Chinese Chill Sets In Again, Kashmir The Hot Button27 August 2010
The Indian Express
New Delhi: With Beijing declining a visa last month to Northern Army Commander Lt Gen B S Jaswal since he looks after Kashmir, a diplomatic row has broken out. New Delhi today said J&K is as sensitive a matter to India as Tibet is to China. New Delhi, sources said, has decided it will be firm-footed on the issue and will not let it go by without proper redressal. For now, New Delhi has decided to put all defence exchanges, including training exercises, between the two countries “on hold”. China’s Ambassador to India Zhang Yang met officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in South Block today and the matter is understood to have come up for discussion. Yang is learnt to have assured the Indian side that he will convey their sentiments to the Chinese government. India already has issued a demarche on the matter. On August 11, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had met Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, drawing strong protests from Beijing. Acknowledging that the visa denial matter had raised concerns in the Indian government, sources today said the issue had “introduced further complexity” in India’s relationship with China. “The Chinese side was solely responsible for it. They have tied the knot and they have to untie it,” a source said. “This incident is certainly tied to China’s position on J&K. They are regarding J&K as an issue which is yet to be sorted out between India and Pakistan and are questioning the status of the state. This issue concerns our sovereignty and is as sensitive to us as Tibet is to them,” government sources said. Lt Gen Jaswal was slated to visit China in July this year. Sometime in the middle of July, the Indian authorities were told by their Chinese counterparts that it would be difficult to allow Jaswal’s visit since he looked after an area which was a cause of “difficulty” to the Chinese establishment. In a letter dated July 21, the Chinese government told the Indian authorities that Jaswal’s command extends to sensitive areas and that the Chinese government issues different visas for those areas. The fact that China has been issuing stapled visas to Indian nationals from J&K has already generated some heat in the past and Beijing’s response implied a stapled visa for Jaswal. By early August, New Delhi registered its protest and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao called Ambassador Zhang Yang to her office to discuss the matter. India’s Ambassador to China S Jaishankar, too, met the Chinese Vice-Minister and lodged a protest. New Delhi made it clear that this was not acceptable and consequences affecting defence ties between the two nations would follow if China did not redress the situation. Beijing, however, responded by sticking to its original position on the matter. As per government sources, since reiteration of its stance was a “strong message” from China, it became important for New Delhi to signal to China in no uncertain terms that it was not “business as usual”. The Indian government then conveyed to China that it will halt all defence exchanges till the situation was redressed. As an immediate fallout, India has declined permission to a senior Chinese Colonel and two Captains who were slated to visit India this month. While the Captains were to attend a course at an Indian Army centre in Pachmarhi, the Colonel, who has been a guest lecturer at the National Defence College in New Delhi earlier, was slated to attend a reunion. The meetings of army personnel posted on the borders, however, will go on since they were “part of the structure evolved to maintain peace and tranquility”, sources said. Adding that the issue of stapled visas had been discussed previously with the Chinese authorities, sources said that the Indian side had conveyed its views on the subject.