At the height of the border standoff with India in 2020, China installed a fibre optic network at certain remote locations of the western Himalayas, giving them new near-real-time ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) capabilities in the area, a Pentagon report claims.
Skirmishes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two sides brought about a serious force buildup by the PLA, which further entrenched its forward positions, according to the Hindustan Times.
Citing the recent Pentagon report, the Indian newspaper wrote that the communist superpower has continued “taking incremental and tactical actions” in the LAC, despite bilateral dialogue between Delhi and Beijing that aims to deescalate the situation.
“At the height of the border standoff between the PRC and India in 2020, the People’s Liberation Army installed a fiber-optic network in remote areas of the western Himalayas to provide faster communications and increased protection from foreign interception,” the report reads.
The report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2021,” was released on Wednesday (Nov. 3) and includes several insights into Chinese military advances that are sounding alarm bells in democratic countries throughout the region.
Chief among them is the projected increase in China’s nuclear arsenal, which the Pentagon predicts may reach 1,000 warheads by 2030.
Forcing one senior US Air Force officer to call on the Chinese navy and air force to resume dialogues with its US counterparts in hopes of reducing the risk of miscalculation that leads to war.
The US and China have periodically held biannual meetings between air force and navy officials known as the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) Working Group, aimed at reducing safety risks and preventing conflict.
However, those opportunities have “dried up” over the past couple years, and it will be up to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to reignite talks, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider during a Stimson Center event.
“I put this on the PLA to pick this up where they have dropped off and re-enter these dialogues so that we do have that conduit of information, the ways to share and an opportunity to de-escalate or to prevent an incident from turning into a conflict or some sort of a shooting war,” said Schneider, who recently returned to the Pentagon after a two-year stint as commander of US forces in Japan.
Schneider said the standing dialogues, which occurred at the general and flag officer levels, provided a forum for US and PLA air force officials to discuss unprofessional behavior and unsafe intercepts.
“You may not find [those discussions] completely satisfactory, or mutual understanding may not have been achieved,” he said, But “at least there was a dialogue, and at least there was that connective tissue and conduit of information, and at times we did see changes made in terms of tactics, techniques and procedures.”
That fewer forums exist for that communication “should cause us a little bit of concern,” he said.
“Despite the frictions that we have in diplomatic or political levels, one of the things I think that has … ensured stability in times of crisis is the mil-to-mil dialogues that happened throughout the world,” he said. “That is something I think that both sides need to continue to work towards.”
The Pentagon report said the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have tasked the PLA to develop the capability to project power outside the country’s borders and immediate periphery to secure Beijing’s growing overseas interests and advance its foreign policy goals.
CCP leaders believe that China’s global activities, including the PLA’s growing global presence, are necessary to create an international environment conducive to the PRC’s “national rejuvenation,” according to the Pentagon.
It further says Beijing has employed a more coercive approach to deal with several disputes over maritime features and ownership of potentially rich offshore oil and gas deposits.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, border clashes with India, and other significant events in 2020, the Chinese army accelerated its training and fielding of equipment from the already fast pace of recent years, the report said.
Chinese military units conducted extensive combined arms and joint training throughout 2020, Pentagon said.
“Significant training likely prepared the PLAA for any escalation of border tensions with India, as well as preparing to support a Taiwan contingency. The PLAA also strove to increase the realism of its training and the effectiveness of Opposition Force (OPFOR) units,” it added.
According to RealClearDefense, The Chinese military’s activity on the contested border has been one of the key drivers behind the shift in the Indian public’s and government’s assessments of India’s relationship with China.
The result has been a faster convergence in regional security and strategic policy directions.
One obvious manifestation of this is the growing Quad partnership of New Delhi, Tokyo, Canberra and Washington.
Events and activities on and around this contested border cannot be ignored, not only for regional dynamics but also because of the risk of escalation and possibly even wider conflict.
Sources: Taiwan News, Breaking Defense, NDTV.com, RealClearDefense.com