China dismissed as "entirely groundless" Indian Army [ Images ] Chief Gen Bikram Singh's assertion that PLA soldiers were present in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
"The allegation that Chinese soldiers are present in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir is entirely groundless," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
Hong first skipped answering a question on Gen Singh's charge at a media briefing, but later sent an e-mail to PTI denying the allegation.
Gen Singh said in New Delhi [ Images ] on Thursday that Chinese soldiers were present in PoK to provide security to its ongoing railways and road projects there.
"We are told that Chinese soldiers are there to provide protection to their ongoing projects related to their railways, road and hydro-electric projects and it is basically for security purposes," the Army Chief said. "We have already conveyed this to the Government and whatever is there, we have our frontiers guarded well."
The issue of the presence of Chinese troops in PoK has been in news since September 2010, after the US media reported that about 7,000 to 11,000 People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops were present in PoK.
China subsequently clarified to Indian Ambassador S Jaiashankar, when he took up the issue with top officials, that its personnel were present in PoK to help people affected by the floods which ravaged the area in 2010.
While denying the Chinese troops' presence, Hong stated that China's stand on Kashmir remained clear and consistent that it was an issue to be resolved by India and Pakistan through negotiations.
"Kashmir is left over (by history) between India and Pakistan. As a neighbour of India and Pakistan, China maintains that the relevant issue be resolved through dialogue and negotiations between India and Pakistan."
This has been China's stand on Kashmir for long but questions of a possible change in Beijing's [ Images ] stated neutrality were raised after it started issuing stapled visas for residents of Kashmir in 2009, stating that it is a disputed territory.
A senior Indian Army General of the Northern Command was not given visa when he was nominated to be part of an official delegation here for talks, prompting India to halt military exchanges with China.
The issue was subsequently sorted out after China informally rolled back that policy and started giving visas to Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] residents as well military officials of the Northern Command.
The military exchanges were fully restored later as Chinese Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie visited New Delhi early this month. It was the first such visit by a Chinese Defence Minister in eight years.
Both the countries have decided to commence military exercises following normalisation of defence relations.
About Gen Singh's assertion that there will not be a war similar to that of 1962, Hong declined to react directly but said the relations between the two countries maintained strong momentum and both sides designated this year as 'Year of China-India Friendship and Cooperation'.
"Two countries have maintained sound communication and coordination on major regional and international issues. We are ready to work with the Indian side to continue to implement the consensus reached between the two leaders, enhance the mutual trust and mutual beneficial cooperation for the common development," he said.
On the boundary dispute, he said "with regard to the border issue, China and India should work together to find a reasonable solution acceptable to both sides through friendly consultations. Pending the final resolution of the border issue we should maintain peace and tranquility in the border area," he said.