M A I N   N E W S

Now, Delhi plays Chinese checkers
Denies visas to 3 Chinese Army officers, puts defence exchanges on hold
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 27
In fresh signs of tension in Indo-China ties, New Delhi has denied visas to three Chinese Army officers and put all defence exhanges with Beijing on hold in retaliation to the latter’s refusal to allow Lt Gen BS Jaswal, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Area Command, to visit China.

Highly placed sources here said two Chinese Army captains and a colonel have been denied visas. The captains were scheduled to come to Pachmarhi for an English course while the Colonel was to deliver a lecture at the National Defence College (NDC) this month.

New Delhi has taken a serious view of Lt Gen Jaswal being denied visa as he had Jammu and Kashmir under his area of control. This is clearly being seen as another attempt by Beijing to question the status of the state. For the past two years, China has been issuing visas to Indian nationals from J&K on separate sheets, annoying New Delhi no ends.

India has taken up the matter with Chinese authorities from time to time but in vain.

However, the latest action to deny visa to a senior Army officer, many believe, has been taken by China to please its “all-weather friend” Pakistan.

Narrating the sequence of events, sources said the Chinese side had been informed of Lt Gen Jamwal’s proposed visit as part of high-level defence exchanges sometime in July.

New Delhi was working on the dates and other logistics when Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar was told by China that there was some ‘difficulty’ in arranging Jamwal’s visit because of the nature of his portfolio, they added.

The Chinese side was firmly told that its action was unaccaeptable to India. In fact, Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan was called to the foreign office this afternoon and conveyed India’s displeasure over Beijing’s move.

Asked for how long the defence exchanges have been put on hold, the sources quipped: “They (China) have tied the knot...they have to untie it.”

Although the defence exchanges between the two countries have not been significant given the nature of their relationship, they have been exchanging visits by senior generals and port calls by ships from the two countries. They have twice conducted joint exercises to counter terrorism. Sources said that every relationship was based on respect for mutual concerns. “This is not something we can accept...what if we start questioning the status of Tibet. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and shall remain so,” they added.

China had recently strongly objected to a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Beijing was politely told by New Delhi that the Dalai Lama was an honoured guest of India who was not allow to indulge in any political activity on the Indian soil.

Meanwhile, when asked to comment on the Chinese action, Ministry of external Affairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash merely said Lt Gen Jamwal’s visit to China had not taken place due to certain reasons. “While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to issues related to each other. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing,” said the spokesman.

Cutting across party lines, leaders of different parties voiced their strong objection to the Chinese action and asked the government to immediately take up the issue with Beijing.





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