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Rohit asked: What security implications do you see by the presence of PLA or the Chinese army in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir?

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  • Priyanka Singh replies: In recent past, there has been extensive reportage on the possible presence of PLA (Peoples’ Liberation Army) soldiers in Gilgit Baltistan region of PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir). In October 2011, Chief of the Indian Army, General V.K. Singh, also endorsed this possibility by stating there could be 3000-4000 PLA soldiers in this region. In August 2010, an article by Selig Harrison published in the New York Times signaled similar possibility. Since PoK, and Gilgit Baltistan in particular, are largely inaccessible to the outside world, it is rather difficult to know the extent and nature of Chinese presence in Gilgit Baltistan.

    There are multiple security implications arising from Chinese activities in PoK. China in the past has deliberately tried to punctuate Kashmir as disputed by issuing stapled visas to people from J&K (Jammu and Kashmir) and obstructing an Indian army official posted in J&K to be part of a defence delegation visiting China. That it has willingly offered its assistance in infrastructure development in PoK and possibly has stationed PLA soldiers there, shows the duality in Chinese standards.

    In view of the strong bonhomie between China and Pakistan, the Chinese presence in Gilgit Baltistan close to the LoC could act to India’s detriment in times of war and other contingencies. In the broader context of India’s encirclement by China in the south Asian region, this kind of presence is disturbing since PoK is a territory which legally belongs to India. The need, therefore, is to ensure that the issue of Chinese presence in PoK figures predominantly in future bilateral exchanges between India and China.