Northern Army Commander defers visit to China

Northern Army Commander Lt. General Ranbir Singh.

Northern Army Commander Lt. General Ranbir Singh.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

The Northern Army Commander Lt. General Ranbir Singh has postponed his visit to China, to monitor the situation arising in Jammu and Kashmir and the borders, ahead of the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India next month.

Highly placed sources said Lt. General Singh’s presence at home was required as a precaution following China’s objections to India’s decision to scrap special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.

China had raised the red flag especially on India’s decision to accord Union Territory status to Ladakh, which shares a disputed border with China, citing “sovereignty” concerns.

Despite keeping a tight border vigil, a Chumar-like incident along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is unlikely, when President Xi meets with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the second informal summit, possibly at Mamallapuram near Chennai between October 11-13, with October 12 being earmarked as the day for detailed talks between the two leaders.

During President Xi’s visit to India in 2014, Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a face-off in the Chumar sector along the LAC.

A Chinese official source, who did not wish to be named, told The

Hindu, that despite China’s stated opposition to the change of special status in Jammu and Kashmir, Beijing is unlikely to “push the envelope” any further, especially in view of President Xi’s visit to India.

After making a national statement after a “closed meeting” at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) last month, the first major sign of China’s intent to dial down on Kashmir came during the August 27-28 visit to Islamabad by Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC), the source said.

During that visit, Chinese state media made no reference to Kashmir. A Xinhua report on the visit, instead, focused on Pakistan’s firm adherence to the “one-China policy” and its commitment to “resolutely fight terrorist forces such as East Turkistan Islamic Movement,” supporting ethnic Uyghur independence in Xinjinag.

Without making a direct reference to Kashmir, it stated that Islamabad had appreciated China’s “precious support” on issues concerning the South Asian nation’s “major interests and concerns.”

Analysts say that the chances of a border incident during Mr. Xi’s visit are also remote as the Chinese President, in his capacity as the Chairman of the powerful CMC has acquired a firm grip on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which he has thoroughly reorganised and purged during his first term in office, which ended in October 2017, with the beginning of the 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The military overhaul was achieved under the template of a cascading anti-corruption drive, as well as the breakup of the old military command structure, which is now based on the formation of new theater commands. The first signs that the military old guard was being dismantled emerged when two former vice chairmen of the CMC were put behind bars.

Signalling that China would not like its position on Kashmir to intrude into the post-Wuhan track of dialogue, Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi said in the presence of visiting External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar last month that in the boundary negotiations that precedes the Xi-Modi summit, both sides should focus on seeking “early harvest” results.

Chinese officials also point to the urgency of substantially expanding border trade between the two countries.

While the preparations for the next month’s informal summit are in full swing, officials say the Indian side is inclined to raise “tough questions” with China regarding its ties with Pakistan that have a fallout on India.

“The Wuhan summit last year was essential to re-track India-China ties which nearly de-railed during the Doklam military standoff in the summer of 2017. But this time specific problematic issues are likely to be frankly addressed,” the source said.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 11:28:04 PM |

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