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China moved troops, heavy war gear to Tibet after Sikkim standoff: PLA Daily

The PLA Daily, which is the mouthpiece of China’s military, said the hardware was moved late last month.

world Updated: Jul 19, 2017 23:14 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,Sikkim standoff,India
China recently carried out a ‘live-fire’ drill, its latest military exercise in Tibet, which is being seen as a message to India. Border guards of the two countries are in a standoff along India’s northeastern frontier for more than a month now.(Global Times/Chinese media)

China has transported “tens of thousands of tonnes” of military hardware and army vehicles into the mountainous Tibet region against the backdrop of the standoff with India near the Sikkim border, according to a military newspaper.

The equipment and vehicles were moved simultaneously by road and rail from across the entire region late last month, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, the official mouthpiece of China’s military, as saying.

“The vast haul was transported to a region south of the Kunlun Mountains in northern Tibet by the Western Theatre Command – which oversees the restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, and handles border issues with India,” the report said.

The standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Donglang or Doklam sector began on June 16, when India acted in coordination with Bhutan to oppose the construction of a road by Chinese troops. The PLA Daily’s report suggested the gear was moved after the face-off began.

The reports did not say whether China moved the equipment to support military drills held in Tibet, including in the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river, close to the border of India’s northeastern states, or for other reasons.

Sources in the security establishment in New Delhi said there was “no unusual military movement” in China during the past two months. The sources also said China had been conducting military exercises in the Tibet region since 2009.

Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military commentator, suggested to SCMP the movement of military equipment was most likely related to the standoff and could have been designed to bring India to the negotiating table.

“Diplomatic talks must be backed by military preparation,” he said.

Wang Dehua, from the South Asia Studies Centre at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said the scale of the troop and equipment movement showed how much easier it is for China to defend its western borders.

“Military operations are all about logistics,” he told SCMP. “Now there is much better logistics support to the Tibet region.”

Beijing has accused New Delhi of “illegal trespass” in Donglang sector and said the withdrawal of Indian troops is a must for resolving the face-off and opening talks.

Donglang is under the control of Beijing but the area at the strategic tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China is claimed by Thimphu.

India has said the road being built by the Chinese troops has serious security implications and will alter the status quo in the region.

Earlier this week, state-run CCTV beamed footage of PLA troops from a mountain brigade engaged in a military exercise with live ammunition in the Tibet region. The location of the drill was not far from the Donglang and the state-run media reported that troops which were involved were “responsible for frontline combat missions”.

The live-fire drills included the “quick delivery of troops and different military units working together on joint attacks”, the state media reported. The troops also carried out anti-aircraft defence drills

Other media reports said Tibet’s mobile communication agency had conducted a drill in Lhasa on July 10 during which personnel practiced the setting up of a temporary mobile network “to secure communications in an emergency”.

First Published: Jul 19, 2017 11:28 IST