China today said its decision to invite the head of the Indian Army’s Northern Command was part of a consensus between the two countries to enhance military ties to maintain peace on the border pending a final settlement of the boundary dispute.
Maintaining that there is no change in China’s stand on the border issue, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said both sides will aim to improve ties during Lt Gen D S Hooda’s visit.
Gen Hooda would be the first northern area commander to visit to China since Beijing denied a regular visa to his predecessor Lt Gen B S Jaswal in 2010 on the grounds that his command area included the “disputed” Jammu and Kashmir.
Asked a media briefing here what prompted the change in China’s stand, Hua said “Our position is consistent and subjected to no change. But our consensus is there,” she said.
Lt Gen Hooda’s visit is scheduled from December 14-19 during which he will visit various military and civil establishments in China, including the PLA Headquarters at Beijing and the Lanzhou military region and exchange views on measures to further peace and tranquillity along the LAC, officials said.
Elaborating on China’s stand, Hua said “We need to have more exchanges and mutual visits between the two militaries so as to jointly uphold peace and tranquility of border areas”.
She said “China and India share very important consensus that is pending final settlement of the border question, both sides should remain committed to maintain peace and tranquility of the border areas”.
“That is why during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit this year both sides agreed to conduct more exchanges and have annual exchanges and interactions between the two militaries,” Hua said.
“The visit (of Gen Hooda) is a step to implement the consensus. It will enhance military-to-military exchanges and mutual trust and help us to properly manage the border area and better deal with emergencies and maintain peace and tranquility of the border areas,” she said.
In 2010, China had also resorted to issuing “stapled visas” to residents of Jammu and Kashmir on the same grounds of it being “disputed” which drew strong protests from India.
In retaliation, New Delhi also cancelled all military-to- military exchanges.
After hectic diplomatic parlays, China subsequently rolled back its decision to issue paper visas to J&K residents.
After that a multi command military delegation headed by
Maj Gen Gurmeet Singh of the then Northern Command of the Indian Army visited China in 2011 formally resuming military ties between the two countries.
“We should all make greater efforts to implement the consensus. We would like to show our sincerity and make efforts to enhance our exchanges with Indian military. This feeling is mutual,” Hua said.
Both sides consider Gen Hooda’s visit important as the Ladakh sector which falls in his command saw maximum number of “incursions” by Chinese troops resulting in tensions.
The major incursions included the one at Daulat Beg Oldi in Ladakh ahead of Premier Li Keqiang’s 2013 visit to India.
A similar incident took place at Chumar in Ladakh region during the visit of President Xi Jinping a year later. Both were resolved after several days of talks.
However both sides established Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) to address such issues.
Besides making efforts to improve relations between the local commanders, the two sides also opened more border points including in Ladakh for both militaries to meet and interact.
The India-China border spans about 3,488 kms of which 646 kms falls within Jammu and Kashmir.