Sikkim stand-off: PLA starts battle-readiness in Tibet

Sikkim stand-off: PLA starts battle-readiness in Tibet

SAM Report,
Reuters file photo used for representation

Amid escalating tension along the border of India’s Sikkim state, the China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reportedly started its battle-readiness by holding an armored brigade drill at an altitude of 5,100 meters in the border region of Tibet.

The drill would test “full combat readiness” of Type 96B which is China’s most advanced battle tank, Chinese media said.

Displaying photographs of the tank, the country’s official Xinhua news agency said on Friday (7 July) that the drills were aimed at “carrying out battlefield environment analysis, combat operations command, combat coordination and other real combat and live-fire shooting training”.

The bilateral relations between New Delhi and Beijing took a turn for the worse after China accused Indian troops of interfering with its road construction in Doklam area along the border with the Indian Sikkim state, which China claims to be its sovereign territory.

China said that Indian troops unilaterally provoked trouble which was in violation of a relevant agreement between the two sides and the mutual consensus between the leaders of the two countries.

China on Wednesday (5 July) reiterated to India to immediately withdraw troops who illegally crossed the border to the Chinese side, in order to resolve a military standoff that started on 16 June.

India so far has not paid any heed to the Chinese appeal or opted for a diplomatic solution. Now, Indian troops are reportedly digging in an area to protect the strategic topography that is just 30 km from a hydel project that overlooks the Bengal-Assam road link.

The hydro-electric project is located at Jaldhaka river at Jhalong which is not far from the border with Bhutan and is also a bridge for crossing over to the landlocked hill kingdom.

According to a Times of India report, the Jaldhaka, along with Torsha river, flows into the Brahmaputra and is part of a tract of land that could come under pressure if the Chinese build the road they are planning through the Doklam plateau in Bhutan.

The report also feared that the Siliguri corridor, a narrow stretch of land, located in the Indian state of West Bengal, that connects India’s northeastern states to the rest of India, and the town itself, will be vulnerable if China gets to dominate ridge lines which will allow its troops to literally sit astride Indian territory.

However, the pro-Beijing Global Times said that India should not be overly confident about its military capability or have the delusion that China is afraid of it and will compromise on sovereignty issues.

Zhu Heping, a retired PLA general said that Indian troops would not be able to stop China’s road construction in Doklam.

“India’s trespass shows its stance to China. Actually, it is a very small and narrow area where troops of a large scale cannot be fully deployed,” Major General Zhu was quoted by Times of India as saying.

“Do you think a few military vehicles and soldiers on the border will stop China’s development and its border construction?” he asked. “The Chinese military is becoming stronger and stronger and leaving the Indian military farther behind. India’s provocation won’t affect the general situation or take any effect.”

The Xinhua report said that the drill also aimed at “paying close attention to officers’ command skills training, command and control systems, combat unit synthesis and combat readiness”. It did not explain when the drills began and where in Tibet.