July 3, 2013

India worried over PLA's expanding transborder military capabilities

India is likely to raise the expanding transborder military capabilities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), including its stepped-up exercises in the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, when defence minister A K Antony leads a top-level delegation to China from July 4 to 7.

Sources said while India will "reassure" China that it has absolutely no intention of joining any multi-lateral strategic grouping that seeks to "contain" Beijing, it will also underline several "bilateral concerns" that need to be addressed.

"There are legitimate concerns about PLA's military capabilities, assertiveness and intentions, its massive infrastructure build-up along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and, of course, incidents like the Depsang incursion in Ladakh in April," said a source.

India, however, is keen to progressively enhance military ties with China, keep "communication channels open" and "eliminate potential" for Depsang-like incidents to reoccur.

The two sides will also discuss resumption of the joint Army "Hand-in-Hand" (HiH) counter-terrorism exercise towards end-2013 after a five-year gap as well as explore establishing the fourth border personnel meeting (BPM) mechanism near Lipulekh-Mana Pass in the "middle sector" after the existing ones at Chushul, Nathu La and Bum La.

The keenness to "constructively engage" with China's military leadership can be gauged from the fact that Antony's delegation, apart from defence secretary R K Mathur, will include Eastern Army commander Lt-General Dalbir Singh Suhag and Southern Naval commander Vice-Admiral Satish Soni, who are slated to take over as the next Army and Navy chiefs in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The Indian delegation will visit Shanghai, Beijing and the Chengdu Military Area Command, which controls Tibet and almost the entire disputed LAC.

Though the need to fortify de-escalatory mechanisms to prevent face-offs between the two armies will be stressed during the trip, India is in "no hurry" to ink the new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) proposed by China earlier this year.

"The revised BDCA draft submitted by China is being examined," said a source. MoD was perturbed by the earlier draft since it suggested that both sides should freeze troop and infrastructure levels along the LAC.

MoD is in the process of getting the Cabinet Committee on Security's (CCS) final nod for raising a new mountain strike corps (40,000 soldiers), apart from two "independent" infantry brigades and two "independent" armoured brigades, to plug operational gaps along the LAC as well as to acquire "some ground offensive capabilities" against China. Moreover, India is belatedly trying to counter the major infrastructure build-up by China over the last couple of decades. 
- Times of india..

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