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China General visited disputed region

Former Indian Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma with General Xu Qiliang in a photo taken in January 2013. File Photo  

The top ranking General of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has carried out a rare inspection visit to the disputed western section of the border with India, including stops to inspect troops at two sites that have been at the centre of recent differences over incursion incidents — near the Karakoram Pass and the contested Pangong Tso lake.

A high-profile visit

General Xu Qiliang, who is one of two Vice-Chairmen of the Central Military Commission (CMC) headed by President Xi Jinping — the highest-ranking position in the Chinese Army — made the visit last month to inspect frontier troops in Xinjiang and Tibet, including in the Aksai Chin region claimed by India.

Significantly, General Xu also visited a frontier defence company which, sources said, may have been linked with the three week-long stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Depsang, in eastern Ladakh, in April last year.

The stand-off strained bilateral ties ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India last year and, later, prompted both countries to fortify border cooperation mechanisms and increase the number of border personnel meeting points along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC).

This is the most high-profile visit by a top Chinese leader to the region in many years. General Xu held talks with leaders of garrisons in Hotan in Xinjiang, Lhasa in Tibet and in Ali in Tibet’s west, the PLA Daily reported on July 24, without specifying the dates of the visit.

General Xu also inspected the Shenxianwan frontier defence company — located at the height of 5,380 metres, north of the Karakoram Pass. This frontier defence company is tasked with guarding the area near the Karakoram Pass and the western sections of the border east of Ladakh. This eastern region is close to the Depsang plains.

General Xu also visited two troop bases that are in charge of guarding the western border: the Khurnak Fort frontier defence company in the Aksai Chin region, and the Banmozhang water squadron.

The responsibilities of the water squadron, likely, include the disputed Pangong Tso lake. His visit followed recent reports of incursions, including by water squadrons on the lake, which is patrolled by both sides. Chinese officials have rejected claims of incursions, pointing out that there were differing perceptions of claim lines.

General Xu, who was accompanied by Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, and Miao Hua, Political Commissar of the Lanzhou Military Area Command, also observed training and drills of a “Red army” regiment of the Xinjiang Military Area Command (MAC), the PLA Daily said.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 11:42:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/china-general-visited-disputed-region-near-karakoram/article6284816.ece

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