China said yesterday that military ties with India remained on track, despite a visa row that some reports said had led to a freeze in defense contacts between the two large neighbors with sometimes testy relations.
An Indian defense source and some Indian news media said on Friday that defense ties with China were suspended after Beijing refused a visa to an Indian general from disputed Kashmir, where Pakistan and China also hold territory.
However, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony said “ties with China will continue,” and now China’s Ministry of Defense has also denied any freeze in ties with the Indian military.
“China has not suspended military exchanges with India, and nor has it received any notification from India of any such suspension,” the press office of the Chinese ministry said in a statement.
India and China have limited military ties, focused on visits by military chiefs and defense officials and occasional, small joint exercises.
But the official Chinese statement indicated that Beijing did not want the quarrel to curtail those contacts or seriously damage the overall relationship between the two nations.
“China takes seriously developing military ties with India, and we are confident that both sides will stay focused on the broader picture of bilateral ties between our two countries, acting in a spirit of consultation and unity to promote the healthy development of military ties,” the statement said.
China is now India’s biggest trade partner and the spat, which is one of several to have taken place over the last few years, is unlikely to snowball.
Friction is, however, also unlikely to abate entirely. Border disputes and mutual wariness remain.
India holds 45 percent of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, while Pakistan controls a third. China holds the rest.
Last year, India protested against a Chinese embassy policy of issuing different visas to residents of Indian Kashmir. New Delhi bristles at any hint that Kashmir, where a separatist insurgency has raged for two decades, is not part of India.
Distrust between the two economic powerhouses dates back to a 1962 border war, partly over the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh that China claims in full.
China’s support for India’s foe Pakistan, which backs the Kashmir separatists and also claims the region in full, has exacerbated the tensions with Delhi.