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Indian General Expresses Concerns Over Chinese Military Presence in Kashmir

  • Kurt Achin

Indian Army soldiers inside an armored vehicle on the outskirts of Srinagar (file photo)

Indian Army soldiers inside an armored vehicle on the outskirts of Srinagar (file photo)

In an unusually frank airing of India's security concerns, a top Indian general says China's military collaboration with Pakistan is likely to be detrimental to India's long term strategic interests. Some Indian security experts say India is surrounded by China on all sides.

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna offered reassurance Wednesday that Delhi "closely and regularly monitors all developments" along its border "to ensure the safety and security" of the Indian people.

He was responding to questions about an alarm sounded publicly by one of India's top military officers, Lieutenant-General KT Parnaik, chief of the Indian army's Northern Command. In a security seminar in the Indian city of Jammu, Parnaik appeared to confirm what had been reported by media - that Chinese military forces were operating in the Pakistan-administered portion of disputed Kashmir, divided by a tense border the two sides refer to as the "line of control."

"There are many people today who are concerned about the fact that if there were to be hostilities between us and Pakistan - what would be the complicity of the Chinese? Not only because they are in the neighborhood, but because they are actually stationed and present on the line of control," said General Parnaik.

China is a close strategic partner of Pakistan, and as many as 11,000 Chinese troops have been reported to be stationed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Parnaik says China is helping Pakistan build numerous roads, bridges and hydroelectric projects, and that Beijing's military presence in the disputed area is increasing steadily.

He says India has reason to be concerned.

"First of all, it jeopardizes our regional and strategic interests in the long run," he said.

Parnaik warns that China's infrastructure activities in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. as well as in northern border areas controlled by China, enhance Pakistan's ability to flank India in the event of military conflict.

China's visa policy for travellers from Indian-controlled Kashmir has been a source of tension between Delhi and Beijing for months now. Visitors from Indian-controlled Kashmir have been given paper visas stapled into their passport, while visitors from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir receive a more traditional stamp. Many Indians view that policy as a tacit endorsement of Pakistani sovereignty over Kashmir.

China also rejects Indian sovereignty over its eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing describes on its official maps as "Southern Tibet."

Parnaik also warned of Chinese encroachment at sea, in the form of a growing set of naval base treaties with India's neighbors - a strategy many Indian experts refer to as a Chinese "string of pearls."

"The Chinese footprints are too close for comfort," said Parnaik.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to revisit security issues with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao next week, when the two are expected to meet at a Chinese resort for multilateral summit talks.