Officer Rings China Alarm5 April 2011
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
Srinagar: The army’s top northern commander has revealed that Chinese troops are present on the other side of the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), posing a military challenge to India. Northern Command chief Lt General K.T. Parnaik’s assertion is the first such detailed statement by a top army officer since a report last August in The New York Times on the presence of the Chinese army near the LoC. The report had claimed that 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were present in the Gilgit and Baltistan areas of the PoK. Parnaik warned that the Chinese presence was increasing steadily. “It (Chinese presence) poses military challenges to India and not only along the Sino-Indian border but also along the Line of Control,” he told a seminar organised by the University of Jammu’s department of strategic and regional studies last week. “And we hear many people today who are concerned about the fact that if there were to be hostilities between us and Pakistan, what would be the complicity of the Chinese. Not only because they are in the neighbourhood but the fact that they are actually stationed and present on the Line of Control,” Parnaik added. China, he said, had gained considerable foothold in Gilgit and Baltistan by helping Pakistan develop infrastructure and harness natural resources in the region. “The Chinese presence is increasing steadily. China is involved in construction and upgrade of numerous roads, bridges and hydroelectric projects. The Chinese links with Pakistan through PoK lend strength to the China-Pakistan nexus which has been of great security concern for us,” he said. The officer said the troop mobilisation hurt India’s regional and strategic interests in the long run as it facilitated speedy and enhanced deployment of Pakistan armed forces to complement China’s military operations. “And finally, as a part of its String of Pearls policy, the Chinese footprints are too close for comfort. All this while, we are looking for peace, while we are trying to find the solution to bridge the gap and bring normalisation to the area,” Parnaik said. His comments also come months after the Ladakh administration reported that the Chinese were preventing development activities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the region. The report, however, was downplayed by the Centre, which said there were differing perceptions over the LAC between the two countries. The commander also dwelt upon the Kashmir issue, saying aazadi (freedom) or accession to Pakistan was not the answer. He pointed out that Pakistan had kept PoK underdeveloped while considerable development has taken place in Indian Kashmir.