Officials, analysts hope visit will help reduce persisting mistrust between military establishments of two countries
On the day Defence Minister A.K. Antony arrived in China on a three-day visit, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Major General warned India to not “provoke new problems” and “stir up” trouble through its plans to increase deployments along the border.
Major General Luo Yuan, a military scholar of the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences who is known in China for his particularly hawkish views, told reporters on Thursday “it is up to India to not stir up new trouble” as Mr. Antony begins the visit aimed at boosting strategic trust.
“There is no denying there are tensions and problems between China and India, particularly in border areas,” Major Gen. Luo said at an interaction at the All China Journalists’ Association. “There is still the problem of 90,000 sq km of territory that is occupied by the Indian side,” he said, referring to China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh. “I think these are problems left over from history and we should look at these problems with a cool head. Particularly, the Indian side should not provoke new problems and increase military deployment at the border area, and stir up new trouble.”
He said “at the current moment” the whole situation was “still under control,” particularly after Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India in May which “enhanced” relations. “Now your minister is coming to visit China,” he said, referring to Mr. Antony’s visit. “So generally speaking, I think the situation is under control and it is up to India to not stir up new trouble.”
Major Gen. Luo is seen as representing hard-line and hawkish views within the Chinese military and does not reflect the official position. However, that he is allowed to frequently voice his often strongly nationalistic opinions even on State media outlets has been seen by some analysts as suggesting that he enjoys backing among certain sections of the party and military. Major Gen. Luo’s father, Luo Qingchang, once headed China’s intelligence agencies and served as an adviser to the former Premier, Zhou Enlai.
His comments notwithstanding, more moderate voices in the Chinese strategic community see Mr. Antony’s visit as a useful opportunity to draw a line over recent strains following the April 15 incursion by Chinese troops, who put up a tent at Depsang in eastern Ladakh. The stand-off took three weeks to be defused.
Shen Dingli, a strategic affairs scholar at the elite Fudan University in Shanghai, told The Hindu the Depsang incident would have some impact on the visit, but added that “this is not up to the generals and defence officials to resolve. It is up to … politicians.”
He said current border mechanisms in place were “not sufficient.” “There should be joint patrols, promises not to enter certain jointly designated areas. Then military [personnel] will not have a chance to meet together at all, or they can patrol together to build confidence and trust.”
Mr. Antony, who arrived here on Thursday evening, will begin his visit with a trip to the Central leadership compound of Zhongnanhai on Friday afternoon for a meeting with a top leader. While President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping had earlier expressed his keenness to meet Mr. Antony, the Defence Minister is likely to meet second-ranked Mr. Li, the Premier.
Chinese officials said the top leaders’ tight schedules left the itinerary open to possible last-minute changes.
His visit, officials and analysts hope, will help reduce the persisting mistrust between the military establishments of the two countries, which was evident to some degree in Major Gen. Luo’s comments on Thursday. He told journalists that India was “the only country in the world which says that it is developing military power because of China’s military threat.” “So I believe India should be very cautious in what it does and what it says,” he said.
Asked about his famously hawkish opinions that have come under fire from more liberal and progressive Chinese, he defended his views. “I’ve repeatedly made my views clear I’m a reasonable hardliner,” he said. “I have never made a sensational remark. I’m a military man so I should be hawkish in some way. I say I have a hawkish eye and claws, but the head and heart of a dove.”