India, China Defense Row Heats Up

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NEW DELHI — India has suspended defense exchanges with China after Beijing refused a visa to a top Indian army general, media reports said Saturday.

New Delhi has refused to allow two Chinese army officers to attend a defense course in India in a tit-for-tat move after Beijing turned down a visa for Indian army Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, who was scheduled to join a military delegation to China, the reports said.

The Hindu newspaper quoted an anonymous senior Indian official as saying that future military exchanges and a joint exercise between Indian and Chinese defense forces would remain suspended until China resolves the issue.

India also denied permission to a senior Chinese army colonel to visit India's National Defense College, where he was scheduled to deliver a lecture, media reports said.

Jaswal was denied a visa because he is responsible for army operations in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, a disputed territory, the reports said.

All of the Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed by India and Pakistan, an ally of China. China also claims part of northeastern Kashmir which it says is part of Tibet.

India's external affairs ministry said in a statement that Jaswal's visit had not taken place, but did not give a reason.

Indian officials routinely refuse to speak on the record to the media on what the government defines as sensitive matters, including relations with China.

However, the government often uses the media to get its message across without making a formal statement.

On Saturday, at least five national newspapers and a half dozen television channels carried reports on the suspension of defense exchanges after the visa row, but officials refused to comment.

"The Chinese side is solely responsible for it," The Indian Express newspaper said. "They have tied the knot and they have to untie it," it said, quoting an anonymous defense ministry official.

Ties between India and China have improved vastly since a brief border war in 1962, but the two sides remain divided over territorial claims dating back to the conflict.

In recent years, India and China have held more than a dozen rounds of talks on settling the border dispute, but have made little progress.

Beijing is also highly critical of India's support for the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala.

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