China strengthens LAC facilities for soldiers before winter
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has strengthened facilities for its soldiers along the disputed border with India, ahead of winter, in anticipation of “small frictions”, a state media report said on Wednesday.
Observers told state-run tabloid Global Times that although “large-scale clashes are unlikely to occur in winter, small frictions may happen from time to time” along the Sino-India border, making it necessary for the PLA to be ready.
Indian and Chinese militaries have been locked in a border standoff in eastern Ladakh since May last year when a violent clash in Pangong lake area led to both sides gradually deploying tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry along the border. Several rounds of military and diplomatic talks have only resulted in partial disengagement of troops until now.
Keeping in mind the possibility of a clash between India and China and the harsh winter conditions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the PLA has been focussing on streamlining the logistic supply lines, the report said.
Other reports in China’s official military outlets also reported recently on the improvement of living conditions along the LAC so that PLA troops can remain stationed for prolonged periods at high altitudes during the winter, especially when temperatures drop sharply to well below zero.
Last week, the PLA Daily reported that personnel assigned to a brigade under the PLA Xinjiang Military Command, which carried out training on the snow-capped plateau at an elevation of 5,300 metres, have received new types of tactical vests.
“The materials used for the vest can resist strong wind and keep the soldiers warm in freezing conditions, and the embedded quick-slip device enables the soldiers to quickly escape from danger at critical moments,” the report said.
Another PLA Daily report said a type of balanced-air-pressure chamber for oxygen therapy was put into use for troops under the Hotan military sub-command of the PLA Xinjiang Military Command in mid-October.
Portable oxygenators, oxygen chambers and individual oxygen supply devices have also been deployed for frontline troops.
According to the Global Times report, “barracks on the high-altitude plateau are operated and heated with multiple energy sources such as coal, electricity and solar power”.
A PLA border regiment commander quoted in the report said that all outposts are connected to the state power grid and have communication base stations.
Separately, the PLA has also revealed that it conducted multiple drills on its western plateau over the past week.
An artillery regiment, affiliated with the PLA Xinjiang Military Command, recently conducted a comprehensive, cross-day-and-night exercise in a high-altitude region, involving live-fire shooting of PCL-181 155mm self-propelled howitzers and PHL-11 122mm multiple rocket launchers.
The drill tested the troops’ fire strike efficiency and combat capabilities under the harsh cold in plateau regions, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Saturday.
In September, Chinese official media announced that both Xinjiang and Tibet, bordering India, will soon have 30 airports at the disposal of the Western Theatre Command (WTC) to facilitate the movement of PLA personnel.
The WTC is the largest military command of the PLA and oversees the disputed border with India. While some of these airports have been built and are functional, the remaining are under construction.
Among the three new airports to be built in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are those at Lhunze county, Tingri county and Burang county, close to the border with India, official media had reported earlier this year.
The opening of new routes and rapid construction of new airports come in the backdrop of the ongoing Sino-India border tension in eastern Ladakh.
China is bolstering its presence all along the border with India, fortifying the remote regions by building critical civil-military dual use infrastructure like airports and railway routes.
Former director general of military operations Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (retd) said, “As long as the standoff continues and additional forces are deployed on both sides, the possibility of localised flare ups cannot be ruled out. Both armies are prepared for that, although there has been no escalation or flare up after the June 2020 Galwan Valley skirmish.”