“Defence exchanges put on hold from our side”

The Government of India is evaluating a statement by the Chinese Ministry of Defence denying that military exchanges with India were suspended. “We will see what that means. For now, defence exchanges have been put on hold from our side. There are no exercises on the anvil,'' said government sources.

However, meetings between border personnel would continue, as they are an integral part of the confidence building measures along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Officials said on Friday that India was putting on hold all military exchanges with China, including high- level visits after Beijing denied visa to the Army's Northern Command chief, B.S. Jaswal.

The sources indicated that diplomats from both sides would get down to sorting out differences over this issue, which officials are linking to stapled visas given by China to Indians with passports issued in Jammu & Kashmir on grounds that the State was a “disputed territory.''

At the same time, the officials pointed out that defence exchanges were a small dimension of the larger relationship with China.

The controversy arose while officials from both sides were working on a proposal to send senior Army officers to China. New Delhi was informed about a month ago that it was not possible to take the visit forward because Gen. Jaswal's area of responsibility was such that it caused “difficulties.''

The officials said the issue of Jammu and Kashmir was “candidly discussed'' with China on several occasions and, felt “there was little point'' in taking forward military exchanges in view of the stand taken in Gen. Jaswal's case.

The sources described defence ties with China as “modest'' with a “not very ambitious architecture.'' But it had led to the absence of tension on the border, though both sides have differing interpretation of the LAC at several places.

“When we talk of defence ties with China, this incident should not be taken up in isolation. Defence ties were built up over two decades since the December 1988 visit by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Except for one incident in the 80s, there has been no confrontation on the border,'' the sources added.

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