Report of PLA entry into PoK 'serious'

India may strike back with stapled-visa policy

New Delhi said that it was making an “independent verification” of the authenticity of the report published in New York Times about the presence of an estimated 7000-11,000 PLA soldiers in Gilgit-Baltistan region of the PoK. 

“We have seen media reports... and are seeking an independent verification of these reports. If true, it would be a matter of serious concern and we would do all that is necessary to ensure safety and security of the nation,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Vishnu Prakash.

New York Times had reported the “influx” of PLA soldiers in the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the PoK and their purported involvement in infrastructure projects, including a secret network of 22 tunnels, which could be used not only for a future gas pipeline from Iran to China but also for a clandestine missile storage facility.

Highly-placed sources in New Delhi said that Indian Government might resort to issuing stapled visas to citizens of Tibet or the domiciles of the areas of the PoK that Pakistan had transferred to China in 1963. The move was being contemplated as retaliation to the China’s policy of issuing stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir, sources said.

The article in New York Times was written by Asia Program Director of the Center for International Policy, Selig S Harrison. He termed the development as the unfolding of “a quiet geopolitical crisis” in the Himalayan borderlands of northern Pakistan.

Pakistani government had allowed the PLA to have de facto control over Gilgit-Baltistan, he added.

The article came up at a time when New Delhi and Beijing are caught up in a diplomatic row after the latter refused to allow Indian Army’s Northern Command chief Lt Gen B S Jaswal to visit China stating that the highly-decorated officer was not welcome to the communist country as his operational area included Jammu and Kashmir. It was perceived as yet another move by the Chinese to question New Delhi’s claim on the status of J&K as an integral part of India.

India retaliated by denying visa to three PLA officials and also put on hold all defence exchanges with China.

Since November 2009, New Delhi has been persistently protesting against Beijing’s policy of issuing “stapled visas” – and not regular visas pasted on passports – to people from J&K, which has also been seen as a Chinese way of negating India’s claim on the State. Beijing, however, continued issuing ‘stapled visas’ to citizens of J&K which  New Delhi does not recognise.

The Gilgit-Baltistan – the northernmost part of the PoK – was earlier known as Northern Areas in Pakistan. Pakistan on August 29 last year granted self-rule to the region and made provisions to have an elected Legislative Assembly and an elected government.

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