For a Few Tanks More

By Claude Arpi / July 29, 2016 /

The Chinese are not happy!
Last week, they were furious after the announcement of the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). The International Tribunal in The Hague had given its ruling on a reference by the Philippines over the South China Sea (SCS): China has no historic ‘rights’ over the natural resources in most of the areas of the SCS; further any right must not exceed what’s permitted by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Now, China is upset again.
This time, it is because the Indian press reported the deployment of T-72 battle tanks in Ladakh.
Quoting official sources, The Tribune, whose correspondent visited Ladakh, spoke of a possibility for China and Pakistan to launch a collusive two-front war against India: “In the past four-five years, ground troops have been added to pre-positioned locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), or the de facto border, that is not marked on the ground.”
Since the past 36 months, ground forces and artillery guns have been backed by T-72 Russian-origin tanks and another tank unit is slated to move to Eastern Ladakh facing China: “This adds a new dimension to any future war in the area that is marked by an average height of 14,000 feet, where oxygen is scarce,” says The Tribune.

According to The Daily Excelsior published from Jammu, for the Indian Army “the move is part of the winter drill to validate the capability of the tanks at such heights and is not an inimical move against China.”

Colonel Vijay Dalal, Commanding Officer of the tank regiment explained: “What we have done is that we have procured special additives and lubricants for high altitude terrain such as winter grade diesel and additives for the lubrication system, which prevents it from freezing in the tank.''

The Colonel added: “While the tanks and crew have acclimatised, they have not been able to test their fire power in the heights here due to lack of firing ranges. There is a need to verify their firing capacity at higher altitudes.”

The Global Times objected to this move: “Deploying tanks on Indo-China border hinders potential for Chinese investment.”

How can protecting the Indian borders ‘hinder’ Chinese investments?
Are the Chinese doing India a favour by investing?
The Global Times links the deployment of the Indian forces on the border to Chinese business investments in India: “A media report stating that nearly 100 Indian tanks have been positioned near the Indo-China border to counter any possible threat grabbed people's attention as more Chinese firms are looking to increase their investment in India.”
Then it quotes statistics of the China’s Ministry of Commerce: “Chinese outbound investment [in India] increased by 58.7 percent in the first half of the year, as the country [India] has sought to further integrate itself into the world economy.”

Probably referring to the announcement by Delhi of a new foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, opening up several sectors, including defense, to 100 per cent equity, The People's Daily says: “the Modi administration has recently promoted a second round of reforms to attract more overseas investment by allowing foreign firms to increase their shareholding in local enterprises.” It however adds that “it is puzzling that while deploying tanks near China's border, India still strives to woo Chinese investment.”
What have the tanks to do with the investment policy?
You may call this ‘logic with Chinese characteristics’, especially at a time China is behaving badly and illegally the South China Sea.

Though it sounded like a threat, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang was more courteous; Lu just said: “There have been a series of significant agreements and consensus reached between China and India on upholding stability of the border area. …The two countries should abide by relevant agreements and consensus, work in concert to maintain peace and tranquillity of the border area and create a favourable environment for improving bilateral mutual trust and bolstering the proper settlement of the boundary question.” He further pointed out: “The China-India border area has long been peaceful and stable.”
To come back to The Global Times article, it paternalistically explains: “In an index on the ease of doing business, from the World Bank, India currently ranks 130 out of 189. Despite India's stated goal to rise to within the top 100 this year, the nation has its work cut out for them.”

In other words, it tells Delhi, ‘forget about your borders, make business easier for us’.
What is amazing is that China has developed its dual-use infrastructure on the Tibetan plateau at a very rapid pace during the last few decades, but now it objects to India occupying its own territory and taking necessary measures to defend its borders.
Further, China recently raised the level of the Tibet Military Command's (TMC) authority. China Military Online admitted: “China continues to strengthen its military presence in the autonomous region and aims to allow the military command to shoulder more combat assignments. …The TMC's political rank will be elevated to one level higher than its counterpart provincial-level military commands, and will come under the leadership of the PLA Army.” It added that the promotion marks a "new journey for the Tibet military command's construction."

Zhao Zhong, deputy director of the Political Work Department of the TMC told the PLA website: “The elevation of the authority level is not only an improvement for the troops' designation, but also an expansion of their function and mission.”

Song Zhongping, a Beijing-based military expert, told The Global Times that the TMC “bears great responsibility to prepare for possible conflicts between China and India, and currently it is difficult [for the TMC] to secure all the military resources they need.”
So why make so much fuss for a few Indian tanks at a time when China moved its 15th Airborne Corps to Tibet?

The Global Times’ conclusion is that deploying tanks near the Indo-China border “may hit a nerve within the Chinese business community, causing investors to weigh the threat of political instability when they make investment decisions.”

According to the same principle, Delhi should stop doing business with China because Beijing has illegally (according to the La Hague Tribunal) occupied most of the South China Sea, where it has built mega infrastructures, even on ‘rocks’?
This is one more example of Chinese double standards.
But Delhi has probably touched a raw nerve.

After the announcement of the verdict of the PCA, a PLA commentator wrote: “The great rejuvenation of Chinese nation is an unstoppable historical trend that won't be diverted by the will of any individual country or person.”

A rejuvenated China is bound to bully its neighbours and economic partners.
India has to take all measures to counter the Chinese tactics, investment or no investment.

NOTE: Claude Arpi is a writer based in India, and he regularly writes about Tibet, China and India. The above article is republished from blog

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