China moved “tens of thousands of tonnes” of military equipment, including army vehicles, and troops to Tibet in late June, coinciding with the border standoff with India, media reports have said.
The hardware was moved simultaneously by road and rail by the western theatre command that handles, among others, border issues with India, the reports said.
“The vast haul was transported to a region south of the Kunlun mountains in northern Tibet by the western theatre command, which oversees the restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, and handles border issues with India,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said on Wednesday, quoting the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily.
The Chinese rhetoric on the month-long standoff in Doklam region close to Sikkim on India’s northeastern border is getting shriller by the day, with the state media often warning of all-out war.
The transfer of equipment was most likely related to the stand-off and could have been designed to bring India to the negotiating table, Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based military commentator, told the South China Morning Post. “Diplomatic talks must be backed by military preparation,” he said.
The PLA Daily, which is the mouthpiece of China’s military, said the hardware was moved late last month.
But none of the reports said if the transfer was to support military drills being held in Tibet, including in the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river, close to Arunachal Pradesh, India’s easternmost state claimed by China as south Tibet.
China blames India for the border impasse, accusing its troops of trespass and preventing the Chinese soldiers from building a road in the region, which is also claimed by Bhutan.
Doklam, or Donglang as the Chinese call it, is located at the narrow but strategically important tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan.
Beijing wants India to withdraw its troops from Doklam before the two sides can open talks. New Delhi says the road, if built, will have serious security implications for India.
The scale of the troops and equipment movement would make it easier for China to defend its western borders, Wang Dehua from the South Asia Studies Centre at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies said.
“Military operations are all about logistics. Now there is much better logistics support to the Tibet region,” he told South China Morning Post.
China recently conducted live-fire drills in a Tibetan region that borders Arunachal. Chinese state media had on Tuesday warned India of an “all-out confrontation” along the entire stretch of the disputed boundary with China, threatening to open up new fronts of conflict on the 3,488 km non-demarcated border between the two countries.
China’s recently carried out a “live-fire” drill, its latest military exercise in Tibet, which is being seen as a message to India. The border guards of the two countries are in a standoff along India’s northeastern frontier for more than a month now.