Thursday, March 17, 2016

A New Proactive PLA

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has done it again.
According to PTI, Chinese troops entered a few kilometers inside the Indian territory in the Pangong lake area of Ladakh. A stand-off between the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the PLA followed.
“The incident occurred on March 8 when a platoon of at least 11 PLA men led by a colonel-rank officer crossed over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at ‘Finger VIII’ Sirijap-I area close to the Pangong lake,” reported PTI.
The Chinese soldiers came with four vehicles and reached 5.5 km deep inside India’s territory.
Indian sources told the agency that the Chinese soldiers were ‘engaged and countered’ by a ITBP patrol. The confrontation nevertheless lasted for a few hours “after which the situation got defused and the other side (Chinese) retreated.”
Apparently, China has constructed a road up to Finger-IV, also falling under Sirijap area on the banks of the lake.
The Chinese government was not pleased: they blamed the Indian media which has “repeatedly hyped up similar incidents, citing information from unnamed sources.”
While admitting that there were divergences over the border, especially over the LAC: ‘both China and India are well aware of it’; Beijing added that in this case there was “no evidence to prove India's claim of the latest incident. But Indian media is inclined to make a fuss over such issues, and often use words like ‘transgression’ or ‘incursion’.”
Around the same time, the presence of PLA troops was spotted near a forward post, opposite Nowgam sector, a major route for militants to sneak into the Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Lu Kong, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman did not deny it, he just stated with a straight face:"I have not heard about the incident you mentioned."
About Ladakh intrusions, he too blamed the Indian media: “There is no such a thing as border crossing. Some media twisted the fact and hyped up the China-India boundary question.”
A Ministry of Defence source nonetheless told India Today that ‘intrusions’ have lately increased in the vicinity of the Pangong lake and Chumur area in Ladakh: “There were at least 11 incidents of Chinese infiltration last year; in three months this year, there already has been 16 cases of transgression,” and this despite an effective Border Defence Cooperation Agreement and the setting up 2 more border personnel meeting points in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) in Ladakh and Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh.
To understand what is happening on India’s borders, it is necessary to read the latest speech of President Xi Jinping, who is also the Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC).
During the President’s ritual visit to the PLA delegation during the National People's Congress (NPC), Xi affirmed that the PLA's future hinges on innovation and reform, but he also told the generals “to turn cutting-edge military technology into real combat capacity, and urged it to be proactive in combat readiness.”
What does ‘proactive’ mean?
It is the question that India should ask Beijing.
Xi gave a partial explanation “A pre-emptive attitude toward military affairs is needed ...the military needs to plan and act in advance and establish unique advantages in some key fields.”
‘Plan and act in advance’ is probably what is happening in Ladakh and in POK.
The PLA, under Chairman Xi’s command, does not want the borders with India to slip into a routine; in other words, the border should be kept ‘alive’, notwithstanding what the spokesman of the foreign ministry may say.
During his speech at the NPC, Xi not only requested the PLA to uphold political integrity, support the reforms and the rule of law, but he also urged the generals ‘to maintain the military's combat readiness’.
Xi is aware that it is this lack of ‘combat readiness’ which has plagued the Chinese defence forces for decades.
Another way to be ‘proactive’ is for Xi innovative.
The Global Times, the Communist Party mouthpiece quoted Gong Fangbin, a professor at the PLA's National Defense University, saying: “Only when a nation takes the lead in military technology can it take a leading role on the world stage, which is why China's leaders have highlighted theoretical and technological innovation as the key to upgrading the country's military and national defense.”
The professor added: “Technology plays a decisive role in whether a country will win or lose a battle …The realization of the Chinese Dream is based on a strong nation and a strong military, which must rely on powerful and advanced technology."
Major General Xu Guangyu, a senior consultant of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association told the same Global Times: "China's strategy of active defense does not mean the country would only be defensive. We shouldn't ignore the active strategy in it.”
Elaborating on Xi’s speech, Xu explained: “The PLA must have uniqueness in weapons, which is an inseparable part of building a strong military. The PLA army, navy, air force, Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force must step up innovation to improve the hardware of the army to make sure that China at least does not lag behind the world level.”
‘World level’ means the United States.
During his encounter with the PLA delegation, Chairman Xi spoke of “pouring efforts into developing cutting edge defense technology, which has strategic significance.”
He said that the capability to innovate will determine the future of the Chinese armed force. This means that the PLA not only requires a proactive attitude, but also needs to develop high-tech weapons, ‘Make in China’ with collaboration with local manufacturing industry. This could even lead to exports to ‘cost-conscious countries’ unable to buy arms from the United States, Xi said.
During the NPC, 15 deputies delivered a speech; one of them was by Major General Dai Shaoan, a senior military intelligence officer who served as military attaché in Egypt; Dai argued that with the PLA's increasing normalized overseas military operations including international rescue, escort mission, port call to foreign countries and joint military exercises with foreign militaries, China should set up “a complete legal support system on overseas military operations as soon as possible.”
Dai Shaoan proposed that the NPC passes a legislation to define and legalize China’s overseas military operations and “to make clear the legal position, codes of conduct, internal and external relationship of the Chinese troops involved.”
In other words, to ‘legalize’ the Chinese military presence in Djibouti, Gwadar, Hambantota in Sri Lanka …or in POK to protect Chinese interests in the northern leg of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Manohar Parrikar is scheduled to visit China next month; he supposed to finalize the setting up of a hotline between the Indian Army and the PLA, it should be ideal occasion for the Defence Minister to be ‘proactive’.
But, perhaps it is not in Indian genes to be proactive.

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