China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has sent technical equipment to avalanche-hit Siachen following a request from the Pakistani army for support, the government said on Saturday.
The PLA has sent “technical devices” as well as specialists to Islamabad to offer technical guidance, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The April 7 avalanche that struck the headquarters of a battalion posted on the glacier buried 139 Pakistani soldiers and civilians. Hopes have faded for those trapped under the snow as the rescue operations continued for the seventh day, with searches being hampered by harsh weather conditions in the sensitive border region.
Separately, a spokesman for the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) in Pakistan said that teams from China, as well as Norway, were expected to arrive in Pakistan this weekend “with advanced capability” to assist in rescue efforts. Technical teams from Germany, Switzerland and the United States were already engaged in recovery work.
The Chinese government was last week mulling over its options of sending both personnel and technical and financial support. The PLA, which has close ties with the Pakistani military, dispatched several thousand troops from its engineering and construction corps to assist in flood-relief in the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) in 2010.
This marked the first-ever instance of China sending aid over land, as 101 trucks from the far-western Xinjiang region were dispatched over the Karakoram highway.
China also provided $250 million to aid Pakistan's recovery from the floods, its biggest-ever grant of humanitarian aid.
The presence of PLA troops in the disputed region raised concerns in India, although Chinese officials told their Indian counterparts in talks when the matter was raised that the personnel present in the region were only providing humanitarian assistance and engaged in flood relief work. Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh said last year that there were between 3,000 and 4,000 Chinese military personnel present in PoK, including construction working teams and personnel for security purposes.