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In a first, the Indian Army has deployed a special team of officers to keep tabs on China’s growing capabilities, dig into the heart of its strategic mindset and predict its impact on national security.
These officers, assigned to “China cells” scattered across the northern, central and eastern sectors where the two countries have long-simmering border disputes, have been given the sole mandate to track every Chinese move and file reports on a daily basis, a top officer told HT.
The teams are monitoring not only China’s military capabilities but also critical areas such as its international relations strategies, soft power efforts and economic reforms, said a source.
The army looks at the move- a brainchild of army chief General Bikram Singh – as a way of understanding China better, amid global concerns about its strategic intent.
"It’s not about an incursion here or a transgression there. The China cells are looking at the big picture,” the officer said. He clarified that the army wasn’t interfering in the domain of the ministry of external affairs, describing the cells as the army’s “in-house think tanks.”
The cell set up at the Kolkata-based Eastern Command is staffed by six officers, including a brigadier (China) who heads it. The squads at the Udhampur-based Northern Command and the Lucknow-based Central Command consist of three officers each and are headed by colonels.
In recent months, China has grown increasingly aggressive along the line of actual control (LAC).
This has happened in spite of the two countries signing a new border pact, with a series of incursions straining bilateral ties. China’s aggressive foreign policy has triggered disquiet globally, at a time when the US is focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, seen as a counter to China.
There have been growing concerns about China bullying countries with whom it has territorial disputes in the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. China also set off alarm bells last year by unilaterally declaring control of the airspace above large parts of the East China Sea, where it is locked in a territorial dispute with Japan.