China plays Kashmir card; India puts defence exchanges on hold

Triggering a major row, China refused to permit an Indian Army general to visit that country as he is in-charge of "sensitive" J&K.

Zeenews Bureau

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 reportedly 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 here 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.

Amid the row, Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yang
met Gautam Bhambawale, Joint Secretary (China) in the
External Affairs Ministry, but the sources said it was not
connected with the issue and the matter was not discussed.

The sources pointed out that China had been, for the last
two years, refusing to stamp visas on passports of people
hailing from J & K and instead issuing visas on loose sheets
of paper.

India has lodged a strong protest over this action but
China is not relenting.

The worrying aspect is that it has "mushroomed" now to
defence exchanges, the sources said.

"We don`t accept it and so have decided to put on hold
all defence exchanges so that we have candid discussions with
China with an aim of clarifying," they said.

"The action is tied to China`s position on J & K and
Kashmir. We don`t accept that as it leads to infer that status
of the state is yet undecided," the source said.

India sees China`s policy on J & K being full of
"dichotomy" as on the one hand it questions the status of
the state while on the other hand it undertakes projects and
developmental works in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

While defence exchanges, like visits by defence officials
and training programmes, would remain suspended, Border
Personnel meetings will continue as these are part of
confidence-building measures for peace and tranquility on the

In Hyderabad, Defence Minister A K Antony ruled out
snapping defence ties with China in the wake of the row,
saying short term problems would not affect overall approach
towards China.

Commenting on the development, External Affairs Ministry
spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said the General`s visit did not
take place "due to certain reasons" but did not elaborate.

He, however, made it clear that China needed to be
sensitive to India`s concerns.

"While we value our exchanges with China, there must be
sensitivity to each others concerns. Our dialogue with China
on these issues is ongoing," he 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.

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.

Political parties slammed the Chinese action, saying it
was an "insult" to India and asked the government to take up
the issue strongly.

"I am told that the visit to China has been postponed
for a while. I am not aware of why it is being delayed," Gen
Jaswal said.

-Agencies inputs

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