By K J M Varma
Beijing, January 10: Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh on Friday concluded his four-day visit to China, including a rare trip to the volatile Xinjiang province bordering PoK, during which he discussed a host of issues including border area management, bilateral military ties and defence cooperation.
Lt Gen Singh, whose area of operations covered Jammu and Kashmir region including Ladakh and Aksai Chin over which China has claimed, concluded his visit with a meeting at Xinjiang's provincial capital Urumqi with Lt Gen Liu Wanlong, Commander of China's Xinjiang Military Command which oversees China's borders along PoK.
He also visited China's 9th Engineer Regiment of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) based there on Thursday, the Indian Embassy said in a statement.
Lt Gen Singh, who arrived in China on January 7, met top Chinese military officials especially that of PLA's Western Command which oversees the 3488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC). China also claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet.
On January 7, Gen Singh met the Commander of PLA Gen Han Weigao in Beijing.
He was given a ceremonial welcome when he arrived at the PLA's Western Command headquarters in Chengdu on January 8, where he held talks with Gen Zhao Zongqi, the Commander of Western Theatre Command.
Lt Gen Singh and his delegation also visited a Special Operations Brigade at Chengdu where they witnessed a counter-terrorism drill, according to the statement.
The visit of the delegation is the first high-level military to military engagement in 2020 between India and China.
During talks with the Chinese military officials, the delegation discussed a host of issues including border area management, improved bilateral military ties and defence cooperation activities as part of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and China, the statement said.
"Both sides agreed to carry forward the directions of the leaders and maintain peace and tranquillity at the border areas. The talks were held in a free, frank and friendly manner," the statement added.
It was rare for an Indian Army officer to visit the region.
Technically China and Pakistan have no borders but are connected through PoK. The Xinjiang region includes both Ladakh and Aksai Chin over which China has claimed.
Xinjiang is the starting point for the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) over which India has protested to China as it passes through the PoK.
Singh's visit to Xinjiang also assumes significance as it comes in the backdrop of India's move revoking provisions of Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories.
China has said that bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories is "unlawful and void", and it "challenges" China's sovereignty.
India has told China that the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter and sole prerogative of the country and has no implication for either the external boundaries of India or the LAC.
The boundary issue is being discussed through the Special Representatives (SR) mechanism. The SRs - National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi - held the 22nd round of border talks in New Delhi last month.
The boundary issue is also being discussed through the Special Representatives (SR) mechanism.
Xinjiang has been in news in recent months over allegations that China has interned more than a million Uighur Muslims to control the violence, a claim Beijing denies. China termed them as education camps.