Rejecting as 'fabricated' reports of presence of up to 11,000 Chinese troops in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir's Gilgit-Baltistan area, Pakistan's envoy in Beijing has claimed that only a 'humanitarian team' from China was in the region to assist the flood victims.
"The story is not true and totally fabricated," Pakistan's Ambassador to China, Masood Khan, told the state-run 'Global Times' daily.
He was referring to a New York Times report which said that about 7,000 to 11,000 Chinese troops were deployed in the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region, where Pakistan faced a state of rebellion from the local people.
Khan said there were no Chinese troops in the area, but added that 'a humanitarian team' from China was currently there to help locals who have suffered due to the devastating floods.
The NYT report attributed the military presence in the region to China's plans to gain a 'grip on the strategic area to ensure unfettered road and rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan.'
About the NYT story, the Global Times said 'the report obviously rattled nerves in India...'
This is the first time that the Chinese media carried the NYT report after it was published on August 28. However, there is no official Chinese reaction so far.
India on Monday said that it was making 'independent verification' of the NYT report about presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan region and added that it would be a matter of 'serious concern' if it turns out to be true.
Reacting to the NYT report, Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times that the speculation in the report on Sino-Pakistan cooperation is senseless.
"Building a rail and road in the region first faces a lot of technical difficulties, and even if China has such a plan, it will be most likely for considerations of economy and energy and will not pose a threat to any other countries," Zhao said.
China and Pakistan recently signed an agreement to build two highways in the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region. The agreement was signed during Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to China in July.
Under the agreement, China would provide 85 per cent of the funding for the road construction and would also build the 165 km-long Jaglot-Skardu and 135-km-long Thakot-Sazin roads.