China says it firmly supports India, Pakistan to resolve their disputes

The People’s Liberation Army has “never deployed a single soldier” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie has told The Hindu, describing reports of the PLA’s presence in the region as “totally groundless.”

“As Minister of National Defence of China, I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify to you once again: the PLA has never deployed a single soldier in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir,” General Liang, who is on a five-day visit to India and will hold talks with his counterpart A.K. Antony in New Delhi, said in an exclusive written interview.

Indian officials, in the past, said that between 3,000 and 4,000 personnel were engaged in construction work and providing security in the region. The Defence Minister said the allegations were inaccurate, adding China firmly supported India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes.

General Liang (71), who is also a member of the powerful Central Military Commission, called for India and China to “fostering a closer military-to-military relationship” and to making defence ties “a positive factor in our state-to-state relations.” The defence relationship between the neighbours has been warming recently, following a year of suspended ties in 2010. General Liang’s visit was proposed by the PLA, which recently hosted delegations from India in Tibet for the first time in several years. During his visit, both sides will discuss the possibility of holding the third round of joint military exercises after a four-year gap.

Anti-piracy missions

The Defence Minister spoke highly of the cooperation between the PLA Navy and the Indian Navy in coordinating anti-piracy escort missions in the Indian Ocean, saying it was the first time the PLA Navy conducted such maritime security cooperation with any foreign country.

He stressed the PLA, which “has never established a military base overseas,” was not considering doing so in the Indian Ocean.

Recent media reports have suggested that ports in the Seychelles, which has offered to host a facility for China, or those being built by Chinese companies in Pakistan or Sri Lanka, might become military bases in the future. He said it was “a common practice” for ships to go to ports of littoral countries for logistics supply, which did “not have any connection with establishing military bases overseas.”

The General said it was “regrettable” that a section of the Indian media misreported bilateral relations, “even [distorting] China’s normal activities of developing [its] economy and improving people’s livelihood … into ‘China’s preparation for war against India’.” While some “untruthful remarks” were due to “lack of understanding and knowledge,” others, he said, “were intentionally fabricated rumours by some interest groups.”

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