NEW DELHI/BEIJING: There has been no major troop mobilization by China towards the Line of Actual Control in the entire stretch from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, nor have recent military exercises conducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Tibet raised “any red flags” in the Indian security establishment till now, say official Indian sources.
This comes after reports in the Chinese media claimed that the PLA is making battle preparations by moving large quantities of military equipment and vehicles closer to the Sikkim border+ in Tibet.
The reports, in fact, are being viewed as a Chinese strategy to exert psychological pressure on India to withdraw its troops from the Doklam Plateau in Bhutanese territory, where soldiers from the two countries are locked in a face-off for over a month now.
Indian sources, on their part, said the PLA has “not made any disquieting troop movement” south of Tsangpo in Tibet till now, even though the two armies remain firm about not budging from their respective positions on the Doklam Plateau.
There is also nothing “unusual” about the much-hyped recent military exercise in Tibet+ .
“It was a routine annual exercise that took place near Lhasa in early-June, around 700-km from the border. All armies conduct exercises at frequent intervals. The PLA has been conducting such exercises in Tibet since 2009,” said a source.
In Beijing, the state-run PLA Daily said the process of moving equipment to northern Tibet “took place late last month” and “involved hardware being moved simultaneously by road and rail from across the entire region”.
The report said it would take the PLA only six to seven hours to move “tens of thousands of tonnes” of military equipment from northern Tibet, where most of the material has been kept, to the Sikkim border in view of the efficient transportation networks which include the Tibet railway and a new expressway connecting Lhasa to Yadong on China’s side of Nathu La in the Sikkim section. The distance involved is 700 kilometres, it said.
In another report, the People’s Daily said the process of transporting a large amount of military and medical equipment to the Kunlun Mountain range in northern Tibet was part of the live-fire drill.
“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 South China Morning Post in Hong Kon reported.
The Communist Party organ, People’s Daily, in a commentary said, “Though India has more troops scattered along the disputed area, China’s rapid deployment of troops, its powerful weaponry, and its advanced logistics support give China the edge over India.”
Independent experts see China’s push for a border conflict+ as a response to rising India’s economic strength and a desire to check the growth through military intervention.
“Chinese analysts are also increasingly concerned about India’s rise as a potential peer competitor should the “Modi Restoration” succeed in sustaining a high growth rate that ushers in industrialization and urbanization,” said Mohan Malik, professor of Asian security at the US-based Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies.As earlier reported by TOI, there are just about 300-400 troops each from the two sides in the “non-aggressive” confrontation at the exact stand-off site on the Doklam Plateau near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction
But the Indian Army, as a precaution, has “moved forward” over 3,000 troops from their peace-time deployments in Sikkim, apart from “activating” all its relevant formations in the region like the 17 Mountain Division (headquarters at Gangtok), 27 Mountain Division (Kalimpong) and 20 Mountain Division (Binnaguri).