Chinese President Xi Jinping meets PLA border troops in Xinjiang

Sixteenth round of military talks between India and China set for July 17

July 16, 2022 11:01 pm | Updated July 17, 2022 09:02 am IST - Beijing:

A giant screen at a shopping centre in Beijing on July 15, 2022 shows news footage of Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

A giant screen at a shopping centre in Beijing on July 15, 2022 shows news footage of Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. | Photo Credit: Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday held a rare meeting with Chinese military commanders and troops involved in the ongoing stand-off with India in Eastern Ladakh.

Mr. Xi met with the top brass of the Xinjiang military district in the regional capital Urumqi, on the last day of his four day visit to the region, his first in eight years.

State media said Mr. Xi, who also heads the Central Military Commission (CMC), “fully affirmed the outstanding contributions made by troops stationed in Xinjiang to strengthen border defence and stabilise Xinjiang”.

Troops in Xinjiang, which borders Ladakh, have been involved in the Line of Actual Control (LAC) stand-off which has gone on for more than two years since tensions began in April 2020.

The 16th round of talks between military commanders from India’s 14 Corps and the PLA’s South Xinjiang Military District are set for Sunday, taking place more than four months since the last round – the longest gap in the talks to take forward disengagement in remaining friction areas in Hot Springs, Demchok and Depsang.

Mr. Xi’s meeting with Xinjiang military leaders, observers said, underlined his backing for the PLA’s strategy on the India border, which has in the past months seen, on the one hand, moves to beef up infrastructure in forward areas to enable permanent stationing of troops closer to the LAC – including through the construction of a bridge across Pangong Tso – and on the other, delaying disengagement through the slow-moving talks and a refusal to agree to the restoration of the status quo.

Among the PLA soldiers who met Mr. Xi was the Galwan Valley regiment commander Qi Fabao, who was among five soldiers given military honours by the CMC in 2021 – four others were recognised posthumously following the clash in which China said it lost four soldiers. Twenty Indian soldiers lost their lives in the June 15, 2020 clash that marked the worst violence on the border since 1967.

The main focus of the Xinjiang visit was, however, internal security of the region rather than the border. Mr. Xi called for “enhanced efforts” to “uphold the principle that Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation”. “The normal religious needs of religious believers should be ensured and they should be united closely around the Party and the government,” he said, calling for “educating and guiding people of all ethnic groups to strengthen their identification with the motherland, the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, the CPC and socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

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