The People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducted tank manoeuvres and firing exercise near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the state-owned media reported on Monday (11 October), a day after the 13th round of talks on disengagement at the remaining friction points between the two sides in eastern Ladakh ended without a breakthrough.
The exercise took place at a "training field in Karakorum at an altitude of over 5,000 meters", reports said, adding that "a tank company of the Xinjiang Military Region" participated in it.
The firing exercise included "tank side shooting, single-vehicle combat shooting, backward combat shooting, tank platoon shooting".
“This exercise highlighted the use of equipment in extreme cold weather on the plateau and effectively improved the troops’ combat capability,” a report in state-controlled broadcaster CCTV said.
While the Chinese state media did not reveal when the exercise was carried out, videos of tanks manoeuvring and firing at a training field with terrain matching Ladakh's were released a day after the two sides failed to make headway during the corps commander-level meeting on Sunday (10 October) that lasted for around eight-and-half hours.
China's aim of releasing the video a day after the talks on disengagement failed could be to suggest that it is prepared for a long deployment along the LAC, experts have pointed out.
On 30 September, an artillery contingent of a regiment under the Xinjiang Military Command had participated in a live-fire training exercise.
Both India and China have deployed tanks along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, where the standoff, which began in May last year, continues at multiple friction points like Hot Springs and Depsang.
At Rezang La, for example, Indian and Chinese tanks were separated by a distance of only around 370 feet, with turrets of the tanks facing away from each other, at the peak of the conflict, satellite imagery shows.
While India has deployed its T-90 and T-72 tanks in eastern Ladakh, China has positioned its Type 15 lightweight tanks, among others.
Indian Army tanks and armoured personnel carriers participated in an exercise in Ladakh, which involved integrated manoeuvres and live firing. Although the army did not reveal exactly where the exercise was held, it is likely to have taken place in eastern Ladakh. A report in the Indian Express says the exercise took place at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet.
Maintaining tanks in eastern Ladakh is not an easy task, experts say. The Indian Army faces a number of challenges, including rarefied air and below freezing point temperatures. Among other things, it uses special fuel and lubricants, and the engines are revved up every night, sometimes twice, to keep them in a working condition.
In the event of a war, tanks will be used to defend the flat top approaches, from Tibet towards Leh, such as those near Chushul and Demchok. The flat terrain in this region, strategists say, allows the use of mechanised forces.
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