Srinagar: Amid the tense stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh with India, China continues to display its military prowess by highlighting a range of new and sophisticated weapons and carrying out large-scale manoeuvre operation in the high altitude northwestern region.
Last week, Chinese run state media, including the government’s mouthpiece Global Times highlighted new weapons optimised by the People’s Liberation Army for high-altitude warfare including two types of helicopters and a light tank. On June 2, the Global Times reported that the People’s Liberation Army in Tibet “sent troops to a high-altitude region at an elevation of 4,700 meters at night for infiltration exercises behind enemy lines…”
On Saturday, India and China held Lt General level talks to diffuse the tension along the LAC that has witnessed an unprecedented buildup by the two nuclear countries. However, the talks remained inconclusive.
A day later, Global Times reported PLA’s “large-scale manoeuvre operation” featuring thousands of troops and armoured vehicles transported over “thousands of kilometres” in “just a few hours” to the “high-altitude northwestern region”. The report said that the troops were transported to Hubei and Xinjiang, a distance of around 3000 kms in a few hours.
The Global Times also shared a video showing hundreds of PLA personnel boarding buses, flights and trains from the central province of Hubei to an “undisclosed location” in the plateaus of northwestern China. Provinces in northwestern China include Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang, the last of which borders India.
The report also showed PLA moving heavy artillery, tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment and supplies in the manoeuvre operation, “which ended successfully in just a few hours.”
The report said that Chinese armoured vehicles, including tanks, of the PLA Western Theater Command took part in an exercise on May 14. The PLA Western Theater Command oversees the border with India. The continued media reports on high-altitude exercises is being perceived as an attempt at projecting a muscular image over the standoff with India.
“This manoeuvre mission saw significant breakthroughs not only in the scale of mobilised troops but also means of transportation. [Using civilian transportation] substantially expanded our means of transporting forces and increased efficiency in manoeuvring an entire organisation of troops,” Major Colonel Mao Lei, head of the training department at the airborne brigade, told Chinese media.
Another report in the Global Times on Monday quoted Chinese experts as saying the standoff over Ladakh “could continue for a little longer”, but it would not escalate into a confrontation like ‘Doklam’,. Doklam stalemate continued for 73 days and was the most serious confrontation between the two neighbours in decades.
Qian Feng, a senior fellow at the Taihe Institute and director of the research department of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told Global Times, “the ongoing standoff is not likely to end immediately, as concrete issues must still be resolved.” Qian said “The trigger of the event, India’s construction of infrastructure on Chinese territory, must be stopped, or China will not accept the situation.”
Chinese Army Up Chopper Activities Along The LAC
Amid a tense stand-off between the two nuclear countries for over a month, the Chinese army has heightened activities of its military helicopters along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, ANI reported Monday.
The report said that the activity of Chinese helicopters, including MI-17 has gone up significantly in the last seven to eight days on their side of the LAC, apparently to provide assistance to its troops deployed on various locations along the LAC. The Chinese army, the report says has been extensively using choppers to fly around Indian locations in the Eastern Ladakh sector including the Galwan area.
“In the Galwan area, their choppers had even come above our locations and hovered over a road construction site there on one occasion recently,” the sources told the news agency.
They added that the Chinese have been frequently doing air space violations using their choppers and have been carrying out patrols near the Indian locations on the LAC.
The report says that the Indian Air Force was forced to rush its fighter jet patrols in Ladakh after Chinese military choppers were found to be flying close to the LAC earlier this month. This incident happened around the same time the PLA troops and Indian army forces had face-offs in the first and second weeks of May.
“The Chinese military helicopters were flying very close to the Line of Actual Control. After their movement was picked up, the Indian Air Force fighter jets flew patrols in the area,” government sources had said.
India and China have been engaged in a stand-off since May over heavy military mobilisation by the Chinese troops along the LAC. The Chinese army has also brought in its heavy artillery and armoured vehicles in the rear positions on its side of the LAC. The two sides have had over a dozen rounds of talks at the military level, however the situation on the ground remains tense.