Xi Jinping asks PLA to be battle ready as India-China border tension simmers

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Chinese President Xi Jinping. File photo/Reuters/Jason Lee

India Today Web Desk | India Today

NEW DELHI, India, 8 February 2021

Emphasising that control over information is key to victory in modern warfare, Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be “combat ready” as nine rounds of talks to resolve military faceoff in eastern Ladakh between India and China have failed to defuse the border tension.

Ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year, Xi Jinping delivered a speech during a visit to the PLA air force unit recently. Chinese media quoted Xi Jinping as saying during his tour of the aviation unit, “During the Spring Festival, the entire army must strengthen combat readiness on duty to guard national security and the happiness and tranquillity of the people.”

The statement assumes significance in the backdrop of India and China having been locked in a military standoff since May 2020. Thousands of soldiers have stayed put through the harsh winter months of December and January in the sub-zero conditions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar last week had said Ladakh standoff was a complex issue that needed military level talks to resolve the crisis. China had been reluctant to restore pre-April 2020 position along the LAC. India has been insisting on China moving back its troops.

Xi Jinping’s statement is also being interpreted in the context of China’s tussle with its maritime neighbours in the east, particularly across the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

At the aviation unit, Xi Jinping inspected a special aircraft designed for information warfare and said the right to control information in modern wars had become the key to victory in the war.

Incidentally, Chinese state media euphorically reported about deployment of new weaponry along the LAC with India. It gave details about how Xi Jinping-headed Central Military Commission was closely supervising the deployment of troops and logistics supply for frontline troops.

The deployment of new weaponry along the borders has been described in Chinese media as “holiday gifts”.

These weapons include 155mm-caliber vehicle-mounted howitzers, armoured assault vehicles and light tanks, particularly Type 15 light tanks, which have been deployed in the high-altitude areas along the LAC. These tanks are considered an asset in quick response military combat in low oxygen-level areas. China’s most advanced howitzer, PCL-181, has been deployed at the northern foot of the Tien Shan mountains, not very far from Ladakh.

The Global Times, however, referred to the US’s actions in the South China Sea in 2020 around the Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival while explaining Xi Jinping’s statement asking the PLA to enhance combat readiness.

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