China’s major policy shift: agrees to host Northern Army Commander

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In a major policy shift towards India especially its stand on Jammu and Kashmir, China has invited Northern Army Commander Lt Gen DS Hooda along with other Generals as part of the delegation in mid-December this year for dialogue with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China and political leadership to discuss boundary disputes and other issues to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and other parts of the country.
China agreeing to host Lt Gen Hooda during high level military delegation talks in middle of December is big policy shift on the part of neighbouring country, which had in August 2010 (during UPA-II regiment) refused to allow Lt Gen BS Jaswal, the then GOC-in-C Northern Command, headquartered at Udhampur, to travel to China on the ground that he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir, a State China had then described as disputed.
Confirming the major development, Northern Army Command spokesperson Col SD Goswami said that Lt Gen Hooda has been invited by China and the neighbouring country will be playing host to him for discussions on variety of issues including the LAC.
“Exact dates for the visit are being worked out but the visit will be in middle of December this year,’’ Col Goswami said, adding the invitation was received by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Army Headquarters, which has been accepted.
The MoD and Army Headquarters have given nod to the visit.
Official sources said a military delegation will visit China for four days and hold talks with top Chinese leaders and officials of the PLA on series of issues including unsettled boundary disputes. India shares Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh and North East including Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim besides Uttarakhand.
The disputes between the countries arose mainly because the LAC hasn’t been demarcated. However, during past one and half years, the incursions by the Chinese Army in Ladakh have come down drastically and hardly one or two such incidents were reported this year. They too were resolved amicably between the Army officials of two sides.
“The incursions, unsettled boundary disputes, demarcation of LAC, increasing Border Meeting Points (BMPs), regular contacts, regular visits by the Army officials for exchange of information, more hotline contacts and various other steps to strengthen ties between the two countries would be discussed between the Indian Army delegation and PLA officials,’’ sources said.
They added that invite by the China to Indian Army delegation including Northern Army Commander was clear indication that the neighbouring country wants to settle all disputes with India amicably including boundary issue along the LAC in Ladakh and other places.
Sources said the discussions during the visit would also be focused on the measures to avoid face-off incidents such as in Despang and Chumar in Ladakh, where Chinese army had intruded deep inside the Indian territory during 2013, 2014 and 2015 but had returned after the talks.
The Army has noticed steep decline in the incursions in Chumar, Demchok and other sensitive areas this year, which was attributed to reduction in tension in view of increased military interaction and the newly constructed border personnel meeting points that have helped reduce chances of any incursion and if, there was any incursion, it was resolved amicably.
The military level talks in the middle of December this year between the senior most officers responsible for border management will go a long way in ensuring peace on the ground, sources said.
The meeting comes close on the heels of high-level political visits, joint military exercises and the establishment of additional border personnel meeting points along the LAC.
Lanzhou Military Region is responsible for the border opposite the Northern Command, which has seen increased activity of the Chinese army in the past few years. This month, General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, set the wheels in motion during his visit when a proposal to host Lanzhou Military Region’s commander was accepted.
General Fan had also held talks with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao was also in India earlier this month and held political deliberations at the highest levels. Besides, last month saw the fifth joint military exercise between the Indian and Chinese armies called ‘Hand-in-Hand 2015’, which was held at the Kunming Academy, with Lt General Surinder Singh heading the Indian delegation.
China’s President Xi Jinping had visited India last year within months of takeover by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had reciprocated the visit in May this year.
In 2010, China had precipitated a major diplomatic row when it conveyed that it would have to issue a stapled visa to the visiting chief of the Northern Command because his remit included the territory of J&K that it views as disputed. This was seen as an open endorsement of the Pakistani claim on Kashmir.
However, India had then strongly objected to the Chinese proposal. With more than five years after the row, China has now agreed to host the Northern Army Commander.

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