China today dismissed reports about the presence of its troops in Azad Kashmir, days after a top Indian commander expressed concern over the presence of Chinese military in the region as “too close for comfort”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a media briefing here that “the reports are baseless and ridiculous.”
Lt Gen K. T. Parnaik, India’s Northern Army Commander, has said: “Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Northern Areas of Pakistan is increasing steadily… There are many people who are concerned about the fact that if there was to be hostility between us and Pakistan, what we think would be the complicity of Chinese.”
“Not only they are in the neighbourhood, but the fact that they are actually present and stationed along the LoC,” Lt Gen Parnaik said in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir last week at a seminar.
“As part of (China’s) ‘strings of pearls’ policy, Chinese footprints are too close for comfort,” Parnaik added, referring to the policy according to which China is actually securing sea lanes to the Middle East and Africa; crucial sources of raw materials – and untapped markets – for Chinese goods.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs has sought a report from Defence Ministry on the issue.
This is not the first time China has dismissed such reports as frivolous. Last year, China officially clarified to India that some of its personnel were indeed present in Pakistan to render flood relief assistance, amid reports by a section in the American media about the presence of large numbers of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan areas.
India has also time and again conveyed its concerns over the presence of Chinese personnel working in different projects in Azad Kashmir, claiming it was a disputed territory along with the rest of Kashmir.
The issue reportedly figured during the last December visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to New Delhi.
Fresh Indian concerns over the issue and the reported observations of the top Indian General comes ahead of the scheduled bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) summit at the Chinese resort of Sanya on April 13-14.
Both sides have held hectic parleys over the agenda for the Singh-Hu meeting which was expected to wide ranging, including issues such as China’s promise to address New Delhi’s concerns related to stapled visas being issued to residents of Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.