China moves tons of military equipment to Tibet amid Doklam standoff

19 July 2017

China may have quietly moved tonnes of military gear while it was conducting military exercises in remote mountainous regions of Tibet, the PLA Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese military, reports.

The PLA had conducted 11-hour long live-fire exercises at an altitude of 5,000 meters on the plateau in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region in a likely warning to India, which is locked in a tense standoff with the PLA in the Doklam area of the Sikkim sector.

The gear, according to the report, was transported to a region south of the Kunlun Mountains in northern Tibet by the Western Theatre Command. This unit oversees the restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, and handles border issues with India.

Though the deployment happened in northern Tibet, it wouldn't take much time for Chinese troops to move to their side of Nathu La in Sikkim.

The report claimed the hardware was moved simultaneously by rail and road last month.

China has been testing scenarios such as rapid deployment, multi-unit joint strike and anti-aircraft defence in the region. The PLA Daily did not say if the movement of the military equipment was to support the exercise or for other reasons.

Shanghai-based military commentator Ni Lexiong, in an interview to the South China Morning Post, suggested it was most likely related to the stand-off and could have been designed to bring India to the negotiating table.

''Diplomatic talks must be backed by military preparation,'' he was quoted as saying.

The PLA Tibet command guards the Line of Actual Control (LAC) of the India-China border along several sections connecting the mountainous Tibetan region.

The drills were broadcast on the state-run CCTV. (See: China conducts 'live-fire exercises near Arunachal in Tibet).

The CCTV report did not disclose the location of the drills but said the brigade responsible for frontline combat missions has long been stationed around the middle and lower reaches of the Brahmaputra (Yarlung Zangbo in Chinese) River. The Brahmaputra flows into India from the Arunachal Pradesh border.

Separately, Tibet's mobile communication agency conducted a drill on 10 July in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, where members of the agency practiced setting up a temporary mobile network to secure communications in an emergency.

Earlier reports said the PLA units exercised in Tibet with several modern weapon systems including a new light battle tank being manufactured by China.

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