While the Modi government is assuring the nation and the Opposition that India is on top of the situation and will resolve the current border issue with China diplomatically, something else seems to be engaging the other side – busy flexing its military might at the border and talking tough on not backing down this time unless India backs off.
Amid the continuing border standoff with India, China has conducted a live-fire drill in Tibet in what one observer said was a likely warning to New Delhi.
A fully-staffed and equipped brigade engaged in various drills involving the rapid movement of troops, the use of digital devices and combined attacks by multiple forces, according to a China Central Television station (CCTV) report.
The report did not give precise details of where or when the exercise was held though it came as Chinese and Indian troops remain locked in their worst standoff in decades on the tri-junction with Bhutan, the South China Morning Post reported.
In a two-minute clip of the exercises broadcast by the TV station, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers were seen launching an assault on an “enemy position” using machine guns, rocket launchers and mortars.
They also used air-defence radar to guide anti-aircraft guns in shooting down “enemy planes”, said the daily. Another drill involved the use of anti-tank grenades and missiles.
The brigade that conducted the drills was from the PLA’s Tibet Military Command and is one of China’s two plateau mountain brigades, the Global Times said.
According to the CCTV report, the brigade has long been stationed around the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River and is responsible for frontline combat missions.
The river is located in the upper stream of the Brahmaputra, which flows through China, India and Bangladesh. India shares a long border with China’s Tibetan region.
The drills lasted for 11 hours. “The 11-hour exercise covering a dozen elements was a testimony to the PLA’s combined strike capability,” the report said.
India and China have been locked for over a month in a border standoff between their soldiers in a tri-junction also involving Bhutan.
The South China Morning Post quoted an observer as saying that the show of strength was likely intended as a warning to India.
“The PLA wanted to demonstrate it could easily overpower its Indian counterparts,” it quoted Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming as saying.
While Indian troops in the disputed area outnumber their Chinese counterparts, China has a clear advantage in terms of speed of movement, firepower and logistics, Zhou said.
“(By staging) a small-scale drill, China wants to control the problem and lower the risk of shots being fired,” he said.
Separately, Tibet’s mobile communication agency conducted a drill on July 10 in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, where members practised setting up a temporary mobile network to secure communications in an emergency, the Global Times reported.
The Trinamool Congress has moved the Rajya Sabha for a “priority” discussion on the standoff with China in Doklam area in Sikkim sector as party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hit out at the Narendra Modi government for India’s “deteriorating” relations with its neighbours.
Banerjee, speaking to the media after casting her vote in the Presidential polls on Monday, alleged her state is the “biggest sufferer” due to the Modi regime’s “diplomatic failure”.
According to Trinamool’s official Twitter handle, the party has submitted a “Notice (Rule267) in Rajya Sabha for Tuesday to discuss Indo-China issue on a priority & suspend all other business”.
“Bengal is sandwiched and so we are worst sufferers. Bengal is bordered by Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. We want good relations with Bangladesh,” Banerjee told the media at the Bengal assembly.
“If Sikkim goes to China… there being no difference between Sikkim and Darjeeling as they are adjacent… Siliguri corridor is Chicken’s Neck, then due to the Centre’s faults and because of the deteriorating relations (with neighbours) due to its failure to officiate diplomatically, the central government has ruined ties with Bangladesh, Nepal and China as also Bhutan,” she said.
“They (the government) are using border agencies… we are biggest sufferers. We are the victim of the circumstances. Bengal is the gateway to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan,” she added.
Her comments come in the wake of a standoff with China in the Doklam area in Sikkim sector.
Banerjee also alleged intelligence agencies’ collusion with the central government in opening up borders.
“Where is NIA, RAW, NSA? Intelligence? Why are the borders kept open? What is SSB, IB, RAW doing here? How people belonging to the Jamaat are being allowed inside?” she asked.
“I have communicated to the Ministry of External Affairs… why a BJP affiliate burnt an effigy of Sheikh Hasina (Bangladesh Prime Minister) here. Why is gun training being given in the name of Vishva Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Durga Vahini?”
“I have videos. In Assam, training in gunfight is being given… even in Jammu. Is this the action of a government? Or the government will run a parallel government… sometimes in the name of cow vigilantes and sometimes in the name of ‘vahinis’? Every agency is supporting this, I am sorry to say,” she added. (IANS)