China’s military trains in Tibetan plateau amid border dispute with India

Kristin Huang
·2-min read

China’s military has been carrying out training in the mountains of Tibet as it tries to get soldiers used to the region’s extreme conditions amid a protracted border dispute with India.

Its latest exercises have been highlighted by Chinese state media, with broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday airing footage of troops on a long-distance trek in the Nyenchen Tanglha mountain range.

The report showed a small group of People’s Liberation Army soldiers carrying packs and gear as they traversed a forest, crossed a river and made a steep ascent during a 30km hike.

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Tian Jianmin, deputy brigade officer, told the broadcaster that they wanted troops to be better equipped to do their jobs in tough conditions.

The CCTV report showed soldiers crossing a river and trekking through difficult terrain. Photo: Weibo
The CCTV report showed soldiers crossing a river and trekking through difficult terrain. Photo: Weibo

“We’ve taken advantage of the [Tibetan] plateau’s unique environment for this long-distance training session,” Tian said. “The aim is to improve the combat capabilities of reconnaissance units, train soldiers in these harsh conditions and put their combat skills to the test.”

It followed another report on state television on Saturday showing an artillery brigade conducting a year-end live-fire exercise in an unfamiliar part of Tibet.

Team leader Lai Bo told CCTV they had “access to every kind of howitzer” available and the drill put the unit’s combat capabilities to the test in the freezing conditions on the plateau.

The China-India border dispute: its origins and impact

In addition to the high-altitude training, checkpoints along the Chinese border have also been equipped with new hi-tech surveillance gear, CCTV’s military channel reported in November.

The equipment includes observation cameras mounted high up to keep watch on mountain passes and drones to help monitor the region, according to the report.

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator and former instructor with the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps, said the Chinese troops were preparing for all contingencies along the Tibet border.

“These moves involve both physical fitness and the equipment needed in extreme cold weather – they’re preparing for possible military conflict on the plateau in the future,” Song said.

China and India have been locked in a tense border stand-off in the Himalayas since early May. The dispute escalated in June when 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops were killed in a violent brawl in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh – their most serious military clash in more than half a century.

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