tankers from eastern China to the new Chinese built
Pakistani Naval base at Gawadar, Pasni and Ormara in
Balochistan, just east of the Gulf in 48 hours.

Pak dismisses report of PLA in Gilgit-Baltistan region

Pakistan has dismissed as a
"figment of imagination" a media report that the
Gilgit-Baltistan region of the country had been handed over to
China and that 10,000 Chinese troops had moved into the area.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit rejected
assertions made in this regard in an article written by Selig
Harrison in The New York Times on August 26.

The writer, a south Asia expert, had claimed that
troops of the People`s Liberation Army (PLA) have moved into
the area and a geo-political crisis was unfolding in the
region.

"Given Selig Harrison`s well-known anti-Pakistan
mindset, his gross misrepresentation of facts is hardly
surprising. Nor is it unexpected of India to create
unnecessary hype using Mr Harrison`s tendentious article," the
spokesman said.
"The fact of the matter is that China, at our request,
is helping us in repairing the Karakoram highway, which has
been severely damaged by the recent floods and landslides.
Anything beyond this is one`s figment of imagination," Basit
said

Parts of Gilgit-Baltistan, earlier known as the
Northern Areas, have been hit hard by recent flash floods
triggered by torrential monsoon rains.

Over 100 people were killed by floods and landslides
in the region.

President Asif Ali Zardari recently said that Pakistan
had requested China to provide supplies to 25,000 people in
Gilgit-Baltistan after they were cut off due to the flooding
and landslides.

PTI

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