China’s Defence Ministry on Saturday said defence exchanges between China and India had not been suspended in the wake of the visa row, adding that India had not notified China of any decision to stop military exchanges.
On Friday, Indian officials said the Indian government had denied two Chinese Army officials permission to attend a defence course in India in retaliation for China's decision to refuse a visa for the Army’s Northern Command chief Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal for a planned high-level visit this month, effectively suspending defence exchanges.
Officials at the Foreign Ministry here have been tight-lipped over the row, refusing to answer questions from The Hindu on Friday and Saturday. The Chinese Ministry of Defence, however, in a statement on Saturday denied that defence exchanges had been suspended, insisting that the military relationship was on track.
“China has not suspended military exchanges with India, and nor has it received any notification from India of any such suspension,” said a statement from the Ministry’s press office, which was sent to the Reuters news agency. “China takes seriously developing military ties with India, and we are confident that both sides will stay focused on the broader picture of bilateral ties between our two countries, acting in a spirit of consultation and unity to promote the healthy development of military ties.”
No word on row from Chinese media
The Chinese media have, so far, not reported on the defence row. A source at an official government newspaper said the State-run media have been instructed to play down the issue, and to wait for guidelines from the government on how to report on the row.
The visa row is the latest of a series of recent differences the two countries have had over China’s policies with regard to Kashmir.
The two countries have had a series of high-level bilateral exchanges this year, starting with the visit of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in April, and following with President Pratibha Patil’s State visit in May, and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon’s visit to Beijing in July as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy.
During the series of talks, Indian officials said they had impressed upon their Chinese interlocutors the need for both countries to be more sensitive to each others’ “core interests”, if the relationship was to move forward.
However, Indian officials say while India has made it a point to be increasingly mindful of Chinese sensitivities on Tibet, a core interest of Beijing’s, recent Chinese policies towards Kashmir have strained relations.
China has, in recent months, proceeded with investing in infrastructure projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, ignoring Indian protests over its involvement in the disputed region. Last month, shortly after Mr. Menon’s visit concluded, China signed a $ 525 million-deal to build two highways in PoK.
Last year, India also voiced objections to China’s issuing of stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir, a move seen by Indian officials as China questioning India’s sovereignty over the state.