Flashpoints | Security

Chinese Tanks Conduct High-Altitude Drills Amid Border Standoff With India

The exercises were announced by the PLA’s Tibet Military Region.

Ankit Panda
Chinese Tanks Conduct High-Altitude Drills Amid Border Standoff With India
Credit: u/RefrigerRaider via Wikimedia Commons

Chinese People’s Liberation Army tanks recently conducted military drills in high altitude conditions, according to a report in Chinese state media. According to the Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper with links to the Communist Party of China’s People’s Daily newspaper, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Type 15 lightweight tanks conducted exercises “in a low temperature mountainous plateau region.”

The report, which was published on Sunday, comes amid an ongoing standoff between India and China along their disputed border in the Himalayas. The two countries share one of the world’s longest unsettled land borders, which is divided into a western, middle, and eastern sectors. The most serious of the ongoing standoffs between Chinese and Indian troops have taken place along points in the western sector. The unofficial line that demarcates Indian-held and Chinese-held disputed territory is known as the Line of Actual Control.

According to a PLA Tibet Military Region statement quoted by Global Times, “An infantry battalion at the PLA Tibet Military Region recently organized infantry-tank cooperation drills at an undisclosed location at an elevation of more than 4,700 meters, putting the troops’ teamwork and rapid-response capabilities to a comprehensive test.”

After initial skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops in early May in the western sector and along the settled border between China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and the Indian state of Sikkim, the People’s Liberation Army and the Indian Army have reinforced positions along the Line of Actual Control. According to Indian reports, China has moved heavy artillery and other equipment to territory on its side of the Line of Actual Control in the western sector.

While Sunday’s Global Times report did not disclose the location of the Type 15 lightweight tank drills, the fact that the PLA Tibet Military Region released a statement on the drills suggests that the exercises may have been designed to signal resolve to India amid the ongoing standoff. The Global Times, reported that “Military observers connected the PLA’s recent maneuvering and exercises of troops with the recent border tensions between China and India.”

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India and China held talks at the military corps commanders’ level recently and have also been talking via established diplomatic channels. According to Indian reports citing official sources, both sides have conducted a limited disengagement, but the precise details remain unclear and contradictory across multiple reports. Neither the Indian nor the Chinese government has released an official statement on the outcome of ongoing talks between the two sides.