My comment on the denial of a visa to a senior Indian general appeared in Mail Today August 28, 2010. For a fuller analysis of the issue look in the blog down below dealing with the Chinese military.
THE CHINESE denial of a visa to Lieutenant- General B. S. Jaswal, may be to quote Churchill, “ a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. But its message is unambiguous — the Chinese, or at least its People’s Liberation Army ( PLA) wishes to play hardball with India, just as it is doing with the US.
But you can comprehend China’s anger at the US — manifested in Beijing’s refusal to host a pre- arranged visit of US defence secretary Robert Gates in June — as an outcome of a major US arms sale to Taiwan earlier this year.
However, its attitude towards India is inexplicable.
Jaswal, the chief of the northern command, has been denied a visa allegedly because Kashmir is disputed territory, but the chief of our eastern command, then Lt- Gen. V. K. Singh, was granted one for his August 2009 visit to China. The eastern command’s area of responsibility includes the state of Arunachal Pradesh, claimed in its entirety by China. Why would Beijing act on Islamabad’s behalf and not its own ?
New Delhi’s hurt and somewhat puzzled response is that “ We have an important, multifaceted and complex relationship with the Republic of China.” And that “ the visit has not taken place for “ certain reasons”, pleading that “ there must be sensitivity to each other’s concerns”. Actually Gates himself hit the nub of the problem in his reaction in July, when he observed that “ nearly all of the aspects of the relationship between the United States and China are moving forward in a positive direction, with the sole exception of the military- to- military relationship... the PLA is significantly less interested in this relationship than the political leadership of China.”
The problem is to first grasp that the denial of the visa is a PLA decision, not that of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs. It represents a dangerous loosening of the tight control that the Chinese Communist Party used to exercise over the PLA. This is what has led to a pattern of disturbing developments which have seen Beijing deliberately raise the temperature of China- Indian relations using one pretext or the other in the recent years.
Communist armies, and the PLA was no exception, were run through a dual authority system in which political commissars were attached to all formations at all levels to ensure ideological purity and to keep an eye on the military commanders. The professionalisation and modernisation of the PLA have led to a widening gap between the commissars and the military men in the PLA who are better educated and easily see through the party cant.
The problem goes all the way up to the Military Affairs Commission or the Central Military Commission which runs the PLA. Its earlier bosses ensured the party command over the gun.
Till the Deng Xiaoping era, the political leadership in the CMC and the senior commissars were Long March veterans who had an enormous depth of experience in planning and executing the PLA’s campaigns. But the current leadership beginning with Jiang Zemin and now Hu Jintao lack that experience and as is increasingly apparent, the authority to run the increasingly powerful PLA.