(TibetanReview.net, Jul18, 2017) – Amid continuing standoff between India and China, continuing since Jun 6 in a Bhutanese territory located close to India’s Sikkim state and occupied Tibet’s Yatung (or Dromo, Chinese: Yadong) County, China has said Jul 14 that it had recently held a live-fire assault exercise on the Tibetan Plateau. The purpose was to improve the troops’ combat capability on such locations, reported China’s official chinadaily.com.cn Jul 17, citing the country’s military. The exercise and the report are seen as a muscle-flexing message to India.
It cited a news release from the PLA as saying the exercise was conducted by a ground combat brigade of the PLA Tibet Regional Command this month and involved scenarios such as rapid deployment, multiunit joint strike and anti-aircraft defense.
It added that for the purpose of the exercise, the brigade had mobilized all of its members and equipment and taken six hours to transport them from the barracks to the drill zone at an altitude of 5,000 meters on the plateau.
In a two-minute clip of the exercises broadcast by the official China Central Television (CCTV) station Jul 14, Chinese soldiers were seen launching an assault on an “enemy position” using machine guns, rocket launchers and mortars. They also used air-defence radar to guide anti-aircraft guns in shooting down “enemy planes,” reported Hong Kong’s scmp.com Jul 17. The live-fire drills also included quick delivery of troops and different military units working together on joint attacks.
The report also said that separately, Tibet’s mobile communication agency conducted a drill on Jul 10 in the regional capital Lhasa, in which members of the agency practiced setting up a temporary mobile network to secure communications in an emergency.
“The PLA wanted to demonstrate it could easily overpower its Indian counterparts,” the report quoted Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming as saying.
It also quoted Wang Dehua, South Asia studies experts at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, as saying, like Zhou, “Showing an opponent that you are combat ready is more likely to prevent an actual battle.”
The brigade that conducted the drills was from the PLA’s Tibet Military Command and is one of China’s two plateau mountain brigades, said China’s party mouthpiece globaltimes.cn Jul 16, citing CCTV.
Globaltimes.cn cited the CCTV report as saying the brigade had long been stationed around the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River and was responsible for frontline combat missions. The scmp.com report said the Chinese force that took part in the drill was stationed in the Linzhi (Tibetan: Nyingtri) region of eastern Tibet, close to the India-China stand-off site in Bhutan.
While the reports did not say when or where exactly the drill – which they said lasted 11 hours – was conducted, they noted that the Yarlung Zangbo River was located in the upper stream of the Brahmaputra River which flows from occupied Tibet to India and Bangladesh.
The exercise and the reports on it is being seen as a message to the Indian government and military, as China claims large parts of Arunachal, India’s easternmost state, as southern Tibet, noted a hindustantimes.com report Jul 17.
Indian troops entered Doklam (which China calls Donglang) in Bhutan when the Chinese PLA started building a road in it. Beijing wants India to withdraw its troops before the two sides can open talks. New Delhi, which has close diplomatic and military ties with Bhutan, says the road, if built, will have serious adverse security implications for India.