(TibetanReview.net, Jan06’23) – China said Jan 4 that after a busy year of intensive exercises in 2022, its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had kicked off annual training in 2023 with highlights in combat forces of new qualities and integrated combat capacity. These, the official globaltimes.cn Jan 4 cited Chinese experts as saying, were “vital capacities for the PLA to win warfare in the future, facing the security challenges represented by military provocations by Western countries led by the US, the Taiwan question, and potential instability in the southwestern border.”
The southwestern border, of course, refers to the Indo-Tibet border areas over which the two sides have clashed recently and deployed large bodies of troops and arms in close proximity to each other while continuing to build infrastructure.
The report did not say where exactly the exercises were taking place or set to take place. But China’s ground exercises are especially concerned with occupied Tibet’s border with India, with the Tibetan Plateau region, more so along the Himalayas, being the main theatre. The border situation here has been volatile over the past several years.
The report cited a video released by a China Central Television Military Report on Jan 3 as highlighting combat forces of new qualities of the PLA Army’s training in the New Year. “Along with deployment of new equipment represented by Z-20 helicopters, the battleground of the PLA Army in the new era has grown from the flat ground to three dimensions,” the report said.
It was also stated to feature the PLA Army’s unmanned combat aerial vehicles and the Z-10 attack helicopter.
The report also said China’s domestically developed CH-4 unmanned aerial vehicle attended the first training of a brigade under the Army of the PLA Eastern Theater Command, with quite a large number of it being deployed.
The PLA has to obtain the capacities to win control of the air, sea, space and the electromagnetic net in order to win the hybrid warfare of the future, the report cited Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, as saying.
Meanwhile, India too has been bolstering its capacity to face the growing menace from China.
In a two-pronged strategy to match the Chinese airfields located across the Line of Actual Control, India’s Ministry of Defence has invited bids to upgrade the Nyoma airfield in eastern Ladakh into a full-fledged base with allied infrastructure. Separately, it had approved a new airfield near Kaza in Himachal Pradesh, reported the tribuneindia.com Jan 4.
The report said: “The other important aspect is having an airfield at Rangrik in Spiti valley near Kaza. These parts of Himachal have a flat-plateau type terrain. Across the LAC in Tibet is located Chepzi, the place from where Chinese troops come for patrolling close to Chumar and Demchok in Ladakh. The airfield will connect civilian flights too as the Spiti valley gets blocked due to snow in winters.”
On the Chinese side in occupied Tibet, the report cited a US-based policy research organization, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), as having said in a Mar 2022 report titled How Is China Expanding its Infrastructure to Project Power Along its Western Borders: “China has been constructing or upgrading 37 airports and heliports in Tibet and Xinjiang since 2017. … The pace of this activity sped up significantly in 2020. That year alone, China began constructing seven air facilities and initiated upgrades at seven others.”
On the Indian side, air power expansion is being supplemented with new road, rail and infrastructure-enabling rapid movement of troops, etc, the tribuneindia.com report said. In 2021, China completed the construction of a road and tunnel system connecting Nyingchi (facing Arunachal), allowing military easy access to the LAC, the report noted.