Even as the Chinese leadership is engaging in talks with India, it is accumulating troops and machinery that will stay in the future.

 

New Delhi: Even as the Shatrujeet brigade of the Indian army was conducting high altitude area airborne exercise in November first week that included inserting troops, vehicles and missile detachments by using C-130 and AN-32 aircraft from an altitude of 14,000 feet in the heights of Eastern Ladakh, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was conducting military exercise in the occupied Aksai Chin area while deploying PCL-181 vehicle mounted Howitzers and PHL-3 long-range multiple rocket launchers.

The timing of the said exercise by the Indian army, involving specialised men and assets of the 50 Independent Parachute Brigade of the Indian Army which is also known as the Shatrujeet Brigade, that is headquartered in Agra, is critical as these men are trained to jump into territories that are under the control of the enemy and then wrest it from the enemy forces.

Just days ago, the PLA had deployed 10 brigades, totalling 10,000 men from its Western Theatre Command who held a live-fire exercise code named Snowland Mission 2021 on the Tibetan plateau at the elevation of 4,500m. The exercise took place in the last week of August, just kilometers away from the Indian border. In June, more than 20 Chinese J-11 and J-16 fighters held drills in the same area even as the talk were taking place between representative of Indian army and PLA to resolve the border tension.

Indian soldiers taking part in a military exercise at Eastern Ladakh (Photo credit: Indian Army)

Officials believe that even as Chinese leadership is engaging in talks with India with the intention to resolve the border tension, it is steadily accumulating troops and machines that are going to become a permanent part of its border accumulation in the coming future.

According to sources, the Chinese leadership is using the last 18 months’ development as an excuse to strengthen its position in areas where it was weak earlier and even if the situation normalises between the two countries in the coming months, the assets that the PLA has developed in the region in these 18 months, will not be dismantled.

“We are looking at a situation where the PLA has converted temporary placement of troop and machines into permanent fixtures. So, even if the border tension eases, two things are unlikely to happen—thinning of Chinese troops and assets in region where they were not present earlier but have come up in the last one-and-half years and dismantling of the structures that they have built in the region. To put it simply, the possibility of Chinese attempting to ingress into Indian territories has become more prominent,” an official said.

The idea behind conducting exercises that the India army did recently is two-fold, sources said. “To ensure that our men and machine are prepared for any eventuality, and secondly, to give a message to the adversaries that we are ready, this is our preparation, now what you want to do is up to you. Basically, these are steps that are taken by army of any country as deterrent measures,” he added.

The result of the high-altitude insertion exercise, officials said, met all the required parameters and if needed, the same can be done in a real-life situation within hours. “Our Rapid response capabilities have improved several notches in the last few years as that it something we have been focusing on. Our men have the advantage of having the experience of operating in sub-zero temperatures for years now, something which the adversaries don’t and something that requires years of multiple activities,” an army source told The Sunday Guardian.

In the recent exercise, attack helicopters were used to take out ground targets. The possibility of PLA troops entering disputed areas in the coming days and occupying them was a very strong one, sources said and the recent exercise was developed by keeping this scenario in mind.

A Pentagon prepared report, released earlier this week, which is mandated to be shared with the US Congress every year, too, has pointed out the danger of Chinese incursion that India is facing. The more than 190-page report carries a separate chapter titled: “PRC-India border standoff”. The report states that one of the primary reasons behind the Chinese aggression against India is to stop it from deepening its relationship with the United States. “PRC officials, through official statements and state media, had also sought unsuccessfully to prevent India from deepening its relationship with the United States during and subsequent to the standoff, while accusing India of being a mere ‘instrument’ of US policy in the region,” the report reads.

The report also mentions the steps that the PLA has taken in recent months that conforms the hypothesis of Indian officials that the Chinese aggression will continue for the coming time and that the Chinese have used the recent months to build new permanent assets in the region.

“At the height of the border standoff between the PRC and India in 2020, the PLA installed a fiber optic network in remote areas of the western Himalayas to provide faster communications and increased protection from foreign interception”, while adding: “Despite the ongoing diplomatic and military dialogues to reduce border tensions, the PRC has continued taking incremental and tactical actions to press its claims at the LAC. Sometime in 2020, the PRC built a large 100-home civilian village inside disputed territory between the PRC’s Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state in the eastern sector of the LAC.”

“The possibility of skirmishes between the Indian army and the PLA in the coming months cannot be ruled out. How these skirmishes will ‘develop’ is something that no one can predict. The best India can do is to prepare itself for the worst and expect that China, which undoubtedly has more number of assets, will face a unified, crippling push back from India and its partner countries if China does something that will cross the proverbial Rubicon line,” a diplomat with a Pacific country said.