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Defence exchanges between India and China put on hold

File photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao at an event in Thailand. PTI photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): In a major diplomatic row, defence exchanges between India and China have been put on hold after the latter refused permission to Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal to visit that country because he comes from "sensitive" Jammu and Kashmir.

Gen Jaswal was to visit China in July as part of defence exchanges but it could not take place in view of the Chinese objection, sources said here Friday.

In retaliation, India has put on hold visits by Chinese defence officials here.

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 saying that he came from "sensitive location of Jammu and Kashmir" and that "people from this part of the world come with a different kind of visa", the sources said.

The Chinese side suggested that India may send some other officer and not cancel the visit.

The sources said the Chinese objection came close to the visit and so the matter could not be resolved and the trip could not take place.

"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.

In Hyderabad, Defence Minister A K Antony ruled out snapping defence ties with China in the wake of the row.

"It is not the question of breaking defence ties with China. We have close ties with China, though they could be some problems occasionally," he told reporters at a function.

Antony said short term problems would not affect overall approach towards China.

Commenting on the development, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said the 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.

Upset over Beijing's action, New Delhi has kept in abeyance permission to two Chinese defence officials to come here for undertaking a course at the National Defence College.

A pending visit by Indian military officials to China has also been put off by India.

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

"We must strongly condemn the Chinese step. The Ministry of External Affairs and the Government must immediately convey our displeasure in the strongest terms to China. It is the worst kind of insult inflicted upon India by denying permission to Jaswal to visit China," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said. .

"We have an important, multifaceted and complex relationship with the People's Republic of China," the MEA spokesman said.

"Our interaction has been growing in a number of areas, including defence. In recent years, we have had useful defence exchanges at various levels," he said.

Javdekar said it should be made clear to China unequivocally that Kashmir is not a disputed area and is an integral part of India.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said India has always maintained that it is interested in strengthening and consolidating relations with China but the "relationship has to be premised on self-respect and the sensitivities which concern each other."

Tewari said if there is any "unilateral violation" of the same, "any reaction that happens in the country is natural and justified and it should happen."

Toeing the Pakistani line, China in the recent past has been refusing to issue visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir on their passports as it treats the state as "disputed". Instead, it issues visas on loose sheets of paper, which is not accepted by Indian immigration officials.

Javadekar said China has always fomented trouble in Arunachal Pradesh and they have now begun fishing in troubled waters in Kashmir. "This is helping Pakistan."

Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh asked the Government to take a "firm stand" on the issue.

"He (Jaswal) was going on a function which was not private. I think the government of India has to take a very firm and completely unambiguous stand on the issue," he said.

Tewari expressed confidence that the MEA would do whatever is required to be done.

"That is for the MEA to work out what are the best modalities to raise it. I am sure the foreign office is cognisant of it and will do whatever is required to be done," he said, when asked whether the party would demand the government raise the issue with China seriously.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur told reporters outside the Parliament House that government had taken a strong view of the issue.


India  China  

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