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Friday, August 27, 2010

India to suspend defence exchanges with China

As Beijing refuses to host Lt. Gen. Jaswal

NEW DELHI: India has decided to suspend defence exchanges with China following Beijing's refusal to allow the Army's Northern Command chief, Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal to join a military delegation for a high-level visit.

In retaliation, India has refused to allow two Chinese Army captains to attend a defence course and a colonel to speak at a higher defence course. While border meetings between Army personnel will continue as before, a cloud hangs over future military exchanges and even a joint exercise. It will remain so until China “unties the knot it has tied,” said senior officials.

Pointing out that India's sensitivities on Kashmir are similar to China's on Tibet, the sources said China questioning the State's status by resorting to this move was unacceptable. “There is little point in taking forward other exchanges in the defence area,” added the officials.

A senior official found it strange that while China had hosted the Army's Eastern Command chief (now the Chief of the Army Staff) even though it has claims on large parts under his military jurisdiction, it objected to the visit of the Northern Command chief even though the main discord over territory is between India and Pakistan. “It appears that Pakistan's interests are more important than their own. They seem to be more sensitive to Pakistan's concerns.”

“While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each other's concerns. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Vishnu Prakash.

Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan met Foreign Office officials but sources denied that the refusal of visa to Lt. Gen. Jaswal was discussed.

Last year, India protested against the Chinese practice of issuing visas to Kashmiris on separate pieces of paper.

Asked if India would retaliate in other areas, the sources said it was not a question of tit for tat. “We have a complex relationship with China. We have taken stock of the situation and stated our position as clearly as we did in the case of stapled visas.”

Expressing themselves in favour of continuing with the dialogue in a wide range of areas, the sources noted that despite ups and downs in the relationship, both sides acted with maturity and were able to keep the discussions going.

Hoping that the controversy would have a “short life,” the sources said that until the boundary question was resolved, such exchanges would help build confidence among the defence establishments. “There is a degree of comfort in communicating after defence officials meet each other. It helps in improving the general atmosphere,” added officials.

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