China has quietly but surely gained a toehold in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir despite India signalling discomfort with the Communist neighbour's expanding presence there.
Army chief General VK Singh on Wednesday said 3,000 to 4,000 Chinese, including troops, were involved in infrastructure projects in PoK — first time that an army chief put a number on a well-recognised fact.
“There are certain construction teams working there. Around 3,000 to 4,000 people are present, including certain personnel for security,” Singh said on the sidelines of an army function.
“There are some engineer troops like our own combat engineers. In some way, they are part of the People's Liberation Army.” India has repeatedly asked China to stop undertaking infrastructure projects in PoK but has met with little success.
New Delhi is suspicious of Beijing taking up road and rail projects that link Pakistan and China through PoK, as it has military implications for India if hostilities break out.
In April, Lt Gen KT Parnaik, who heads the operationally critical Udhampur-based Northern Command, warned that such connectivity would facilitate quicker deployment of Pakistani forces to complement China's military operations, outflanking India and jeopardising its security.