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India targeted PLA exercises were just propaganda, say Western officials

News Agencies | Updated on: 2 September 2017, 9:57 IST

In the last week of August, Chinese media was replete with stories of military exercises taking place to the north and south of India. Official media happily broadcast images of live fire drills in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and, astoundingly, in the western part of the Indian Ocean.

In commentary after commentary emanating from China, both these events were linked to the then ongoing standoff between India and China on the Doklam Plateau in the tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan.

Western military experts closely monitoring the People's Liberation Army (PLA) drills have revealed for the first time that Chinese soldiers were using "blanks" and had no plan other than to "fire blanks for the propaganda arms of the Chinese Government " like the Global Times, China Central Television and even the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua.

The nub of their arguments was that India had dared to stand up to Chinese activities in Doklam, and should therefore, be made to pay the price.

The amusing thing is that yet again, China was only firing blanks. Furthermore, analysis of the so-called exercises in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) makes it very clear that these were unprofessional 'cut and paste' jobs dating back many years from across China.

The weapons shown, the canisters for missiles, and their launch positions do not even remotely match those of the missiles actually deployed in Tibet. There is no shortage of vast open lands with mountainous background in China.

The exercises shown have some elements of Tibet in them, but are also significantly taken from exercises in the Northern Theatre Command (NTC) bordering Mongolia and parts of the Western Theatre Command (WTC) bordering the Central Asian Republics.

Similarly, all the coverage about Chinese Navy ships having carried out strikes against 'enemy surface ships' needs to be located within reality. The scale of the so-called exercises was so small that the standard procedure of informing neighbouring countries about an impending exercise was not taken by China.

As standard practice, when a significant exercise takes place, commercial traffic within the area of exercise and around it is warned of such an exercise. In this case, total silence! Moreover, 'enemy surface ships' are unlikely to come within small arms shooting distance of the PLA Navy, which was all that the 'exercise' involved.

The Chinese naval exercise, therefore, was the equivalent of using a peashooter toy gun and claiming that it was an AK-47. Western strategic affairs experts, as well as some based in Pakistan, have confirmed that the so- called naval exercise was a routine matter for most navies in the world and, therefore, should not even have registered in the consciousness of the PLA, except, of course, as a propaganda item.

Amazingly, the PLA claims the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was dealing with its Indian counterparts to reach a peaceful mutual disengagement at Doklam.

While Doklam has been resolved for now, recent media coverage from China exposes the hollowness of its military 'exercise' claims. Photoshop would seem to be one of the most widely pirated soft wares in Chinese government circles.


First published: 2 September 2017, 9:57 IST