China deploys advanced rocket launchers in western theatre command

A news report in China says the brigade is located 5,200m above sea level in Xinjiang, but doesn’t share its exact location
An undated hand-out file photograph released by the Indian Army on February 16, 2021 shows People Liberation Army (PLA) tanks in action during military disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the India-China border in Ladakh. (AFP/FILE)
An undated hand-out file photograph released by the Indian Army on February 16, 2021 shows People Liberation Army (PLA) tanks in action during military disengagement along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at the India-China border in Ladakh. (AFP/FILE)
Updated on Apr 20, 2021 12:21 PM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed advanced rocket launchers with an artillery brigade stationed above 17,000 feet in the western theatre command, which oversees the border with India, the Chinese army’s official newspaper reported on Monday.

A front-page article published in PLA Daily reported that the brigade is located 5,200m above sea level in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), but did not share its exact location.

The PLA Daily article only said it is located in an area with towering, snow-capped mountains.

The new rocket launchers have been part of intensive drills, the report said, adding that it was inducted in the PLA in 2019.

The PLA Daily report in Chinese indicated that the rocket launching company was developed from an anti-tank missile one.

“The report did not give the type or firing range of the weapon, but said it was a system with a long-range rocket with precision strike capability and had entered service in 2019,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said in a report.

“The new weapon system should be a long-range rocket launcher that can carry multiple 300mm or even bigger rockets with more than 100km of firing range,” military commentator Song Zhongping, a former instructor in the PLA’s artillery corps, told the newspaper.

“Only a long-range MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) is powerful enough to act as a deterrent to India, as the Indian troops are also stepping up military deployment along the borders,” Song said in the article.

The article is an indication that the PLA is continuing to strengthen its border forces in the region with winter gradually receding.

The PLA Daily report was published on a day when Indian ambassador Vikram Misri spoke about maintaining peace and tranquility along the border during an interaction with Chinese think-tanks and universities in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.

“Ambassaddor Misri emphasised that maintenance of peace and tranquility in border areas is essential basis for the development of bilateral relationship. He underlined that there needed to be respect for mutual concerns and sensitivities and for each other’s priorities,” a tweet by the Indian consulate general in Guangzhou said on the event.

India and China have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks to resolve the nearly year-long friction along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.

The 10th meeting of the senior military commanders was held on February 20 after the two sides completed the withdrawal of frontline troops with armoured formations and artillery from the banks of Pangong Lake.

However, the two sides were unable to make progress on efforts to disengage at other friction points such as Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang Plains.

The 11th round of military talks held on April 9 failed to resolve the differences.

At the end of the 11th round, Beijing said the Chinese military will maintain diplomatic communication with its Indian counterpart to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the border region.

“China hopes the Indian side can cherish the positive trend of de-escalation in the region and uphold the consensus reached by previous meetings, and work together with China to safeguard peace and tranquility in the area,” colonel Long Shaohua, who is with PLA’s western theatre command, was quoted as saying in a readout.


    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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