China has further cranked up efforts to recruit young Tibetans in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and local militias as well as to act as guides along the border, even as it continues to consolidate its military positions and upgrade its airbases facing India.
Indian security establishment officials on Wednesday said latest intelligence reports also show China has even made it “mandatory” for each Tibetan family to send at least one young male member for recruitment in the PLA in some areas like the Ngari Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The stepped-up recruitment of Tibetans and the increase in PLA activity in all sectors stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control come ahead of the 12th round of corps commander-level talks between India and China.
The military talks, after a long gap since the 11th round on April 9, will be held towards end-July or early-August in another bid to de-escalate tensions in the 14-month military confrontation in eastern Ladakh. “The stalled troop disengagement at Gogra and Hot Springs may be taken forward. But any resolution of the blocking of Indian patrols by the PLA in the Depsang region is not on the cards as of now,” said an official.
The frenetic pace at which the PLA has converted its temporary structures, ammunition dumps, helipads and surface-to-air missile batteries across Ladakh into permanent positions as well as upgraded its major air bases like Hotan, Kashgar, Gargunsa (Ngari Gunsa), Lhasa-Gonggar and Shigatse for additional fighters and bombers, clearly indicates China has no plans to de-escalate any time soon. There is also the renewed focus on the induction of Tibetans in militias as well as in the Special Tibetan Army Unit (STAU) under the PLA, with concerted drives being conducted in the TAR with an element of coercion, said officials.
The PLA has also recruited over 70 Tibetan students, aged between 17 to 20, from various universities for admission in the military academy in TAR this year. “It is also engaging Tibetan residents of border villages, who have good topographical knowledge of the LAC, to work as guides to accompany its patrolling parties,” said an official.
As was earlier reported by TOI, the PLA has simultaneously raised a new set of militias in the Chumbi valley, opposite Sikkim, under the Yatung County in the TAR. One of these militias is known as ‘Mimang Cheton’ (MC), which means ‘for the public’, and consists of local Tibetan youths trained by the PLA. At least two batches of MC, with around 100 youths in one batch, have been deployed at various locations in Chumbi Valley in areas like Yutung, Cheema, Rinchengang, PB Thang and Phari after having finished their training.