Defence minister Manohar Parrikar raised several key issues with Chinese officials during meetings here on Monday, including Beijing blocking a move to sanction JeM chief Masood Azhar and the demarcation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to reduce tensions.
Parrikar, who is on a five-day visit, also spoke about China’s involvement in projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
He first met State Councilor and defence minister Chang Wanquan and then called on Gen Fan Changlong, vice-chairperson of the powerful Central Military Commission headed by President Xi Jinping.
“Lots of bilateral issues were discussed. We generally agreed to enhance bilateral interaction both at the military-to-military level as well as the ministerial level,” Parrikar told Beijing-based Indian journalists during a hurriedly conducted interaction.
Parrikar said he had conveyed his concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to the Chinese side as the project will pass through PoK.
“We made our stand very clear…that India has strong reservations on their (China’s) activities in PoK. They noted our concerns. They explained that (the involvement) was on the economic aspect, with nothing against India from the defence or military side,” he said.
The $46-billion CPEC is a high-profile part of Xi’s “Belt and Road Initiative” connecting China to Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
Parrikar was confident China would address India’s concerns. “Our concerns were noted by them. I expect them to act on the concerns,” he said.
He referred to China blocking a move by India to sanction Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar at the UN and said: “It was not exactly the right direction they have taken and having a coordinated line on terrorism is in the interest of India and China.”
The long-festering China-India border dispute figured prominently in Parrikar’s talks with Chinese officials. “Border management was one of the important issues discussed and how to improve (the situation) was part of the discussion,” he said.
“We raised the actual marking of the LAC. It was one of the processes for a real, smooth border (situation). Otherwise, there is only the perception of the border and so it causes problems. We have concerns about this issue,” he said.
“We are insisting that this needs to be done to really ensure a very stable border...all the issues take place because of perception.”
The lack of demarcation of the border means soldiers from both sides “transgress” the LAC, he said. Both countries, he said, are close to setting up a military-to-military hotline to quickly resolve incidents along the LAC.
India had proposed the setting up of the hotline but China handed back the proposal with some suggested changes on Monday.
Discussions were also held on opening new meeting points for soldiers from both said along the LAC. Currently, there are five such points. “We discussed the confidence-building measures that have been put in place. (How to) enhance those measures,” Parrikar said.
Chinese officials raised India’s increasingly vocal position on the South China Sea, where Beijing is embroiled in a number of disputes with its maritime neighbours over the ownership of reefs, islands and seas itself.
Parrikar said he had assured Chinese officials that India has an independent foreign policy based on its national interest. “India’s foreign policy is autonomous,” he said.
On Tuesday, Parrikar will call on Premier Li Keqiang and visit China’s recently integrated western command military headquarters in Chengdu, which looks after the borders with India.
In Chengdu, he will interact with the commanding officer of the western theatre, Zhao Zongqi, and inspect the Special Operation Forces’ brigade.