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Sunday, September 5, 2010

China withdraws reference to Gilgit-Baltistan as ‘northern Pakistan'

BEIJING, September 5, 2010
A day after India voiced concerns to China over its reference to the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region as “a northern part of Pakistan,” the Chinese government withdrew its statement from its official Xinhua news agency as well as from the Foreign Ministry's website.

The Chinese government had issued a statement on Xinhua's website late on Wednesday night, refuting a New York Times opinion piece which claimed that over 11,000 Chinese troops were present in the disputed region.

The statement referred to Gilgit-Baltistan, which India views as under illegal occupation by Pakistan and as an integral part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, as “northern Pakistan,” triggering a protest from New Delhi.

But on Saturday, the statement appeared to have been removed from Xinhua's website. The link to the statement, headlined “China refutes reports of sending troops to Pakistan,” did not open.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which in a regular briefing on Thursday had repeated the reference to Gilgit-Baltistan “as a northern part of Pakistan” in response to a question on the presence of Chinese troops, deleted records of both the question and its response from its official transcript, which was posted on its website on Friday.

Concerns conveyed

On Friday morning, Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar had conveyed New Delhi's concerns over China's recent moves in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun.

In the talks, Mr. Jaishankar raised questions over the presence of Chinese troops in PoK, and also protested China's reference to the disputed region as a part of northern Pakistan. Mr. Zhang assured Indian officials that the troops were stationed there only for flood relief work and to provide humanitarian assistance.

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