India-China diplomatic row, def exchanges on hold

New Delhi: Triggering a major diplomatic row, China has refused to permit an Indian army general to visit that country as he is in-charge of "sensitive" Jammu and Kashmir, prompting an angry retaliation by India which put all defence exchanges with it on hold till the matter was sorted out.

India, which has already lodged its protest with China for denying permission to Northern Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal, today said the Chinese action amounts to questioning the status of Jammu and Kashmir which is "unacceptable" as it relates to the country's sovereignty.

In a retaliatory action, New Delhi refused permission to three Chinese officers -- a Senior Colonel and two Captains -- to visit this country in August.

Gen Jaswal, General Officer-in-Commanding of Udhampur- based Command, was to visit China as part of defence exchanges, sources said today.

The visit by a General-rank officer to China was agreed upon between the two countries in January during the Annual Defence Dialogue, the sources said.

However, at that time it was not decided as to who will be sent by India, they said.

When India conveyed its decision to send Gen Jaswal, China wrote back on July 21 saying it would cause "difficulty" as the officer came from "sensitive location of Jammu and Kashmir", the sources said.

China also said "people from this part of the world come with a different kind of visa" and suggested that India may send some other officer instead of cancelling the visit.

Angry at the Chinese move, India issued to it a demarche (protest note) on August two.

It also retaliated by refusing permission to a Senior Colonel who had to deliver a "guest lecture" at National Defence College and two Captains who were to visit Panchmarhi for some course.

Sources said the denial of permission to Gen Jaswal was a "matter of concern" as it has "introduced further complexities" in the already complex relations.

New Delhi made it clear that the defence exchanges will remain "on hold" till the issue concerning China's position on Jammu and Kashmir is addressed.

"Whatever will be the consequences, the Chinese side will be solely responsible," a source said.