India has decided to suspend defence exchanges with China following Beijing's refusal to allow the Army's Northern Command chief Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal to join a military delegation for a high-level visit.

In retaliation, India has refused to allow two Chinese Army captains to attend a defence course and a colonel to speak at a higher defence course. While border meetings between Army personnel will continue as before, a cloud hangs over future military exchanges and even a joint exercise till China “unties the knot it has tied,” said senior officials.

Comparing India's sensitivities on Kashmir as similar to China's on Tibet, the sources said China's questioning of the State's status by resorting to this move was unacceptable. “There is little point in taking forward other exchanges in the defence area,” added the officials.

A senior official found it strange that while China had hosted the Army's Eastern Command chief (now the Chief of the Army Staff) even though it has claims on large parts under his military jurisdiction, it objected to the visit of the Northern Command chief even though the main discord over territory is between India and Pakistan. “It appears that Pakistan's interests are more important than their own. They seem to be more sensitive to Pakistan's concerns.”

“While we value our exchanges with China, there must be sensitivity to each others' concerns. Our dialogue with China on these issues is ongoing,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Vishnu Prakash.

Chinese Ambassador to India Zhang Yan met Foreign Office officials but sources denied the refusal of visa to Gen. Jaswal was discussed.

Last year, India protested against the Chinese practice of issuing visas to Kashmiris on separate pieces of paper, unlike the standard visas it offered to other Indians.

Asked if India would also retaliate in other areas, the sources said it was not a question of tit-for-tat. “We have a complex relationship with China. We have taken stock of the situation and stated our position as clearly as we did in the case of stapled visas.”

Expressing themselves in favour of continuing with the dialogue in a wide range of areas, the sources noted that despite ups and downs in the relationship, both sides have acted with maturity and been able to keep the discussions going.

Hoping the controversy would have a “short life,” the sources said till the boundary question was resolved, such exchanges help build confidence among the defence establishments. “There is a degree of comfort in communicating after defence officials meet each other. It helps in improving the general atmosphere,” added officials.