NEW DELHI - The People’s Liberation Army has ‘never deployed a single soldier’ in Pakistani part of Kashmir (Azad Jammu Kashmir), Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie has told The Hindu, describing reports of the PLA’s presence in the region as ‘totally groundless’.

“As Minister of National Defence of China, I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify to you once again: the PLA has never deployed a single soldier in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir,” General Liang, who is on a five-day visit to India and will hold talks with his Indian counterpart AK Antony in New Delhi, said.

Indian officials, in the past, said that between 3,000 and 4,000 personnel were engaged in construction work and providing security in the region. The defence minister said the allegations were inaccurate, adding China firmly supported India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes.

General Liang (71), who is also a member of the powerful Central Military Commission, called for India and China to ‘fostering a closer military-to-military relationship’ and to making defence ties ‘a positive factor in our state-to-state relations’. The defence relationship between the neighbours has been warming recently, following a year of suspended ties in 2010. General Liang’s visit was proposed by the PLA, which recently hosted delegations from India in Tibet for the first time in several years. During his visit, both sides will discuss the possibility of holding the third round of joint military exercises after a four-year gap.