China Reacts To India's Deployment Of M777 Howitzers On LAC, Says It Opposes 'Arms Race'

India had deployed three regiments of M777 howitzers on the LAC to deter Chinese misadventure of the kind seen last year.

China has reacted to India's deployment of US-origin M777 Ultra Light Howitzers on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), where the two sides have been locked in a military standoff since May last year.

Responding to a question from Russia's TASS news agency, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying accused India of pursuing "forward policy" and said that China "opposes any arms race".

"The Indian side has long pursued the "forward policy" and illegally crossed the LAC to encroach on China's territory, which is the root cause of tension in the China-India border situation," Hua said.

"China opposes any arms race in the disputed border areas for the purpose of competition over control. We have always been firm in safeguarding national territorial sovereignty and security, and committed to peace and stability in the China-India border areas," she added.

The development comes after news reports said that India had deployed three regiments (18 guns make an artillery regiment) of M777 howitzers on the LAC to deter Chinese misadventure of the kind seen last year, when the People's Liberation Army had diverted a large number of troops and equipment to the Indian border after an exercise.

“As the BRO [Border Roads Organisation] further takes the road network to forward areas, we will be able to deploy our guns in more locations,” Lieutenant General T K Chawla, Director General Artillery, said at a press conference on 27 September, a day ahead of the Gunners’ Day.

Due to their light weight, 155mm/52-caliber M777 howitzers can be airlifted to frontline locations using helicopters, including the Chinook heavy-lift, tandem rotor helos of the Indian Air Force.

Lieutenant General Chawla said training is “going on in moving guns from one sector to another with the Chinook helicopters.”

India had signed a deal with the US in 2016 for 145 M777 howitzers. Under the deal worth $737 million (Rs 5000 crore), 20 guns were to be delivered by manufacturer BAE Systems while the remaining 120 were to be assembled in India Mahindra Defence in Faridabad, Haryana. Almost half of the 145 guns contracted for have been delivered.

Apart from M777 howitzers, the Indian Army has deployed a large number of older 105mm field guns at the LAC with China.

“The 105mm field guns are still very much robust with very high angle of firing which is so very essential in the mountains. Bulk of the deployment in Eastern Ladakh is largely of this calibre,” Lieutenant General Chawla said. He added that the 105mm field guns would be replaced when new howitzers have been inducted in sufficient numbers.

Over the last few years, India has inducted 100 K9 Vajra howitzers. The guns were built in India by L&T with technology transferred by South Korean defence major Hanwha Defense. The guns were seen in Ladakh recently, where they underwent trials in mountainous terrain.

The Indian Army is inducting Dhanush guns built by the Ordnance Factory Board, and Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) is undergoing trials. While 114 Dhanush guns have been ordered, the Defence Ministry had approved an in-principle purchase of 150 ATAGS guns in 2018.