China's People's Liberation Army Sunday (July 17) said it has conducted live-fire exercises in the remote mountainous Tibet region to test its strike capability on plateaus, amid the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam area in the Sikkim sector.
The PLA conducted the 11-hour long live-fire exercises at an altitude of 5,000 meters on the plateau in Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, aimed at improving the combat capability on such locations, a PLA press release said.
The PLA exercise report is being seen as a message to the Indian government and military, as China claims large parts of Arunachal, India's easternmost state, as southern Tibet, Hindustan Times said.
The exercise was conducted by a ground combat brigade of the PLA Tibet Regional Command this month and involved scenarios such as rapid deployment, multi-unit joint strike and anti-aircraft defense, the PLA press release said.
"The PLA wanted to demonstrate it could easily overpower its Indian counterparts," Beijing-based military commentator Zhou Chenming told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The Chinese force that took part in the drill is stationed in the Lizhi region of eastern Tibet, close to the stand-off, the Post pointed out. India has nearly two lakh (200,000) troops stationed in the areas it disputes with China, outnumbering its neighbor's forces by as much as 15 or 20 to one, it said.
Nonetheless, China has a clear advantage in terms of speed of movement, firepower, and logistics, Zhou claimed.
China and India have been engaged in a standoff in the Dokalam area in the Sikkim sector, where Chinese army destroyed two Indian bunkers last month.
China says no room for negotiations on Sikkim standoff
With no end in sight to the standoff in the Sikkim sector, China on Friday said there is "no room" for negotiations to resolve the military face-off and the only solution is the withdrawal of Indian troops from the Donglang or Doklam region.
India will face "embarrassment" if it does not withdraw its border troops to its own side and the situation could get "worse", the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary. "China has made it clear that there is no room for negotiations on this incident, and India must withdraw its border-crossing troops from Doklam. For China, border line is the bottom line."
Writing under the title "Turning a deaf ear to China will not help India on Doklam, Xinhua writers Qu Junya, Xiong Ping and Tang Lu said on Friday:
"India has repeatedly ignored China's call for pulling its border-crossing troops from Doklam area back to its own territory. However, turning a deaf ear to China will but to worsen the month-long stand-off and put itself further into embarrassment.
"India should not regard the existing situation as the same as or even similar to the previous two stand-offs in 2013 and 2014 near Ladakh, a disputed area between China, Pakistan and India in southeastern Kashmir. Diplomatic efforts led the troops frictions there to a well-arranged end. But this time it is a totally different case. This is the first time Indian troops have crossed the border in the Sikkim section India has demarcated with China, which, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said, is also the only determined boundary between the two Asian countries."
"The Sikkim section of the China-India boundary has been defined by the Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet(1890)," and both Chinese and Indian governments have repeatedly acknowledged it, Geng noted.
The Hindustan Times said that the Xinhua commentary sought to add yet another dimension to the face-off by bringing in the Ladakh region and linking it to Pakistan, China's "iron brother" ally.