China’s defense chief to visit India, after PLA drills in Tibet
Visit is to cement newfound rapport between Beijing and New Delhi, as the latter remains mum on PLA's activities in Tibet
Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe has announced plans to visit New Delhi to cement the detente in Sino-Indian relations, almost a year after the two nations’ military forces faced off on a plateau that straddles the Tibetan-Bhutanese-Indian border.
“[The] defense departments of China and India are communicating about the visit and related information will be released at a proper time,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at a press conference on Thursday in Beijing.
The newly installed Wei has been invited by his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a number of occasions to reverse the deteriorating ties after the People’s Liberation Army’s alleged militarization of the Doklam Plateau was halted by regiments of border troops dispatched by New Delhi.
Modi flew to the Chinese city of Wuhan for one-on-one talks with Xi earlier this year and the pair met again on Thursday, the third time in three months, in Johannesburg on the sidelines of the BRICS summit being held there.
A previous call on the Indian Armed Forces by the PLA’s deputy commander of the Western Theater Command, Liu Xiaowu, also heralded Wei’s visit.
The Western Theater Command is tasked with defending China’s vast southwestern region, including Tibet, as well as safeguarding the nation’s thousands of kilometers of meandering border with India and other countries.
Wei’s pending trip comes on the heels of a slew of drills that the PLA held in several locations across Tibet this month, where the force’s elite commandos held mock sorties on strongholds of an imagined adversary as well as behind-enemy-lines infiltrations and reconnaissance missions under harsh weather conditions at an elevation of 4,000 meters, according to the PLA Daily.
The Beijing-based Global Times also revealed that the drills were all about staving off India: The PLA’s OPFOR (opposing force) soldiers simulated an Indian sortie along the Tibetan border, though New Delhi has been mum on the latest in a string of PLA maneuvers this year along that border.
New Delhi was not riled by Beijing’s plans to build three new airports along Tibet’s rugged southern border either, in an area dubbed the “roof of the world.”
One of the proposed airports aims to serve the Tibetan prefecture-level city of Lhoka that borders India and Bhutan on the south. Much of the city’s territory, not far from the still-combustible Doklam Plateau, is also claimed by New Delhi.