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China has no military presence in Gilgit or AJK

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.

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