10,000 Chinese Troops Conduct Tibetan Live Fire Exercises Near Indian Borders

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has reportedly deployed approximately 10,000 personnel from its Western Theatre Command to conduct live-fire exercises in the southwestern province of Tibet, which closely borders India. Named ‘Snowland Mission 2021,’ the exercise will provide experience operating at high altitudes on the 4,500m elevation of the Tibet plateau.

 The country's defense ministry stated on August 27th regarding the drills: “The exercise, an all-time, all-domain, all-factor, round-the-clock live-fire exercise involving units of combined arms, is aimed at enhancing the troops’ overall combat capabilities in high-altitude areas, including joint operation, precise attack, efficient destruction, and comprehensive logistics support.”

Logistics, including the use of high-speed trains to transport military assets, has featured prominently in preparations, which is particularly important considering the remoteness of the area within China. As China has more high-speed rail line than the rest of the world combined, with the expansion of the network in Tibet expected, this represents a potentially very useful asset. 

The Snowland Mission 2021 exercises come 14 months after open hostilities on the Sino-Indian border caused over 150 Indian casualties, and while both Delhi and Beijing have taken steps to deescalate both have deployed advanced hardware to the area. Notable among new armaments in India’s case is MiG-29UPG fighters, while China has deployed Type 99 tanks and a range of heavier and generally more modern fighter jets. Snowland Mission 2021 follows exercises in June by Chinese J-16 and J-11 fighters in Tibet, which were also widely interpreted as a warning to Delhi.

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