China says reports of troops in Pakistan wrong

China on Thursday dismissed reports saying troops of the People’s Liberation Army are in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times, ran an opinion piece last week that said up to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army were in Gilgit.

“The story that China has deployed some military in the northern part of Pakistan is totally groundless,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular briefing.

“Some people are making fabrications to destroy relations between China, Pakistan and India, but their attempt will arrive nowhere,” she said.

The piece by Selig Harrison, director of the Asia program at the US-based Center for International Policy, said China wants control of the region to get clear road and rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan. It said many of the soldiers are working on a railway link.

The article comes amid reports of military unease between China and India.

Last week, an anonymous Indian official was quoted in the Hindu newspaper as saying that military exchanges and a joint exercise between Indian and Chinese defense forces had been suspended after Beijing refused to grant a visa to a top Indian army general from the Indian held Kashmir.

China’s Ministry of National Defence, however, said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press that it had not suspended the exchanges nor received word from India about any suspension.

Jiang said Beijing had no intention to interfere in the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India. “As a neighbour and friend of both countries, China believes that the issue should be left to the two countries so that it can be properly handled through dialogue and consultation.”

While relations between China and India have improved in recent years, they are still testy over territorial claims dating back to a brief border war in 1962.

In recent years, India and China have held more than a dozen rounds of talks on settling the border dispute but have made little progress.

Beijing is also highly critical of India’s support for the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharmsala.